Welcome to New Jersey!

The one time I have to go to the West coast in hell, five years, the one time I fly out past Chicago and keep going is the one weekend that Deadbolt decides to return to EST after a five year break. John from the Crimson Ghosts was there at the show and said it was one of the best he’d ever seen. And he had seen the Mummies reunion show just before that, a tandem blast of pure rock fury. I remain jealous as hell.

I flew out to Chicago to see Man…Or Astro-Man? play at Touch and Go’s 25th Anniversary, but there wasn’t that much of an adventure. I met someone who was really cool and saw a fantastic band but compared to the spooky band I would go to see a few years later, man. Let me tell you.

Here at the Local, Troma is held in high regard. If not for the virtue of cheapness spouted by Troma Studios founder and independent cinema poobah Lloyd Kaufman, Troma is loved for its wide collection of bad-but-sincere horror movies. Killer Nerd. Igor and the Lunatics. Night of the Bloodbeast. Schlocksploitation with blood, boobs and beasts all for your viewing enjoyment. Troma, from Tromaville, New Jersey, home of the Toxic Avenger.

New Jersey is a worn-out punchline to many old jokes, though truths of toxic dumps and crime families are often exaggerated. It’s got the attitude of being New York City’s little brother due to its locale and from the general population of honest, working class citizens. I haven’t been to all of the state, with a trip to Atlantic City and the Jersey Shore sometime in the future. It would be nice to see Lodi, where the Misfits are from.

The most time I’ve spent in New Jersey was in 2007. I live close enough that I was able to catch a series of trains, from Grand Central to Penn Station out to Asbury Park to see The Ghastly Ones at Asbury Lanes.

A year ago, I wrote about how The Ghastly Ones were the first surf band I got into. From them followed a decade of surf and spooky music love. It wasn’t until 2007, following the band’s break-up and reunion that they decided to play the East Coast for the first time. The Ghastlys are located out of Southern California and, like any band that isn’t U2 or Green Day, they are involved in much more than music. Real jobs. Incredible. Still shocks me to this day to hear that some of the better musicians alive still have to punch the clock. The romance is gone, man, and travelling across the country is more laborious than what it’s thought to be (the Secretions, who I linked to last year for their awesome song ‘Cemetary Pogo,’ only tour the country in the summer due to Danny Secretion’s job as an elementary school teacher. How awesome is that?)

The Crimson Ghosts were going to play with the Ghastly Ones for one tour date, which made the choice of Asbury or Brooklyn easier for me. I could have been the nerd that saw both but back then I still had a job that required me to show up early on Monday. Instead, I navigated the PATH for the first time and shit, made it to Asbury, New Jersey just in time for the sun to go down.

There was a cop walking along the train tracks. Figuring I had no one else to ask, I wanted to know where the club was (besides hanging by his waist, har-har.) He pointed, to the right side of the tracks, told me to walk about eight blocks and there it would be.

“Y’know.” He looked me up and down, a hapless tourist in his eyes, asking a goddamn cop for directions. “ You should stay on this side of the tracks. Don’t walk over there,” he said, indicating the opposing part of town that wasn’t as well lit, wasn’t as inviting. (How inviting can New Jersey get?)

I started the walk, not that bad of a distance. I weighed more back then, wasn’t in any good shape at all. Figuring I wouldn’t want to hike back to the train station after watching a concert all night (and hell, maybe I might be drunk at the end, who knew for sure?) I took down the number for a cab company. Surf Taxi. Seemed appropriate.

Asbury Lanes is a concert hall that doubles as a bowling alley, or vice-versa, depending on your vice. It was in that quandary of ‘we’re not open though we should be, considering it’s a damn bowling alley –whoops! No, we’re a music club and doors aren’t open yet.’ I had about half an hour. There wasn’t much immediately to do, which is why I ended up at a bar whose name I can’t remember but wouldn’t be surprised if it was called ‘The Tropicalia.’ A gay bar, I think, though I had no problem ordering a beer and some chickenwings there. I spend the rest of the hour watching Jeparody/Wheel of Fortune with two couples who were pretty good at both games. I told them of the show, said that it was going to be a blast. Maybe some of them showed up. I would like to think they did and were pleasantly surprised at the walking cadaver who hosted a quartet of surf/garage rock bands.

Mr. Deadguy. We spoke of him, right? An entertaining guy with macabre puppetry and catchy songs? He hosted the evening, perhaps the whole slew of dates considering he’s located out of Philadelphia. Don’t know. Knew he was fun to watch and his addition as the MC made the night even more enjoyable.

The bands on the bill with the Ghastly Ones were The Crimson Ghosts, The Brimstones and The Nebulas. Thanks to the wonderful Metropolitan traffic, the Ghosts got caught up in traffic and the show started late. They killed, really pulled out this fantastic performance. The stage is situated in the middle of the lanes, over the width of five to seven bowling lanes and right at the front so the kids and creeps can bop around close to the band. Since Gein uses a five-mile cord when he plays bass for the band, he has ample room to get out in the crowd to scare up some up friends. He might have stayed in close that night, don’t rightfully remember. It was a tight performance. The delay and traffic didn’t do anything to rattle them. Jon, Gein, Max and Clay are all really excellent musicians. If they’ve ever fucked up, I’ve never seen it. And that night, what frustration the noted Jersey Turnpike was used to kick open the show and make some new fans.

