Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Beacon of Light and Hope Among the Thousands of Sandy Stories. Melanie and Sonny at the Spot Pizza Grille in Point Pleasant Beach.

One of the artists Inlets and Outlets plans to follow through the post-Sandy reconstruction phase on the Jersey Shore is the acoustic duo Melanie and Sonny. The word legend gets thrown around without much thought nowadays, but one half of this terrific duo, Sonny Prewitt, is a bona fide New Jersey musical legend who has cast a large shadow over the local music scene since the club heyday of the 1970s. Sonny was a member of the Southern Cross Band, and pretty much anyone who was able to hit the clubs back when the Shore music scene was among the most vibrant in the nation has spent an evening with Sonny – whether you remember it or not.

His partner, Melanie Wagner is a relative new-comer to the area’s music scene, but her sultry and expressive voice is an equal match to the skill and feel Prewitt brings to each song the duo performs.
I spent the night at the Spot Pizza Grille in Point Pleasant (1506 Richmond Ave., (Rt. 35 NB)) on February 22 eating some excellent thin crust pizza and enjoying a beer or two while catching Melanie and Sonny’s show. As a personal note, the 22nd is also my brother’s birthday, and not only did my older brother Dave introduce me to the likes of the Allman Brothers Band and the James Gang, he also turned me on to the Southern Cross Band way back in the day.

The Spot is also a relative new-comer to the area, having opened in November, 2010. During Hurricane Sandy however, the Spot became a vital place for locals to grab something warm to eat and catch up on news from neighbors in the area.
Sonny Prewitt and Melanie Wagner at the Spot in Point Pleasant.
Melanie and Sonny opened the evening with an eclectic mix of new and old (Green Day, Train, Mamas and Papas, the Beatles, Phillip Philips and Doby Gray )made up the first six songs of the evening. The house sound system left the vocals a little hard to hear and understand, but Fleetwood Mac’s You Make Loving Fun,and the duo’s own takes on the classics Fire and Rain and I Shot the Sheriff were highlights that would have made the trip from the hinterlands of Jackson out to Point Pleasant well worth it on their own.

The absolute highlight of the evening for me was Melanie’s original tune Cupid which they played toward the end of their early set. I hadn’t heard the song before, but the mere fact that the hook stayed with me in spite of the noise level from the crowded bar spoke volumes about what I was hearing. When you hear a good song, you know it. Having acquired my own copy of Melanie’s debut CD Cross My Heart I can vouch for the fact that Cupid is in good, solid company among the rest of the tracks.
I had a chance to sit and talk between sets with the duo about the state of the music and entertainment business in the area post-storm, and overall their take was encouraging. There are still some challenges but the amount of work a band or duo is getting is a good indicator of the overall health of the area, and Melanie and Sonny are busy.

Melanie Wagner lays claim to the Leon Russell song and Carpenter's hit
"Superstar" on February 22nd, at the Spot in Point Pleasant
The duo played approximately 90 shows last summer, and even though in the direct aftermath of the storm their bookings dropped by half, establishments in the area are beginning to recover and come back on-line. As a sign that things are indeed improving, Melanie and Sonny are playing at Farrell’s Pub on Broadway on March 15. Located a few dozen yards from the Manasquan River, the first floor of Farrell’s was inundated during Sandy. Their re-opening is a great sign for all of us as it shows that the Shore is making strides toward its comeback every day.
Melanie is currently working on her sophomore effort which is being produced by Sonny. The duo promises a late summer drop. But until then, stop out at a Melanie and Sonny show, kick back and enjoy and pick up a copy of Cross My Heart on the way out.

I also had a chance to speak with the Spot’s manager, Toni, who filled me in on the role the restaurant played in the days immediately following Sandy. Most of the area was without power for several days if not multiple weeks, but the Spot was one of only a few places in Point Pleasant to get their power back on in the first 72 hours after the storm. The staff immediately began serving dinners to locals who were without food, water and power, and although the township and state did not allow them to serve alcohol for about a week, the Spot provided a lifeline of warm food (and cell phone charging) to the residents of the Beach.
The restaurant also provided pizzas to the National Guardsmen stationed in Bay Head and Mantoloking, as well as meals to the relief workers working out of the Bay Head firehouse. The Elks lodge in Point Pleasant hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for affected residents and the Spot donated to that effort as well.

On the Friday night we visited, the bar and restaurant was filled with a wide variety of folks – always a good sign that a place is catering to the desires of its clientele. In the days after the storm, the crew at the Spot stepped up to cater to their neighbor’s needs as well.
Between the beer, the excellent thin-crust Jersey-style pizza, an easy-going but attentive staff and the pleasures of Melanie and Sonny, a cold, rainy night in February gave an optimistic peek into the future. As Toni, the Spot’s manager said, the Spot became a “beacon of light and hope” last October and now we can all look forward to the time when it becomes just a simple destination of choice for pizza and beer on a Friday night.

No comments:

Post a Comment