Black Flamingos Sighted at HopSauce

By SARAH HODGSON | Jun 05, 2019
Photo by: Lexi Schnell

Beach Haven — Another year, another beer.

The annual HopSauce Festival proved to be an unsurprising success in its sixth trip around the sun. Hordes of craft beer connoisseurs and spice savants took to Veterans Memorial Park in Beach Haven June 1 for a day of warm weather, cold beer, hot sauce and live music – all likely ingredients for a first-rate, sudsy Saturday.

HopSauce, hosted by local businesses Jetty and Spice It Up, marries two delicious and complementary concepts: beer and hot sauce. Every year, attendees are given the opportunity to sample brews and sauces from New Jersey to Colorado, all within the confines of a grassy park by the beach. This time around, even those less inclined to hoppy libations were welcomed to tasty alternatives: Bloody Marys, wines and bubbly rosés.

Proceeds from the event benefited the Jetty Rock Foundation and its Oyster Recycling Program initiative, which strives to replenish the Barnegat Bay oyster population depleted from years of pollution and development. Jetty Marketing Manager Joe Hodnicki stressed the importance of the oyster recycling program in restoring the cleanliness and biodiversity of the bay.

Hodnicki also expressed gratitude for the continued support shown by community members and vendors year in and year out, “Through the Jetty Rock Foundation and events like these, we have been able to donate just about $1 million back to our community. Without people supporting us, we’d have never been able to do it.”

While festival goers perused the manicured, lush lawn and took in the yeasty, smoky smells of brews and spices, they were treated to the musical stylings of four different acts on the main stage. One band in particular seemed to stand out, striking a wordless, beach-y chord with the crowd: the Black Flamingos.

The Asbury-based instrumental trio categorizes themselves under “surf noir,” a subgenre of surf rock music characterized by reverb-drenched guitar solos that mimic the drippy, rolling sound effect of tumbling waves.

The instrumental band seemed an unlikely choice for a food and drink festival. “We chose Black Flamingos because they have a great, classic vibe that fits in with the surf aspect of our brand,” said Hodnicki. “We also thought that an instrumental-only band mixed things up and would work well with our crowd in mind.”

Indeed, attendees were in for a treat when band members Robbie Butkowski, Vincent Minervino and Declan O’Connell hit the stage. While some lyric-less acts might have you wondering, “When are they going to start singing?” the Black Flamingos summoned no such inquiries. With a uniquely coastal sound, they proved to be an ambient fit for a Jersey shore festival.

The meaning of the band’s name is two-fold: both inspired by a rare black flamingo sighted in Cyprus and also representative of the band’s unique twist on the surf rock genre. While the typical surf sound can be flouncy and sunny, the band’s surf noir style is a little more mysterious, like that lone black flamingo in a flock of pink.

Popular groups often associated with the surf rock genre, like The Beach Boys, typically muster images of a SoCal ’60s beach party: women in high-waisted bikinis doing the twist beside blond-haired surfers in abruptly-hemmed swim trunks. But the Black Flamingos play a different tune. “Our sound is a darker, jazzier take on the genre,” said Minervino. Think beach party plagued with a cluster of looming clouds.

If “film noir” is a cinematic style partial to melodrama and gloom, then “surf noir” is an edgy, haunting take on the otherwise cheery beach culture. In finding this uncommon edge in an assumingly sunny genre, the artists draw inspiration from musical pioneers Dick Dale and The Ventures, and modern groups like Messer Chups and Los Straitjackets.

The musicians prefer the instrumental medium for the sake of universality. Add language and you may unknowingly exclude a whole batch of potential listeners. Instrumentals alone allow the Black Flamingos to play various countries and cultures without hitting an interpretative wall.

The lack of lyrics seemed to float well with the festival crowd. “I think they’re awesome. I really like their music,” remarked Taylor Chiappetta, Beach Haven West resident and HopSauce attendee. “It’s perfect for this crowd.”

This was the second HopSauce Festival for the Black Flamingos, who had played the festival just two years earlier. “We love that we get to be a part of supporting Jetty and their efforts in the community. We also usually pick up enough hot sauce to last us a year,” said Minervino.

Black Flamingos will be returning to Beach Haven Aug. 26 to play Bird & Betty’s, the newly renovated throwback hotspot. For more information about the trio and their upcoming shows, visit


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