The members of the North Jersey band Full Out Freak were finishing off a very good year when bassist Eric Berk asked his bandmates the big question.
,"What are you guys doing on the 22nd? Wanna play with Bon Jovi at the arena?"
As it turns out, Eric had heard about a contest XM Satellite Radio was running with Bon Jovi to find independent bands for the opening spots on Bon Jovi's tour. He actually entered Full Out Freak in the contest without telling anybody in the band. And they won! So, on December 22nd, Full Out Freak opened for Bon Jovi in front of thousands at a very familiar place for them - the Continental Airlines Arena.
"It was better than I expected, but I expected it to be great," said lead singer Joey Aparicio. "Even then it exceeded my expectations. People loved it! We're in that same genre of music as Bon Jovi and I've always known that his audience was our audience. I knew we'd go over well if we were ourselves and just went out there and had fun, which we did.
"We've been waiting to play that place our whole lives. I grew up in Hudson County in North Bergen and from any apartment my parents ever lived in I could see the arena. I grew up looking at it - just a few minutes from it to see all of the people I wanted to be and particularly Bon Jovi. He's probably my biggest influence."
Full Out Freak started out a few years ago when Joey Aparicio realized he had a few songs that he wanted to do more with. Nearly all of the songs on the bands self-titled debut were written by Joey and then fleshed out with the aid of a complete band. Full Out Freak is comprised of lead vocalist/guitarist Joey Aparicio, guitarist Tim Quick, bassist Eric Berk, and drummer Justin N. Together, they form an energetic melodic power pop sound that contains instantly catchy hooks and radio-friendly songs. They've started building up a fanbase around the world thanks to steady airplay on stations like XM Satellite Radio, MusicChoice, Live365, and Yahoo Music - plus having songs used for video game promotions. But it's shows like the Bon Jovi opening spot that get the band excited because they know they need to build up the tri-state area fanbase before trying to be everywhere.
"You've got to span from where your audience is first," explained Aparicio. "You've got to own this area and then you can start moving outside. Playing in this general area is good anyway; the music industry resides in New York.,"
The music industry is changing rapidly and bands have to be aware of anything that can help them reach a broader audience. Full Out Freak has done a brilliant job getting the band's music on to Internet and satellite radio stations. They actively use the web for promotion and have worked out deals for their songs to be included in future video games. It's definitely a different ballgame from a decade ago and bands need to keep up with the changes.
"Most bands have been in limbo not knowing really how to do it," said Aparicio. ,"How do you get there? How do you get noticed? I mean, the original scene in general isn't what it used to be in the tri-state area. It,'s hard playing original music and getting people to come out and see it. It,'s just as hard to get your stuff on the radio and to build a following. I think the digital age is great if bands know how to capitalize on it. Things like video games reach a wide audience. Those little avenues are what bands have to do now. You've got to be business savvy if you want to get your stuff out there. And you,'ve got to know all of the marketing tools that are at your disposal."
Full Out Freak has played at some of the top rock clubs in the area including CBGB,'s, Arlene's Grocery, Stone Pony, Mercury Lounge, Tribeca Rock Club, Sin-e, and Maxwell's. They've become known as an explosive live band, which is no surprise since many of the band members have been part of the New Jersey music scene for some time now. One of the next steps for the band is to start working the college market into their plans. They're looking to do more shows in college towns and to increase their exposure on college radio.
After beating out hundreds of bands to win the opening spot, Aparicio's night was complete when he got to meet and talk to Jon Bon Jovi. And he couldn,'t wait to tell him how appreciative he was for the chance.
"I thanked him for giving back to the Jersey bands," said Aparicio. "That a guy of that stature - that big in the business - would give back what he has... To all of the bands he let open up for him - in whatever capacity he had to do for it, just saying yes was huge. It was a huge gesture back to musicians. He's a guy who really paid his dues getting to where he is and I respect him tremendously."
Someday, I can see Full Out Freak and Aparicio giving another young Jersey band their own chance. Keep your eyes on this band.
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.