The sounds of summer

Staff Writer

Free outdoor concerts are attracting a growing number of music lovers to local Main Streets every year, and towns are responding by expanding their summer lineups.

While central New Jersey towns such as Freehold and Long Branch present outdoor concerts on a weekly basis each summer, Woodbridge goes even further, offering live music of different genres from Monday through Thursday.

“We have 37 free shows this summer,” Woodbridge Mayor John McCormac said. The town began its tradition of free outdoor concerts in 1999, he said.

“A few years ago, we added Wednesdays at Parker Press Park to go with our Farmers Market, and this year we added Tuesdays and Thursdays,” McCormac said. “The community loves the free shows.”

The Woodbridge Wednesdays series features a wide range of genres, including jazz, blues, country, Latin, folk, funk, Americana, pop, rock and world music.

 Red Bank celebrated the beginning of June with RiverFest, featuring live music by local bands. Red Bank celebrated the beginning of June with RiverFest, featuring live music by local bands. “Word has been getting out that what we’re doing here is ‘world class,’ and our audience has grown each year,” said Bill Brandenburg, co-organizer of the Woodbridge Wednesdays series. He noted that business owners appreciate the influx of people who come to Woodbridge from all over to see the concerts.

The Mayor’s Summer Concert Series on Mondays is dedicated to the oldies, with bands like The Bronx Wanderers and the Duprees. Rockin’ Tuesdays features tribute bands who will present the music of the Eagles, Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Chicago, Simon and Garfunkel, and others. Concerts in both series are held at Woodbridge High School, 25 Samuel Lupo Place. Woodbridge Wednesdays and Local Band Thursdays are held at Parker Press Park, 400 Rahway Ave., near the Woodbridge train station.

 Sandy Sasso’s Swingin’ Big Band will kick off Middlesex County’s Music-in-the-Parks series on July 2 at Raritan Bay Waterfront Park. Sandy Sasso’s Swingin’ Big Band will kick off Middlesex County’s Music-in-the-Parks series on July 2 at Raritan Bay Waterfront Park. McCormac, who noted that funding for the concerts comes mainly from local corporations, said he hopes to attend all 37 concerts.

“I don’t miss a show,” he said, adding that his favorites include the BStreetBand and Hotel California, tributes to Springsteen and the Eagles, respectively.

In Long Branch, Thursdays by the Sea is a free, outdoor concert series presented June 12-Aug. 21 in Pier Village.

“These outdoor concerts are open to the public, and Pier Village welcomes all to bring a lawn chair or blanket to relax on Festival Plaza and enjoy the music or, in some cases, get up and dance,” said Megan Oliveira, director of marketing and events for Pier Village.

Tim McLoone and the Shirleys will kick off the series June 12, followed a week later by the Burger & Burtnik Beatles Tribute.

“All genres are represented throughout the summer, although we find that the bands that hold true to that traditional Jersey Shore sound of rock with a hint of blues are the main attraction for our summer visitors and locals alike,” Oliveira said. “That Jersey Shore rock-andblues sound is the soundtrack to our memories.”

Long Branch also presents Blues by the Beach at West End Park, Ocean Avenue, at 7 p.m. on Sundays through Aug. 24.

Freehold hosts concerts on Thursdays in front of the Hall of Records, Main Street. The popularity of the series has grown over the years, according to Rich Gatto, CEO of Downtown Freehold, which organizes the events.

“It’s grown from 200 to 300 people a night to well over 1,000 people most evenings,” he said. “It is funded through the sponsorship of local businesses.”

Gatto said local cover bands such as the Amish Outlaws and tribute bands such as The Jersey Four, EagleMania, and Jimmy and the Parrots — covering the music of the Four Seasons, the Eagles and Jimmy Buffett, respectively — are the most popular.

“I am very excited for two new bands debuting downtown this year,” he said. “They are The British Invasion Tribute and Time Machine.”

The British Invasion Tribute celebrates British rock, while Time Machine will feature disco, oldies, country, rock, Latin and current dance tunes.

Middlesex County presents its Music-in-the-Parks series 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays at Raritan Bay Waterfront Park on the South Amboy/Sayreville beachfront. Sandy Sasso’s Swingin’ Big Band will kick off the series July 2, and Danny V’s 52nd Street Band will start off the August concerts with a tribute to Billy Joel on Aug. 6.

The Manalapan Arts Council presents summer concerts and the Manalapan Day festival at no charge every year. Joe Piscopo will headline this year’s Manalapan Day on June 14.

Marlboro will present two summer concerts this year, with Time Machine performing on July 13 and The Nerds on Aug. 10. Both are at 7 p.m. at the Marlboro Community Center amphitheater.

Keyport will present its Twilight Concert Series at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through August, and

Jazz and Blues on

Front Street at 7 p.m.


In Metuchen, free concerts and art displays can be found throughout the downtown area every Friday evening in June for the annual Junebug ArtFest.

South Brunswick will present Sweeter

Than Honey at Beech

Woods Park at 7 p.m.

July 11.

Red Bank, which recently presented live music as part of the weekend-long River- Fest, will have street musicians playing on Saturday evenings in June and August.

Free beach concerts are held at 6 p.m. Wednesdays, June 18-Aug. 6, at Sandy Hook Beach E. Upcoming bands include After the Reign with country music on June 18, followed by classic rock with The Carl Gentry Band on June 25, The British Invasion Tribute on July 2, and party music with Brian Kirk and the Jirks on July 9.

Donna Ranieri of Englishtown said she frequents many free concerts each summer, including those in Freehold.

“I love the Shore and the bands,” Ranieri said while taking in a performance by JoBonanno and the Godsons at Red Bank’s recent RiverFest.

“You can bring your kids and enjoy the sunset on a day like today. It’s wonderful,” she said. “I especially like the Eddie Testa Band and JoBonanno.

“I really appreciate the sponsors. You want to frequent their places because they help promote events like this.”