The Brimstones were an excellent garage rock band that had the earthy presence of an anointed Mississippi preacher with flock, taking to the stage as to the pulpit. They put on a good show, something to catch if they roll through your town.

After them, in old-school, James T. Kirk Star Trek dress, the Nebulas took the stage and proceeded to kick ass with sonic space force. They’ve been known to sport matching skeleton masks and top hats, more closer to The Ghastly Ones than Man…Or Astro-Man?. They were people there to see the Nebulas alone, fans of them who saw the Ghastly Ones as a pleasant second. After having my face vaporized by their guitars, I can see why.

By the time the Ghastly Ones took the stage, it was close to Midnight, if not well past. They were incredible. Random girls turned into Go-Go dancers. Boys became proficient at surfing and an impromptu contest took place near the restrooms. Someone bowled a perfect game. Everyone went home and got laid (not true.)

It was a fun show. I have to admit that I hadn’t reached the point where I fully accepted the new keyboardist (Captain Clegg) into the band. I had driven many miles listening to ‘A-Haunting We A-Go-Go’ so I had the protective sentimentality of the fan. It wasn’t until recently that some barrier, some mitochondrion wall was pierced and I see how Clegg adds to the songs. I look forward to the new release out next year. They have an 7” EP out in a couple weeks. Depending on the price, I’ll pick it up despite not having a working turntable anymore. Just how I roll. Got to support the guys, y’know?

The Ghastly Ones started their set at midnight. By the time they were over, it was late. Close to 1am, if not later, and I skipped the encore because I was tired and had at least three hours of commuting before I’d hit my head on my pillow. Hitting up the number I snatched for Surf Taxi, I called and waited out in the street for one of the many passing taxis to pick me up and leave.

Bruce (not his real name) was a happy guy for that time at night. He was talkative in the short drive from the club to the train.
“I’m a panther, you know? I’m stalking my prey in the night.” He laughed. “I’m a panther, man.”

Bruce was a good guy. When he dropped me off at the train station, he gave me his car number. “If it’s closed, and it looks like its closed, guy – if it’s closed, give them a call and ask for my number. I’ll swing back.”

Sure enough, the sheer awesomeness of the show had caused time to jump forward and it was at the point in the early morning where the PATH wasn’t running back to NYC. I was stranded in New Jersey, stuck in Asbury Park until the morning.

Bruce was quick to come back.
“Where do you want to go, guy?”

I said I wanted to go to a cheap motel, the cheaper the better. I could have gone back to the hotel next to the Tropicalia, but it seemed like a place that would charge 100-150 a night. I was only planning to sleep for six hours. Twenty-five dollars an hour to sleep? In New Jersey? Forget that.

Instead, Bruce thought of the Olympia (probably not the name of the place) and we decided on it. He proceeds to drive into that unlit part of the unknown that had been previously forbidden by the officer of the law. It wasn’t that Bruce was oblivious. The man was a panther, after all.

“When you get there, lock the door, man. And if you hear a knock, don’t answer it. If you’re not expecting anyone, don’t answer it. Man, there are some of these women who will see you as a fat turkey, you know what I mean?”
“I do,” I said. “And I don’t want to get plucked.”
That made Bruce laugh. “That’s right, man. That’s right. You don’t want to get plucked.”

For the sixty-plus bucks it cost, the Olympia was suitable dive. Not really on the tourist route of places to stay, but when it’s two in the morning and you’re an out-of-towner on a budget and confident that the deadbolt on the room’s door will keep away any turkeypluckers, it serves its purpose. The guy gave me my room key and I gave Bruce a wave of thanks before he drove off into the night. Hopefully, he’s still prowling and hasn’t been robbed or shot.

There were loud neighbors, of course. Their conversation made no sense, since all I could hear was the man yelling ‘STAY OUT OF MY HEAD. YOU STAY OUT OF MY HEAD.’ No clue, though it only hastened my decision to turn out the lights and crash. Not wanting to risk an outbreak of scabies or the plague, I slept on top of the bed instead of in the sheets.

The room had one of those old televisions that boasted a radio AM/FM tuner. There were only seven stations, one of which was HBO, where ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’ was wrapping it up. As I drifted off, my last thought of the night was ‘Is that Val Kilmer? Man, he’s gotten fat.’ I woke up to Elvis in ‘Blue Hawaii,’ something fitting for the whole trip. I checked out and a second Surf Taxi gave me a lift to the station. It was too early so I made it to Dunkin’ Donuts and walked around. A closed storefront for either an old ice cream shop or an alternative clothing store had old porcelain figures of chesty women with exaggerated features. It made for interesting scenery to what was a grey and raining New Jersey Morning. By the time I made it to NYC, the sun had come out. I was exhausted when I finally made it back home. I was tired, a little more broke than I planned to be, but I had seen the show and lived an adventure (which ultimately was more important, fancy that.) Someday, the Ghastly Ones will return East or I’ll finally move out West. I’ll see them again. Looking forward to it.

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