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When a Band Name Melts Your Mind: New Jersey’s Deal Casino

February 17, 2014

Everyone has those things from their childhood that mean something to them which feel much more personal than they really are. Maybe it’s the hill you used to ride your bike up and down with reckless abandon. Maybe it’s the English teacher you had who was different than all the other teachers. Or maybe it’s the television crush you had that you just believed one day you’d meet in person.

Then one day something happens that tells your nostalgic memory something that your rational brain probably (hopefully) knew all along – that thing that was unique to you really isn’t all that unique. A random way you might find this out is if a local band names themselves after that thing that’s yours. One day you wake up and there’s a band from your old neighborhood called Postman’s Hill, or Mr. Mandel, or Topanga. And you wonder to yourself – how could they take something that was yours and use it as if they owned it? After all, you don’t even know them. It shouldn’t feel that strange, and yet it does.

There’s a good chance this hasn’t happened to you. Perhaps you still own all of your childhood memories. You haven’t been forced to share them with anyone else, let alone the world at large. But yesterday it happened to me. While looking at the twitter feed for a band I just learned about – Toronto’s The Box Tiger (more on them some other time) – I noticed a mention of another new band with the twitter handle @DealCasinoNJ. Now, I suppose that for 99.9% of you the band name Deal Casino – hailing from New Jersey – means absolutely nothing. As it should. But there may be one other person out there who right now is as stunned as I was at this time yesterday.

Deal is a small town on the Jersey shore, with a population of just 750 people. If that’s not sad enough, it’s a somewhat dying town – a decade before its population was just over 1000. The Deal Casino is the beach club open to residents of Deal in the summertime, and is the place where I spent all of my summers growing up. Obviously I wasn’t the only one there – every one of the town’s 1000 residents seemed to be a member – but as the years passed and I got further and further away from Deal, the Casino (as we called it) felt like a part of my own history.

So what can I tell you about Deal Casino the band? For one thing, they aren’t from Deal. In fact, they’re from a town called Sparta, which is so far away that I don’t even know where it is. (OK, I looked it up – Spartais in Sussex County (not where Deal is) and is a town of nearly 20,000 people.) They are an indie band formed less than a year ago, with a kind of mainstream radio sound that is mostly inoffensive but nothing for me to get excited about. In other words they’re pretty good, just not my sound. Think late career Soul Asylum or similar soft guitar band out of the late ’90s. A more modern comparison might be Atlas Genius. Under “Influences” they say “Everything influences creation.” That’s beautiful in a fortune cookie sort of way. And they like to play The Saint, a small club that has been around for a while in Deal-neighboring Asbury Park. Personally, I’d like my music with a little more edge. (My favorite song is their roughest – “One More Day”, the first track off of their first EP, Cocaine Love.) I wish their music sounded a little more like their t-shirts look. But for a night out and some live music on the Jersey shore, I suppose you could do a lot worse. But don’t take my word for it, their two EPs are available for free on their bandcamp

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From → Music

9 Comments
  1. Amanda permalink

    I stumbled across your blog post because I had the same experience as you when a Deal Casino song came on the radio and I had to Google them, convinced the band members were some of my childhood friends. I grew up in Long Branch (Deal’s neighbor to the north) and my first job was working at the Deal Casino snack bar. That name is loaded with so many memories, it’s weird to hear it used out of context. And I’m also a bit disappointed that a) they’re not even from the area and b) their sound is so underwhelming. But I’m glad, at least, that I’m not alone. This was an enjoyable read!

  2. Nathen permalink

    On the topic of Deal Casino, if I were forming my opinion solely from their EP recordings I would feel the same way that you do. They’re good but nothing to write home about. I don’t cringe when I hear them, but I’m not blown away either. When you see them live, though, they’re fantastic. Their EP recordings are polished to the point of being sterile, but their live performances have the edginess and energy that is lacking from the recordings. And they keep getting better. Every time that I see them they are better than the last time that I saw them. When I first saw them toward the end of Summer 2014, I said “These guy are all right. I’ll have to check them out if they play in the area again.” Saw them again in February and was much more impressed. Saw them again in March and was really impressed. So if you are basing your opinion off of the EP recordings, I recommend seeing them live if you get an opportunity. If you have already seen them live then, like you said, they’re just not your thing…….which is fine.

    • Amanda permalink

      I like the way you explained that. I’m always happy to give bands (people, foods, works of art, etc…) a second chance. So, if Deal Casino happens to be playing within the vicinity of their namesake, I’ll check them out. Thanks for your fair and measured comment.

      • Nathen permalink

        As a matter of fact, they’re playing at the Wonder Bar in about an hour. Come and say hello, and I’ll buy you a beer (not that you’ll have any clue who I am). That way it won’t be a completely wasted evening if you find them to be just as underwhelming live as they are in studio recordings. Dollys will be there too, who I also enjoy seeing live.

  3. Amanda permalink

    Damn, I didn’t see this until just now! But it seems they’ll be at Asbury Lanes on April 17th. I might be able to make that one, depending on what time they play (earlier than 8 and I’m out of luck). Or I could just wait until June 13th when they play at Stone Pony with Third Eye Blind. I’m overdue for some intense high school flashbacks.

    • Nathen permalink

      I’m sure there will be plenty of opportunities. It’s not like they only play in the area once a year or anything like that. They play around here pretty often.

      • Nathen permalink

        FYI, Deal Casino kicked off a summer residency at the Asbury Park Yacht Club last night. You can see them (and other supporting musicians) for FREE every Sunday night this summer. Each show starts at 7:00 p.m. and Deal Casino generally goes on around 9:00 p.m.

  4. truther permalink

    How could you call Deal a dying town when it’s property value has probably increased by %30 in ten years? The houses sure haven’t gotten any smaller. You also said every resident was a member. Deal has about 4 percent residents. Summer goers aren’t residents. The only thing local about Deal Casino is some of the old local families that still run it and deal with the rude people for some reason. Real locals and residents go to Rosevelt, Darlington, and Tack. Nice tale though.

    • Wow, haven’t replied to a post on this site in a while but given the topic and the summer coming, why not?

      You sound like a year-round resident of Deal. In which case I totally respect your opinion but humbly suggest that (by your own admission) it isn’t representative of what Deal means to most. If only 4% are residents, 96% probably think similar to how I do. And for us, the Deal Casino was a summer oasis in the 80s and 90s that has seen better days.

      As for the real estate bump that you cite, I think we both know that that’s a function of the rich getting richer, not inherent proof of a thriving town.

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