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Dramarama

By Gary Wien


This month I spoke with John Easdale of Dramarama, the 80s rockers who achieved nearly cult-like status. The band broke up over ten years ago, but recently reunited and has a new EP with a full record coming in the future.

New Jersey, may be the butt of many jokes, but it has had an amazing record of musicians succeed on the national stage. Some of the biggest performers in the world (Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Count Basie, Frank Sinatra, etc..) all hailed from the Garden State. But if there was ever one band that should have made it and just fell short it was Dramarama.

Ask any Dramarama fan (and there are still plenty of them around in New Jersey) and they will tell you that those shows in the late 80s and early 90s were among the best live concerts they had ever seen. Unfortunately, with the exception of California (where the band moved to early on in their careers) the rest of the country failed to get it. Led by charismatic lead singer, John Easdale, songs like "Last Cigarette" and "Anything, Anything" made the all-time lists for alternative stations in New Jersey and Los Angeles, yet barely got noticed elsewhere.

But that may all be about to change. A few months ago, Dramarama took part in a VH1 special that deals with reuniting bands from the eighties.

"The whole thing was a set-up/ambush kind of thing," explained Easdale. "They had told us they were gonna do a series of 'rockumentaries' on influential bands of the 80s who never really made it big...they scheduled a phone interview with me at home, and then instead showed up with a camera crew at my house...'SURPRISE!' well, with the cameras rolling, they ask, 'How would you like to get back together with your band for one show?' I never knew this, but it's hard to say 'no' when there's a camera in your face. They basically did the same thing to everybody else, but they went to their places of business instead of their homes.

"The actual reunion itself was strange...some of the members had hardly been on stage for 9 years...Jesse hadn't sat behind a drum kit since quitting the band in 1990...so it was a weird thing. Everybody played exceptionally well, all things considered, and the mini-show we played was a fantastic success, but it still felt more like a nostalgia trip (which it was) than something new and vital...having fought for the past nine years to NOT get pegged as an 'oldies' act, it was weird."

The VH1 show is expected to air sometime in early 2004.

Ironically, California's wacky recall election may have given John and the band their best press coverage ever. Shortly before the election, the band recorded a version of "California Uber Alles" by the Dead Kennedy's with new lyrics, written by Easdale, relating to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

"Not in a million years did I expect anybody to even notice it," said Easdale. "I just thought it was funny...we recorded it two days before the election...then Arnold won."

People certainly did notice it. Not only did it quickly find its way all over the Internet and then into the playlists of influential stations around the country, but the story found its way on to top music sites like RollingStone.com. Suddenly, Dramarama was incredibly hot. A second reunion show was set, which ultimately led to the band's decision to reform.

"The day after our second "reunion" show...there were 15,000 people going absolutely nuts for this thing called 'Dramarama,' whereas if I had done the exact same show under my own name, the results would have been less spectacular.," explained Easdale.

John Easdale was originally planning to release another solo record, but seeing the reaction by the Dramarama fans changed his mind. Thus, Absolutely, 100% Made In NJ was released under the Dramarama name.

"Since A) Mark (Englert) and Peter (Wood) play most of the guitars on the record, and B) the only difference between a solo album and a Dramarama album would be the musicians, since I wrote all the songs, and c) I really would like as many people as possible to hear the songs, it just seemed to make sense. And also because all of it (the two concerts and the TV show thing) was completely unplanned...it just kind of happened."

Original band member, Chris Carter, has decided to sit this one out as far as the time being. "But I never say never," said Easdale. "Dramarama is the thing we're doing as of now and the foreseeable future...I would never have continued the Dramarama thing, however, if we didn't have new recordings. Like I've said before, I have no desire to be the 'Flashback King,' and over the years have turned down many 'big money' shows because it would have pigeonholed us as this 80s' thing. I'm not a teenager anymore, but I'm still here making new music, y'know?"

With one listen to Dramarama's new CD, it's clear that John doesn't have to worry about being called the 'Flashback King.' The band sounds every bit as good as they did on their best records. In fact, the song "Everybody Dies" will most likely join the most celebrated songs in the Dramarama catalogue.

