If you love live music, what’s the best way to wrap up your summer? A weekend of amazing live music at the second annual Sea Hear Now music festival in Asbury Park, NJ!
The Sea Hear Now Festival is 2 jam-packed days of music, as well as lots of other art and activities. The best part is that it takes place on the beach and boardwalk in Asbury Park.
The Sea Hear Now Festival has become a big part of the resurgent Asbury Park music scene!
While the main driver of going to Sea Hear Now this year was to see Dave Matthews Band headline the festival on Sunday night, there were plenty of other bands – some that I knew and some that I discovered – to satisfy keep me happy.
After attending the festival, I learned some do’s and don’ts that I’ll keep in mind if I go again, and I’m sharing those with you! Keep reading to hear about the weekend and discover my tips!
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ABOUT THE FESTIVAL
This year was the second Sea Hear Now Festival, which is set in Asbury Park on the city’s North Beach and Bradley Park. After a successful festival last year, organizers made it even bigger this year by featuring headliners The Lumineers and the Dave Matthews Band. In fact, last year Sea Hear Now had 21,000 people attend. This year, 35,000 wristbands were sold.
While music is the primary focus of Sea Hear Now, the festival also features surfing, art work, and lots of other vendors. In addition, the festival really takes over the whole Asbury Park area, with late night “after festival” shows being featured at iconic local music venues including The Stone Pony and Wonder Bar.
Wonder Bar is one of the local venues that hosts “after festival” shows.
Sea Hear Now featured three stages – the Surf and Sand Stages on the beach, and the Park Stage in the park – with non-stop music from 12:30 in the afternoon until 10:30 at night both Saturday and Sunday. With performers including everybody from The B-52’s to The Struts, there was music for everyone.
There is nothing like live music on the beach all weekend!
Of course, pulling off a festival with 35,000 people on a relatively small section of the beach is not an easy task. However, I thought the organizers of Sea Hear Now did a great job. Having said that, there are definitely some tips that I figured out over the weekend that helped to make my experience great.
MY 10 TIPS FOR ATTENDING SEA HEAR NOW
TIP #1 – BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATIONS EARLY
When we heard in January that DMB was playing Sea Hear Now and we decided to go, we booked a house right away. I was lucky to find a place in Ocean Grove, just a few blocks back from the beach. The house was clutch because we could walk to and from the festival. That saved our group the headache of driving and trying to find parking, or having to take an Uber.
There are not a lot of hotels in the area and rooms are very expensive the weekend of the festival. So, if you can get a group together and rent a house, that’s really your best option.
TIP #2 – REGISTER YOUR WRISTBAND
Every one who purchases entry to Sea Hear Now receives a wristband. That wristband not only allows for your entry to the festival, but you can register your wristband and connect your credit card to it. When you connect your credit card, you can go “cashless” throughout the weekend.
Note that there is an additional charge to use a credit card rather than cash. However, being able to pay for food and drinks without carrying around a lot of cash or credit cards was worth it for me.
TIP #3 – BUY YOUR FOOD INSIDE THE FESTIVAL
I was on a Sea Hear Now FB page prior to festival weekend, and I saw a few people suggest going outside the festival and onto the boardwalk to purchase food. Those people suggested that it was cheaper and there were better choices. So, that’s what we did for dinner on Saturday night. In my opinion, that was a bad choice.
First, it ate up a lot of time to go outside of the festival grounds. Once we got to the boardwalk, every restaurant was on a 60 to 90 minute wait to be seated. We finally tried a place that had hot dogs and hamburgers and looked like it was fast food. Wrong! We waited almost an hour for our food to be ready.
While there were definitely long lines at the food vendors at times, it would still have been quicker than the time we spent to walk somewhere and then wait for food.
On Sunday we ate at the food vendors inside the festival. There were tons of choices. The food we had was really good and reasonably priced. And, it was fast!
TIP #4 – RENT A LOCKER
One of the things Sea Hear Now offers is locker rental – either for the day or the weekend. We rented one for the weekend. The cost was $35 and it was worth it. We left our sweatshirts, towels, and back up phone batteries and chargers in the locker for the day. We also discovered that you could fit a poster tube in the locker.
A lot of people brought towels and blankets to sit on the beach with. Getting a locker is clutch so you don’t have to carry anything with you.
