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The Commons' Last Ride

By Gary Wien

Some bands never make it out of the garage while others last a lifetime. Thanks to recordings, fans never really have to say goodbye but the musicians almost always are faced with the difficult decision of moving on or becoming stagnant. For The Commons, they decided they'd rather make the decision to move on rather than wait a year too long.

Led by Keith Monacchio, one of the best songwriters in the state, they've been a fixture on the Trenton scene for nearly a decade. The band made the decision to record one final record and do one final tour before going their separate ways. That record is called American Ghost. It will be officially released on August 17th with a CD Release party at The Saint in Asbury Park, New Jersey. This will not only be the band's last CD, but it just might be their best release to date.

Monacchio describes American Ghost as a story or character driven record. This is a far different theme than the band's last CD, Dirt Waffle (which was a pop record) and the previous one before that, Come On Get Gone (which was a deeply personal record dealing with a troubled relationship).

"I think I kind of got tired of writing about myself," explained Keith Monachio. "There's only so much personal stuff you can lay on people. After a while it's like 'I'm tired of listening to this guy talk about his problems.' So I started writing these story songs. I got into it a little on Come On Get Gone with "Jesus Had A Brother". I said I would love to make a record of just all character driven stories. So I started these little writing exercises where I would write down titles or do little character sketches about what I wanted the characters to be and started writing around that. I almost put myself in a box, which is a weird place to be but it gives you structure to do some different things.

"I was living above this barber shop in Hamilton where there's two bars on each corner and at night people would always be coming and going out of the bars. I would just sit on the porch like a fly on the wall and watch the people and develop stories out of that. A lot of the stories came that way. Obviously there are little references to myself in the songs or through the characters, but I hadn't heard a good story record or a character driven record in a long time and I wanted to do that."

Between the four guys in the band (Sean Glonek, Tom Kale, Tom McDonald, and Keith), The Commons have been through a lot in the past 9 years. According to Monacchio, it's been a good run for the band. They're all still great friends, it's just time to move on. They've survived one marriage, have one marriage pending, had one broken engagement, and one divorce. Somehow, through it all the band has remained a constant in their lives, but each year makes it a little bit harder to keep going. The guys now have jobs, families, even mortages to worry about. Things like that make setting up tour schedules a little more complicated.

"I don't know if it's really the end of anything," said Monacchio. "Who knows? In a couple of years, I might say let's make another record, but for now - for me as an artist, it's a little easier for me to go at things on my own and not have to juggle everybody's schedule. When you think about it you're not really just juggling four people's schedule, you're in essence juggling eight people's schedules because you have wives and girlfriends and things like that to worry about."

Earlier this year, Monacchio booked a solo tour of 8 shows in 10 days down south. He's always done solo performances in addition to band shows, but the solo shows have been coming more frequently in recent years and now take on a greater meaning - especially since he's played with some of his bandmates for nearly half of his life.

"I've been playing with Tommy McDonald for 16 years," said Monacchio. "It's gotten to the point where I'll bring in a song and I'll be like the part goes like this and then he's like 'oh yeah, and then it does this, this, and this.' So he just knows my changes and where things are going to go. That's not a bad thing, but it's not a great thing either because it's almost to be expected. It means there aren't any curve balls anymore. People know what's coming and maybe it's not as challenging as it was before."

The challenge of keeping things fresh for American Ghost was aided by Sean Glonek, who produced this record as well as the last three by the band. Monacchio said Sean pushed the band harder on this record than ever before and they brought in instruments like violin and saxophone for the first time. The additional instruments give an added layer - an almost Beatlesque flavor - to the songs.

The guys in the band all used to kid that things were going to happen just when the band was about to break up. Ironically, that's pretty much the way the story went. Their last record had songs picked up by MTV for the show "8th & Ocean" and TV Land just picked up a song from Dirt Waffle for the season finale of "High School Reunion".

If nothing else, it's nice to see people appreciate the work of a bunch of hard-working from a city where it isn't easy to be a rock musician. It's nice to see that good lyrics and good songwriting eventually does get noticed. It's a shame that it had to take so long before people starting paying attention, but it's better late than never. The band is ready to take their final ride. If you love great music, pick up a copy of American Ghost and see how a band can truly go out in style.

For more by this author, click here

State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Cirque Dreams Holidaze on Friday, December 7 at 8:00pm, Saturday, December 8 at 2:00pm and 8:00pm, and Sunday, December 9 at 2:00pm. Cirque Dreams Holidaze, a division of Cirque du Soleil, has become a critically acclaimed, state-of-the-art Broadway musical, and a fun-filled, holiday family show. Tickets range from $35-$98.
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.

"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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