Page 2 doesn’t sell papers, and disasters are only “good” news for a while. When Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast last October, there were benefits and telethons and outpourings of support. For a while. When th...
Page 2 doesn’t sell papers, and disasters are only “good” news for a while. When Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast last October, there were benefits and telethons and outpourings of support. For a while. When the public’s eyes turned, and winter settled in, there wasn’t much else to do but try to rebuild through a frigid Northeast winter. Despite months of hard work and working around red tape, towns along the New Jersey coast are still in ruins, and Shark River Hills—home of singer/songwriter Nicole Atkins—is one of those towns.
When you grow up close to the ocean, it’s always part of who you are. For someone like Nicole Atkins, whose music has been so deeply inspired by her upbringing near the water, the devastation hit particularly hard. What once was is now gone. Friends and family were displaced; homes were destroyed, flooded, or burned down. You can get used to the unpredictable temperament of the weather by the ocean, and you understand what a big storm might mean. But you never expect something like Sandy.
“People say, ‘It’s a once in a lifetime storm!’” Nicole tells us. “But it makes me really worry when people say that because it would be such strain for us to go through this big rebuilding, only to have to do it again in a year. Or even five years. Or ten years.”
Shark River Hills is a secluded little middle class village in Neptune Township, NJ that’s a mishmash of blue-collar fishing town and musicians’ hideaway—the kind of place Bruce Springsteen might write songs about if he had a mind to. If you look on a map, you’ll see that Shark River Hills is a minuscule peninsula that juts out into the Shark River (which is really more of a bay), which itself empties into the Atlantic Ocean.
From stem to stern, it’s a little under three miles from the westernmost border of Shark River Hills to the sea. Many areas of the Jersey Shore are broken up like that, with estuaries and tiny peninsulas and thin strips of beach. It’s a fragile-looking lattice of shoreline, and it’s one of the reasons why Shark River remains one of the most devastated areas in New Jersey nearly seven months after Sandy’s landfall.
“Shark River is such a small town that everybody forgets about us,” Nicole says. “We got hit so bad because we’re just surrounded by rivers. There’s one way into town and one way out. Most of my friends and neighbors… if their houses didn’t burn down, their houses have to be knocked down.
“It’s just a shame. We have one bar in town, and that got leveled. All the boats… it used to be this really idyllic little fisherman’s town, and now it’s just so wrecked.
“We’ve been through so much… a house caught fire on my street yesterday. And I’m like, dude… we cannot catch a break!”
Nicole played the “On The Beach” Superstorm Sandy benefit concert in Asbury Park in January with My Morning Jacket, and was out on tour with The Eels through March. When she returned, it was to a hometown still in complete disarray. ”I don’t think anybody has any idea just how bad it was. And still is.”
Shark River musicians decided to do something about it, and the idea for “River Concert 2013: Shark River Hills—A New Beginning” came to be. ”It could always be a lot worse, but I’m glad that the town is full of musicians so we can at least throw a party to raise money. And the town needs a party.”
“River Concert 2013″ on Saturday, June 1 promises to be a great party. In addition to food, beer, and wine from local vendors, the concert will feature music from Nicole (in a trio with guitarist Irina Yalkowsky and Chris Donofrio), Steve Forbert and Mike Doughty; the Shark River Hillbillies—with Pete Schulle, Marc Muller, Ricky DeSarno, Harry Filkin, Ronnie Mailloux, Amy Broza, Frank D‘Agostino, Joel Krauss and PK Lavengood; beloved locals Joe Riccardello, The Lone Ramblers, Lemon Juice, and local