Lanes hosts final Pack the Bowl Festival

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Proceeds from last weekend’s Pack the Bowl were presented to Rescue Ridge on Tuesday. [From left] Dan Donovan, of the Cosmic Jerry Band, Joni Wuchter, Mary Tkach, and Marisa Kosinski of Rescue Ridge and Don Corcione of the Sea Girt Lanes. [DANIELLA HEMINGHAUS / THE COAST STAR]

WALL TOWNSHIP — The Lanes at Sea Girt hosted a popular local fundraising concert last weekend to give back to the community one final time before it closes its doors in May. 

Last Friday and Saturday, The Lanes’ final installment of its Pack the Bowl music festival drew some of the biggest numbers yet for the event, which raised $2,300 for Rescue Ridge, a local animal foster care and kennel service.

While soon to end, the music scene at the Lanes goes back about six years ago, when manager Don Corcione decided he wanted to try hosting live music.

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He had first tried hosting music in the bar of the building with limited success before pitching to his company, moving the stage out onto the lanes, similar to the Asbury Park Lanes setup before it was renovated. The new setup was working out, but Mr. Corcione said he was about to give up.

“It was going moderately well … to say I was ready to give up is exaggerating, but I was ready to give up until I met Dan Donovan.”

Mr. Donovan, perhaps better known as “Cosmic Jerry” and the leader of the Cosmic Jerry Band, was approached by Mr. Corcione, who knew his band drew good crowds, to do shows at the Lanes. He said he knew he could not offer to pay the band its usual fee, but they agreed.

 “It was kind of an untapped venue, and we kind of went at it,” Mr. Donovan recalled.

“They loved the place and kind of became the house band,” Mr. Corcione said. 

In 2017, Mr. Corcione approached Mr. Donovan for help with organizing and hosting a music festival, the inaugural Pack the Bowl, which was a modest one day affair with about three bands, headlined by the Cosmic Jerry Band. It grew again in 2018 and 2019, adding more bands and even some acoustic acts. 

The coronavirus pandemic canceled Pack The Bowl in 2020, despite all plans having been made. To make up for last year’s cancellation, this year’s event was expanded to two days.

“Technically Friday was Pack the Bowl Fest Three and Saturday was Pack The Bowl Fest Four,” Mr. Donovan said.

Both Mr. Corcione and Mr. Donovan agreed that this was the biggest Pack the Bowl festival yet, and offered a great community spirit to go along with some great music.

“The shows were amazing. We had a great crowd both nights. Everyone wore their masks, stayed separated. It was awesome and great to see everyone come out,” Mr. Donovan said. “I’m still kind of buzzing from it. It was a great weekend.” 

On Friday, Father and Son and Mark Diomede opened for the Cosmic Jerry Band, which covers Grateful tunes and more, billing itself as “Everything Jerry Garcia and Beyond.”

Saturday featured a full day of music with performances from the Pete Tonti Band, Desert Jellies, Otherwise Useless Children, Michael Jaskewicz, Kevin Hill, Brendan Brophy and Uke and Drum. Cosmic Jerry Band headlined again.

Mr. Donovan said it was great to see so many musicians come and play together, some for the first time despite having interacted with each other for years. Young or old, it didn’t matter, he said.

“There were a lot of moving parts, but it all came together … It put a nice spotlight on the scene in one weekend. A lot of these bands [and musicians] we all interact with each other and help each other out … it was cool to bring everyone together for a weekend in one place. It had a big family reunion vibe to it as well.”

Musicians have faced a rough past year with the closing of all local venues, and Mr. Donovan thanked the Lanes for giving his band and others the opportunity to perform there when there was nobody else. He called the Lanes a “sanctuary, a shelter from the storm” this past October when the lanes reopened for music.

“Don has been incredible. When he was able to reopen in [the fall] … there was no where else to play at that time. All these places we were used to playing all the time were gone,” he said, remarking that he knew musicians doing outdoor shows well into the fall. 

“I said it to people over the microphone all the time that Don was keeping the music alive. He truly was.”

Marybeth Tkach, of Rescue Ridge, thanked Mr. Corcione for his support, which spans over twenty years with the organization.

“They’ve been a big supporter of ours for years. Don and his staff are wonderful people and wanted to help the homeless animals in the community,” she said.“We’ve done events there throughout the years. It’s very sad that it’s closed.”

Rescue Ridge helped over 200 dogs and over 110 cats in Monmouth County find homes last year, Ms. Tkasc said. The organization was forced to cancel all of its fundraisers in 2020, making the Lanes’ donation significant this year.

30 percent of Pack the Bowl’s proceeds went to Rescue Ridge, an organization Mr. Corcione found as an obvious choice when planning the event years ago. He’s hosted countless fundraisers for various charities at the Lanes over the last 26 years in his efforts to give back.

“I am an animal lover and Rescue Ridge is a great organization,” he said. “I always believed you have to give back to the community and people. It’s the right thing to do and I always had a good time doing it.”

The Lanes at Sea Girt will close its doors for good on May 17. While certainly the end of an era in the community, Mr. Corcione hopes maybe Pack the Bowl can live on in some capacity, just somewhere else.

“Who knows what the future will bring for all of us. We might carry it on someday at a different venue, that could happen,” he said.

To learn more about Rescue Ridge, visit rescueridge.com. 

To learn more about the Cosmic Jerry Band, visit the band’s Facebook page. The band’s Pack the Bowl performances are available to watch, as are all of the band’s shows.