The Bouncing Souls Home for the Holidays Night Three
Despite its ocean front location and spacious boardwalk, Asbury Park, New Jersey will never be mistaken for one of the prettier places in the world. On this bitterly cold December day, it was downright eerie.
All that was missing from the barren beaches and parking lots was rolling tumble weed, but even that would be hesitant to brave the arctic conditions that marked the end of 2009.
The cold weather proved no match for the Bouncing Souls or their fans, who packed the venerable Stone Pony for the third of four “Home for the Holidays” performances. Like the venue itself, the Bouncing Souls are a blue collar, no frills type of band that have earned their spot in punk lore. With help from some like-minded acts, the band would put on an outstanding hometown performance.
The night began with a short set from Static Radio NJ. The band played a mix of hardcore and melodic punk that that wasn’t all that well received by the crowd. Next up was P.O.S. The Minneapolis hip-hop artist who stuck out like a sore thumb in the show’s lineup. By poking, prodding, and borderline insulting the audience, he was somehow able to get the crowd involved as those at the near the front of the stage were waving their arms and chanting along towards the end of the set.
The main support came from Bayside, another no-frills act with a history of opening for the Bouncing Souls. The band almost always puts on a solid set, and this night was no different as the crowd finally had a chance to move and sing along. The only compliant I had was that the set list was very familiar to anyone who had seen them in the past. The quartet continues to shy away from material off Shudder, their most recent, and arguably strongest record.
While the Bayside set was enjoyable, it couldn’t compare to the energetic, sweaty, nearly perfect show put on by the hometown heroes. From the opening one-two punch of “Here We Go” and “Never Say Die/When You’re Young,” until the closing notes of “The Freak, Nerds, and Romantics,” the show moved at break-neck speed.
The set list came courtesy of a local charity that was present as the show, and boy was it a good one. Celebrating 20 years as a band, it would be almost impossible to satisfy everyone, but with a perfect mix of old and new, the quartet seemed to do just that. While favorites such as “Mantham,” “Hopeless Romantic,” or any of the five songs off 1996’s Maniacal Laughter inspired giant circle pits, it was newer material that shined, including the very appropriate “Ghosts on the Boardwalk.”
Even up on stage in front of a sold-out crowd, you would think the band was playing a basement show in front of family and friends. To an extent, they were. The group had scheduled meet and greet events throughout the week, including after parties, “hang sessions,” and record store visits. They joked with those in the audience between songs, and even stopped one song to make note of how badly they had botched the opening. The group’s lack of “rock star” image or ego is another reason why they have managed to endear themselves to so many fans over the past two decades.
After closing the show with a four songs encore, the band would leave the stage having thoroughly exhausted those in the crowd. Half the fans slowly filed out onto a quiet and cold Ocean Avenue, while the other half rushed the merch table looking for a shirt or cd to help commemorate the night. Whether you walked out with souvenir or not, the show would be hard to forget. While a veteran band at the top of their game in front of an adoring hometown crowd at an intimate venue is always going to yield good results, this show was something special.