Just Beneath the Surface - Doug Mikula Album Release Show Recollection by Chris J. Smith
February 2nd, 2019 evening at the Stone Pony was a celebration of new beginnings for Doug and his band. Growing up, I was always inspired greatly by his guitar playing and even was a student of his for a while; but never could never have anticipated him straying from the more instrumental/jam band style of music displayed by some of his early projects such as "Woodfish" and landing into these beautifully crafted, matured pop compositions on "Just Beneath the Surface" They are both melodically enticing and just plain catchy.. but to all his fans craving the prodigal prowess and rock grit, that is very much present as well (To prove it, he brought some of his old groups such as "That's How They Get Ya!" to share the stage with him) The night marked a positive turn in his life and music and I was glad to share that with him, friends and family; in such a fitting and energetic environment absolutely perfect for the occasion.
As the lights went down at the beginning of the evening, Doug stood alone with a guitar and began the set with "In The Beginning". This could maybe be perceived as a metaphor of his battle through rehab (in which "The Relapse Song" depicts outright), where no matter how many people are around, the struggle is an individual, soul-crushing weight that you alone must conquer.. maybe it was just how they wrote the set (which contained a slew of instrument handoffs and lineup changes, all very appropriate, but requiring extra attention regarding song order choice) Anyway, by the second song, the place came alive as the crowd and myself were engulfed in his ferocious version of The Who's "Baba O'Reily", complete with a fascinating looped guitar intro replacing the keyboards. The brief cover absolutely rocked through the venue's sound system; usually manned by Asbury's own Brett Smith who instead was taking the stage on drums tonight. As an engineer with many hats, he recorded and mixed the album himself that brought this eclectic and music adoring group of people together. To this, he is owed credit for (as well as letting me help mix Keller Williams' monitors on a separate occasion.. a guitarist and looping extraordinaire Doug has opened for and draws a unique inspiration from).
The performance transformed as a full band lineup joined the stage behind him. This is where Doug's roots shine; perhaps not fronting and singing in group, but by astounding audiences with not only virtuosic guitar shredding, but great ear and accompaniment skills as well. From my brief experience playing with him in "Delario Grasspool" as well as jamming fireside one night with Doug and another former pupil of his and bandmate of my mine, Brian Abrecht, it was evident he is a delightful bandmate and just a pleasure to be around. "Other Side of the Storm" was my favorite track from this performance and is featured in the video below along with a link to his Facebook page. Please download "Just Beneath the Surface" for a lot more where this came from and attend one of his jersey shore local gigs if you see him in the area, too. Support a great musician, friend and human! Enjoy listening.