Asbury Lanes: not knocked down, but always a knock-out

Credit: Adrian Lokker

It was December 27, 2012 in­ the middle of a freezing winter break. I was sitting enjoying my evening with a few people when I got some extremely awful news. I had just received my first text message breakup. I shut down. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt this terrible.

The whole situation felt so impersonal. I needed something to ground me. I needed something real. My friend Paige was in the room and, seeing how I was hurting, turned to me and said something that was going to change my life for the better, “I know this hurts right now but we still have a really great night ahead of us at the Lanes”.

Asbury Lanes is a few streets from the Stone Pony, right off the boardwalk. It’s near the rest of Asbury’s excitement, but it’s tucked away on its own street. While it has been around for a long time, the venue had only been putting on these incredible shows for about the last decade. These integrate touring and locals acts, big to small bands, and all sorts of novelty performances. But in a way, each one is a novelty because every show means something different to everyone.

While December 27 might have been the run of the mill show to some, it was something special to me.

The Menzingers at Asbury Lanes, 12/27/12

The Menzingers at Asbury Lanes, 12/27/12 (Credit: Chris Rotolo).

This was my first show at the Lanes: a secret Menzingers show billed as “The Zingdogs”; it was also my first real punk show. I got to see a side of music that was completely cloaked to me before this. There was a community where people of all ages, backgrounds, and passions came together and made a sort of magic. When you walk up those stairs to the Lanes, you’re more than just physically elevated—your heart’s elevated. It seems that all your worries can’t climb those steps with you.

Every inch of the venue has something unforgettable. From the photobooth to the endless local artwork strung across the walls that frames the stage­­­, which is quaintly placed between the bowling lanes. And if your nose doesn’t direct you straight to the snack bar, you should get that checked out, because those tater tots just really change the way you look at potatoes.

This magic continued to thrive until the Lanes’ last show just a few weekends ago on October 3. Having announced its closing for renovations, word had spread (and later confirmed) that the venue would be purchased by iStar, a real estate investment company. As part of what the firm describes in a press release detailing their renovations as a “multi­billion dollar redevelopment plan” for Asbury Park, they intend to restore the building and try to keep the music alive inside through “a careful refresh” of Asbury Lanes.

Beach Slang at Asbury Lanes, 10/3/15

Beach Slang at Asbury Lanes, 10/3/15 (Credit: James Appio).

The venue’s spirit was on full display that last show, featuring Sammy Kay, Lost in Society, the Holy Mess, Beach Slang, and a surprise appearance by Corrina, Corrina. Despite the nor’easter stopping by for a visit, the turnout was impressive, as those involved had built it up to be. So many people came to say goodbye. It’s really something else to watch a community that’s so connected share a night like this.

But no matter how iStar will maintain the original venue, the Lanes are forever alive in the stories of those who were lucky enough to have been apart of it… a few of which I’d like to share.

“The first time I went to the Lanes was when I was 14 to see Dave Hause with Mikey Erg and Ian Graham. It was back when the Fastlane was still next door and the Lanes still had the small stage inside. It was the first time I’d been to a show with no barrier. They had this projector behind the bands that played old silent films while the bands played and I thought it was so cool. I’d really never seen anything like it. And I’d never felt more comfortable in a room full of people. Aside from the overall life-changing experience of attending a show at Asbury Lanes, two really cool things happened that night. First, Dave, Mikey, Ian, and Pete Steinkopf from The Bouncing Souls all covered Can’t Hardly Wait by The Replacements. At that time I didn’t realize that other people besides me loved The Replacements, so not only was that performance amazing to see but it made me really feel like I belonged. The second of the two really cool things that happened was meeting Brian Fallon from The Gaslight Anthem at the bar after the show… I shook his hand and got a picture and talked about it for a year. I’d send you the picture if I didn’t have braces and such terrible acne in it. Anyway, that was the first of maybe 50 or 60 Lanes shows. I think it’s the main place I’ll think about years from now when I remember being a teenager. Favorite place in the world.” -Brian Mckenna (Lead singer/guitarist of Corrina, Corrina)

