Music and Surf in the Mix at Asbury Park Festival

First-ever Sea.Hear.Now festival brings top music acts to the Asbury beach.

Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals
Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals.
Photo courtesy of Swell Publicity

Ben Harper loves to surf. California’s Social Distortion has been part of the surf scene since their first records in the 1980s. Jack Johnson was a pro surfer before his music career.

On September 29-30, Sea.Hear.Now, a new festival coming to Asbury Park, will celebrate the creative entanglement of music, art and surf with performances by all three of those artists and more.

The festival, which expects to bring as many as 25,000 fans to the Asbury Park beach, will be the biggest East Coast event ever to pair surf with such headlining acts.

Asbury Park’s Timmy Donnelly, a bodyboarder and music journalist, and Toms River-based rock photographer Danny Clinch came up with the Sea.Hear.Now concept and pitched it to concert promoter Tim Sweetwater of C3 Presents, which handles such festivals as Shaky Knees and Lollapalooza.

“Tim Sweetwood came to Asbury,” recalls Clinch. “We took him for a walk and he saw the architecture, the vibe and the boardwalk and said ‘Oh man. This is dope.’”

Sea.Hear.Now will feature music on three stages. The Saturday lineup includes Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls, new wave pioneer Blondie, Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals and rock heavies Incubus. On Sunday, Chicago indie outfit Twin Peaks, punk mainstays Social Distortion and surfer/songwriter Jack Johnson will perform.

Nicole Atkins.

Nicole Adkins. Photo courtesy of Aly Fae

Artists on the bill with Jersey connections include Parlor Mob and G Love & Special Sauce, as well as Asbury Park and Neptune locals Nicole Adkins, Deal Casino and the Battery Electric.

“I’ve been with Danny Clinch at so many festivals now around the country for the last ten years and always felt so comfortable having my Jersey brother out there,” says Adkins. “Like a touchstone to not feel so far from home. I’m so excited to be a part of something so new and fresh that he’s lovingly put together back on our home turf. Asbury Park is the best!”

While music plays on the Surf and Sand Stages each afternoon, surfers will wow the crowd on the waves. Area pro surfers including Sam Hammer, Balaram Stack, Andrew Gesler, Rob Kelly, Cassidy McClain, Clay Pollioni and Quincy Davis will mix it up with surf stylists from California, the Outer Banks and Jamaica.

“We knew we wanted to have this ‘musicians who surf’ component, plus we’re friends with all of the East Coast surfers,” says Clinch. The timing is good, too; local surfers covet the swells produced in September by far off tropical systems mixed with warm water.

On the art side, Clinch’s Transparent Gallery Pop Up will feature paintings and other works by several of the festival performers, as well as Clinch’s own photograph.

“Our demographic is really music fans from their teens to their 60s. So if mom and dad are 45, they want to see Social D, Ben Harper and Blondie. But their kids will want to see Milky Chance [from Germany] and Kaleo [Iceland], who they hear on the radio. The artists are a nice variety, but they all fit nicely together.”

The festival is partnered with the Surfrider Foundation. Together they’ve addressed ways to make the festival more sustainable and raise awareness for the health of the ocean. General admission tickets are available at for $119 (plus fees).

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  1. Melanie Campbell Knobel

    What about some great locals like @QuincyMumford are they playing? Your magazine should cover the phenomenal talent we have right here!