By Annie Reuter
ASBURY PARK, NJ (CBS) — When New Jersey rockers the Gaslight Anthem decided to film a new music video for their new single “45,” Asbury Park’s the Stone Pony was the only option they considered.
The famed rock venue, which is home to New Jersey legends Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and Southside Johnny, has been hosting memorable shows since it first opened its doors in 1974. Acts like the Kinks, Stevie Ray Vaughn, KISS and the Ramones have taken the stage and even the former VP of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Robert Santelli has called the club “one of the greatest rock clubs of all time.”
“It’s one of the cool old New Jersey relics left,” drummer Benny Horowitz said as he recalled his first Battle of the Bands contest there as a teen.
The band’s roots run deep in New Jersey, especially Asbury Park.
Though they formed in New Brunswick, Stone Pony house promoter Kyle Brendle says most people view the band as an Asbury band.
“Everyone here at the Pony knows and loves the band, and are all excited for their growing success. Gaslight is embraced by the old school Asbury music fans along with the current generation, an amazing cross generational fan base,” he added.
Tom Ihnken, the former head of security at the venue, agreed. He thinks Gaslight Anthem are on their way to the top.
“As the years go along they get more and more momentum. There’s always a buzz about when they’re coming back,” he said. “They’re just a bunch of kids from New Brunswick and now they’re playing all over the world. They played England at Hyde Park a couple years ago with Bruce Springsteen. It doesn’t get any better than that.”
The Gaslight Anthem started with a slow and steady rise and have paid their dues in making themselves a leading fixture in New Jersey’s punk rock scene. Along the way the band has been placed in the same circle as notable Jersey bands the Bouncing Souls and Lifetime. From playing bars in Jersey City where the floor caved in to grimy basements in New Brunswick, the band’s cult-like Jersey following has grown big enough to allow them to sell out shows at Radio City Music Hall. Meanwhile, even hometown hero Bruce Springsteen listens to Gaslight Anthem.
“Bruce is a huge, huge fan of theirs,” Ihnken said.
Frontman Brian Fallon who recalled seeing the Bouncing Souls at the Stone Pony for the first time as a kid, said he spent his summers walking along the beach and going to basement shows.
“Kids would have bands come through town and let them sleep at their houses and have a show there. That was what we did,” he said. “That was our home when we were growing up. There was nothing else for kids like us to do. We just liked weird music that kids at school didn’t really like and that was our place to go and fit in and find our own little community.”
Many of the stories behind Gaslight Anthem’s songs take place throughout Fallon’s old stomping grounds, whether it is the basement shows or the city the band was living in when they formed.
“Your location is really important to you as any writer. Those were really good times for us. Those were times of realizing achievements and starting out as a band,” Fallon said. “Getting your goals and mile markers were happening there. We have fond memories of those places.”
Just the drive down to Asbury Park strikes up the band’s material. Passing through New Brunswick, “The Diamond Church Street Choir” paints a picture of University life from an outsider, not far from where the band got it’s start. Before a left turn onto Ocean Avenue, where a slew of fans await for their chance to be in the band’s music video, Cookman Avenue appears. One of the many Jersey mentions in their song “Blue Jeans & White T-Shirts” off 2008’s EP Senor and the Queen it’s evident the Stone Pony is the perfect location for the band to feature in a music video.
The Stone Pony is situated within walking distance from the town’s other well known venues within the local music scene — vintage bowling alley and live music spot Asbury Lanes (formerly Fast Lane) and the 3,600 seat Asbury Park Convention Hall on the boardwalk, all venues the band has performed. Fallon recalled Gaslight Anthem’s steady rise in the local music scene.
“That’s where we started out. In Asbury we started playing at the Lanes and then we moved up to the [Stone] Pony and Asbury Park Convention Hall and then outside of the Pony. Those are places we’ve always gone to shows to,” Fallon said. “It’s just local. That’s why you would do it too, to promote local business.”