Asbury Park is different in that respect. Most of our businesses are mom-and-pop shops, one-store enterprises, and there is a lot of interest here in live music and the arts in general. As a result, scrappy coffee houses and bars with cramped stages pop up all the time, around every corner. But a place like the Pony is in a class by itself. It's larger and has an international reputation. It won't, on its own, make a band's career. But it can help give a good band a necessary boost.
In an article this weekend, Jason Notte talks about the threats to that "special character" in loving detail, as he remembers the summers of his youth spent in Ocean Beach bungalows. The Jersey Shore has the air of a village where full lives are lived. Some commercial resorts hide the mundane, push it out of the way to create clean surfaces for the entertainment of visitors. In our resort, the mundane is part of the pleasure, etched into the architecture, baked into the food, audible in the music.
An economy built on tourism is a house built on sand, a lesson we at the Shore relearn each year. Not enough tourists, too many tourists -- either could cause the foundation to shift. Recently Maxwell's -- another legendary rock club farther north, in Hoboken, N.J., across the Hudson from New York City -- announced it was closing. The reason? The town's gentrification and commercialization, particularly its popularity from TV shows like "Cake Boss," have left it so crowded a destination that it can no longer provide adequate parking for the once-thriving venue. The Stone Pony and other embattled features of life at the Shore could easily be the next, unintended victims of a surge toward prosperity.
On the other hand, if it ever stops being a living building and becomes solely a venue for nostalgia -- if the camera-toting tourists have their way unfettered by the local community -- then let the wrecking ball come. We don't need that either. -- Written by Carlton Wilkinson in Asbury Park. Follow @CarltonTSC