Article by Nick Manduley

Photos by Melissa Lawlor and Kenny Bieber

October 2, 2020

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The streets of northern Asbury Park were alive with the sound of music on Saturday, September 26th as the fourth annual Asbury Park Porchfest went off without hitch. Music kicked off at fourteen porches across town at one in the afternoon. Seventy acts ranging from a plethora of different styles and genres breathed life into the local music scene until around six o’clock in the evening.

Middletown singer-songwriter Jessie McCormick kicked off the socially-distanced festival at 321 6th Avenue (a.k.a. “Porch #1,” according to the Porchfest website) with a selection of covers and original tunes. Her set included tracks from her latest EP Songs My Mom Likes, which came out in January. An emotive new song called “More Than I Used To” and a brilliant cover of My Chemical Romance’s “I Don’t Love You” were also featured in McCormick’s set. Her solo-ukulele sound complements her astounding singing voice, and her songwriting is reminiscent of the emo and indie folk genres that are by no means foreign to the New Jersey local music scene.

McCormick was followed by solo sets from Fake Pockets frontwoman Devon Alana and singer-songwriter Brian Erickson. Alana performed a selection of songs from Fake Pockets’ new EP, Magnolia Street, which was released on June 5th. The solo acoustic set was Alana’s first gig in the post-COVID era, save for a livestreamed performance in celebration of the new record.

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“I did a livestream with Brian Erickson for our album release. We streamed that a couple weeks ago, but that wasn’t live. It was pre-recorded,” said Alana. The livestreamed performance served as a dual album release for both her and Erickson, who released his new solo record Little Secrets on September 18th.

Though the reception of Magnolia Street has been generally positive, the pandemic still managed to put a damper on Alana’s creative process: “Not being able to gig really sucked some of the fun out of it for me. That’s why this is so awesome that we got to do this today; even if it’s acoustic, it’s a lot of fun,” said Alana. “It feels a little normal.”

Those who enjoyed Magnolia Street will be happy to know that Fake Pockets still has some unreleased tunes up their sleeve: “We have a few songs that didn’t make it on Magnolia Street that we wrote afterwards. I think we have four of them,” said Alana. She speculates that another Fake Pockets EP will be released sometime in 2021 through their label Mint 400 Records. Asbury Park Porchfest served as Brian Erickson’s first in-person, post-COVID show as well. Erickson had previously performed several livestreams at local landmarks such as The Saint and the Carousel Building. Much like Alana, Erickson also had the opportunity to give the songs off his recent LP Little Secrets a live, in-person debut. The ten-track album was recorded in the late spring, when the vast majority of New Jerseyans were quarantined in their homes. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused many bands to decide to postpone their releases due to the impossibility of touring and performing; Erickson, however, remained keen on sharing Little Secrets with the world, even if it meant not having an in-person release show. “I kinda thought, ‘What’s a cool way to put out music and not really care if there was a release show or not?’ That just made sense to me— to make a low stakes record by myself, and if people like it they like it, and if they don’t they don’t,” said Erickson. The singer-songwriter’s philosophy surrounding the record’s creation was fueled by a desire to announce something during a time when people are bombarded with tour cancellations and album postponements. Erickson told Asbury Park Vibes that he will release another solo record on February 12th, 2021. The album, called Origami Birds, will consist of songs Erickson recorded during the early 2010s but never had the opportunity to release.

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Central Jersey indie rockers The Viewers Like You felt the heat of COVID-19’s decimating impact on the music industry, like many other bands.

“All our gigs were cancelled within twenty-four hours,” said keyboardist Kristen Leu. The band’s late afternoon set at 604 8th Avenue was their first performance in Asbury Park since January, according to bassist Justin Franco.

“Half of us aren’t working and none of us are gigging,” said frontman Dave Mooney. “It’s all about trying to find something, like a light at the end of the tunnel.” In spite of the hardships they’ve faced throughout this (absolute garbage) year, the band has been hard at work writing a new album and creating a new music video. The new album will be released through Mint 400 Records, with whom they signed just before the start of the pandemic. Their music and past videos can be found on their website.

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Asbury Park Porchfest, on a certain level, may represent that proverbial light at the end of the tunnel for the local music scene. While it will certainly still be a long time before concerts can operate at a near-normal level, events like Porchfest— which allow for social distancing— give people a chance to enjoy live music in the early post-COVID era that we are currently in. Anyone walking around Porchfest could feel the excitement and happiness of festival-goers in the air.

Sue and Ed Clerico of Hillsborough have attended Asbury’s Porchfest three years in a row, and were pleased with the success of 2020’s edition of the event: “[It’s gone] very well. Almost everyone has masks, [and] it’s outside,” said Ed.

Porchfest is a means for local and unknown artists to gain exposure, which is something the Hillsborough couple appreciates: “We always come and find things that are new that we love, that’s why we love coming here,” said Mr. Clerico. The Clericos enjoyed experimental jazz trio Unknown Quantity’s set at 703 Sunset Avenue, as well as Dark City Strings and Martin Howth’s performances from the 2019 edition of Porchfest.

“It’s nice you can go from porch to porch and hear different music,” said Mrs. Clerico. “It’s a nice way to spend the afternoon.”

It seems that Asbury Park Porchfest 2020 was, in fact, an afternoon much needed. Asbury Park’s timeless dedication to and culture around live local music is not only central to the town’s cultural identity, but it also serves as a beacon of hope for the music industry during this time; Porchfest is proof of that.

PorchFest was founded in Ithaca, NY in September 2007 by neighbors Gretchen Hildreth and Lesley Greene. Over the years the concept of hosting performances on front porches, for an audience who moved from home to home, has grown with communities around the U.S. organizing PorchFests of all sizes. Asbury Park’s passionate connection to music, its beauty and camaraderie, and its beautiful porches make it an ideal town for our own annual PorchFest. 2020 is our 4th annual PorchFest! This family-friendly, FREE event features musicians from a wide variety of genres. Afternoon entertainment will include dozens of performers on porches throughout the city. Attendees will stroll from porch to porch and relax on front lawns and sidewalks as they enjoy live, local talent. This is a FREE event. AP PorchFest is completely coordinated by volunteers and members of the Asbury Park Homeowners Association who believe in the power of music and understand that engagement builds strong communities. Attendees can show their support for local music, the arts, and the Asbury park community by sponsoring a porch, placing an ad in the event program guide, or by simply making a donation. Asbury Park PorchFest is a 501 (c)(4) non-profit organization.

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Asbury Park Vibes is a media publication dedicated to shining a light on the live music scene, as well as promoting the artists we love! We strive to provide show reviews, photographs, and artist stories that bring fans and musicians closer together.

Our coverage focuses keenly on the artists and venues in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York; however, you'll also catch us featuring musicians and shows all across the U.S!!! There's nothing better than the ENERGY and VIBES we all feel from live music! We're sure we'll see you at a show somewhere very soon!

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