Words by Audra Tracy | Photos by Rod Snyder
Can we all agree that the Sea Hear Now Festival should happen every year, forever? After Day 1 of the 2021 event exceeded all expectations, there was still so much to experience at this Asbury Park oasis on Day 2, as well. Sunday saw performances from superstars like Grouplove, Billy Idol, and Smashing Pumpkins, plus a few surprise ‘secret sets’ throughout the afternoon.
If there was one thing that was made clear this weekend, the sky’s the limit for Sea Hear Now. It seems to get better and better every year, and we can’t wait to see what happens next.
Keep reading for highlights of Day 2…
Transparent Pop-Up Gallery
Sea Hear Now celebrates all forms of creativity, from the surfers carving lines along the shore, to the immersive art installations that inspired photo ops all over the festival grounds. Near the Park Stage, legendary rock photographer (and Sea Hear Now curator) Danny Clinch hosted a pop-up tent for his Transparent Gallery, where 2021 performers shared paintings from their own personal collections. A few artists even treated some lucky fans with Q&A’s and intimate acoustic sets on Sunday.
Grouplove’s Hannah Hooper kicked off the schedule of ‘secret sets’ along with her partner and bandmate Christian Zucconi, who together performed an acoustic number before Hooper answered a few questions about her art on display. Billy Morrison, guitarist for Billy Idol, had a number of paintings adorning the walls of the tent, including a cool portrait of Evel Knievel. During his mini-set, Morrison performed a cover of ‘Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door’, with a little help from his fans.
Another highlight from the pop-up was an appearance by Ron Artis II, a soul artist from Hawaii who was building a buzz all weekend long. Clinch himself introduced Artis before the pair performed an improvisational groove together that they coined ‘Transparency Blues’.
Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears
Back at the Sand Stage, fans found another stand-out act from Day 2 in Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears, a band that hails from another famed music city: Austin, Texas. “We’re from a fucked up place called Texas, and we’re on vacation right now”, Lewis declared while he took in the salt air and ocean views on this gorgeous 80 degree day.
Together Lewis and the Honeybears performed a late-afternoon set of songs including ‘I’m Broke’ and ‘No Rhyme or Reason’, which featured an extended jam that kept attendees deep in the groove. The set started with some rousing guitar rock that you might hear from The Black Keys or Gary Clark Jr., and, over time, evolved into soulful jams that invoked the vibe of Sly and the Family Stone, or even James Brown. They also found a way to make a flute look and sound cool in a rock setting, which is no easy feat!
For a change of pace, look no further than the technicolor pop stylings of Grouplove. One of the more ‘mainstream’ acts on the festival bill, the five piece brought some California sunshine – and a ton of energy – to the Park Stage on Sunday.
Radio hits ‘Raspberry’ and ‘Itchin’ On A Photograph’ got the crowd moving early on, and soon a full-fledged dance party was going down in Bradley Park. It was quite the scene: fans showed up in droves to unwind and spin barefoot in the grass like a bunch of blissed out hippies. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the band’s debut, Never Trust a Happy Song, and the album’s mega-hit ‘Tongue Tied’ helped Sunday’s set reach its ultimate peak.
A golden moon illuminated the Asbury Park beach, luring 80’s glam rocker Billy Idol to the Surf Stage on Sunday night. And it didn’t take long to see that the ‘rebel yell’ is still strong with him.
Decked out in his frosted platinum hair and signature leather jacket, Idol and his band dispatched all your favorite MTV hits, including ‘Dancing With Myself’, ‘Flesh for Fantasy’, and ‘Mony Mony’. Idol just released a brand new EP, The Roadside, this week, and fans at Sea Hear Now were treated to two new tracks, ‘Rita Hayworth’ and ‘Bitter Taste’, too.
“America, you’ve been fabulous to me”, Idol said with a snarl. “I want to thank you for making my life so fucking great.” He then returned the favor to his adoring audience by closing out his set with yet another radio smash, ‘White Wedding’.
Sunday’s headliner, Smashing Pumpkins, closed out the weekend with a 90’s grunge revival full of the band’s greatest hits. Whereas Eddie Vedder was chatty with the audience during Pearl Jam’s set on Day 1, Billy Corgan and his band were all business on this night, digging right into fan favorites like ‘Bullet with Butterfly Wings’ and ‘Today,’ to every headbanger’s delight.
With a red heart and red diamond drawn on his pale white cheeks, and wearing a long floral jacket, frontman Billy Corgan serenaded the crowd during an acoustic take of ‘Tonight, Tonight’, from the band’s 1995 masterpiece, Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. It was a sweet moment under the stars for the 30,000 fans in attendance, and, if it were still the 90’s, people would have for sure raised their Bic lighters in approval.
The Pumpkins played pretty much every song you’d want to hear, like the one-two punch of ‘Cherub Rock’ into ‘Zero’ that found the diehards up front thrashing along to the iconic riffs. ‘Disarm’ delivered one last slice of nostalgia before our headliner finished up with ‘Shame’ and ‘United States’.
As fans made the mass exodus down Ocean Ave, fragments of a lone pumpkin lying smashed on the pavement was the final reminder of a weekend well spent.
Thank you Sea Hear Now! See you next year!
TheWaster.com | Asbury Park