Jersey Shore Bands Ready To Help Storm Rebuilding

Southside Johnny Lyon is expecting a call from Bruce Springsteen soon, rallying the troops for charitable causes as the Shore tries to recover and rebuild from Superstorm Sandy. The fellow New Jersey rocker knows that for a couple of years, his touring schedule will probably be dotted with benefits. That’s OK with him.

Photo: Wayne Parry/AP Photo
Monument in a sand pile thanking rescue workers.

“All of us will do what we can,” says Lyon, who rode out the storm at home in Ocean Grove, N.J. “All we can do is play and give people a couple of hours to forget their troubles. If we can drum up some support, that’s good too.”

Springsteen and the E Street Band, of course, are going to play the huge 12-12-12 benefit concert at Madison Square Garden. That show will feature Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Billy Joel and Paul McCartney, along with some more of the biggest names in music.

But there are other musicians out there – artists who may not have the success and status of the 12-12-12 lineup, but who are legends in Shore towns, providing the live summer soundtrack year after year.

As they chase gigs to replace the ones lost to Sandy’s destruction, bands like The Benjamins, The Nerds and Brian Kirk and The Jirks, which have been regulars at Shore venues for decades, are reaching out to offer help.

“(The Shore has) been our home away from home for many years, so we’d love to give back if we can,” The Benjamins’ drummer Jeremy Mykietyn, who grew up in Garfield, told The Record of Woodland Park.

Donovan’s in Sea Bright. Jenkinson’s in Point Pleasant. Sea Shell in Beach Haven. Joe Pop’s in Ship Bottom. These are the bands’ venues. At least they were. Right now they are closed, busy picking up after the devastating storm. In the case of Donovan’s, there is little left to clean.

“It’s certainly sad to see it there the way it is, a slab on the ground,” Brian Kirk says about Donovan’s, where his band played so many nights.

Promoters are working on a couple of benefit concerts, featuring Shore regulars. The biggest issue is finding a Shore-central venue that hasn’t been severely damaged. They are also considering a night at Mexicali Live in Teaneck or Just Jake’s in Montclair. The lineup possibilities for those benefits include Daddy Pop, The Benjamins, The Nerds and Brian Kirk and the Jirks.

“These are people we worked with for a very long time and not just worked with, we have a relationship with them,” Jim “Spaz” Garcia of The Nerds says of the people at their regular venues. “If there’s anything we can do, we’ll make ourselves available.”

The Nerds, like many of these bands, have built decades-old relationships not only with venue owners and workers but with fans.

“It’s a relationship that goes beyond sharing a beer,” Garcia says.

These bands also frequently play Breezy Point in Queens and Long Island towns like Long Beach that were similarly destroyed. They are hoping to do something for those residents as well.

Meanwhile, they try to go on with the business of being a band, rescheduling canceled dates and finding new ones – and new venues, at least for a while. Kirk, though, doesn’t see this destruction as permanent. As heartbreaking as the loss of Donovan’s is for staff and regulars, it was just a building, he says.

Photo: Wayne Parry/AP Photo
A private beach club lies wrecked atop the sea wall.

“It was a shack on the beach. I don’t think it was the four walls that made it – it was the emotions that came out of it.”

They can rebuild some walls, he says, and hope the emotion comes back inside them.

Garcia is focusing on the positives. Considering the enormity of the storm, he says, there was limited loss of life. And the ocean washed away plenty of nostalgic things, but those things are replaceable.

“That can be rebuilt,” says Garcia. “There’ll be new rides, new boardwalks and new memories for new generations.”