Its 36 degrees outside and the winds are whipping off the ocean in Asbury Park, NJ. The tourists have gone home for the season, but the town is still alive and breathing thanks to one thing. Music. Asbury Park is truly a special place, spawning a unique music scene of its own sounds and stars, and to be honest, there’s very few places I’d rather be. The backdrop for tonight’s show is the newly renovated Asbury Lanes, and features Canadian powerhouse band Arkells with Indie synth-pop rockers St Lucia.
Arkells have been riding one hell of a wave of late. A hit single (Knocking on The Door), a huge summer stadium show in their hometown, and the release of their fifth full-length studio album Rally Cry. Over the past few years, Arkells have been spending quite a bit of time here in the lower 48, and we’re all too happy to have them. Touring in support of their latest album, Arkells are Max Kerman, Mike DeAngelis, Nick Dika, Tim Oxford, and Tony Carone.
Arkells took the stage to “Relentless” off their new album Rally Cry, an emotive song with the chorus “Relentless, like a dog on a bone, we got gas in the tank to go all night long” inspired by the late great Gord Downie.
Max Kerman stepped to the edge of the stage telling the crowd how special it was to be in Asbury Park, as his band-mates began the intro to the hit song “Leather Jacket” transforming their set into a sing-along dance party. At that moment it was very clear that this band was there to have just as much fun as the crowd. The set continued with “Eyes on the Prize” a big bold song with punchy guitar riffs and gospelesque backing vocals laying a sweet foundation for Kerman’s distinct vocals. One song later (“American Screams”) he leapt over the barrier into the crowd, and for a few moments I lost him in the shuffle, only to see him show up on the bar at the other side of the venue. From his elevated perch on the bar, Kerman delivered the politically charged vocals while the crowd danced along to the retro disco beats.
Arkells continued their set showing the crowd in Asbury Park that they came to play hard. With a mixture of new music and older standouts, Arkells commanded the attention of the crowd who enthusiastically sang and danced to every song of their set.
Prior to the Arkells set, I had the pleasure of meeting a few Canadian fans. Sisters Samantha and Teresa drove nine hours from Canada for an opportunity to see their favourite band in this venue. You can imagine their excitement when Max Kerman came over to say hello, thanking them for taking the long ride and taking a few photos, leaving them both with big smiles and great memories.
The evening openers St. Lucia, are a Brooklyn based techno-pop band originally formed in 2012 by front man Jean-Philip Grobler, and are known for their synth-driven retro sound and visual bling. Comprised also of Ross Clark, Nick Paul, Patti Beranek and Dustin Kaufman, St. Lucia is currently touring in support of their new album Hyperion, which was released this past September.
The synth dominated intro for “September” blared from the PA system taking the crowd back to a mid 80’s disco club with its driving beats and coordinated lighting, smoke and screen visuals. St. Lucia jammed out to classics like” Dancing on Glass,” China Shop” and “Physical”, and performed all of them with a legitimate and playful demeanor that can’t be faked. It’s difficult to pin St. Lucia down to a particular style or influence. And to simply call them a techno-pop band wouldn’t be fair. St. Lucia combine new wave, techno and dance beats, creating a breezy, bright but driving style that had the near capacity crowd at the Lanes lost in the moment.
St. Lucia had almost zero banter with the crowd but really didn’t need too. People who came to see this band wanted to sing, dance, clap, yell and get wild, and that’s exactly what they did. The band played a total of seventeen songs touching every album in their discography, warming up this cold windy night!
With thanks to Arkells and St. Lucia for a great night of music, and the professional, super-nice staff at Asbury Lanes.
Words and photos by Patrick Gilrane