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The Wag Celebrates 20 Years

By Gary Wien

originally published: 08/25/2018

The Wag Celebrates 20 Years

For twenty years, The Wag has been entertaining audiences with a fun and upbeat live show featuring original songs that carry the sounds and spirit of the British Invasion groups of the sixties.  They perform wherever they can - clubs, coffeehouses, festivals, benefits, you name it, and they also push the boundaries more than most bands in Jersey.  They’ve done this by going on tours on the West Coast, Canada, England, and even Japan.  And they’re about to release their first new album in five years.

The band was started by Brian Ostering and his wife Alicia Van Sant. In the very beginning, the idea of having the couple in the band worried the other two original members (Brian Mowery and Dan Corboy).

“The funny thing is when we first put the band together, what we wanted to do was have a democratic system where we’d all vote on things together,” explained Brian Ostering.  “It was either Brian or Dan who said, ‘I don’t know if this is going to work out because Alicia will always side with Brian on the voting.”

Ostering pauses for a moment and then continues, “I think it was the first time we made a decision - Alicia was totally against what I said.  It continued for so long that I remember our drummer Brian saying, ‘Well, I was wrong.  That’s not going to be a problem!’”

For many years the band consisted of Ostering, Van Sant, Corboy, and Mowery, but then Corboy left and Mowery passed away shortly after the band began recording what would be a record called Continuum.  The band was left in a tailspin, wondering how to proceed. 

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“At that time, we didn’t know what to do - should we finish it? Should we pack it in?” recalled Ostering. “Dan had left the band and we had a temporary guitarist start playing with us, but then he quit.  We asked Dan if he would come back and help us finish it.  With the help of him and our friends like Pete Andrews who played the drum parts that Brian had not recorded, it got completed.  We dedicated that record to Brian.  We tried to put as many songs on it which we had started with him at the time.”

Alicia adds, “It was a difficult album to record because we weren’t even finished writing it, much less recording it.  So, we had to write it, learn it, and record it all at the same time.  That’s difficult in the best of circumstances, but we were still incredibly emotional and everything was still very raw.  So, it was a hard record to do, and I didn’t want any part of recording after that for a long time.  I didn’t want any part of my keyboard for a long time either.”

Brian and Alicia discussed the idea of ending the band, but both knew they not only wanted to continue with it, but knew Brian Mowery would have wanted them to go on. “When it was hard to play music, we would just think of him saying ‘Get out there and do it’ and we did,” said Ostering. The Wag decided to perform acoustically without a drummer and without Alicia’s keyboard.  It was like that for a while until they eventually hooked up with Don Lee, who joined the band on guitar, and Arielle Strauss began playing bongos for the band.  Both of them made performing fun again for Brian and Alicia.

“Arielle is about the happiest person you would ever meet in your life,” said Alicia.  “Even if we were feeling down, you can’t feel down around her.  She brought a lot of happiness back into the band, but we wanted to go electric again.”

Everything fell in place when Joshua Van Ness entered the picture. At first he would just sit in on drums from time to time, in between his own gigs, but then he too joined the band.

“It was a tough spot,” Ostering said thinking about the period after Continuum when they didn’t know what the band’s future would hold.  “Either we would go down or we would come back fighting.  Music is the thing that we love to do, so we didn’t want to let it go.  With the help of our friends in the music community and then finding Don (Lee) and Joshua (Van Ness), it just felt right.  It was time to make a record again.”

With the lineup set once again, The Wag felt ready to move forward.  They are celebrating their 20th anniversary at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park on Sunday, September 2nd when they play after Gavin DeGraw and Philip Phillips; then as part of the Clearwater Festival on September 8th at Brookdale Community College in Lincroft; at The Stanhope House on September 14; and then off to California.

The Wag has played shows in California before, but this tour is special.  Their tour includes a show at one of the legendary music venues in America - Whisky A Go-Go in Hollywood.

“I wanted to do something special because this is our first time with Joshua as our drummer,” said Ostering.  “Playing the Whisky A Go Go is one of our dreams.”

