The Return of Harpin’ Help

By Tom Baldino

MUSIC ALL DAY! April 24th 12pm – 9pm

The Sunday after Easter marked the return of Sandy Mack’s signature event, Harpin’ Help at Bar A.  After two years of cancellations due to the pandemic, Sandy had assembled eight electric and seven acoustic acts to perform between 12:30 and 9pm. The Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation, the Reformation Community Food Pantry of West Long Branch and the Keyport Ministerium Food Pantry shared in the food and monetary donations from the local music lovers who attended.

The afternoon kicked off with an acoustic trio which included April Lynn, who will be the recipient of a JSJBF scholarship to help her continue her music studies in college; Carlotta Schmidt, who is one of our regulars at the Youth Open Mic, and Don Nichols.

Music then shifted to the electric stage where JSJBF member band Jump Back played and got the crowd pumped for the day’s festivities. From there it was back to the acoustic stage with another of our Youth Open Mic players, Alexander Rausch, paired with 90.5 The Night’s Stu Coogan and Jamily member Keith Kenny. As one of the musicians mentioned to me, when Sandy calls, you answer, and they did en masse!

Over sixty players were featured during the event. It was a day of great pairings with each band on the electric stage sporting a “Harpin’ Helper,” who in most cases, had never played with them before.  Pete Tonti with Stringbean, Chuck Lambert with Drew Bolognini, Secret Sound with IBC representative James Dalton, Guns 4 Hire with JSJBF board member Gary Neuwirth, Abandoned Outcasts with Sandy Mack and the Eddie Testa Band with Jonny B. This made for some lively and innovative playing with those in attendance showing their approval.

Other acts on the acoustic stage included Strumberry Pie, Poppa John, Michael Jaskewicz, Sandy’s daughter Maggie, DJ Panelli, Johnny Burke, Miss Kimmie and John Fernandez, who also handled the sound with Gary Neuwirth.  People were going back and forth all day to hear the familiar with the unexpected. Each time, they passed a group of vendors curated by Sandy with Lois Chick and all things tie dye leading the way.

It was a wonderful day of music and fellowship, with some folks who hadn’t seen each other since before the lockdown. When the night ended with Green Dream, no one in the room could say they didn’t get enough great music.

Until next year, we at the JSJBF and all who have been in attendance want to thank all the volunteers and musicians who gave of their time and talents to make this day a resounding success. Most importantly, we all owe Sandy Mack a debt of gratitude for the decades of great music and memories that is Harpin’ Help.