2001-05-27 Stone Pony (The), Asbury Park, NJ
KSA To see Bruce at the Stone Pony! The thought was just ridiculous. I live in Denmark, thousands of miles from that legendary place. One thing was to go there for a vacation and visit the Stone Pony and catch a show or two, but to actually make it coincide with a Bruce appearance' It would be hubris just to let the thought enter my brain.
So on that May night in 2001, while it's always a thrilling experience to be at a historic place like the Stone Pony, I really didn't have any expectations of seeing Bruce. Just the fact that I was going to experience Southside Johnny for the first time, and at his home base at that, was plenty to make me excited.
Even when I sat in the far end of the room and Bruce was sitting right across the bar from me, not 10 feet away, with his unmistakable jaw and baseball cap pulled over a headband, it didn't really dawn on me what was going on. It was so surreal and yet so natural. I mean, I was at the Stone Pony, the place that Bruce made his own, so of course he was sitting there. But he was sitting there in a Madame Tussaud wax cabinet kind of way. It almost looked too much like him. I mean, he was wearing a headband for crying out loud! It couldn't possibly be the real Bruce. And most of all, I couldn't possibly be so lucky. In 2001 the Stone Pony had just re-opened after having been turned into some dance club called Vinyl. It had been years since Bruce had last made an appearance. So what were the odds that he would suddenly be there now' Practically zero.
But of course, in the back of my mind I knew it was him and I knew he probably wasn't just there to have a drink. It was Memorial Day. Southside was there to do his first Stone Pony gig since the re-opening. The opportunity was perfect for Bruce to rediscover his Stone Pony connection.
The show took place on the open-air stage outside the building. There were probably a few thousand people. Not exactly an intimate club setting. But I couldn't have cared less. It was still the actual Stone Pony in the actual Asbury Park on the actual Jersey freaking Shore. This was the real deal and I was there to witness it. As I was standing there waiting for Bruce to take the stage with Southside I sent a thought home to my Bruce pals in Denmark wishing they were there, but also, I must admit, not without an, oh-man-I-can't-wait-to-tell-them-about-this-they-are-going-to-die-with-envy!' attitude.
After less than an hour Bruce did come on stage and stayed there for the rest of the show. He sang, he played guitar, he joked with Southside and the rest of the musicians. In short, he was being Bruce. He controlled the thing, yet remained humble in the way that only Bruce masters. And all the while I stood there and stretched my neck to see, tried to take pictures, tried to listen to every note so I would remember, tried to hold on to every second.
Of course, now it's all a blur. Including my pictures, but the memory of how I felt is still there. This wasn't the best Bruce show I've ever seen by any means. I've been closer to him at 50,000 seat stadiums. I've left arenas more emotionally and physically drained after E Street Band shows. This wasn't that kind of experience, but it was still probably the most unique experience I've had in my almost 20 years as a Springsteen fan. It's the night that I keep returning to in my mind when people ask me what my best Bruce experience has been. Not to mention the night I keep tormenting my Bruce buddies with. 'Ahh' too bad you weren't there at the Stone Pony back in 2001! Those were the days!'
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