Mongo Asbury Park

Waiting On Mongo Rocks Asbury Park

The smooth, funky bass line and the giddy up of the guitar welcome you onto the dance floor like old friends you haven’t seen in awhile. There are conjoined shouts of a crowd and one amplified voice above them all singing “’Cause this is thriller, thriller night and no one’s gonna save you from the beast about to strike.” The beast was Waiting On Mongo (WOM), a local jam band, and it struck at Langosta Lounge, a boardwalk bar in Asbury Park, on Friday, Oct. 23. WOM plays the same venue again the night before Thanksgiving on Nov. 25.

Lead singer and bassist TJ McCarthy, 25, said, “We’re willing to play anywhere as long as there’s a good scene with good people.” Sure they do it for fun (a lot of musicians just say that), however when a band really enjoys interacting with the different people in the audience, that’s when they spread the fun vibes around. “They’re half the show, ya know, and we like to pick up on what the crowd likes and roll with it,” McCarthy said.

WOM plays for many different audiences, and it is adaptability that will make or break any band. This past summer, along with playing at local Jersey Shore bars, WOM played a pool party gig, a wedding and a few house parties. Lead guitarist Mike Susino, 24, said, “We would play on the moon or in someone’s basement in Lancaster, PA. It doesn’t matter to us.”

Coming off their successful debut on a festival circuit at Souper Groove in September, WOM is always looking for new people that would enjoy their music as much as them. But the band’s odd name is not out there yet; people do not identify with it or the story behind the name either.

25-year-old keyboardist and backup guitarist, Mike Iatesta, or Mongo as his friends call him, is whom Waiting On Mongo is christened for.  “I’ve worked at the Norwood Inn in Avon for the past couple of years and one night when we were unloading beer off the truck in the back one of my friends compared me to the character from Blazing Saddles, Mongo, and it just kinda stuck.” Iatesta said. The band all broke out into laughs.

Iatesta’s slow conversational demeanor at first glance is similar to Mongo, but when he gets on that keyboard there is no mistake that he is a honed musician. Being together as a band for three years now, WOM has hit their stride, and they feel a musical telepathy between each other when they jam. WOM’s combined easygoing nature always welcomes new people to join in as well.

When commenting about the band’s future trajectory, McCarthy said, “Stepping up our social media game can help us connect with our audience on and off the stage, but none of us are really good at that. So, we got a manager and the next step is having him get the word out.”

“The word of Mongo,” said Mongo, followed by laughs from other members of the band.

While their new manager, Keala Evans, is taking steps to improve the band’s reach online, WOM sticks to what WOM knows best: music.

Susino chimed in and said, “It’s not all about spreading the word though. We’re still really just focusing on a kickass live show and the music itself.”

Each member of Waiting On Mongo is influenced by different musicians. Heavy guitar riffs from Umphrey’s McGee and Nine Inch Nails, groovy bass lines from Grateful Dead and Red Hot Chili Peppers, and funky old school horns like Funkadelic and Parliament are all incorporated elements of WOM. The combination of styles and interests with their own innate ability to jam creates an ever-evolving sound. 24-year-old Anders Carlson, saxophonist said, “Our style is honestly a progressive psychedelic funk combined with classic rock and jam music, so just a big melting pot of awesomeness.”

WOM plays a lot of covers of more popular songs that the crowd can familiarize with, but they put their own little jam stamp on it. Susino said, “Improvisation is key for us. We split our songs about 50/50, with half of it planned and the other half for us to really have fun with. Especially if we’re feeling a jam and the crowd is feeling it too, we’ll stay in it and see where it goes.”

No matter what kind of music the audience is into, they end up having a good time. 21-year-old drummer, Matt Iatesta said, “I’ve had people come to their first Mongo show ever, say ‘this was a really fun time’ and not even be into our style of music.”

The WOM guys take on a chameleon-like approach with their play style and songs; whatever the crowd is feeling, then that is what the band plays. Susino said, “For me, the best way to describe our live show is that it’s a constant giving and taking of energy between the crowd and us. I’ll get it from them, then I’ll pass it to TJ and we pump something out that gets the crowd even more fired up.”

Waiting On Mongo is firing it up at Langosta Lounge again on Nov. 25. Dark City Strings, a local blue grass band named after Asbury Park, and the notorious punk group Bouncing Souls play the same night. Dark City Strings opens for WOM until around 10 p.m., while The Bouncing Souls play in the connected Asbury Park Yacht Club bar area all night.

The styles and genres of music from these bands are likely to scratch a musical itch for any listener and Langosta Lounge exudes an easygoing bohemian feel with plenty of room to boogey.

PHOTO taken from