Boardwalk Babylon

Jersey Shore clubs on hot summer Friday nights have their own hormone-frenzied lovability—beyond city pretensions, filled with guilt-free cheap thrills, Loverboy riffs, and lobster rolls smeared with mayo. It doesn’t matter who’s playing; just get there before they charge full cover, the beer special runs out, and the group of hotties from the beach falls prey to the players here for weekend sun. The tragicomedies of a dozen Bon Jovi songs are at play, and some folks are gonna get lucky.

Booking Fountains of Wayne, pop archivists of suburban pathos, to play Tradewinds in Sea Bright, invites live-action meta so apropos Donald Kaufman would have trouble writing it. There’s a faux-Vegas rocks-and-pool formation in the back patio, from which the band is in full view. Cruising continues unabated, and the moondance asks the lonely. If the assortment of interstate sales managers, Red Dragon tattooed love-boys, and Hackensack screenwriters joining the FoW cult for the evening are listening to the words, they probably think these songs are about them.

Keen of the mix they’re entertaining, Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger eschew harmony subtleties for a populist notch on Jody Porter’s guitar. Since Fountains songs are readymade rock concoctions, the dumbing down has little effect either way. Though when top-voice sing-alongs and pogos break out during “Leave the Biker” and “Stacy’s Mom,” the bored looks of the Boardwalk Brahman turn to semi-drunken friendliness. Feet tap. If there’s no chance of getting any, then maybe there’s just joy in being there. And if they’re unable to get on the tour bus to party with the band afterwards, at least there’s the beach, a passed joint to wait out the Ocean Avenue sobriety checkpoint, and more sunshine in the forecast. —Piotr Orlov

The Flow Is Loco

Jay-Z is untouchable. At Jones Beach last Monday, a woman scrambled past security and tried to rush him, bucking and batting the air, possessed. Within seconds, three men had her pinned, still reaching Jayward, while the God MC hardly noticed. As they dragged her off, he chuckled, “That’s some real rock ‘n’ roll shit,” and breezed without further ado into an a cappella freestyle. Was she a hysterical fan? A desperate baby mama? Did it faze him? Jigga please. Hova’s so cool he can chill you to the bone.

Presiding over an army camp setup (complete with sandbags, searchlights, fireballs, and a troupe of two-stepping/goose-stepping camo-clad fly girls) he glided around in black shades, green G.I. gear, and iced-out dog tags. He opened with a Wagnerian rendition of “Takeover,” his industry-supremacy stomp, conducted the crowd’s applause, and then rode the tingle-and-throb of Panjabi MC’s “Beware.” Footage of bombs and choppers rolled behind him while he hollered the lyric “Leave Iraq alone” without irony: So relaxed was Jay amidst the pyrotechnic frenzy, his grace was disorienting. He pivoted like an oscillating fan, nailed double-time rhymes, and changed timbre and tone mid-bar, climbing from deep swagger to articulated jabs to breathy lilt and back. He may not flaunt iron-man pecs, gunshot wounds, and form-fitting Kevlar, but this vet hasn’t grown fat.

Framed against a rainy, chalkboard sky, 50 Cent‘s earlier set was even more theatrical. Between an NYC skyline mock-up, costume changes, cued gunshots, a peek at the new “Many Men” video, and a G-Unit sneakers plug, rapping seemed almost an afterthought. On record, 50’s hypnotic mush-mouth has gravity, swing. Here, he grinned, bobbed, and weaved, yelling broken rhymes in a hoarse pitch—too worked-up to cultivate flow, but so charismatic, bullet-scar-dimples and all, that he didn’t need it. —Jonah Weiner

Out of Thin Air

Bassist Henry Grimes stood silently with wide eyes and just a hint of a smile on the stage of the Iridium before beginning his quintet set. The gig had been a long time in coming—35 years, actually. Grimes was among jazz’s most in-demand sidemen in the late ’50s, playing on free-jazz recordings in the ’60s with the likes of Cecil Taylor and Don Cherry. Then he just dropped out, disappeared. Until last fall, when a curious fan from Georgia tracked him down, Grimes hadn’t been heard in decades. Some reference books listed him as deceased. Grimes was living in an efficiency hotel in Los Angeles; he’d been in and out of construction work and odd jobs for years, sometimes without a permanent address, eventually without an upright bass. An ABC News van was parked outside the “Vision Festival” ‘s final night, spurred on by a piece in the Times about the bassist’s return. The news was out: Henry Grimes was back.

On a double bill with the David S. Ware quartet, Grimes answered some obvious questions without ever speaking into the microphone. His fingers moved fluidly about the bridge of the bass (a loaner from a string studio in Soho). His rapport with the musicians—trumpeter Roy Campbell, saxophonist Rob Brown, pianist Andrew Bemkey, and drummer Michael Thompson—was confident as the band charted a course through some decidedly flexible musical space. His sound full and distinctive, Grimes reappears at a moment when the musical ideals of the free-jazz movement seem of renewed relevance. After decades away, he’s got a scene.

“Something happened,” Grimes told me after the gig. “It was like a thick air that came into the club and came right down on everybody in it. Everything that I’ve strived for came true, with bigger implications for the future.” —Larry Blumenfeld