“I am a part of the Lanes crew and the Asbury Lanes is like a second home to me. Everyone had my back, they would comfort me with food and drinks and they would put together some of the best shows ever! It leaves me in awe that iStar is trying to take away another great landmark in Asbury. Let’s just hope Juicy Jenn is still booking amazing shows after renovations! Asbury Lanes crew for life!” -Ed Steinberg (Asbury Lanes Crew)

“At the Asbury Lanes, I started listening to punk music, I remember timidly walking in for the first time in 2012 patiently awaiting the Emperor X show… as a child, I would always pass the Lanes on Fourth Avenue and just admire it. Ever since the day I stepped into the space, I’ve realized that it was the perfect place to go to and it was the one place that I could go into without experiencing uneasy feeling. I started thinking about politics due to conversations I began to have with people that I have met at the Lanes. I started a band and the first place we ever played was the Lanes… I’ve laughed there, and I have cried there. I was able to see my favorite bands, and I was able to share my best experiences with the best people. I met my bassist and best friend, Alex, at the Lanes. Weird enough, I met my whole band in Asbury. It is absurd.” -Luke Henderiks (Lead singer/guitarist of Teenage Halloween)

“July 25th, 2012. King Khan and The Shrines: At the end of the last number before the encore, King Khan grabbed one of the ubiquitous PBR’s from someone in the front, twirled it over the crowd like a lawn sprinkler, and then sent the half-empty can sailing over the audience until it found its landing spot squarely on top of my head. I laughed, thinking about how, just hours before, I was cheering on CoolDaughters 1 & 2 at their summer camp swim meet. I feel like that half-full can of beer knocked something into or dislodged something from my brain that made me finally see what I really wanted to do. Even though I’d been doing posts for a couple of months at that point, to me, getting hit on the head at that show marks the real start of CoolDad Music.” -James Appio (CoolDad Music)

“Asbury Lanes is the place I’d go to see all of my friends’ bands and eventually my own band play.  This historic venue would have well-known acts but at the same time give plenty of great local acts a shot to shine.  While plenty of local venues were strict with their ways, the Lanes always kept things fresh and satisfied everyone who went there.  Overall, Asbury Lanes gave my friends and I a place to hang out, discover new music, and present our own to those who would always come out and support.” -Ross Ottman (The Rundown)

“Inside here, I became the person I am today. So many unforgettable moments and performances has happened here. I’ve met so many friends here. To the amazing staff and friends and family who have supported this venue over the years, thank you for helping local bands branch out and for having touring bands have a venue (home) to play. This is in fact, an important part of history in Asbury Park, let alone, one of the most important venues in the world. RIP Asbury Lanes.” -Brian DeSeno (Art of Edgar)

“When I think of Asbury Lanes, I remember of the kindness and warmth of Jenn (Jenn Hampton, Planner for Asbury Lanes) and the entire staff… When I heard that The Julie Ruin would be playing at Asbury Lanes, my first thought was AHH!!!!!!! and my second thought was “this is the perfect audience to reach out to with the Asbury Park Feminist Collective”. I asked Jenn if we could have a table at the show and she said of course and that she thought it would be perfect for us. And it was. Maggie and I got there early to set up an array of zines, patches, and pins that we would be selling. Then Kathleen Hanna walked up to us and bought one of our zines. It was like out of a dream and it got even better. During The Julie Ruin’s set, Kathleen held up one of our zines on stage and talked about how important feminist collectives are and told everyone to buy our zines. and they did. We sold out of zines almost immediately after their set. Kathleen and the band stuck around after the show to chat with everyone and I can’t even recollect what we talked about because I was so overwhelmed with happiness. It was a surreal and magical experience meeting one of my biggest inspirations and there is no other place where it could have happened on such a personal level. Only at Asbury Lanes.” -Rachel Leigh Casey (Asbury Park Feminist Collective)

Asbury Lanes Sign

Credit: Ed Steinberg