The Boys from the Casino

 

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The Cold Seas

 

I want to tell you a little story. This story, unlike many of my posts, has a beginning a middle and an actual end. It starts back in Melbourne about a year ago but mostly plays out on a steamy Summer’s night (last night in fact) at the Stone Pony in Asbury Park.

Shall I begin, then? Good.

Sometime last year (I forget quite when it was), while I was stuck back in Melbourne feeling nostalgic for all things Jersey, I was reading up on the history of Asbury Park. I was particularly interested in the musical significance of venues like The Stone Pony and the Wonderbar and was getting that familiar itch to be back there.

On a whim, I typed, “Asbury Park bands” into YouTube, thinking, “I wonder if the next E Street Band is slogging its heart out around the traps of AP, hoping a little Bruce magic might rub off on them?”

Almost immediately, I stumbled across some videos of a band called Deal Casino. The first was a live video of them playing a small gig at Porta (that’s the old Student Prince, Springsteen fans). They sounded tight and I was pretty impressed by the songwriting.

Next, I found a number of their recorded tracks and was instantly taken with this one in particular (obviously the Bruce reference helped).

 

I got on iTunes then and found them easily enough (a minor miracle on the Australian version). They had a number of EPs out at the time and so I downloaded the lot and ‘liked’ the band on social media so that I’d be able to keep track of what they were up to.

Jump forward to just a few short weeks ago, me back now in Jersey and newly married. I was aware that the band were about to drop their first album and was fully intending to download it at the first opportunity when, quite out of the blue, I received a friend request from Christopher Donofrio, drummer with Deal Casino.

I accepted, of course, and, almost immediately, got a message from him saying, Hi Tony! This is Chris from the band Deal Casino. We are mailing tickets directly for our record release show because T**********r sucks. Let me know if you’d be interested in coming!”

Needless to say, I was in and so, we purchased said tickets – at a considerable saving – and, just a few days later, they duly arrived (complete with a free vinyl single, I might add).

So, last night, Jersey girl and I jumped in the car and drove down to Asbury Park. The traffic gods were kind and we arrived with time to spare, so we strolled the boardwalk, had a couple of beers at the Beach Bar, and then a delicious dinner at our favourite Cuban restaurant, Cubacan.

As it turns out, we hadn’t had quite as much time as we’d thought, so missed the first support band, Born Cages. We did, however, catch the second band, The Cold Seas and they were amazing. If I had to categorise them, I’d say they fall within the Post-rock genre.

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We both really vibed on these guys and I downloaded all their available recorded material as soon as I got up this morning; really good stuff.

Deal Casino took the stage not long after (I like a band that doesn’t keep its audience waiting around too long) and the gig took off.

 

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Deal Casino are: vocals, guitar – Joe P. Parella,  guitar, keys – Jozii Cowell,  bass – Jon Rodney,  drums – Chris Donofrio. I’m not sure how the band divide writing duties but the songs have a consistency of vision that suggests that it’s mostly down to one member.

The thing that struck me the most about the gig was how dedicated the crowd was. You got the distinct impression that there was a strong core of people present who go to every show the band plays in NJ. Having now experienced them live, I can understand where that loyalty comes from. It all made for a really entertaining experience.

At one point, a large section of the audience suddenly squatted down on the floor during an extended guitar build, only to leap back up as one and go wild at the song’s big crescendo.

 

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Getting ready to jump (image: Jeff Crespi‎).

 

 

Joe really is a very good vocalist and his voice never wavered through what was, in the end, a pretty long night. His command of the stage was impressive and he even indulged in a little onstage Springsteenesque storytelling. And what was the subject of his story? How he came to be inspired by Bruce and the E Street Band, of course.

It transpired that Joe and another member of the band (not sure which) have held day jobs at Porta. I wondered if they knew the significance of that place in the Springsteen legend.

I also have to say that, though every member of Deal Casino is extremely good at what they do, Chris needs to be singled out for special mention here; he is one of the best rock drummers I’ve seen in a very long time. I wish I’d filmed the crazy solo he performed (with a little technical aid from Joe), it was mind-blown good.

 

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that’s Joe holding a snare (or maybe a tom) in the air and moving it about in space as a kind of challenge to Chris who is playing between the kit and the moving target in Joe’s hand – flawlessly, I might add.

 

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Here’s a much better shot of that not taken by me on a crappy cell phone. (Image:Delaney Gerard)

 

So that was my first ever gig at the famous Stone Pony (Jersey girl saw The Gaslight Anthem play the Summer stage several years ago so, for her, only the first inside gig). It seemed very appropriate to be seeing a couple of young up-and-coming bands at the venue that birthed such legends as the Asbury Dukes and Bon Jovi all those years ago.

Oh, I promised you an actual ending to my story.

This morning, I was putting some of my phone pics of the night up on my Facebook page and, literally within moments, Chris posted a comment thanking me for coming. That’s before any of my actual friends had even hit ‘like’ and, even more incredibly, at 9.30 am!

What he was even doing awake so early after a gig like that is beyond me, but I predict that kind of dedication to the fans is going to take this band far. If this show was anything to go by, they certainly deserve to get where they’re going.

 

 

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The Stone Pony wall of fame.

 

Deal Casino’s self-titled debut album is available now.

 

Words and images (except where otherwise credited) are my own.

