It was billed as the Pony's Last Ride on the weekend, the much cliched end of an era. The formidable Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ, the nightclub that was the spawning ground of rock n' rollers like Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny and Bon Jovi, shut its doors -- at least under that moniker. The owners are hoping to breath new life into the aging venue by a transforming it into a dance club, christened Vinyl.
The club went down with a three-day bash of local rockers that included a surprise appearance by New Jersey favorite Southside Johnny on Sunday, performing three well-worn standards -- "Fever," "Good Golly Miss Molly" and "Hoochie Coochie Man" -- with band alumni Bobby Bandiera. A Springsteen impersonator showed up, but not the Boss himself nor any members of Bon Jovi, in spite of rampant pre-show rumors.
The club itself is already well into the physical transition. The painted black walls have given way to peach stucco, part of a new decor described by one local paper as resembling an upscale Italian restaurant. While some scribes wailed about the club's loss, others opined that the club was not the legend it once was, anyway -- one went so far as to call the modern day Stone Pony "a germy, skeevy, graffiti-stained dump."
Asbury Park was once the center of the musical map well advertised by Springsteen's album "Greetings From Asbury Park, NJ" and Southside Johnny's initially monikered Asbury Jukes. The Stone Pony became it's capitol. Even when Springsteen could sell out stadiums, the club played host to countless surprise appearances right into the nineties.
Ironically, the Pony first opened as a dance club before giving way to the famed "Jersey Shore sound" later in the seventies. The venue will now open this coming Friday as Vinyl with a deejay, and the Saturday night show will feature a dance pop singer, Amber, performing with taped back-up.
It's come full circle.