Saturday, September 20th, I woke up and began my normal morning routine; brushed my teeth, put on my outfit, did my makeup, decided I hate my outfit, grabbed my car keys and head out to the red Nissan Rogue sitting out behind my apartment. Only, I wasn’t on my way to the grocery store, brunch or the Starbucks down the street to get a headstart on my paper. No. My roommate and I were headed to Asbury Park, NJ to start what would become the best weekend of our lives.
Asbury Park is about a 90-minute drive from the University’s campus, touting beaches, bars and local food venues that beat out any chain restaurant for miles. The festival, Sea.Hear.Now. is located on a stretch of beach in the up and coming town. With three different stages, there is never more than 5 minutes without live music from new and established bands. When we arrived, we parked the car in a public parking lot and ran down the street towards the festival gates.
After a quick bag check and stop at check-in for our press credentials, we were led to the press room, where we were granted access to artists like The Struts and Ripe. Walking around the festival grounds was different than any other concert or festival I’ve been to (and believe me, I’ve been to my fair share). For starters, the ground wasn’t littered with discarded beer cans. I didn’t realize just how clean the grounds were until I saw festival-goers racing around with plastic garbage bags filled with empty cans.
Sea.Hear.Now is committed to raising awareness about issues facing our ocean environment, including the plastic water crisis and climate change, according to their website. The commitment to sustainability is visible in everything on the grounds, from the hydration stations where guests can fill up their reusable water bottles to the lack of plastic bags at the merch table.
Sea.Hear.Now created Rock & Recycle, a program in which festivalgoers are entered into a contest for an exclusive festival t-shirt and a chance to win tickets for the festival next year. Additionally, fans are encouraged to use green transportation to get to the festival instead of taking their own vehicles. Reusable and commemorative cups are sold at the hydration station and patrons over 21 years of age are given a discount on certain cocktails at the bar for bringing their own reusable cup.
But enough about sustainability. You want to hear about the actual music and fun stuff. The festival boasts three stages, two on the sandbar and one on the grassy park across from the boardwalk
Different companies had pop-ups located throughout the festival grounds, marketing their products which ranged from organic canned seltzers to well-known brand name vodka and rum. Food lovers stood to be pleased with the plethora of options at their disposal, scattered throughout the grounds so you never had to walk far to refill your drink.
The artists that made up the line-up — including The Struts, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts, The Lumineers and Rainbow Kitten Surprise — took the stage on Saturday, playing an hour-long set each that bounced the music back and forth from the Surf Stage to the Sand Stage. One of the highlights of the night was The Struts’ set on the Sand Stage. The English band grabbed the audience’s attention at the beginning of their hour and refused to let it go until minutes after the stage had been cleared. The energy was tangible and carried on throughout the night. Lead singer Luke Spiller came out with gold sparkly face paint on his cheeks, smiling from ear to ear as they started the set with “Primadonna Like Me,” a song off their most recent album Young & Dangerous. By the third song, the paint had been wiped away, smeared down his cheeks as Spiller danced and jumped around to each song.
On Sunday, we planned to arrive early to check out some of the food options and see Boston-natives Ripe perform on the Sand Stage,.However, we hit a ton of traffic on 195 and arrived a little later than we intended for the 1:45 start. There were even more festival-goers Sunday, excited to see headliners Dave Matthews Band perform their two-hour set at the end of the night. We were able to explore more of the food and drink options the festival had to offer. Local businesses offered everything from seafood to açai bowls to hot dogs and hamburgers. The lines moved quickly and we never waited for more than 15 to 20 minutes for anything, which was great considering the heat.
Ripe’s set opened our day and the electricity filled the air for the entire 45 minutes they held the stage. The seven-piece funk band from Boston, Massachussetts played their hearts out and easily earned their spot as my favorite act of the weekend (though I must admit, I’m incredibly biased towards Ripe). After sitting down and talking to Robbie Wolfsuhn of Ripe, we caught the tail end of The Wrecks set on the Park Stage before heading over to the Surf Stage at the far end of the festival grounds to see the B-52’s play their hits. The group played for an hour before ending their set with it’s most well-known tracks “Love Shack” and “Rock Lobster.”
Later, we returned to the Surf Stage to see Dispatch play as the sun set on another gorgeous day. The band’s funky-chill vibes were the perfect lead-in to the Dave Matthews Band two-hour festival-closing set.
This festival was unlike any I had ever been to before. From the clean sandy beaches to the emphasis on sustainability, Sea.Hear.Now was definitely the best way to spend the last weekend of summer. The lineup had something that appealed to everyone, the staff was friendly and courteous despite the oppressive heat and festival-goers themselves were more than willing to help each other out, whether it was letting someone shorter stand in front or grabbing the door for someone whose hands were full of drinks. One thing is for certain: no matter where in the country I find myself after graduation, Sea.Hear.Now is an end-of-the-summer must-see and the year after that and the year after that. Do yourself a favor and look into this before it sells out for next year — because I promise it will, and you should be there to experience it for yourself.