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REVIEW: Local Legends Return To The Saint

By Gary Wien


(ASBURY PARK, NJ -- SEPTEMBER 28, 2012) -- On nights like this, I realize just how lucky we are along the Jersey Shore to have a place like The Saint -- a bar that on certain magical nights resembles "Cheers" with live music. On Friday, September 28, we had one of those nights. Three artists who all stamped their mark into the local music scene shared a bill with one of the area's fastest rising stars. It was one of those rare nights that felt like a homecoming with hardly a barrier at all between the performers and the members of the audience. People sang along, joked with the performers, and turned the club into a large living room. We were all friends on this night and those are always the very best and most special shows.

Lee Mrowicki once described the Jersey Shore as a musical island of sorts. While a few of our artists like Springsteen and Bon Jovi become popular throughout the world, the majority are stars only within the area. I think that's still true today. We don't really care what the outside world feels, we believe in the talent of our local scene regardless of whether or not they have hits nationally. Local music fans who follow the scene know these songs by heart. It was that kind of crowd that showed up at the Saint this evening.

The night began with Emily Grove, an artist who has gone from playing coffee houses as a teenager to being on many of the biggest stages in the area. Playing a set full of songs from her wonderful EP, "Way Across The Sea" as well as a few newer songs, Grove showed why she's in such demand by fellow musicians. Her beautiful voice was in pure command on The Saint's stage. Feeling at ease among friends, she spoke between songs much more than in the past. She revealed how she was a loner in high school, a book nerd sitting off to the side. Somehow I find it a bit hard to believe that people didn't take to her then, but they certainly are now. Maybe she's making up for lost time.

Rick Barry followed with a somewhat similar set to the one I criticized a month ago in Red Bank. The difference tonight was clear. While his soft, introspective tunes sounded out of place on a large outdoor stage, they sounded perfectly at home on this stage. It's amazing how a venue can make all the difference in the world, but it does. A month ago, Rick seemed extremely uncomfortable in front of the audience. While he still showed a touch of discomfort tonight, he was still able to talk to the audience in between songs. He even joked at his lack of stage banter expertise. "I'm more of a listener," he explained. Fighting through a setlist planned out by his fiancee (whom he kept referring to as his 'assistant') he avoided a song by Justin Bieber put on the list as a joke, and mixed some of his newer work with highlights of his from the last few years.

Val Emmich, who recently released his latest disc entitled "Bulldozzzer" was up next. Starting off with songs from the new release, Val pointed out how his new record doesn't actually exist in a physical form; it's only available as a download (or as he put it "in the ether"). The release features Val's music in a beautifully simple and stripped down fashion. Available at http://valemmich.bandcamp.com/ for whatever price the user wishes -- even for free. In my opinion, it's worth throwing a few dollars Val's way simply for the brilliant closing number, "Audience" which was one of the tunes played by Val tonight.

After running through about half of the new release, Val switched gears and gave the audience something of a "Best Of" presentation. Running through classic fan favorites like "Get On With It", "Decadent Decline", and "Absolutely Still" Val was on top of his game. Listening to a solo performance of "Absolutely Still" made me realize just how amazing Val's songwriting really is. He's one of the few artists who can play a song solo, yet still have me hear the drums pounding behind him in my mind.

Brought back for an encore, Val pulled out "High Noon" but shook things up a bit by stepping away from the microphone and unplugging his guitar. Stepping to the edge of the stage, he played acoustically and sang without any amplification while members of the audience sang along. It was one of those "Cheers-like" moments at The Saint that I'll always remember. Thankfully, I was actually at the side of the stage at the time and managed to capture the moment on video.

The reunion of Secret Sound kept the night going. The band was one of the most popular acts in Central Jersey from New Brunswick on down to the Jersey Shore in the first half of the last decade. Featuring Kevin Hildebrandt, James Dalton (aka JPAT), Eric Safka, Dave Ferraro, and Adam Alexander, the band sounded as if they hadn't missed a beat. I remember seeing them several times at places like the Saint and the Downtown in Red Bank, but it had been so many years I honestly couldn't remember much. Once they began playing, it all came back to me though. At the time, there was a huge jam band scene in the state. Secret Sound was part of that scene, but unlike the majority of bands who took after the mellow songs of the Dead, Secret Sound was like the raucous, boisterous, little brother who demanded your attention. They didn't just sing, they howled. Their music didn't mellow you out, it made you want to dance -- they put the jam in jam band. Hopefully, they'll play additional shows because they sounded so tight it would be a shame if this was just a one-off reunion.

As someone who has seen James Dalton perform solo, with a duo, with a trio, and with a full band, I really love how he fits with a band like Secret Sound. When he takes lead vocals, he's got room to be the front man we all know he can be. When Kevin handles lead vocals, it offers him the opportunity to stretch himself on harmonica without the need to rush back with the vocals. And Eric Safka on keyboard really gets a chance to groove non-stop with these tunes. Seeing them again you remember just how many great musicians were in the band. That's why the band became so popular, the talent was obvious. And judging by this set, the talent is still there. The question is whether or not the desire to see where this band can go is still there.

It's funny thinking back, but three of the acts on the bill played rather significant roles in my music journalism career. I largely credit JPAT for helping me with my first book ("Beyond the Palace") and Val Emmich was the very first cover story of my Upstage Magazine (and always helped out whenever asked). Meanwhile, Rick Barry was the subject of my most quoted, most ridiculed, and most remembered article ever (the one where I said Rick was the next Billy Bragg). The only one missing from the fold was Emily Grove and she inspired me to set up a new series online -- magazine covers and articles that would have run had the magazine continued. So, keep your eye out for "Fake Upstage" and see where things might have gone...



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Arijit Singh's New North American Tour Will Include Single Stop In Tri-State Region At Prudential Center on April 13
(NEWARK, NJ) -- Bright Brain Productions, the leading entertainment company based in California announced the “Arijit Singh LIVE Tour” in 12 cities all across the U.S. This is the first of its kind and largest tour done by Arijit Singh or any Indian artist. The tour beings on April 5 and travels through major U.S. cities culminating on May 5.  The tour stops at Prudential Center in Newark on Saturday, April 13 at 7:00pm.
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.


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
Friday, Jan 18, 2019


MUSIC

John Forster at the Minstrel @ Morristown Unitarian Fellowship, Morristown - 7:30pm

David Massengill - Folk Concert @ Christ Congregation Church, Princeton - 8:00pm

SAL "THE VOICE" VALENTINETTI @ Mainstage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm

The Elvis Birthday Bash @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 7:30pm


THEATRE

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

Annie Jr. @ The Oakes Center, Summit - 7:30pm

Some Girl(s) @ Studio Playhouse Upper Montclair, Upper Montclair - 8:00pm







COMEDY

Big Apple Comedy Club @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 8:00pm


MISC

The Jason Bishop Show to Benefit CASA @ Pfleeger Concert Hall, Rowan University, Glassboro - 7:00pm

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