Southside Johnny to headline 2021 Milford Oyster Festival

MILFORD — With the return of the Milford Oyster Festival this year, organizers are also bringing back a popular act to perform as the event’s musical headliner.

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes, who headlined the festival in 2005, return this year as the featured performers. Festival officials said the Jukes have been considered the Godfather of the New Jersey Sound, rocking audiences since the mid-1970s.

“In a business where success is defined as getting a second single and longevity measured in nanoseconds, simply surviving for 30-plus years is a rare accomplishment,” said festival publicity chair Michelle DiBella. “But Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes have not only survived, they have flourished.”

With more than 30 albums since 1974, the band is best-known for high-energy shows and no-holds-barred songs including, “I Don’t Wanna Go Home,” “Havin’ a Party,” “The Fever,” “Talk to Me,” “Trapped Again” and “This Time It’s For Real,” festival officials said. The band’s 1978 album, Hearts of Stone, was named of the Top 100 albums of the 70s and 80s by Rolling Stone Magazine

The festival is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 21. In addition to the main stage entertainment, the event also includes a craft beer area at Lisman Landing, the festival car show, arts and crafts vendors on Milford Green, amusement rides, canoe and kayak races and 35,000 oysters.

Oyster Eve, the festival kick-off event, will be held Friday, Aug. 20, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at its new location in Fowler Field. Local favorite the Rum Runners will highlight the Oyster Eve celebration.

DiBella said the process of signing a headliner takes months.

“We begin looking for the musical headliners early in the year. “It takes a lot of time to secure the act, work on contracts and logistics,” she said. “The committee looks for bands that we feel are a good fit, available and within our budget.”

And even bands that would be popular with festival-goers, and would fit the budget, simply aren’t available because they are already booked or are scheduled to be out of the area.

Over the years, the Milford Oyster Festival has had several bands headline the main stage. The tradition of having a headlining musical act started in 1999, when Jefferson Starship performed at the festival.

“Prior to 1999, most bands were local and didn’t have as much prominence as they do now,” said DiBella.

The following year, Joan Jett & the Blackhearts were the main act.

In 2002, festival organizers added a main stage opening act to the headliner. That year the Highland Rovers opened for the Voices of Classic Rock, a conglomerate of performers including Spencer David, Larry Hopper of Orleans, Joe Lynn Turner of Deep Purple and Fergi Fedricksen of Toto.

In 2003, The Marshall Tucker Band made the first of their festival-record three performances. The band also headlined in 2011 and co-headlined with Blue Oyster Cult in 2016. With their second headlining performance this year, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes will join Blue Oyster Cult as two-time headliners. Blue Oyster Cult also performed at the festival in 2004.

For the festivals 40th anniversary in 2014, 1980s and 90s rocker Bret Michaels headlined, in a show DiBella said was the largest in festival history. Other recent performers have included Eddie Money in 2018 and Extreme in 2019.

Festival President Ila Tokarz said she was excited to see the festival return after a one-year COVID-19 hiatus.

“The committee is excited to be moving forward with this year’s festival,” Tokarz said. “It will be a fun-filled two days of great music, food and fun that we all have been looking forward to.”

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