by Gary Wien
PARK, NJ -- AUGUST 4, 2012) -- It's a bit strange, I know, especially
for someone who covers live music, but I don't usually go out on the
weekends during the summer. The simple act of avoiding Bennies who
haven't a clue as to their destination presents something of an obstacle
course; you face cars and trucks that pretend you don't exist, New
Yorkers who should stick to the subway, and the entire experience turns
my normal five-minute jaunt into a stress-inducing fifteen to
twenty-minute slice of hell. But the thought of possibly missing the
last local performance of Jim Boggia led me to take a break from the
book I'm writing and dragged me out to The Saint in Asbury Park on
In case you haven't been following the
situation, Boggia, a veteran singer-songwriter from Philadelphia, has
been telling his fans that he's giving serious thought about removing
underperforming venues from his tour list. Since The Saint was now being
singled out for the second straight time, I took notice and heeded his
warning. Apparently, I wasn't the only one.
A rather nice crowd
turned up for an early Saturday night show. Hitting the stage around
8:30pm, Jim Boggia became the first artist I've seen to "hack" the
Saint's new curtain. As Scott Stamper pulled open the curtain, Boggia
was nowhere to be found -- all the audience saw was an empty mike stand.
Apparently, Jim had been hiding as far to the left as possible. Upon
bewildering the crowd for a few moments, he ran across the stage
exclaiming, "I love the curtain!"
After opening with "On Your
Birthday", he joked, "It's always good to be here at the newly curtained
Saint. I won't tell you what I was doing before the curtain opened,
but don't go near that part of the stage!"
His next song was the
brilliant, "Annie Also Ran" -- a tune that he also brought along to 4
Way Street. Hearing him strum those chords really made me miss that
band. They were the very first band I interviewed for my old
publication, Upstage Magazine. That band turned me on to the group of
Philly-area singer-songwriters and I've followed their solo careers ever
It was nice to see Jim in a good mood on stage. He was
relaxed, joking, and seemed to really enjoy having a decent crowd in
Asbury. He closed out "Annie Also Ran" with a segue into "Something In
The Air" by Thunderclap Newman and then took a look out into the
"It's always good when Scott gives you the chance to
play The Saint to have more people than you can see from the stage,"
said Jim. "So, what would you like to hear?"
I'm pretty sure it
was Hinge at the soundboard who shouted "NRBQ" but whoever it was got
Jim's attention and earned the request. If you're not familiar with the
song, "Listening to NRBQ" is a wonderful tale about a music fan's lost
romance as he looks back on his life many years later. He's since sold
his vinyl collection on eBay and has a wife and a kid, but still recalls
the times he drove around in his old Charger (which hauled ass) with
his girl listening to NRBQ on the car's 8-track.
into the request, Jim wanted to make sure one thing was crystal clear.
"Ok, before we proceed, can we be clear that this is about a band, not a
radio station? And it's not autobiographical!"
Jim went on to
showcase tunes from several of his releases including, "To and Fro", "No
Way Out", "Bubblegum 45s", "So", "Let Me Believe (Evan's Lament)", and
"8 Track". Sadly, those last two tunes really emphasized his disgust
with the record industry right now. Before launching into "Let Me
Believe" he said, "and I once did"; meanwhile, he opened "8 Track" by
saying, "This is a song that is of no relevance anymore, but I had the
last laugh because the whole industry died."
In between, he gave
us a beautiful cover of Bob Dylan's, "The Girl From North Country" and
closed with the amazing, "That's Not Why I Hate New York".
pretended to stop and come back for an encore, but acknowledged the
folly of it in this setting. "It would be great to do an encore, but
then we'd have to close the curtain and reopen it..." So, instead he
just burst into a tune about John Maynard Keynes, an influential British
economist of the 20th century. I'm not sure if this was improv or not,
but it was strange nevertheless.
Boggia finished the night by
telling a story about Bruce Springsteen and how he tried to explain to a
friend of his that people weren't booing him, but saying
"Bruuuuuccccee" instead. He tried to get the audience to imagine what
they would do if Bruce were to suddenly come through the door behind the
stage. Timed perfectly, Hinge came right on through to great applause
and chants of "Bruce!" It was hilarious!
Jim then played a very
sweet version of "Thunder Road" on the ukulele. You really haven't
lived until you hear someone sing, "Well, I got this ukulele and I
learned how to make it talk!" Making the experience even more beautiful,
Jim ended with a few bars of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow", which is
just magical on the uke.
It was difficult to judge whether we
were watching an artist tired of the game or someone just having fun,
but it was a great evening through. Yet, for some reason, with each
song, I got the feeling he truly is writing off venues that aren't
working for him and simply not worth the aggravation. Looking back at
the night at The Saint, I was reminded of John Lennon who once famously
said, "I'd like to say thank you on behalf of the group and ourselves,
and I hope we passed the audition."
Boggia's set, two great upcoming artists took turns on stage. Brook
Girard, a promising young keyboardist, led off with a set of strong and
instantly memorable original songs including "Ordinary Girl", "Road
Trip", "Wanderlust", and "Trembling". She also presented a fine cover
of "All This Time" by Onerepublic.
Michael Dante Summonte
followed with another fine set. This was probably the sixth or seventh
time I've seen him and it finally occurred to me who he reminds me of.
While, I've seen him compared often to Bob Dylan, he actually reminds me
more of John Lennon -- specifically the way John sounds on his demo
recordings, stripped of the overdubs and studio highlights he always
felt the need to hide behind. Michael's songwriting even heads down
many of the same dreamy avenues that John used to take us (listen to his
song, "Rats" for an example).
Summonte's set featured several
brilliant originals including "Grandfather Grandfather" and a cover of
"Catch and Release" by Petal Tree, a band he also plays in.
Brooke and Michael were the type of artists I used to give ink to in
Upstage. One thing I was always proud of was the mag's track record of
highlighting artists who had little or no exposure beforehand but
certainly deserved it. Sometimes I wish I had more time to continue
down that road... maybe someday. But for now check them out at:
Michael Dante Summonte -- http://www.reverbnation.com/michaeldantesummonte
Brook Girard -- http://www.reverbnation.com/brookegirard
and you can learn more about Jim Boggia at http://jimboggia.com