“We’re very excited,” adds Alicia.  “It’s an iconic club.  The worst thing about playing clubs far away from home is that they don’t actually know your music, but the best thing is getting to bring your music to new ears.  And you can potentially make new people happy and get new fans.”

One of the nice things about adding Don Lee and Joshua Van Ness to the group is that both are not only talented musicians, but have had successful music careers of their own.  So they not only help flesh out the band’s sound, but bring new creative forces and experience to the mix as well.

Touring can be difficult and stressful for any band, but being able to tour with your spouse helps turn the experience into a working vacation.

“It’s a lot of work, but we do have a lot of fun hanging out together and going to see the sights and everything,” said Alicia.  “We make sure there’s at least one or two days off where we can do a big thing - spend the whole day doing things together.  It’s a lot of fun.”

The band does their booking themselves.  It’s a mixture of cold emailing and cold calls in an effort to develop a relationship with the booking agents for the clubs.  They show them clippings and photos of shows they’ve done in the past and provide links to their music.  If they like what they see and hear, they’ll book the band even though they’ve never actually seen them perform live in person or met them.  That’s the way The Wag has done it for all of their shows and tours with the exception of the tour in Japan.

“When we went to Japan, we got in touch with an actual booking agent there,” said Ostering.  “Mainly because we didn’t speak the language and we thought it might be easier to deal with someone who’s already associated in that market. I did write a nice paragraph and used Google Translate to translate it and sent it to one club though.  The person responded back, ‘I don’t understand what you’re saying.  Can you say it in English?’”

The Wag Celebrates 20 Years

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State Theatre Presents Diana Krall: Turn Up the Quiet Tour
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Diana Krall live in concert as part of her Turn Up The Quiet World Tour on Friday, October 12 at 8:00pm. Tickets range from $43-$153.50.  This concert will feature songs from Diana Krall’s stunning new album, Turn Up The Quiet, out now on Verve Records as well as a mix of some fan favorites. 
Kean Stage Presents The Manhattan Transfer
(UNION, NJ) -- Going strong after more than 45 years, Grammy Award winner The Manhattan Transfer, with tenor vocals from Kean University alumnus Alan Paul '71, will captivate Kean Stage audiences with their distinctive four-part harmonies at Enlow Recital Hall on Sunday, September 30 at 3:00pm.
3rd Annual North Jersey Indie Rock Festival
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- The North Jersey Indie Rock Festival returns to Jersey City on October 6. Presented by Mint 400 Records and Sniffling Indie Kids, the festival includes acts from those labels and Little Dickman Records, Rhyme and Reason Records, and State Champion Records.  The festival takes place at White Eagle Hall. Doors are at 4:00pm and the music starts at 4:30pm. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.
The Dryden Ensemble Presents Bach Cantata Fest
(PRINCETON, NJ) -- The Dryden Ensemble will present a Bach Cantata Fest on Saturday, October 20 at 7:30pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, 6587 Upper York Road, Solebury, Pennsylvania, and on Sunday, October 21 at 3:00pm at Miller Chapel, located on the campus of Princeton Theological Seminary, 64 Mercer Street, Princeton, New Jersey. Tickets are $25 for general admission and free to students with an ID. They may be purchased at the door or online at
Steve Barton & Robert Darlington From Translator To Perform at Randy Now's Man Cave
(BORDENTOWN, NJ) -- Whether it's pure pop or moody acoustic ballads, singer/songwriter/guitarist, Steve Barton, has developed a reputation for crafting some of the most literate and poignant music in underground rock.  In addition to being a founding member of the revered punk/psychedelic band Translator, perhaps best known for the Barton-penned song "Everywhere That I'm Not", he has released several solo albums.  The seventh and latest, "Tall Tales and Alibis", is a sprawling triple album tour de force filled with Steve's brand new songs, which was released in March by Sleepless Music.   To celebrate the release of the record, Barton will be making a rare live appearance with his Translator partner Robert Darlington, this Sunday, September 23 at Randy Now's Man Cave in Bordentown (134 Farnsworth Ave) at 7:00pm.  

