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Growing up in New Jersey, The Stone Pony was the place to sneak out to. They have some all ages shows, but in the 90s most Jersey parents drew the line at Asbury Park at night. So we were forced to connive, but it was worth it every time. It was the first place I saw the Violent Femmes, learned to never wear flip flops to a rock show and realized rock stars are made of flesh and blood.

My sister, metal friend and I went to see The Wallflowers play there last night. I hadn’t heard any of their new music, but they’re all such great musicians that it doesn’t matter what they play. So we got there early and sat out back listening to the strange slow jazz tunes the DJ insisted on playing. Way to rev things up?

We went in as soon as Jonny Kaplan took the stage to play some slow country love songs. His voice is fantastic and the songs were pretty, but I kept waiting for something with more energy. The last song they played needed a rhythm and they didn’t have a drummer so they got the audience clapping along. And since Rami Jaffee played accordion with him, I guess you could say we all jammed with Rami and Jonny.

Jonny Kaplan opening for The Wallflowers

Rami Jaffee playing with Jonny Kaplan, this is as still as he gets

I meant to get Kaplan’s CD, which he promised had some more rockin songs, but the crowd kind of surged into one continuous push during the 20 minutes before the Wallflowers took the stage. At this point it was steamy inside getting steamier by the minute. We kept thinking they’d turn a fan or something on, but that was not to be. And one point it felt like we were all permanently stuck to one another to form a single, amorphous fan blob, which was not as glamorous as it may sound.

I couldn’t believe how close we were. The Wallflowers took the stage and it was like ‘Oh, hi strangers’. From the very beginning it felt more like a party than a concert. The stage is only half the height of most, which makes it feel like the band and audience are in it together, sweating it out. I’d love to know how musicians feel about being close to the audience in a small venue compared to gigantic stadiums.

( My pictures suck, I apologize, but these men do not stay still.)

Oh, hello

Jakob Dylan at The Stone Pony

The first few songs they played were new to me, but really really good. More folksy lyrics with a bouncy bluegrassy feel maybe. We were bopping. The drummer was crazy good. From where I stood it looked like the tiniest little drum set, but that man held it all together. It wasn’t till the end that I realized it was Jack Irons, also of Pearl Jam (sorry no pics of him, he was obscured in drums).

Rami Jaffee danced up a storm to every song. Who knew piano could be that exciting? I heard him play with Foo Fights earlier this summer, but this was my first time seeing him up close. So now we know he rocks accordion, piano and the organ (Foo Fighters).

Jakob Dylan’s voice has grown over the years. It’s always had this natural texture that keeps it from sounding too pretty. His stage presence is different from most front men. He’s totally comfortable on stage without trying to seduce the audience. He’s more aware and responsive, too. He listened when people called things out and smiled like he was in a room full of friends. One woman hollered out it was her 40th time seeing them. Another told him ‘Closer to you’ was their wedding song, but I don’t think he heard that one.

He insisted on wearing his lovely hat and jacket for the entire show, even though it felt like triple digits inside. Anyone else would’ve looked overdressed, but he just made the rest of look like a bunch of sweaty urchins. So let’s just say his view of us wasn’t as good as our view of him.

They played almost all of my favorites, except ‘Heroes’, but hearing all the new stuff more than made up for it. Their new album ‘Glad All Over’ comes out October 2 and I can’t wait. While I never stopped listening to the older stuff, it feels like a band is back in your life when they’re creating new songs and excited to share them.

The set ended and we weren’t about to leave without an encore. I still love the fake out bands do of leaving and coming back, but I didn’t expect them to come out with a friend. Brian Fallon of Gaslight Anthem hopped out with a grin and lit up the stage. Jakob Dylan shifted to the side and put Fallon center stage. The two sang and played together like old friends. It was such a treat. They ended the show with a cover song, and I’m kicking myself for not remembering what it was. [Edit: Thanks to Reba for commenting. The last song was Peace, Love and Understanding]

Jakob Dylan of The Wallflowers with Brian Fallon

Brian Fallon

Brian Fallon of The Gaslight Anthem

The first song they played together was Three Marlenas. Dylan said something about his songs being wordy, but Fallon seemed to know every line. At that point, the show really did feel like a party. I had one of those moments when you just feel really lucky to be alive. There wasn’t anywhere else in the world I wanted to be and it felt like everyone else in the room agreed.

The Wallflowers, Jakob Dylan with friend Brian Fallon

Someone in the very front gave Jakob Dylan a dollar. Maybe as a tip? He looked amused and took it with a nod.  I hope he buys himself something nice, like a tee shirt or tank top. Could he pull off a tank top? You hardly ever see men look good in them…but I digress.

The Gaslight Anthem’s new album ‘Handwritten’ came out two days ago. They’re off to tour Europe very soon. I hope their fans abroad come out in hoards, buy their album and give them big sweaty hugs after every show.

My sister and I really wanted to stick around and try to say ‘Hi and thank you thank you thank you’ after, but our friend demanded Korean tacos stat. The night ended at a drive through on a late night calorie feast. The Wallflowers are off to play Chicago now. Their website doesn’t list any other shows, but I hope they come back soon. If you have the chance to see them, go.

[EDIT: Hey, someone posted Three Marlenas!]