 

©2017

Meet me in the city

 

Disruption

 

He failed to make an appointment

In a dream

And walked around all day feeling

There was somewhere else

He was meant to be

There was no admonishment

But he couldn’ shake the f e e l i n g

He’d broken with the protocols

Flouted his responsibilities

And walked off the reservation

 

 

His disquiet made him a bear all day at work.

 

 

 

©2017

 

 

 

 

 

I wanna be where the bands are

 

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“Before we play a little bit, I’d like to say a few things about why we’re down here tonight. Mainly I’d like to say that I think that the marriage between a community and a company is a special thing, it involves a special trust and even 400 jobs is a lot of work lost in a small town.

“What do you do when after 10 years or 20 years, you wake up in the morning and you see your livelihood sailing away from you, leaving you standing on the beach? What happens when the jobs go away and the people remain? I’d like to say what goes unmeasured is the price that unemployment inflicts on people’s families, on their marriages, on the single mothers out there trying to raise their kids on their own.

“Now, the 3M company, it’s their money and it’s their plant but it’s the 3M workers’ jobs. I’m here tonight to just say that I think that after 25 years of service from a community that there’s a debt owed to the 3M workers and to my hometown.”

Bruce Springsteen at the Stone Pony; 19 January, 1986. performing a benefit gig for workers from the Freehold 3M plant that was about to be permanently closed down.

 

The Stone Pony in Asbury Park is generally acknowledged to be one of the most important live Rock venues of all time. It is often mentioned by music historians in the same breath as CBGB, Whiskey a Go Go, and the Cavern Club.

And for almost the entire of the club’s forty three year history, it has been closely associated with one rock icon in particular. Bruce Springsteen’s relationship with the Pony is legendary. Following the closure of the Upstage club when he was still living in and around Asbury Park, through all the years of touring, Springsteen has been a fairly regular fixture at the club.

It has been estimated that the Boss has played the Pony stage some 100 times and, with the exception of private gigs to fundraise for his children’s various schools, has never once been billed there.

His first ever Pony performance was on Sept. 8, ’74. Springsteen was jamming with an outfit called The Blackberry Booze Band featuring none other than Steve Van Zandt and Southside Johnny Lyon. Blackberry would go on to become the Asbury Dukes.

 

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Bruce and Stevie, the early days. Picture lifted from the Stone Pony website.

Springsteen’s star was already in ascendance when the Pony opened its doors in 1973 but, even after he had gained considerable fame and recognition with his breakout album, Born to Run, he could still be found hanging around the Pony, occasionally even jumping the bar and serving drinks to customers (by all accounts he sucked pretty hard as a barkeep).

Almost all of his public appearances at the pony have been jams with other artists. These have included: Blackberry Booze Band, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, Clarence Clemons, The Shakes, The Band’s Levon Helm, Joe Grushecky, Soozie Tyrell, Lord Gunner Group, Marshall Crenshaw, Little Steven, Bobby Bandiera, Nils Lofgren, and Jimmy Cliff.

 

 

The relationship has not always been harmonious, however. There was a period from October ’77 until May ’82 where Springsteen shifted his allegiance from the Pony to the Asbury Lanes across town. This reputedly had something to do with fellow E Streeter, Danny Federici getting tossed out of the Pony one night for general rowdiness which apparently did not go over too well with Springsteen.

By May ’82, all was presumably forgiven as Bruce took to the Pony’s stage again with a vengeance, playing 14 Sunday night jams with house band, Cats on a Smooth Surface.

 

 

On June 8, ’84 The E Street Band launched their mega, Born In The USA tour with a warm-up gig at, you guessed it, The Stone Pony. Twelve songs were played that night, including the live debuts of Born in the U.S.A., Glory Days, My Hometown, and Darlington County.

The Pony has not only served as a handy place for Bruce to play, it was for many years a safe haven, one of the few places he could relax among the public without the fear of constant harassment from eager fans. It is an unwritten law around the Pony that you don’t get up in Springsteen’s face. That’s a rare kind of respect.

The Pony also happens to be the place where, back in the early 80’s, Bruce met his now wife and fellow band mate, Patti Scialfa.

 

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The Stone Pony

 

 

Words and images (except where otherwise stated) are my own.

 

©2017

 

 

Are you recieving me?

 

The fog of love

 

Her eyes sent unreadable messages

Contradictory semaphores of hope and despair

He scanned them like a sentinel

On a high tower

Waiting for the dust cloud to resolve

Mongol horde

Or reinforcement?

 

She gazed back

Looking for confirmation that

The gates were still open

Hoping beyond hope her signals

Were received.

 

 

 

©2017

 

 

Into the fire

 

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Throw the babies overboard

 

There are monsters children

Not in the closet

Nor under the bed

They live in the crumbling hearts

Of empty men

The souless ones

The incomplete

They know nothing of love

All consideration ends

Beyond their own skins

They live to consume

Growing fat

On the miseries of those they

Starve

And you, dear children

Are hapless pieces

In a game without rules

Shoved about the board like human shields

And when idiot strategies fail

It is always you who ruined the game.

 

 

Words are my own.

 

©2017

 

 

Come flailing around

 

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All things considered

 

The line that pulls you in

Can fling you right back out

Slingshot orbit

Exponentiation of velocity

Until you’re

Hurtling  beyond the known

Lost among cold stars and

Strange radiations

Your heart freezing until it shatters

 

Approach then with caution

Consider all trajectories

If you want to land this bird

Calculate

All potentialities.

 

 

Words and image are my own.

 

©2017