End of an era: A sad exit to an iconic NJ Shore music venue
It's rare that two generations of music lovers can have memories of seeing bands at the same dive bar 30 years apart, but in my family, that's exactly the case. My son Ray and I have both been music lovers our whole lives. (Well, I was first!)
In 1980, I was at The Brighton Bar in Long Branch, my sneakers sticking to the beer-covered floor, waiting to see the band The Chronic Sick.
In 2010, Ray walked to Brighton on a blistery cold Friday night from our home a few blocks away to try to catch Grant Hart from Hüsker Dü.
That was the Brighton Bar.
A symbol of all that was great about youth, music and Long Branch.
Open since 1915, the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, owned since 1996 by Greg Macolino, closed in April 2021 and according to reports, demolition is slated for today.
It's a sad day.
The story of the Brighton Bar is legendary:
Greg and his rock band The Chronic Sick used to play at the Brighton. After working there, he purchased the business and began bringing in original rock bands of all ages, giving hopes of stardom to all of them.
While Brighton Bar specialized in punk rock bands over the years, they also had jazz bands, country artists, blues acts, even poetry, and artists.
In fact, Its Wall of Fame is a Who's Who of artists including Fountains of Wayne ("Stacy's Mom"), Three Doors Down ("Kryptonite," "Here Without You," "Let Me Go"), and even Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi.
Oh, lest I forget, my son Raymond's band, Secret Mountain, had a gig there, too.
An article in the Long Branch paper last year said:
"It was a badge of honor to play on stage with the Brighton lights behind you. Closing will no doubt break a lot of new young rocker's hearts. There was no place to play on stage for the first time like the Brighton. Greg kept The Brighton going through good times and bad until the present."
On @newjerseyhardcore Instagram account, users are weighing in with their memories:
"The cbgb of the jersey shore. Just a little cleaner."
"Honored to have played on that stage."
"Damn, this one hits hard. Countless memories, as a musician and a participant"
The Brighton bar's Facebook page looks forlorn. Its last post there was from November 2021. A year later and its demolition day is set.
The neighborhood where the Brighton Bar stands was once called a "little Greenwich Village," with a Bohemian feeling. It's where the Village-esque coffee house, The Inkwell, was located before its post-COVID closing. It was also home to the turntable record shop where you'd wait in line for tickets to anything from Dead Kennedys to Bruce Springsteen.
The "West End" neighborhood attracted us: the artists, the misfits, the misunderstood, the musicians and poets. The area's gentrification isn't surprising but still, like all change, has its happy and its sad.
The slogan of this legendary Jersey Shore bar was "The Home of Original Live Music."
"Long Branch had no business getting the caliber of punk bands that Brighton Bar managed to get somehow," Ray mused.
But that's the thing. They did. And the reason they were able to attract those bands is this: The grungy little place stood for something. And with fewer and fewer venues for indie music and small local bands to hone their chops, that something will be missed.
Read More: Brighton Bar Long Branch NJ Closed.
Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Judi Franco only.