The Asbury Park Rehearsals
Greasy Lake, 2001, by: David J. Mieras
Asbury Park Convention Hall/Thursday, March 11, 1999 - I'd headed down to Convention Hall every day since the Band had started rehearsals, hanging out for about an hour each time. But today I decided to stick around, since it was the last rehearsal. The regulars had staked out their usual turf along the column-lined, wind tunnel of a ramp that led into the main mezzanine. I knew that The Boss was standing on hallowed ground, and it had to have a tremendous impact on his emotions. This hall was the one remaining Asbury location that had not yet felt his commanding presence; it was rock history in progress.<p>
It was also familiar territory for this Jersey Shore boy. I thought back on the times we'd devise ways to sneak into those awesome shows, when Asbury was the rock capital of the East Coast. I also thought about how patience had always paid back big dividends, so I bundled up and waited for events to unfold.<p>
A few hours went by as the band members individually motored up the ramp and through the guards' check points. Everyone was frozen stiff but in good spirits, as the excitement mounted. Roy came out for pictures and autographs. Mad Dog stopped by to wish the Band the best, and shoot the bull with the sparse devotees. The sun was brilliant and steady, but off-shore gusts had us moving non-stop to keep the blood flowing.<p>
About seventy-five people were on the south beach, barely able to hear above the howling wind, but in the sunlight and protected by the boardwalk. "Ride it out, Bruce knows we are out here," I thought. And Bruce has always been a human catalyst for chain reactions; all you had to do was stick around and let it happen.<p>
A crew member came down the ramp and surveyed our small contingent. "Okay everybody, listen and listen good. I'm gonna let you in, but if you screw up, you'll be standing out here in a heartbeat. Form two lines and move forward to the guard."<p>
I looked around and saw that everyone appeared to be in a state of shock. There was complete silence as we entered the Hall's main doors. I checked out the decaying ornate facade. There was very little lighting, which made it even more mysterious. "Wow, this was too freaking cool," I thought. My mind was racing. I wanted to take this all in and be alert. I can tell you without a doubt that the others were like kids at the North Pole, waiting to see Santa.<p>
We were led to seats directly facing the stage. When we were seated, Bruce asked if we were happy to be out of the cold. Everyone was still stunned, so I stood up and waved, yelling "All right Bruce!"
"This is a fitting place to kick off our reunion tour. And a one, two..." Holy shit, I'm back in Asbury, feeling like a teenager, with Bruce, as he leads with "Promised Land." There were a few people standing around the stage, but the image that will always be branded on my brain was the children. Bruce gingerly moved among them, as they frolicked at his feet. I thought, "If only my little five year old could be here on my knee; now that would be Utopia."
We enjoyed five crisp, tight numbers, and when the rehearsal was over, I rose up and cupped my hands around my mouth. In the silence I yelled, "Bruce, you're incredible!" A few nervous laughs could be heard around me as Bruce jumped off the stage with vigor and his trademark smile. He approached us and hopped over some equipment crates. Roy came with Bruce, and they were laughing. Bruce greeted each and every one for an autograph, pictures, and a hand shake. There were four or five children among us and they all ran up to Bruce and hugged him at the same time. I've seen Bruce perform hundreds of times over three plus decades, but never have I witnessed such a remarkable and heart-rending, tear-jerking moment. I said, "Good seeing you again, Bruce," and handed him a picture of my daughter and her kindergarten classmates. He autographed it and I said, "Thanks man," and moved on. I knew that I had just experienced another first in Asbury Rock & Roll history. The man will stand the test of time!