Sunday, August 12, 2018 - Sometimes I forget just how lucky I am. In the last three weeks, I’ve seen two of my favorite bands of all time (Dramarama and The Alarm) and just saw the world premiere of a play featuring a cast of Broadway veterans all within ten miles of my house.
This was the first time I have ever been able to walk to a Dramarama show. It was one of the 90.5 concerts in Belmar on the boardwalk. Thankfully, it wasn’t nearly as hot that night as it has been for most of the past month. It was hot, but bearable. They had a huge crowd - probably the biggest one yet for 90.5 in Belmar and it was exactly the kind of night that is why I am a subscriber to the station. I have known many of the DJs there for a long time - especially the ones that were part of 106.3 - and I love what they do and the concerts they bring to the area.
Dramarama had a pretty amazing setlist that night. My wife and I were way in the back, trying to be close enough to feel the coolness in the air from the ocean. From where we were, the sound reminded me of an old AM transistor radio. It didn’t sound bad at all - just different. In a strange way, it actually sounded cool. They played many of my favorites like “Work For Food”, “Scenario”, “Everybody Dies”, “What Are We Gonna Do”, “Train Going Backwards” and the two hits they are best known for “Last Cigarette” and “Anything Anything.” But what made the show great was tracks like “I’ve Got Spies”, “Some Crazy Dame” and “70s TV” — the latter being a song I don’t think I’ve ever heard them play before. Turns out it was a request from my friend Glenn… nice job bud.
After the show, I was able to talk to the guys. I thought I had missed John Easdale but ran into him on our walk home. I told him the show gave me my MS dream: I want to someday get better enough that I can actually move around during “Last Cigarette” the way I did growing up. Sadly, I have to watch shows sitting down these days. And when you spent your life watching shows standing, it’s more than a drag to sit through a show. In a very strange way, you feel disconnected from the show. Or at least I do.
Speaking of sitting, I got a bit worried about The Alarm show when I heard the Wonder Bar was going to remove the tables because the show was completely sold out. When you absolutely cannot stand, you need to make arrangements in advance and when we arrived at The Wonder Bar there was over 100 people in line to enter. I knew there would be no way I could get a seat at the bar after seeing that line. Thankfully, I was able to get in touch with Debbie a few days earlier and she reserved one of the few tables for me.
This was the first Alarm show I’ve been to with my friend Frank in a very long time - maybe even 20 years. We saw the band a few times in the city growing up, usually at the old Ritz. He had never seen them locally before, but this was probably the third venue in Monmouth County for me. Once was at the PNC Bank Arts Center when the band opened for Bob Dylan and another time might have been a solo show by Mike Peters, but it had a moment I’ll never forget. It was at Cheers in Long Branch, which had some sort of curfew at the time which made them have to stop the live music. Mike Peters wasn’t ready to stop though, so he took a guitar with him outside and began playing on the back of a pickup truck. It was sometime in December and as Mike played “Happy Xmas (War Is Over)” snow actually began to fall. It was amazing!
I wondered why the show wasn’t moved to a larger venue because tickets sold out in just a few weeks - months before the show - but it turned out to be a good thing. The Wonder Bar was packed with die hard Alarm fans who sang along to every song. It was EXACTLY like The Gathering in Wales, which I was lucky enough to attend once with my wife. On this night in Asbury Park, the band likely played the best concert I’ve ever seen by them. They blended the set list with fan favorites and cuts from their new album, Equals. Few artists could have done a better job of going back and forth like they did. Best of all, they played “Walk Forever By My Side” - our wedding song. Even though it’s a fan favorite, there’s never a guarantee it’ll be played. It’s always special hearing it. When Sherry and I were in Wales, it was one of the songs we all sang together with Mike Peters on the beach. Those are the kind of memories you’ll never forget and here we were singing it again with him in Asbury.
In a way, Mike explained why the show was at The Wonder Bar. He pointed over at the Paramount Theatre and gushed as he remembered performing there during a Light of Day concert. He recalled Bruce Springsteen knocking on his door, introducing himself, and asking if he wanted to play on stage with him. The way his face lit up when he recalled that made it clear he was exactly where he wanted to be on this night. And the way the band played, we all were. I needed that show. Mike and his wife Jules are an inspiration to me. The songs were powerful and inspiring when I was growing up and have taken on a new meaning ever since I began facing my own health issues. I see their fight and it makes me want to fight on. Music has always saved me and it's where I can always turn. Those two bands have been such a big part of my life, it's amazing to be able to see both within a few weeks - thirty years after I first starting seeing them. That's just amazing.