It started with a Tweet, just a heads up from a local high schooler to the lead singer of mega-popular music mainstay for the last decade that he check out a video online.
Rumson-Fair Haven Regional High School student Charolotte Nagy’s simple request that Train lead singer Pat Monahan watch her documentary on the devastation of Hurricane Sandy culminated Wednesday night with an intimate free concert for the first responders and residents of one of the shore’s most devastated towns, Sea Bright.
Wednesday’s outdoor concert, held in the parking lot of the Sea Bright Police Department, bookended by a ravaged beach on one side and a darkened downtown retail row on the other, attracted a crowd of about 500 people, all of them first responders, residents, and relatives.
The concert was filmed by VH1 and will air as part of the music network’s program “Christmas in Sea Bright,” a show that will air on Christmas day and feature concert footage and video shorts aimed at raising money for Sea Bright Rising.
Nagy, a 16-year-old Rumson resident, produced a 30-minute documentary of Hurricane Sandy. The R-FH student shot footage of her town and Sea Bright leading up to, during, and after Hurricane Sandy’s arrival on the Jersey Shore a little over a month ago. She put the video up on YouTube and set about getting the word out.
Before dedicating a song to Nagy, Monahan credited her for spreading awareness and getting Train to perform in Sea Bright.
“She’s the most awesome 16-year-old you’ll ever meet,” Monahan said. “She represents this part of New Jersey, which means this must be where the coolest people in the world live.”
Train performed a more than hour long set, at one point inviting a few members of the audience up on stage to sing an interesting cover of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Monahan also sang a duet with Sea Bright native and Grammy award-nominee Linda Chorney.
Chorney’s Sea Bright condo, like many of the shore town’s properties, suffered significant damage during Hurricane Sandy. But, Wednesday night was not a time for continued mourning — that brief spell ended after residents arrived back in the town more determined than ever — but a brief respite from the ongoing restoration process.
Berne Bookhamer said the home she and her husband owned suffered damage, but they’re back living in Sea Bright, cleaning up as they go along.
“Everyone’s attitude is upbeat,” she said. “We’re coming back.”
Sea Bright’s fighting spirit is perhaps best represented by Sea Bright Rising and the people behind it. The non-profit’s founder, Chris Wood, owner of Woody’s Ocean Grille and an R-FH alumni, has been working tirelessly to reopen his restaurant following Hurricane Sandy. However, the immediate success of Sea Bright Rising, the tens of thousands of dollars it's raised so far for displaced residents and the national recognition it's gotten isn’t about him, he said, but about the town.
“Sea Bright has a deep spot in everybody’s heart,” he said. “We need this community to come back better than ever.”