Asbury Park Comes to the Highlands

On a balmy night in February, Stringbean & the Boardwalk Social Club headlined the inaugural 2022 Blue Collar Blues event at member venue, the Chubby Pickle. JSJBF board member Joseph Vincent Riggio continues to produce great Jazz and Blues shows with his J v Archer Entertainment joint, and this night was no exception.

The evening kicked off with the host band, The Incinerators, playing to a standing room only crowd. JSJBF board member John Fernandez was on lead guitar, and board member Gary Neuwirth played harp. They were joined by Steve Smith on bass, Rich Coccoli on lead and rhythm guitar, and the mighty Chris Martell on drums. The band was tight, and the contrasting tones of the two guitars put a unique stamp on the curated covers chosen by John, which were executed in fine style by the band. Songs like “Prison of Love” by Robben Ford & the Blue Line resonated with those in attendance while “Can’t Get Next to You,” a #1 hit for The Temptations, was given the blues treatment of the cover on Savoy Brown’s “Street Corner Talking” album. Miss Kimmie got the crowd going when she grabbed the wireless mic and went into the crowd for “Let the Good Times Roll” and the band’s original song “Discarded.”

After a short break Stringbean & the Boardwalk Social Club took the stage. Kenny “Stringbean” Sorenson and his band can usually be found at Langosta Lounge on the Asbury Park boardwalk on Monday nights during the good weather, hence the name. A retired tugboat captain, he has been playing locally for many years, including a decades long residency at the Ragin’ Cajun until the passing of owner Tracie Orsi in 2015. 

On this gig he recruited long-time Sonny Kenn drummer Vic Bayers who has played on and off with him for longer than he would like to admit.  On bass was David Meyers, who I hadn’t seen play since I had Blackberry Blues at the Keyport Summer concert series 10 years ago! It was wonderful meeting his daughter who was a toddler at my show and is now a teenager. They made a formidable rhythm section, adept at slow blues, shuffle or the up tempo songs. The final member, guitarist Robbie Butkowski came to Stringbean through his Surf Rock instrumental band the Black Flamingos. Local favorites, they scored a spot at the “Sea Hear Now” festival held last September in Asbury Park.

The hour-long set highlighted Stringbean’s signature harp playing through his Strnad mic which holds the harmonica in a neck brace. This allows him to play rhythm guitar as well. The songs ranged from Howlin’ Wolf’s “Sitting on Top of the World” to the country style of Jerry Garcia’s “Catfish John” and a terrific rendition of my favorite tune of the evening, John Mayall’s “Room to Move.”  David Meyers took the mic for some impassioned vocals on the tune “There Ain’t No Excuse.” It was a delightful evening of music as well as a time to catch up with friends both old and new.

Stringbean will be teaming up again with the world’s most recorded drummer, Bernard Purdie, at Triumph Brewing on Saturday, March 26th. Don’t miss it!