Lima Bean Riot at Nardi’s Tavern: Pitch-Perfect Peas in a Pod

By SARAH HODGSON | May 29, 2019
Photo by: Ryan Morrill

Long Beach Twp. — The door leading into Nardi’s Tavern in Haven Beach last Saturday night could be best described as a portal to a good time. Suntanned Memorial Day weekenders escaped the May chill and slipped through the entryway, immediately welcomed by blue and green flashing lights and a blast of body heat that only a crowd of bar goers could emit. Pop hits bumped through the speakers, and newcomers danced their way through the portal and across the dance floor toward the bar, peeking at the stage where Lima Bean Riot was beginning to set up.

Alicia McHugh and MJ Nestor, the band’s charismatic lead vocalists, addressed the Nardi’s crowd as if they were playing Madison Square Garden, and rightly so. The room was packed by 10 p.m., and before the musicians had even lifted their instruments or picked up their mics, bar patrons were pulled up to the stage and poised to dance. By the second tune, spectators were pushing toward the band with their hands thrown toward the vocalists for high-fives. The crowd’s collective voice rose above the clamor of instruments to sing the lyrics of Good Charlotte’s “The Anthem.”

The ideal Jersey Shore cover band is one that can free-fall into a set and pour from one song to the next like a playlist on shuffle. Lima Bean Riot is one of those bands.

After the punk rock hit, the five musicians sprang into ’80s classics, Ariana Grande, alt rock and Sam Hunt with enviable ease. Over expert, genre-jumping covers, the group painted an energetic, edgy sheen. Lead guitarist Donnie Ortner lent masterful solos while bassist Garret Watts and drummer Jason Massey, drove each song into a dance floor favorite. McHugh’s impressive four-octave range allowed her to sing Lauper, Houston and Jonas Brothers without missing a beat. Nestor’s smooth pop-punk vocals nailed such hits as “Shut Up and Dance” and “Body Like a Backroad.”

Lima Bean Riot is a part of Frank Kielb Entertainment, an agency founded in Lima, Pa., hence the band’s legume-based namesake. However, McHugh, Ortner, Massey, Nestor and Watts aren’t the original LBR lineup – they’re actually the fifth permutation of the band. While previous generations have split and moved along, this particular lineup, now in its third year, doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

“We’re in it for the long haul,” said Ortner.

They can play nearly anything together. From pop to classic rock to alternative to country and back to pop, each song is expertly transformed into a dance hit by way of “beanification,” a term they appropriately coined to describe their creative process.

When the band “beanifies” a piece of music, they put their signature stamp on it. So what’s LBR’s stamp? Simple: energy.

Together, they write striking medleys, one particular standout being an inventive combo of Flo Rida’s “My House” and Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me.”

Massey in particular relishes the process of revising songs for the LBR stage. “When it works, it’s amazing. We actually kind of get to write songs as a cover band.”

“When we get in those moods, our rehearsals go from two hours to six hours,” said Ortner.

Though their set lists are subject to change, McHugh formulates a list of songs prior to the show with both venue and demographic in mind. For the Nardi’s crowd of twenty-somethings, the group played a lively blend of hits and throwbacks.

“Nardi’s is a really fun place because you can really just do anything. They’re just here to have fun. Whatever you throw at them, they’re gonna give it right back to you,” said McHugh.

“We could do ‘Hot Cross Buns’ and they would go nuts,” said Nestor.

The Philly-based group plays year ’round, gravitating toward shows within the tristate area, minus an annual road trip to Key West, where they take up residency at the famous Sloppy Joe’s Bar. Multiple treks to Florida and countless gigs have made the band members close, which they find helps with their creative and performative process.

“We fight like brothers and sisters, but we love like brothers and sisters, too,” said McHugh.

“We’re family,” said Ortner. “You fight, you love, you hate. It’s all great. The formula just really works.”

Lima Bean Riot plays Nardi’s once a month when they visit Long Beach Island. For more information about the group and their schedule, visit them at

— Sarah Hodgson

Set List Snippet:

  • “Sucker,” Jonas Brothers
  • “Girlfriend,” Avril Lavigne
  • “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love,” The Outfields
  • “Before He Cheats,” Carrie Underwood
  • “Shut Up and Dance,” Walk the Moon
  • “thank u, next,” Ariana Grande
  • “Body Like A Backroad,” Sam Hunt
  • “Absolutely (Story of a Girl),” Nine Days
  • “Don’t Let Me Down,” Chainsmokers ft. Daya
  • “My House,” Flo Rida
  • “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Justin Timberlake
  • “Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” Cyndi Lauper
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