From the Ballpark to the Concert Stage: Bernie Williams LIVE! at The Grunin Center
Fans of sports and music are lining up outside Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Saturday, September 8, 2018 for a concert by four-time World Series Champion and Latin Grammy-Nominated guitarist/composer Bernie Williams and his All-Star Band!
“Here’s Lucie!” Lucie Arnaz LIVE! at the PNC Bank Arts Center
Even though the weather outside Holmdel, NJ’s PNC Bank Arts Center is cloudy with some light intermittent drizzle this Wednesday, September 12, 2018 afternoon, the venue’s stage is still shining brightly with talent thanks to a live performance by television, film, and stage actress/singer Lucie Arnaz!
Mike Aiken Talks About Aiken & Friends Fest, North Branch At RVCC
(BRANCHBURG, NJ) -- Raritan Valley Community College presents Aiken & Friends Fest, North Branch on Friday, September 21 and Saturday, September 22.  The three-day event will feature a number of different musical shows by Mike Aiken, as well as other solo artists and groups.  
Virtuoso Jazz Violinist Jean-Luc Ponty LIVE! at the Newton Theatre
It’s a warm but lovely Aug. 23, 2018 evening here in Newton, NJ. After enjoying some hand-dipped Cliff’s ice cream from the window at Hayek Market, we march up Spring Street looking forward to hearing some world-class jazz at one of the Garden State’s favorite concert venues, The Newton Theatre.
An Interview with Bernie Williams
Four-time World Series Champion and Latin Grammy-Nominated guitarist and composer Bernie Williams will perform with his All-Star Band at the Jersey Shore this Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 at The Grunin Center of the Arts in Toms River, NJ!

Event calendar
Saturday, Sep 22, 2018


Asbury Park Porchfest @ Booskerdoo, Asbury Park - 12:00pm

Carl Chesna & Co. @ Hotel Tides, Asbury Park - 1:00pm

Echoes @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

Cole Swindell @ Hard Rock Live Etess Arena at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City, Atlantic City - 8:00pm

GRUPO NICHE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 8:00pm

The History of Motown @ Englewood Public Library, Englewood - 7:00pm

Drake Bell @ iPlay America, Freehold - 7:00pm

Classic Stones Live feat. The Glimmer Twins @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 8:00pm

Opera Theatre of Montclair Presents Hansel and Gretel @ Central Presbyterian Church, Montclair - 4:00pm

Oscar D’León with Tony Vega and Los Hermanos Moreno @ Prudential Hall @ New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), Newark - 8:00pm

SunDog Band at Duffy's Tavern, Paterson NJ @ Duffy's Tavern, Paterson NJ, Paterson - 9:00pm

Celtic Thunder X @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Young Person's Concert @ River Dell Middle School Auditorium, River Edge - 1:00pm

Tigerman record release show for “Descend Into Savagery” @ Debonair Music Hall, Teaneck - 8:00pm

Hubby Jenkins @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm


Souvenir @ Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven - 8:00pm

East Lynne Theater Company presents SILENT SKY @ First Presbyterian Church (Cape May), Cape May - 8:00pm

The Shuck @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 3:00pm and 7:30pm

Incorruptible @ Ritz Theatre Company, Haddon Township - 8:00pm

West End Festival of the Arts- Theatre Brut Session 2 @ West End Arts Center, Long Branch - 2:00pm

Evita @ Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Pitman - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

Seuls en Scene French Theater Festival - "Claire, Anton et Eux" @ Class of 1970 Theatre, Whitman College, Princeton - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

HUMAN ERROR by Eric Pfeffinger @ West Windsor Arts Center, Princeton Junction - 8:00pm

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm

Assisted Living: The Musical @ Jay & Linda Grunin Center For The Arts At Ocean County College, Toms River - 2:00pm

Brick City @ Premiere Stages at Kean University, Union - 3:00pm


SWAN LAKE - THE ATLANTIC CITY BALLET @ The Strand Theater, Lakewood - 7:00pm

SOLE Defined @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm


Monthly Saturday Writing Retreats @ Tiferet Journal, Bernardsville - 9:00am

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