When people think music and the Jersey Shore, thoughts instantly go to Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band or Bon Jovi.
Fair enough to be labeled “Bruce Country,” but we also go by the nickname of the Irish Riviera. For anyone thinking of crossing the river to the Jersey side, a treasure trove of great network of Irish American artists and venues will reward you for the time spent behind the wheel of purgatory that is Garden State Parkway traffic!
You can catch live music and comedy every Thursday night and Sundays during the summer season at the Dublin House in Red Bank (30 Monmouth Street). This is a pub in Victorian clothing with a lively back deck called the Temple Bar.
Jersey Jokers comedy troupe hosts monthly shows with national and regional comedians on Thursday nights once a month. Check them out at www.dublinhouse.com.
The southern part of Monmouth County on the Jersey Shore has long catered to the moneyed Irish on vacation from New Jersey and Philadelphia. There was a time when my father was prowling the music scene as a single man that the hotels and old dance halls played host to great Irish entertainers.
Many of those places are either parking lots or subdivisions now, but a new music scene has emerged here in recent years. There are some great Irish pubs that offer great food and live Irish and Irish American music every weekend (and most nights) during the summer.
In fact, the zip code of Avon-by-the-Sea still boasts one of the highest populations of Irish per capita in the U.S. In the middle of the quaint Victorian homes is the creaky Norwood Inn (618 Second Avenue, Avon).
It’s the place where the locals go to get away from the invasion of tourists, and they will surely kill me for letting this cat out of the bag! Just tell them I sent you!
There’s a square stage in the middle of the tight area where the band plays, and there are a number of great Irish American entertainers that lead some mighty sing-alongs through the classic rock songbook.
The Pat Roddy Band is the house band for the July 4th weekend. Brian Kirk and the Jerks are there on July 12 and August 23. Check out www.norwoodinn/entertainment for a full roster of great acts.
Edgar’s Pub (153 Sea Girt Avenue) is a great place to get your feed and drink on while listening to the incomparable Willie Lynch Trio every Tuesday night.
St. Stephen’s Green Publick House (2031 Route 71, Spring Lake Heights 732-449-2626) has a live traditional Irish seisiun most Tuesday nights, followed by hard rocking bands most weekends.
One of my favorite bands is the Snakes, a great band that mixes the Pogues and the Grateful Dead with a little Jimmy Buffet and Clancy Brothers mixed in for good measure. They will be playing there on Saturday, July 19 and Saturday, August 16.
Our old pal Seamus Kelleher (formerly of the band Blackthorn) holds court there about once a month, peeling off one acoustic Irish gem after another. Check out his website at www.seamusk.com to get a full list of his gigs.
Go a few miles south over the bridge to Point Pleasant and you arrive at Farrell’s, a charming “stout and steak” Irish pub that hosts the Mike Dalton Trio most Wednesday nights throughout July. Count on a heavy helping of U2 from this engaging Irish American performer who mixes sixties, seventies and eighties music to create a peaceful, easy feeling.
Even America’s favorite pastime is not immune to some sham-rocking! The Lakewood Blue Claws minor league ball club hosts an annual Irish Heritage Night, and this year’s event will be held on Saturday, August 9, at 7 p.m. (set your GPS to 2 Stadium Way in Lakewood).
It’s no longer enough to “restore the shore” by driving down to walk on our boardwalks. Many of these bars and clubs have been hit hard by the hurricane recovery and recession in recent years, and they are a cultural lifeline to our little Irish American music scene down here.
They are dying to show their fellow Celts a good time and share some Irish pride. So, take off your shoes! Put your toes in the sand! Stay a while!