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The Legend Lives as POCO and The Stone Pony Turn Asbury Park Into a Two-Horse Town

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Sometimes things happen for a reason. When POCO's long anticipated engagement at The Stone Pony was cancelled due to a historic snowfall in February many fans were disappointed, but the show was quickly rescheduled for a date in May. As it turns out, POCO was the Saturday night headlining act for the new and successful first annual Wave Gathering at the Jersey shore and the band played to a packed house of die-hard fans and first-timers due to this simple twist of fate.

POCO in Concert
POCO Onstage in Asbury Park! (Photo by John Cavanaugh)

The first annual Wave Gathering was held May 20th and 21st, 2006, with a focus on the rebirth of culture and music in the city of Asbury Park, New Jersey. Local galleries, entertainment venues and shops participated in the two-day event that placed an emphasis on local music. Throughout the Wave up and coming artists from the region performed at different clubs and shore points with fans bouncing from venue to venue to catch their favorite acts.

Asbury Park has a rich musical history, which of course includes New Jersey legends Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny. Today the city by the sea is ready to launch a whole new wave of skillful musicians who may one day be icons in their own right. The city of Asbury Park is under major redevelopment. Condos are being built and new cafes and stores can be found in the center of town. More clubs are opening in addition to old favorites such as The Saint and The Stone Pony. The area is ripe for a whole new wave of talent to emerge and the Wave Gathering was the start of what hopefully will become an annual tradition in conjunction with other events that will contribute to the on-going rebirth of Asbury Park.

POCO's rescheduled show ended up in the heart of the Wave Gathering at The Stone Pony. The majority of those present were POCO Nuts but some at The Pony were there as part of the Wave Gathering. Many of these additional music fans seemed pleasantly surprised to discover or recall how good POCO is. The legendary country rock band tore through a 90-minute set on Saturday night that was recorded for an upcoming edition of Pete Fornatale's Mixed Bag Radio Show.

The show opened with a positive observation that it was "a beautiful day here in Asbury Park" as POCO galloped into an animated version of "Under The Gun" with Rusty Young on mandolin. "Save A Corner Of Your Heart For Me" showcased the band's multi-part harmonizing and musical proficiency. "Call It Love" featured some extensive guitar work as would a number of songs throughout the set including "Rose of Cimarron". At times, POCO worked out extended jams, adding spontaneity and substance to their well-loved catalogue.

The crowd was extremely enthusiastic, many singing along and dancing. Folks really got into some of Paul Cotton's leads as POCO collectively smiled in amusement at the audience. "Indian Summer" was played in an up-tempo country style enhanced by Rusty's smooth pedal steel work. Jack Sundrud sang lead on "Shake It" and Paul contributed some heavy leads layered over the snappy rhythm of the song. "If Your Heart Needs A Hand" had a sultry bass line as the guitars danced and sometimes dueled. The song ended with Rusty getting the crowd to clap along.

POCO in Concert
The Legendary Rusty Young! (Photo by John Cavanaugh)

Rusty Young took advantage of the national radio audience to clear up a long running misconception, explaining that he is not related to Neil Young. However, he did mention that he was related to Brigham Young. POCO then played the spirited "Keep On Trying" with Paul on an acoustic. This song featured great harmonies and was followed by "Crazy Love" with Rusty and the crowd singing the song first as the other voices and instruments joined in. The familiar favorite kept building as Young encouraged the audience to sing along.

The spotlight then turned to Jack, the longtime POCO bassist, who armed with just an acoustic guitar joked about having to follow the most famous POCO song with a track from his solo record. "Hard Country" is a moving story about the difficulties of growing up on a Minnesota farm. The song was well received and was followed by Paul Cotton performing a beautiful acoustic version of "Bad Weather".

The classic "Pickin' Up The Pieces" was lively and led into a sweet version "Magnolia" with elongated guitar chords, some wah-wah effects and Rusty on steel. "Heart Of The Night" was the crowd-pleasing set closer. POCO's encore included a shout out to Kweevak (thanks Jack) and a outstanding cover of "On The Way Home" and a rocking "If I Needed Someone" for George Harrison.

POCO's been riding a wave of success on their own since rededicating themselves to touring and recording in 2002. The band has been logging an impressive amount of miles on the tour bus and have been reconnecting with their fans through their active web site. The last song of the night was the title track from their most-commercially received record to date - 1979's Legend. This live rarity went on and on with extended licks and hard rocking jamming. The band seemed reluctant to end the encore and the show that saw the legendary horse rock the Pony!

POCO in Concert
Paul Cotton and Jack Sundrud! (Photo by John Cavanaugh)

Related Links: For more information on POCO and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- POCO Official Site | Rusty Young | Paul Cotton | Jack Sundrud | George Lawrence | | Mixed Bag Radio | Wave Gathering


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