Long before $400-a-night hotel rooms and $8 mocktails, rock ‘n’ roll was the only thing keeping Asbury Park from falling into the Atlantic Ocean. The musicians, venues and legendary shows buoyed the waterfront until gentrification swooped to the economic rescue.
Asbury Park has changed, but music remains a key attraction. The Asbury Park Music & Film Festival spotlights the role of music in film, and how both mediums intersect. From April 25–28, the City by the Sea will host dozens of films, musical performances and Q&As all tethered to the powerful influence of sound.
“When I was growing up around Asbury Park, it was the epicenter of film in the state of New Jersey,” says Tom Bernard, co-chair of the festival and co-president of Sony Pictures Classics. “There were several iconic venues in Asbury, including the Paramount Theatre, where people flocked to see their favorite motion pictures.”
On the music side, Bernard reminds us that Asbury Park is “the home of the Jersey Shore sound” popularized by the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Steven Van Zandt and Southside Johnny, all of whom, Bernard says, have appeared at the festival in the past.
In addition to good sounds, the festival is committed to good works. Proceeds are directed to programs for underserved children in Asbury Park. The programs provide the children with music education, instruments and networking opportunities.
“This is the only festival I know of that is purely committed to a charitable cause,” says Bernard. “That’s what attracted me to it five years ago and continues to inspire me today.
Here are a few highlights:
Screening: “Echo in the Canyon”; live performances by Jakob Dylan, Cat Power, Jade and special guests.
April 25, 7 p.m.
The festival opens with the New Jersey premiere of “Echo In The Canyon,” a star-filled documentary about the historic Laurel Canyon music scene in Los Angeles. After the screening, Jakob Dylan (son of Bob) and other artists will perform songs by the Mamas and the Papas, the Byrds and the Beach Boys.
Concert: Gary US Bonds’ Unusually Big Birthday Bash
April 26, 6:30 p.m.
The R&B/rock legend, who has collaborated with many notable Asbury musicians, celebrates his upcoming 80th, backed by the veteran Pittsburgh band Joe Grushecky & the Houserockers.
Screening: “Creem: Boy Howdy! The Story of Creem Magazine”
April 27, noon
House of Independents
An insightful documentary on Creem magazine and the bold staff who would become the rock stars of music journalism, followed by a Q&A with director Scott Crawford and deejay Rich Russo.
Screening: “Clarence Clemons: Who Do You Think I Am?”
April 27, noon
The New Jersey premiere of a new documentary on the life of E Street Band sax legend and songwriter, Clarence “The Big Man” Clemons. The film features interviews with Bill Clinton, Joe Walsh, former bandmates, friends and family. Followed by a Q&A with director Nick Mead, producer Joe Amodei and special guest Jake Clemons, nephew of Clarence.
Screening: “The Bruce Springsteen Archives”
April 27, 3:30 p.m.
Exclusive screening of never-before-seen clips from the Thrill Hill Vault, presented by Thom Zimny, Bruce Springsteen’s longtime film director and archivist.
Screening: Bob Dylan Center Presents: “Dylan Archives IV”
April 28, 11:30 a.m.
House of Independents
The Bob Dylan Center, a cultural heritage group dedicated to the study and appreciation of all things Dylan, presents never-before-seen archival footage of the American folk icon.
Screening: “Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock n’ Roll”
April 28, 3 p.m.
This new documentary traces the decline and comeback of Asbury Park, and features Springsteen reuniting with original band members to play a now legendary concert at a sold-out Paramount Theatre. Springsteen trades guitar licks with a group of 11-year-old rockers who suggest that the town’s best days might lie ahead. The film hits theaters on May 22.
Additional highlights include a Friday-night concert by Yo La Tengo; screenings of films about David Crosby, Miles Davis and Phish frontman Trey Anastasio; and a live interview with the Farrelly Brothers (“Dumb and Dumber”; “There’s Something About Mary”).