A premise behind this June’s inaugural North to Shore Festival—a monthlong extravaganza uniting Asbury Park, Atlantic City and Newark for shows by acts including Halsey, Santana and Southside Johnny—is that it doesn’t take a lot of persuasion to lure major talent to the state’s stages.
The festival, announced in March by Gov. Phil Murphy after two years of planning with his input, amounts to a statewide bid to be recognized as a festival destination, says John Schreiber, president and CEO of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark, which will produce the event.
Comparisons to Austin’s long-running and wide-ranging South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) are inevitable. In addition to the music, North to Shore, which hopscotches from Atlantic City from June 7 to June 11, to Asbury Park from June 14 to June 18, and winds down in Newark from June 21 to June 25, will run film screenings, tech talks, stand-up comedy acts and dance events.
The SXSW comparisons, Schreiber says, are not entirely misplaced. The governor mentioned SXSW in their initial talks about the festival: “What’s happening in Texas relative to voting rights and the legislature’s handling of democracy is something he found not right,” Schreiber says. “New Jersey is a progressive, inclusive state. He said, ‘Why can’t we have something like that here?’”
David Rodriguez, NJPAC’s executive vice president and executive producer, says we can—and easily. “Artists like Halsey, who’s from New Jersey, made it a point to be one of the first people on board,” he says. The lineup “is either an artist from New Jersey or one who wishes they were. They know enough about the wealth and diversity of talent we have here to want to come celebrate with us.”