The fifth annual Sea.Hear.Now Festival rode wave after wave of high-crested peaks on September 16th and 17th as a stacked lineup brought thousands of attendees to Asbury Park, NJ. Often seen as the music capital of New Jersey, the boardwalks were full of sandy feet and smiling faces. There was plenty of support for the headlining acts, The Killers and Foo Fighters, on and off the stage including a pop-up shop from Danny Clinch’s Transparent Gallery and an array of surfers paddling out to hit the rolling sets that were firing consistently throughout the event.

The weekend’s festivities kicked off with a slew of pre-shows Friday night including Oteil & Friends at the Stone Pony. The renowned bassist brought along Melvin Seals, Steve Kimock, Duane Betts, Jason Crosby, John Kimock, and Lamar Williams Jr. to fill out the stage and warm up the endless sea of music lovers. The Allman Brothers Band and Dead & Company alumnus rotated between the catalogs to perform “China Doll”, “Cats Under the Stars”, “Dreams”, and “Hot ’Lanta” among a heady mix of tunes.

Under a sunny sky, Saturday’s lineup opened with Yawn Mower and hometown hero Quincy Mumford on the Park and Sand Stage, respectively before Surfer Girl, Babe Rainbow, and Snacktime kept the fun—and music-—flowing. Oteil & Friends hit the Surf Stage for their second show in 18 hours in Asbury Park to commence their September tour dates.

As the afternoon drifted lazily on by, Cory Wong, Royal Blood, Tash Sultana, Living Color, and Sheryl Crow soaked up the sun—a song most appropriate when your toes are buried in the warm sand. The sun began to set after Greta Van Fleet’s set and the audience trekked back to the Park Stage for Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats. Wisely playing for the crowd at hand, Nathaniel Rateliff performed Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” to a passionate response from the shadowed masses.

Sheryl Crow – “All I Wanna Do” – 9/16/23

[Video: Katie Robertson]

To close out S.H.N’s Saturday night, The Killers performed to a crowded beach just north of the Convention Hall. As an homage to their Las Vegas beginnings, The Killers walked on stage to Frank Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady” before opening with “Mr. Brightside”. The tight band of indie-rockers blew through their catalog of classics including “Spaceman”, “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine”, “Smile Like You Mean It”, “Human”, “Somebody Told Me”, “Read My Mind”, “All These Things That I’ve Done”, and a closing “When You Were Young”.

The band invited a fan, Zach, onstage to perform drums on “For Reasons Unknown” and sprinkled in a debut cover of The Boss’s “I’m On Fire”. Under the Jersey Shore moon, the swarm of attendees filed for the exit with the first half of S.H.N under their belt.

The Killers – “I’m On Fire” (Bruce Springsteen) – 9/16/23

[Video: Katie Robertson]

After-parties were scattered along the coastal town’s boardwalks and bars including an encore performance by Babe Rainbow at Wonder Bar and Tangiers Blues Band at Stone Pony. As they did in years past, TBB served as a rowdy house band welcoming performers from the day onto the stage to burn through a set of well-known classics. Joined by a full horn section compliments of the Ocean Ave Stompers, TBB ripped through Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City”, Allen Toussaint’s “Get Out of My Life, Woman”, Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s “Taking Care of Business”, Chuck Berry’s “Let It Rock”, and Neil Young’s “Mr. Soul”.

Brandon Flowers, lead singer of The Killers, jumped onstage to throw down a legendary take on another Springsteen tune, “Promised Land”. Later, Nathaniel Rateliff also contributed his vocal prowess to the aforementioned “Atlantic City”. Daniel Donato and Cosmic Country joined TBB for Merle Haggard’s “The Bottle Let Me Down” and “Get Out My Life, Woman” before taking over the stage for themselves for a solo jaunt. Local legend and festival promoter Danny Clinch was omnipresent, and traded his cameras for a harmonica instead throughout the evening. To close out the night—at just about 2 a.m.—TBB finished off the star-studded show with a funky interpretation of Beastie Boys’ “Fight For Your Right”.

