If the 24th annual Asbury Music Awards had a message, it’s that a horn section still goes a long way toward defining the town’s sound. A combination gathering-of-the-tribes, “drunken office Christmas party” (in the words of singer-songwriter Francis Lombardi) and well-deserved-pat-on-the-back for the Jersey shore’s music scene and its behind-the-scenes support, the 2016 event took place at a packed Stone Pony on Dec. 8.
Comedian Taylor Allen proved an efficient and enthusiastic (if not particularly funny) emcee, and presentations and speeches for the AMAs’ wide-ranging awards (50 categories, many of which had a dozen or more nominees) were interspersed with musical performances that — in AMA tradition — showcased the breadth and eclecticism of Asbury Park music. The night started with the earnest emo-punk of Corrina, Corrina at 7 p.m. and ended with the reggae fusion of Predator Dub Assassins, and also included forays into folk, indie-alternative, funk, goth/electronic and hard rock.
The young tyros on the stage, like the punky Vansaders and the psychedelic guitarists of “gods,” took a backseat to Red Bank’s veteran Colossal Street Jam, whose powerful set of horn-driven ’70s-style hard rock and power ballads stole the night. Once the Stone Pony house band (in the summer of 1989!), Colossal Street Jam recently returned from a 15-year hiatus and proved that they remain as potent as ever. The jamming groove-funk of Waiting on Mongo and the Shady Street Show Band’s theatrical take on bar-band soul also featured outstanding horn sections.
Asbury’s avant-garde proved well represented by the outlandishly dressed Daughter Vision (Depeche Mode meets Marilyn Manson) while the Cranston Dean Band served up a supple groove with its John Mayer-influenced indie jams.
Artists on the bill walked away with a lion’s share of awards. Cranston Dean won Top Male Acoustic Act. The Shady Street Show Band took Top R&B/Soul Band, Top Female Vocalist for Lindsey DeSena and Top Keyboard Player for Ryan Gregg. Waiting on Mongo nabbed Top Jam/Groove/Funk Band, the Vansaders took home the trophy for Top Punk Band, and “gods” copped awards for Top Live Performance, Top Local Single, Top Psych/Garage/Surf Act and Top Drummer.
The AMAs recognize not only musicians but also venues and the scenemakers so integral to any music scene, including journalists, production people and radio personalities. Jim Appio of CoolDadMusic.com was honored as Top Music Journalist (with CoolDadMusic.com winning Top Music Website) and dedicated his award to “everyone who actually does music journalism and not just a blog.” Soundman Jim Norton, a beloved local presence from his years at Asbury Lanes, won Top Production/Lighting for his work at the new House of Independents, while The Saint was named Top Live Original Music Venue (Small).
Nicole Atkins won two of the “Beyond Asbury” awards, reserved for successful Asbury alumni no longer eligible for local awards, and Rich Robinson of 90.5 The Night WBJB-FM was honored with the Living Legend Award. A special Lifetime Achievement Award went to Scott Stamper, owner of The Saint and organizer of the AMAs; singer-songwriter Rick Barry presented the trophy, saying “without this man giving me a place to play music when I started out, I’d probably have a real job today instead of making art.” The James M. MacDonald Behind the Scenes Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors production staff, went to Tom “Stosh” Stimpson
Christine Feola, a promoter at House of Independents and booker of “Happy Mondays” at the Wonder Bar, gave a short speech in which she extolled Asbury Park’s virtues and waxed brightly about its future.
“Before I started booking Happy Mondays, I never realized how much talent could come out of one night,” she said. “This little town not only has a ton of bands, but bands destined to be a success. We are something special.”
Here is the list of winners:
New Artist: The Morgan Freemasons
Young Band (Under 21): Corrina, Corrina
“Beyond” Artist (Active Artists Who Have Recently Graduated After Having Been Nominated for Five Years): Accidental Seabirds
“Classic” Artist: Nicole Atkins
Tribute/Cover Band: Remember Jones
Male Acoustic Act: Cranston Dean
Female Acoustic Act: Renee Maskin
Male Vocalist: Anthony D’Amato (Remember Jones)
Female Vocalist: Lindsey DeSena (The Shady Street Show Band)
Jam/Groove/Funk Band: Waiting on Mongo
R&B/Soul Band: The Shady Street Show Band
Avant-Garde Act: Daughter Vision
Indie/Alt Rock Band: Dentist
Indie Folk Band: Lowlight
Psych/Garage/Surf Band: gods
Heavy/Prog Rock Band: Negative Sky
Americana/Strings: Dark City Strings
Punk Band: The Vansaders
Rock Band: Deal Casino
Guitarist: Brent Berghold (The Battery Electric)
Bassist: Zach Westfall (Zach Westfall Trio)
Drummer: Sam Bey (gods)
Keyboard Player: Ryan Gregg (The Shady Street Show Band)
Multi-instrumentalist: Cody McCorry (Homeless Apians/We Used to Cut the Grass)
Horn Player: Ian Gray, trombone (The Shady Street Show Band, We Used to Cut the Grass, Remember Jones)
Live Performance: gods
Local Album Release: Dolly, Low Year
Local Single Release: gods, “Couch Ride”
Song of the Year: Dentist, “Meet You There (In Delaware)”
Music Video: The Battery Electric, “Holiday in Heaven”
Local Club DJ: DJ Mike Merrell
Poet Laureate: Manny Castanon
Comedian: Taylor Allen
Production/Lighting: Jim Norton (House of Independents)
Live Sound Engineer: Billy Colledge (The Stone Pony, Wonder Bar)
Music Photographer: Jeff Crespi
“Beyond/Classic” Release (Record/Single Release): Nicole Atkins, “A Little Crazy
Music News Publication in Support of Live Music: CoolDad Music
Radio/Internet Station in Support of Live Music: 90.5 The Night WBJB-FM, Brookdale Public Radio
Radio Personality in Support of Live Music: Megan O’Shea, 90.54 The Night WBJB-FM, Brookdale Public Radio
Journalist in Support of Live Music: Jim Appio, CoolDad Music/Speak Into My Good Eye
Music Website/Facebook in Support of Live Original Music: CoolDadMusic.com
Hang-Out Bar in Asbury Park: Bond Street Bar
Live Original Music Venue (Small): The Saint
Live Original Music Venue (Large): The Stone Pony
Best Thing to Happen in Rock ‘n’ Roll in Asbury Park: Indian Summer Concert at North Beach curated by Colin Carhart and Joe Chyb, featuring Dean Ween of Ween
Best Thing to Happen in Asbury Park: Asbury Park Brewery, “The Original Asbury Park Brewery,” opens for tours and tastings.
Living Legend: Rich Robinson (90.5 The Night, WBJB-FM, Brookdale Public Radio)
James Macdonald “Behind the Scenes” Lifetime Achievement Award: Tom “Stosh” Stimpson
Lifetime Achievement: Scott Stamper (The Saint)