Words by Audra Tracy | Photos by Rod Snyder

Blue skies and cool ocean breezes greeted the crowd at the inaugural Sea Hear Now Festival in Asbury Park, NJ this weekend, which featured performances by Incubus, Jack Johnson, Blondie, Ben Harper, Milky Chance, and more. In a city already wrapped in rock n roll folklore, this special two-day event definitely opened a whole new chapter of music history to buzz about.

Ocean Avenue was all decked out for the occasion, too. The beach and boardwalk were lined with eye-catching designs from local artists, providing all types of Instagram photo opps for festival attendees. With colorful murals lining the boardwalk on one side, and the waves crashing onto the shore on the other, the two main stages were surrounded by total beauty.

Our Saturday started with perfect flip flop weather, and a performance by New Orleans’ own Preservation Hall Jazz Band. Toes in the sand, fans grooved along to the sweet sounds of the French Quarter. Across the street, festival curator (and famed rock photographer) Danny Clinch and his Tangiers Blues Band kept the party moving by working their magic at the Park Stage. Other highlights of the afternoon included two welcomed throwbacks – a set from ska icons The English Beat and CBGB alums, Blondie – who are both still pleasing crowds after decades in the business.

In between all the live music and day drinking, fans had plenty of other fun distractions, too. From surfboard shaping to pop-up art galleries to intimate band Q&A’s, the day’s itinerary was a dream for the ‘local summer’ scene.

Next up was Ben Harper, a man who knows that New Jersey loves a good Bruce song. Harper and his Innocent Criminals opened their set with a tribute to The Boss – quickly winning over the crowd with a cover of “Atlantic City”. Fan favorites from Harper’s catalog followed, including “Burn One Down” and “Diamonds On The Inside”.

Then, California rockers, Incubus, took over a new coastline during their epic headlining performance on Saturday night. Of course Brandon Boyd & Co. played the radio hits like “Pardon Me” and “Wish You Were Here”, but they also broke out a number of covers to keep the barefoot congregation on their toes (like the especially awesome INXS song, “Need You Tonight”). A seaside sing along of “Drive” found the crowd winding down before a set-closing version of “A Crow Left Of The Murder” segued into a very sexy take on Ginuine’s timeless slow jam, “Pony”.

As the audience shook off the sand and made their way back to Ocean Ave, the general consensus for Day One seemed simple: Can we do this again next year?

Check out our coverage of Day 2

TheWaster.com | Asbury Park