At Sea Hear Now 2022, Local Bands Seized Bigger Stages

Icons like Stevie Nicks and Green Day headlined this year's Sea Hear Now, but the Asbury Park festival let local bands shine as well.

The Vansaders
The Vansaders perform on Sea Hear Now's Park Stage. Photo by Michael Ryan Kravetsky for Sea Hear Now 2022

Zach Moyle remembers riding to the Asbury Park boardwalk last September in search of Eddie Vedder’s voice.

Moyle didn’t have a ticket to Sea Hear Now, Asbury’s annual beach bash, in 2021, but the Ocean Township resident knew he would be able to hear Vedder’s headlining Pearl Jam echo beyond the beach. The trip proved successful, but Moyle decided he wanted to be within the festival’s grounds in 2022 with one of his inspirations, Green Day, headlining the second night of the jamboree’s fourth edition.

“I would have been here no matter what this year,” he insisted.

Once again, Moyle did not have a ticket for the three-stage festival, which took place over the weekend and also featured Stevie Nicks, the Backseat Lovers, Gary Clark Jr., My Morning Jacket, Wet Leg, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Cage the Elephant, The Head and the Heart, and more. Instead, Moyle and his alternative band, Lost In Society, were one of four Asbury-based groups tasked with kicking things off early on Saturday and Sunday. The eclectic Dogs In A Pile and indie-pop Dentist opened the festival on Saturday afternoon, while Lost In Society and the Vansaders were the first to rock on Sunday.

Lost In Society played Sea Hear Now’s Sand Stage on Sunday. Photo by Brittany Hallberg for Sea Hear Now 2022

“This is the biggest scale we’ve done as far as headliners like Green Day and stuff. For it to be in our backyard is pretty rad,” said Moyle, Lost In Society’s lead singer and a guitarist. “It’s like, ‘Oh, yeah, let’s play a festival with Green Day and then walk home.’”

The gig was special for Moyle, who added that he was wearing a Green Day shirt when he first met Lost In Society’s bassist and backup vocalist, Nick Ruroede, 18 years ago. But the chance to be part of Sea Hear Now, which also includes art and surfing, benefited each hometown act. An influx of followers and streams accompanied the festival’s lineup announcement in March.

“We definitely saw a bump in everything, a lot more engagement,” said Vansaders bassist and Red Bank resident Kyle Zupe. “A lot more people feeling like, ‘Hey, one of our own is doing this cool thing,’ and a lot of people rallying behind us.”

And then there was the event itself, which gave each band a chance to play on bigger stages—before bigger crowds—than the local venues they’re accustomed to.

“We’re so used to playing here,” said Vansaders frontman and guitarist Doug Zambon, referring to Asbury, where he lives. “I walk by Convention Hall every day. It’s just awesome to be able to be on a real stage in the tiny town that we’re from. We’re used to playing tiny, little, cramped spaces.”

Sea Hear Now, meanwhile, draws upwards of 30,000 people to Ocean Avenue, where two stages sit on opposite ends of the beach. Bradley Park hosts another stage, and there’s also the pop-up Transparent Clinch Gallery, where artists can play additional intimate sets—which is exactly what Dogs In A Pile did.

Left to right: Dogs In A Pile played an extra set inside the Transparent Clinch Gallery, while Dentist jammed out on the Sand Stage. Photos by Michael Ryan Kravetsky for Sea Hear Now 2022

While tens of thousands of people did not pass through the gates in time for the Jersey bands, plenty of festival-goers lent their support. Moyle and the Vansaders acknowledged some nerves despite being on home turf, but said there were enough recognizable faces in the crowd to keep things familiar.

“So many people came that we’re close with,” Moyle said. “I’m looking out, and every few people I knew. So it feels like home.”

The four previously mentioned bands were not the only Garden State performers at Sea Hear Now, as Fletcher secured a prime-time slot at 8 pm on Saturday. The breakthrough pop star, who grew up in Manasquan and Wall, covered Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire.” She also shared an unreleased track, appropriately titled, “The Jersey In Me,” which brought friends and family to the stage.

While Fletcher, who’s garnered more than 1 billion online streams, would have stood out at Sea Hear Now even without local roots, the other Jersey musicians benefited from the festival’s commitment to highlighting Asbury’s internal talent.

“We have bands that are from New Jersey who travel the country and the world,” Tim Donnelly, who co-founded Sea Hear Now with Danny Clinch, told New Jersey Monthly in July. “They come home and they carry the Asbury Park and New Jersey flags with them wherever they go.”

The invites are certainly appreciated, especially by smaller groups that don’t typically play festivals or set stages for iconic acts. But there’s also a sense that an event this large needs to have some Jersey Shore flavor in a city like Asbury Park.

“I mean, I think it’s appropriate,” Zambon said. “It’s a music town, you know? I want to be clear: [We’re] totally grateful, but locals should be in this festival. The town is built on local music. So it just makes sense.”

Adds Moyle: “It means a lot to the scene. It really does.”

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