Music is the Celebration of the Soul

By Lou Pastina

The music scene in Rockaway Beach continues to flourish as summer rolls around again to the beach we love. It seems like after Sandy, the community really needed a boost, and nothing makes people smile like the sound of a good tune. The number and quality of local musicians have really been amazing. Maybe they were always here, hiding in plain sight, but now, with so many venues to watch live music, all these talented musicians have a place to shine.

I am sure that some of the fan favorites like Wine with Sue, Squid, Solshyne and The Knobs will be fully booked up and down the peninsula this summer. I just love the one- and two-man bands like the RockaWades, Winston McBoogie (aka Chris Vought), Chris Solo, Kerry Kearney, and The Pointers. I love Hell or Highwater, and I especially love when the Electrix comes into town with homegrown Jimmy Fleming at the helm. Speaking of homegrown Flemings, I hope we get an extended visit by Annette and Billy Fleming and their family for a gig or two because their harmonies are to die for.

I also hope we get to see more incarnations of Indaculture, those talented lads with the twinkle in their eyes. Last year we got a taste of southern rock purveyors Blackstone with the extraordinary Jimmy Cronin on drums. I am sure they will be back making the rounds too. All those musicians without even having to think twice about it; and I am sure I have left out just as many, and for that, I do apologize!! Because there are so many venues now, Rockaway attracts out-of-town talent too. Be sure to catch big shows at the Belle Harbor Yacht Club again this year. Last year’s shows were under attended, but not due to the musicians, who I heard were fantastic.

So where are my top venues to see live music? Well, that depends on what you want to hear, and how you like your ambiance. If you want the big outdoor experience, I would say go to the 96th Street Concession. If you want an outdoor experience but more intimate, try Caracas at the 106th Street Concession. Occasionally, the 86th Street Concession will have music, too, but not every weekend like the other two. If you want something on the bay side with a nice sunset, The Wharf, Bungalow Bar and Thai Rock will all have music this year. Last year, we lost our own rock impresario Robert Kaskel. We miss him dearly, but his wonderful wife Metta is carrying the music scene on. So do drop in at Thai Rock.

If you want something along 116th Street, go to Rogers. The shows usually start and end later there, but you can get up close, and they do have the best Guinness on the peninsula, and of course the best bartender, Brendan. And you might catch the talented Arturo Rivera. Now, if you are walking from The Rockaway Hotel, where the music is good, too, don’t forget to stop into Tap That, where you can pour your own beer, listen to great music and munch on tasty tidbits on your way to Rogers. If you like the more esoteric, stop into the Rose Den on 116th. This is a musician’s place where some of the very best like Patsy, John Simonelli and Mike Severino play from time to time.

Although Whit’s doesn’t do music anymore, there is hope that he might again someday. You can, however, catch Patti Blue and the Boys and the Mighty Quinns at Smoke and Barrel right down the corner from Whit’s. And the food is terrific at both places.

For the “uptown” crowd who doesn’t like to wander too far from home, good news, the 129th Street scene is bustling with choices for music too. Callie’s, Pico, Harbor Light, and Jamesons all offer music through the summer. You can literally hear four different groups in the same night and still walk (OK, stumble) home.

And for those on our most western tip, Breezy Point offers the Bayhouse, the Sugar Bowl, and the Blarney for some of the Point’s best homegrown talent, including the Matty Lyons and Charlie Wolfe with the Grasslighters, and the great fingerpicker Bob Miley.

And the wonderful thing about this scene is that so many of the musicians know each other and will sit in on each other’s sets. Last year we saw Kerry Kearney play with Squid (hopefully again this year), Tim Farrell who sits in with just about everyone, and Joe Kenel (Graytrippers) with Kerry Kearney playing acoustic blues. I am certainly hoping that happens again this year because, when it does, there is creative and musical magic.

In any case, whatever style, genre, or setting you like your music, just remember, like the ocean air fills your lungs, music celebrates your soul. And Rockaway Beach has it all. Hope to see you out there!

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