If you rent the locker for the weekend, you can leave things in it overnight. We went to an after show on Saturday night, so it was great to leave our water bottles and towels in the locker and not carry them with us.
TIP #5 – BRING AN EMPTY WATER BOTTLE
Sea Hear Now was really good about have plenty of water stations throughout the festival. We took in our empty bottles and just kept getting them refilled throughout the weekend. It saved us money and it’s better for the environment!
TIP #6 – VISIT THE DANNY CLINCH ART TENT
Sea Hear Now is not just about the music. It’s about art, in general, as well. There was a tent set up near that park that featured art from a number of musicians performing over the weekend.
Dave Matthews was one of the musicians whose art was displayed.
Stefan Lessard also had his art displayed.
Not only was it cool to see art by people like Dave Matthews, Jeff Coffin and Stefan Lessard on display, but it you timed it right, you could get face to face with some of the musicians. We were lucky enough to catch Luke Spiller of The Struts make an appearance.
Yes, that is the back of Luke Spiller of The Struts. And yes, I did touch his shoulder!
We were also lucky enough to see Jeff Coffin of the Dave Matthews Band. He even took the time to take a picture with us!
Jeff Coffin playing inside the art tent.
TIP #7 – SEE AS MANY BANDS AS YOU CAN!
One of the things I love most about music festivals, is the opportunity to discover new artists. Sea Hear Now was no exception. Some of the new bands/artists that I discovered over the weekend include The Marcus King Band, Low Cut Connie and Jade Bird.
For me, the headliners were good, but they weren’t the highlight of the weekend. The smaller bands really stole the show. It was easier to get up close and really enjoy the music.
TIP #8 – GO TO ONE OF THE AFTER FESTIVAL SHOWS
The Stone Pony and Wonder Bar both featured “after festival” shows throughout the weekend. On Saturday night, we went to see Ripe at Wonder Bar. If you follow my blog, you know that Ripe is one of my favorite bands. So, it was a special treat to not only see them on one of the main stages during the Sea Hear Now festival, but to get a bonus show as well.
Ripe played one of the “after festival” shows and it was so much fun!
The “after festival” shows are also known to have surprise guests. So, make sure you go. You never know who might show up!
TIP #9 – STAND ON THE BOARDWALK
One of the best viewing spots we discovered – particularly for the early shows on the smaller stage – was standing on the boardwalk on the side of the stage. You got an elevated view and were typically able to get closer than the people standing on the beach. Plus, you avoided standing in the sand, which honestly got tough on the feet after a while.
Standing on the boardwalk gave you an elevated view from the side of the Sand Stage.
TIP #10 – PACK YOUR PATIENCE
There were people that attended the festival last year that complained about the number of people this year. I am always an advocate for less crowds rather than more. However, the only time I felt that the festival was overcrowded was on Sunday night. It was nearly impossible to get anywhere close to see Dave Matthews Band unless you camped out in a spot all day.
So, that was how far away from the stage we were for Dave Matthews Band. We didn’t want to camp out all day and we didn’t want to fight the crowds to get closer.
In general, I thought the Sea Hear Now organizers did a good job of setting things up and keeping the crowd flowing. In fact, I was amazed at how quickly a lot of the lines moved. That included getting in and out of the festival grounds.
Sure, there are things that could be better. But overall, I thought this was a very well run festival.
SO WHAT ABOUT THE MUSIC?
Overall, I was very impressed with the line up of music the Sea Hear Now festival organizers put together. My personal choices?
Biggest Surprises: Blind Melon (the only song I knew by them was “No Rain”, and none of their other music sounds like that song), Low Cut Connie (fabulous energy) and The Marcus King Band (they remind me of Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats).
Biggest Disappointments: Dropkick Murphy’s (all of their songs sounded the same to me) and The Lumineers (they just didn’t have the energy I needed to see from a headliner).
Best Bands of the Weekend: The Struts (they really stole the show) and Ripe (so many people discovered them over the weekend).
Ripe definitely gained some new fans at Sea Hear Now.
The Struts stole the show for the whole weekend in my opinion!
I don’t know what line up Sea Hear Now will give us next year, but I hope I can make it and have another great weekend of music to end my summer!
Did you attend Sea Hear Now this year? What did you think? What were your favorite bands? Any tips I missed? Let us know! Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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