Other highlights on the new CD include "Goodnight America" and a wonderful cover of the Jim Carroll classic, "People Who Died" - plus those ordering from John's website get a bonus CD containing the new version of "California Uber Alles." Absolutely, 100% Made In NJ is actually an EP containing several songs that will be included on the future full-length entitled, Everybody Dies. According to Easdale, that record is finished but the release date is unknown at this time. It is expected that Dramarama, who has had well-publicized battles and problems with record labels before, will most likely release the record themselves.

"If somebody from a major label came to us with several big old canvas sacks with dollar signs printed on the outside, we might consider signing some sort of deal...but since that's highly unlikely, we'll probably stick with the D.I.Y. thing," said Easdale.



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Light of Day's Main Event To Be Broadcast Live at McLoone's Supper Club
(ASBURY PARK, NJ) -- If you couldn't get tickets for the fabled "main event" of the 2019 Light of Day Winterfest, you have another chance see the show.  For the first time in the 19-year history of the festival, the "main event", the star-studded “Bob’s Birthday Bash” on January 19th (a show that has long sold out), will be broadcast live via fiber optic cable at McLoone's Supper Club in Asbury Park.
Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts To Hold Winter Open House On January 27
(BERKELEY HEIGHTS) -- Wharton Institute for the Performing Arts (WIPA) will host a Winter Open House on Sunday, January 27 from 1:00pm to 4:00pm. The free event is open to the public and will be held at the Performing Arts School (PAS) located at 60 Locust Avenue in Berkeley Heights.
Billy Idol and Steve Stevens To Perform At Count Basie Center For The Arts
(RED BANK, NJ) -- Billy Idol and Steve Stevens, one of rock’s most iconic and enduring duos, will hit the road this March for their first ever tour performing as a duo: Turned On, Tuned In and Unplugged. The Billy Idol/Steve Stevens tour comes to The Count Basie Center for the Arts on Thursday, April 4th.
McDonald's Gospelfest To Celebrate The Life of Aretha Franklin With Return to Prudential Center
(NEWARK, NJ) -- The 37th Annual McDonald’s Gospelfest returns to the Prudential Center on Saturday, May 11 for the gospel event of the year. This year's event will honor and celebrate the life and legacy of the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin with an All-Star cast. The 5:00pm to 7:00pm portion of the evening will feature a rising stars competition for all ages and cultures in categories including Soloists, Choirs, Praise Dancers, Singing Groups, Gospel Comedians, Gospel Poets and Gospel Rappers. The gospel concert, beginning at 7:00pm, will feature some of the most renowned gospel artists in music history with the goal of spreading love, peace and joy to all races, nationalities and beliefs.
Bickford Theatre Presents Herb Gardner's Groundhog Jam
(MORRISTOWN, NJ) -- The great Groundhog Jam has a long history of prying jazz fans out of their warm burrows and into the chill of February weather in order to welcome the advent of spring.  The Bickford Theatre at the Morris Museum continues a tradition of hosting this event on Monday, February 4 at 7:30pm. Herb Gardner, who plays both trombone and piano, is assembling a stellar group of musicians from the New York, New Jersey, and New England areas including: Fred Vigorito on cornet, Joe Licari on clarinet, James Chirilloon guitar, Mike Weatherly on bass and Robbie Scott on drums.  Daughters Abbie and Sarah Gardner will be handling the vocals and guitar.


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.
Ana Gasteyer's "Holiday Tipple" LIVE! at the Grunin Center
The Grunin Center stage in Toms River, NJ is set this Saturday, December 15, 2018 with drums, a grand piano, a guitar, an acoustic bass, and various microphones for vocals. A stool and several microphone stands are bedazzled with colorful garlands of shiny red, gold, and green, and wrapped gifts are strewn on stage among the instruments. Projected white snowflakes adorn the walls, and Christmas music plays as patrons enter the theater to put everyone in the mood for tonight’s holiday show — Ana Gastayer’s Holiday Tipple!










Event calendar
Thursday, Jan 17, 2019


MUSIC


Open Mic Night! @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 7:30pm


THEATRE

"Apple Season" by E.M. Lewis @ New Jersey Repertory Company, Long Branch - 8:00pm


KIDS

AMERICAN GIRL LIVE @ Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC), Englewood - 7:00pm

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