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An East Nashville Christmas

By Gary Wien

On December 10, four critically-acclaimed songwriters from Nashville will bring a little East Nashville Holiday spirit to The Strand in Lakewood. Amy Speace, Rod Picott and Doug & Telisha Williams (of Wild Ponies) will transform The Strand into The Bluebird Cafe. Rod Picott gives us the scoop on the show.

How did Decembersongs come about?
It was actually Amy Speace's idea. She did the tour a couple years running with Dan Navarro, Sally Barris and John Vezner. Incredibly talented people all of them. Last year, I think one of them couldn't do the tour so Amy decided to shake it up and bring a grittier version of the show. It might have been grittier than she expected asking me along but Amy is always game so I got the invite again this year as did Doug and Telisha Williams. It's a really great mix of talents. I do what I do, very narrative sort of stuff, Amy is an incredible singer and brings that elegant sense of musicality and Doug and Telisha are very fun with electric guitar and upright bass. Telisha has a beautiful authentic country voice. They have a nice energy to balance the coal in the stocking I bring.

How does the show work?
We each play a couple of our own songs accompanied by the others in the first set then we play the holiday set which consists of some of the prettier classics plus an original holiday song each of us wrote. It's a very fun show. It moves quickly and everyone onstage has a quick wit so it's pretty freewheeling and funny. The first set is our own songs, Then we Christmas the hell out of it!

What's East Nashville like?
East Nashville is the gathering spot for the bohemian types in Nashville including a lot of folks in the Americana scene. It's growing too quickly these days so artists are starting to get priced out but it's still quite eclectic and cool. Think Austin east of the highway and you're close to what it's like. Good coffee, art galleries, lots of bars, a few upscale restaurants, a used record store, used guitar store, an old fashioned hardware store where they still do window screens-it's that part of town. There are a lot of young people moving to East Nashville now. It's hip. It was rough back when I moved to town. People were incredulous, "You live across the river?!"

So, what's an East Nashville Christmas like?
It's a mix of old south, as Nashville still is in some ways, and funky sort of hipness. There are loads of musicians and artists in East Nashville so it's quite eclectic, funky and progressive. All good things except that a cup of coffee has gotten very expensive...though it's way better than it was 20 years ago when I moved to town.

Why do you think Christmas and holiday music is so universal?
Part of it is simple. It's a marker. It rolls around at the end of every year and no matter your religion or sense of spirituality I think it marks where you are in your life. Your sense of family, the people who are important to you, what has transpired over the year. Your losses are a deeper blue, your love has a deeper warmth. We all get a sense of our common humanity for a few moments. Hope lingers in the air. We see the possibilities of kindness and love and how the world could be if we were driven by the best parts of ourselves.

There is no denying the melodies of those beautiful classics. They were written by masters in a time when musicality was prized and more sophisticated than it is generally now. The catalog of holiday songs is a world that's fun to explore for a few weeks then let go of and return to. Of course my own offering is titled, "Dad's Drunk Again on Christmas" so it's also a place to have fun with your own memories and stories.

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NJSO presents 2019 Winter Festival, 'Music Speaks'
(NEWARK, NJ) -- A trio of renowned guest artists with distinct musical voices—pianists Emanuel Ax and Daniil Trifonov and soprano Dawn Upshaw—headline the NJSO’s Winter Festival, “Music Speaks,” in January 2019. The Orchestra’s signature artistic event takes place across three weekends, January 10–27, in six New Jersey venues.
RVCC Chorale to Perform Annual Holiday Concert on December 8th
(BRANCHBURG, NJ) --The RVCC Chorale will give its annual holiday concert on Saturday, December 8 at 8:00pm in the Welpe Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College’s Branchburg campus. The program will feature Johann Sebastian Bach’s cantata, Das Neugeborne Kindelein, as well as a cappella pieces from by Sergei Rachmaninov, Zoltan Kodaly and Giuseppe Verdi. The program also will include an audience singalong of traditional carols.
Classic Stones Live! The Complete Rolling Stones Tribute Show Comes To SOPAC
(SOUTH ORANGE, NJ) -- The Rolling Stones, the greatest Blues band of all time, couldn’t make it to SOPAC on their 2018 tour. Instead, the acclaimed tribute band Classic Stones Live! makes an appearance on the SOPAC stage December 15 at 8:00pm for those who like to hear their Rolling Stones hits live.
Tony Trischka Presents "Of a Winter's Night" at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- Of a Winter’s Night is Tony Trischka's acoustic celebration of the holiday season. Based on his CD release of the same name, this concert features Trischka’s considerable melodic inventiveness on a wide variety of seasonal tunes. He turns his inventiveness loose on bluegrass and Americana music for the holidays. This one of a kind concert will take place at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship on Saturday, December 8 at 7:30pm.
Idle Wave To Hold Record Release Party At Asbury Park Brewery
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- Pop-punks Idle Wave will celebrate the release of their self-titled EP on Saturday, December 1st at Asbury Park Brewery.  The record release show also includes performances by Skyeline, Roderick, and Pollyanna.

"An Amazing Musical Genius!" Brian Wilson LIVE! at the State Theatre
In the music room in the back of our house, there’s an electric bass and amp, two acoustic guitars, a microphone and PA speakers, several pieces of music recording equipment, and a bookcase filled with books on music, not to mention a slew of assorted music memorabilia. But, perhaps, one of the most highly prized items in the room is hanging directly above the piano next to the college music diplomas.
Jazz Saxophonist Don Braden LIVE! at Toms River’s Grunin Center
It’s a breezy day for a new installment of the Jazz On a Sunday Afternoon concert series at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center of the Arts this Sunday Oct. 27, 2018 afternoon. Today’s special 3pm performance is entitled Earth, Wind and Wonder and is presented by jazz saxophonist Don Braden.
Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge LIVE! at The Strand, Lakewood
The stars are out this Saturday Oct. 26, 2018 evening in Lakewood, NJ for a “Golden Oldies” concert featuring Charlie Thomas’ Drifters, The Classics IV, and The Brooklyn Bridge!
PODCAST: Grammy Winner Terri Lyne Carrington At TD James Moody Jazz Festival
Drummer, leader, and composer Terri Lyne Carrington made history as the first woman to win a Grammy for Best Instrumental Jazz for her album “Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue.” Now, she brings her interpretation of Duke Ellington’s “Money Jungle” to the TD James Moody Jazz Festival at NJPAC on November 11, 2018, as part of a program called “Jazz Vinyl Revisited.” Producer Susan Wallner talks to Carrington about her connections to the jazz greats Clark Terry and Max Roach; her newest project, the Berklee Institute of Jazz and Gender Justice; and why she thinks drummers make natural leaders.
Sha Na Na LIVE! at the Newton Theatre
The audience is streaming into the Newton Theatre auditorium in Newton, NJ this Friday, Oct. 19, 2018 for a live concert starring Sha Na Na!

Event calendar
Thursday, Nov 15, 2018


New Politics @ House of Independents, Asbury Park - 8:00pm

THE REPUTATIONS @ The Saint, Asbury Park - 7:30pm

TOTO @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm


An Actor's Carol @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

ANNIE, The Musical @ Axelrod Performing Arts Center, Deal Park - 8:00pm

Apples In Winter @ Centenary Stage Company - Kutz Theater of the Lackland Center, Hackettstown - 7:30pm

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat @ The Levoy Theatre, Millville - 7:30pm

Spring Awakening: The Rock Musical @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm


PARSONS DANCE @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm


Crybaby Matinee: March of the Penguins @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

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