The Tangier Blues Band, Brandon Flowers – “The Promised Land” (Bruce Springsteen) – 9/16/23

[Video: RexCunningham]

The Tangier Blues Band, Nathaniel Rateliff – “Atlantic City” (Bruce Springsteen) – 9/16/23

[Video: Katie Robertson]

The Tangier Blues Band, Daniel Donato – “Get Out My Life, Woman” (Allen Toussaint) – 9/16/23

[Video: MarcGlenRock]

View Stone Pony Videos

Nobody who stayed until the end was even slightly disappointed by that mesmerizing performance. To many, that’s what this festival is about. Setting up the stages with a talented backing band where a revolving door of performers can jump up and get down. They didn’t have to dig too deep, because the mysterious energy surrounding the whole event was the real magic. The feeling that anything can happen, anybody can show up next and walk through the side door of the Stone Pony and get onstage. Maybe even the Boss himself as he’s been known to do from time to time.

Sunday’s lineup kicked off with local band Waiting on Mongo on the Beach Stage and Alexander Simone & Whodat? at the Sand and Park Stage. Drinks flowed and the breeze mixed with the sunshine, combining into that just-right temperature. Sunflower Bean, Easy Star All-Stars, and Adam Melchor paved the way for Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country to rip through an hour-long set which included a psychedelic gallop through Stan Jones’ “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and a more recent addition, “Dance in the Desert”.

Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country – “Down Bedford” [Pro-Shot] – 9/17/23

Stephen Sanchez, Joey Valence & Brae, The Beach Boys, and Mt. Joy marched through the day while a surf contest waged in the tides nearby. One of the day’s top acts, Weezer overcame technical difficulties brought on by wind gusts. Winding down Sunday’s show, Rebelution and The Breeders were the penultimate acts before headlining Foo Fighters wrapped up the festival. Don’t know if it’s possible to beat listening to The Beach Boys and Rebelution on the beach while sipping a cold libation as the sunshine is absorbed into each own’s central nervous system.

Foo Fighters went swinging into the night as they opened with “All My Life” and “The Pretender” before cutting into “Learn to Fly”. “Times Like These” preceded a jam-heavy combination of Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” into Ramones‘ “Blitzkrieg Bop”, DEVO’s “Whip It”, and finished with Nine Inch Nails’ “March of the Pigs”. Rifling through their catalog, Foo Fighters cooked up “These Days”, “Monkey Wrench”, and “Best of You” before closing out the night—and S.H.N5—with “Everlong”.

This festival continues to expand and diversify its lineup bringing acts for all music lovers across genres and ages. It listens to the heartbeat of a city that takes pride in its long history of music. Johnny Cash was once a part owner of the nearby Berkeley Hotel and still has a suite there to this day. Convention Hall once housed national touring acts, in fact, Led Zepplin performed two nights there instead of Woodstock. Sea.Hear.Now spearheaded by Danny Clinch’s forward-thinking perspective will surely be a mainstay for years to come. And we say thank you.

Check out some video highlights of the 2023 Sea.Hear.Now Festival from Katie Robertson, with a full cache of fan-shot clips available on her YouTube channel.

Sherly Crow – “If It Makes You Happy” – 9/16/23

Greta Van Fleet – “Highway Tune” – 9/16/23

The Killers – “Mr. Brightside” – 9/16/23

The Killers – “When You Were Young” – 9/16/23

The Killers – Sea.Hear.Now Festival – Asbury Park, NJ – 9/16/23 – Full Set

Weezer – “My Name Is Jonas” – 9/17/23

Weezer – “Undone (The Sweater Song)” – 9/17/23

Weezer – “Say It Ain’t So” – 9/17/23

Weezer – Sea.Hear.Now Festival – Asbury Park, NJ – 9/17/23 – Partial Set

Foo Fighters – “My Hero” – 9/17/23

Foo Fighters – “Learn To Fly” – 9/17/23

Foo Fighters – “Everlong” – 9/17/23

Foo Fighters – Sea.Hear.Now Festival – Asbury Park, NJ – 9/17/23 – Full Set