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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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Mungion To Perform At The Stone Pony
 (ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- Since their inception in the Spring of 2015, Mungion (pronounced mung-yin) has quickly made a name for themselves as one of the rising stars of the jam scene. The band will open a pair of shows for Pigeons Playing Ping Pong at The Stone Pony in Asbury Park on January 24-25.
MPAC Presents Disney's DCappella Live!
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- Disney's highly acclaimed a cappella group, DCappella comes to Mayo Performing Arts Center on Friday, February 15 at 8:00pm. Tickets range from  $39-$89.
Leonia Chamber Musicians Society to Present Benefit Concert for Leonia High School Music Department
(LEONIA, NJ) -- The Leonia Chamber Musicians Society, Inc., a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization based in Leonia, New Jersey, presents "Our Hearts in Music", a benefit concert, on Sunday, February 10 at 4:00pm at Leonia High School’s Little Theater, located at 100 Christie Heights in Leonia, New Jersey.
The Newton Theatre Presents Ruben Studdard
(NEWTON, NJ) --  Ruben Studdard, the Grammy-nominated R&B, gospel and pop singer was the winner of American Idol’s second season. He has recorded six studio albums, appears frequently on tv, toured extensively and has sold over two million albums worldwide. Studdard officially confirmed that he will be releasing RUBEN SINGS LUTHER to his musical hero Luther Vandross on March 16th and will be launching a 25 city ‘Always and Forever Tour’ starting in Sacramento, California on April 8th.  Locally, he will perform at the Newton Theatre on Friday, March 29 at 8:00pm.
Bill Frisell To Headline the 8th Les Paul Festival Concert at Ramapo College
(MAHWAH, NJ) -- Guitarist Bill Frisell will headline the Les Paul Festival Concert on Saturday night, February 16 in the Sharp Theater at Ramapo College. Often hailed as one of the most distinctive and original improvising guitarists of our time, Frisell’s career as a guitarist and composer has spanned more than 35 years and 250 recordings, including 40 of his own.

The Empire Strikes Back in Concert with the NJSO LIVE! at the State Theatre
Some of our favorite childhood memories growing up at the Jersey Shore involved going to our town’s grand old movie palace, The Community Theater, in Toms River. Built with colonial architecture and featuring large white columns in the front, paned glass windows in the lobby, a circular brick walk from the sidewalk to the box office, and a white picket fence which enclosed a lawn and a flower bed, this local gem presented the latest Hollywood films. For kids like us back in the 1960’s, that meant pictures like Mary Poppins, Cinderella, The Love Bug, and Flipper.
Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes At Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme
This coming Sunday, January 20, Scott Wolfson and his band will be serving up their unique blend of Americana at the Riverside Rhythm & Rhyme series at Investors Bank Theater in Succasunna, New Jersey. The band – Scott Wolfson and Other Heroes – formed in Jersey City in 2011, and, even though the members have migrated in various directions since then, they still consider themselves to be a Jersey City band.
"He Totally Wowed Us!" John Oates LIVE! at SOPAC
It’s brisk for an evening walk on South Orange Ave. in South Orange, NJ, this Friday, Jan. 4, 2019 evening, but it’s a good road to follow as it leads us directly to the South Orange Performing Arts Center (SOPAC) for a special performance by singer, songwriter, and guitarist John Oates and his backup group, The Good Road Band.
“Tons of Fun!” The Glenn Miller Orchestra LIVE! at the Grunin Center
Although Friday, December 21, 2018 is the shortest day of the year, the audience of big band music lovers here at Toms River, NJ’s Grunin Center for the Arts is hoping for a long evening of classic swing and holiday tunes performed by the incomparable Glenn Miller Orchestra!
Mike Davis and The New Wonders
Mike Davis traces his love for the trumpet back to a Disney movie. He grew up in a musical family, with both his parents playing strings in the Seattle Symphony. But Davis wanted an instrument of his own. Then, at age 9, he saw “The Aristocats,” the animated film about a bunch of French felines — including a group of jazz-playing alley cats.

Event calendar
Tuesday, Jan 22, 2019

Sorry, no events listed for today.
Here are some upcoming events.

Rechnitz Halls DiMattio Gallery, Monmouth University @ 10:00am
West Long Branch

Pollak Theatre @ Monmouth University @ 7:30pm
West Long Branch

New Jersey Repertory Company @ 8:00pm
Long Branch

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