Asbury Park, NJ has a long history with rock music with plenty of it happening in the Boardwalk’s historic Convention Hall. The list of greats who played there includes The Rolling Stones, The Who, Pink Floyd and even Led Zeppelin who played there one night instead of Woodstock. The 3,600-seat venue still stands today hosting occasional concerts and women’s roller derby. Opened in 1930, like most of the old beach town, it is in need of some repair. In recent years, Bruce Springsteen has used the room for rehearsals and special shows. Back in the day, though, he reportedly did not like the sound at Convention Hall, and it appears that he did not play there until his first special Christmas show in 2000.
On the night in question, a friend and I were looking for something to do one weekend while staying down the Jersey Shore. We decided to check out the “weed-humor” of Cheech and Chong at Convention Hall. At the time, the duo had just released their third comedy LP, but had yet to hit the peak they would find through films. Walking up to the ticket window, we managed to get some decent orchestra seats not too far from the stage. I really don’t remember much about their comedy set, but I’m sure we laughed and thought it was funny. I do remember that the opening act was blues legend Muddy Waters. At the young age of 17, I had yet to discover the blues and totally missed out savoring this moment.
Looking back now, I can’t believe that I actually got to see Muddy Waters! But more so than that, look at the ticket to see who was supposed to be the opening act that night—none other than Bruce Springsteen. Research says that he and the band backed out of the gig earlier in June due to a studio session commitment. Or, could it have been because of his feelings about the venue’s poor sound?
I shudder to think about how I would have reacted to seeing the little-known Springsteen at that time in my life. He still had yet to release his second record, and his music was totally unfamiliar to me. To this day, I wonder if I would have underappreciated him like I did Waters, or whether I would have become a super fan two years earlier than I did after seeing him and the E Street Band in 1975 at The Bottom Line. I suspect that it would have been the latter, and it makes me think of all the other Springsteen shows I could have seen in the time between!