As the snow kept falling during the blizzard, which hit the tri-state area in February, Steven Baggs took to the stage at the Wonderbar in Asbury Park. An artist from New York City who was debuting his newly formed band, Baggs was playing in area for the first time and a little unsure of the reception he was going to get.
He really shouldn't have been worried...
Sometimes an artist's music hits you with the very first chord - pulling you in, instantly hooking you with the sound. That's how it was for me the first time I heard Steven Baggs and I knew the crowd was going to feel the same way. By the end of his set, everyone was wondering who Steven was an where he came from.
Steven Baggs didn't exactly come out of nowhere. He was with the lead singer of a band called "Five Foot Zero" for five years before going solo. The band appeared to be heading places, but in the end just wasn't the right fit for him.
"Things just weren't going the way I wanted in terms of my life and the band and the road we decided to take," explained Steven Baggs. "It's kind of hard when you're the person giving 200% and the rest of the band is only giving like 10% of their time and energy and effort. So, I said that if I'm giving 200%, I might as well give 200% to myself. As selfish as that sounds, at least I'll know I'm pushing as hard as I can for something nobody in the band was pushing for."
Baggs said that there were some people pushing him towards the decision, but, in the end, the decision to go solo was all his own.
"As hurtful and as crappy as it looked to the rest of the members, it had to happen. I'm a lot more confident with the music that I'm playing today and I'm a lot happier with the music. I feel like it shows a little when I'm on stage."
He also knows that there's more pressure in going out and performing under his own name rather than under a band's name.
"In all fairness, anything that happens on stage - good or bad - it's coming back to me now."
Five Foot Zero was basically the only band Baggs was ever in. He got his first guitar for his 14th birthday and taught himself how to play. He says he's been singing his whole life, but things really started to develop once he got to high school. It was also around that time that Brooklyn (Baggs' hometown) suddenly became known as a thriving music scene.
The situation right now is probably at its peak with the spotlight on Brooklyn and websites like myspace.com target=new>web link that connect fans with artists. Baggs thinks the pairing of technology along with the hip label is taking things to a new level.
"It's like being a small town celebrity," said Baggs. "People just get to know who you are. They may hear something about you and then bump into you on Myspace or something. Aside from Williamsburg being a big element in the growth of music right now, I feel like the Internet and technology push musicians and artists on to a whole different page.
"Growing up in New York where everyone is very music saavy and everyone's always looking for the new artist or new buzz, I feel like right now is a great time to be a musician. It's just a great time to have fun with music. Genres are changing by the day and new sounds are being brought out by the bands."
Steven will bring his uptempo, hook-driven rock/pop to the area for three shows in May. On May 20th he takes part in the Wave Gathering Festival in Asbury Park. He'll be doing a set at Red Fusion that night; back to Arlene's Grocery in the city on May 25th; then on Memorial Day Weekend, Baggs will return to Asbury Park for a show at the Saint on Sunday May 28th.
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 email@example.com.