Words by Audra Tracy | Photos by Rod Snyder

It’s Bonnaroo without the soul-sucking heat. It’s Coachella without the asthma-inducing dust. It’s Governors Ball without being trapped on a god-forsaken island. It’s a premier music event in our very own backyard, and yes, it’s in New Jersey.

The second annual Sea.Hear.Now Festival took over the Asbury Park waterfront this weekend, luring an estimated 37,000 music lovers to the Jersey shore for two days of oceanside entertainment. This year featured a solid line-up of top touring artists, with performances by Dave Matthews Band, The Lumineers, Joan Jett, The B-52’s, Dispatch, The Struts, Blind Melon, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, and many more.

Like last year, Mother Nature was kind to the outdoor event, and fans enjoyed nothing but sunshine and blue skies from start to finish. Plus, this year’s re-entry policy let attendees come and go as they please, with freedom to explore Asbury Park and its bustling art scene in between sets.

One thing is for sure – Sea.Hear.Now definitely did not suffer from the sophomore slump.

Here are some highlights from Day One:

*Blind Melon*
Danny Clinch, iconic music photographer and the man behind the magic of Sea.Hear.Now, definitely had a hand in bringing Blind Melon to the stage on Saturday afternoon. He’s worked with the alt-rockers since the 90’s, and he even directed a documentary about the late, great, Shannon Hoon called ‘All I Can Say’. The Sand Stage was packed for the early afternoon set as Blind Melon performed a mix of fan favorites from their 1992 debut album, plus a brand new single with new singer Travis Warren, “Way Down and Far Below”. Naturally, the set closed out with the MTV mega-hit, “No Rain”, which incited a sunny day sing-along, and pumped the crowd up for much more music to come…

*Fantastic Negrito*
Next up was Fantastic Negrito, who was clearly reveling in the sights and sounds of a beautiful day at the Jersey shore. “I had a certain image in my mind of New Jersey”, the California native bellowed from the scenic Surf Stage. “It wasn’t this!”

The Grammy winner and NPR Tiny Desk superstar put on a blistering sermon of Delta blues riffs, including songs from 2018’s soulful Please Don’t Be Dead. The party was in full swing, and the power of music compelled the crowd to completely let loose in the giant sandbox at their feet. “I can tell by the look in your eyes that some of you are not making it home”, he joked. “May give up your pin number…”

*Joan Jett & The Blackhearts*
One of the biggest draws of Day One was definitely Joan Jett and The Blackhearts, who stacked the shoreline with thousands of howling, hungry rock n roll fans. In between monster hits like “Cherry Bomb” and “Bad Reputation”, Kenny Laguna, original Blackheart and longtime musical partner of Ms. Jett, waxed nostalgic about the early days of the band.

“When we were selling records out of the back of the car, there was no place we got more support than New Jersey”, he noted. Based on the crowd’s thunderous reaction, the Garden State is still very much on their side. Love from the locals increased tenfold when Jett and the boys broke out “Light of Day”, a tune penned by Bruce Springsteen himself.

*The Struts*
Another band to wear all black to the beach was The Struts, the UK import that lit up Saturday evening with some bright and shiny glam rock hits.

“Should we turn the heat up, shall we?”, lead singer Luke Spiller asked the masses surrounding the Sand Stage, who were happily head-banging with approval. The energy was electric, and Spiller worked up a healthy sweat hurling himself around the stage as the crowd went wild for tunes like “Body Talks”, “Kiss This”, and “Could Have Been Me”.  The Struts then swiped the torch from Joan Jett and continued the string of Springsteen tributes, digging right into a cover of “Dancing In The Dark”.

*The Lumineers*
Just a week after the release of their new album, III, folk heroes The Lumineers closed out Day One of Sea.Hear.Now with a 90 minute set full of seaside lullabies. The band got intimate early on, performing part of the show on a platform raised in the middle of the crowd. It was a sweet scene to take in, as fans snuggled up under the stars, enjoying the sounds of songs like “It Wasn’t Easy to Be Happy For You”, “Ho Hey”, and “Gloria”.

The spirit of Springsteen was still in the air, and the headliner put some more magic in the night by playing “Thunder Road” before sending fans off, back to reality on Ocean Avenue.

Click here for coverage of Day Two…

TheWaster.com | Asbury Park