New Jersey Stage

Friday, February 27, 2015

ZZ Top: 40 Years of Rock 'n Roll & Cars

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By Gary Wien


For over forty years, ZZ Top has been recording, touring, and residing on classic rock stations. The trio of Billy Gibbons on guitar, Dusty Hill on bass, and Frank Beard on drums has remained the same since first forming in Houston back in 1970. They're instantly recognizable thanks to the long beards of Gibbons and Hill and their trademark sunglasses. Meanwhile, over 25 million records sold and a steady stream of hits earned them an induction in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004.

In the seventies, the hits included songs like "La Grange", "Tush", and "Cheap Sunglasses", but the band soared to new heights with the emergence of MTV in the eighties.

In the midst of rising stars like U2, Duran Duran, and Madonna, videos by ZZ Top were among the most played and most memorable of the day. Videos for "Legs", "Gimme All Your Lovin" and "Sharp Dressed Man" carried a simple formula: shots of the band, shots of beautiful women, and shots of the Eliminator - one of many cars in Billy Gibbons' collection. The formula worked each time and the band became bigger in one year than they had in the previous decade.

All total, ZZ Top has had 11 records go gold and 7 go platinum with Eliminator being their most successful, selling over 10 million units itself. The band continues to tour and hasn't missed a beat. On March 10th they will perform at the Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC) in Englewood. New Jersey Stage caught up with Billy Gibbons (once named the 32nd best guitarist of all-time by Rolling Stone) to talk about the band and his love of cars.

From the early days of rock and roll to today there's been a strange connection between music and cars. You've been collecting cars for a long time, do you notice a connection between the two?
Absolutely! It even pre-dates rock 'n' roll: Robert Johnson's "Terraplane Blues," Hank Williams had a "hot rod Ford and a two-dollar bill." Then, of course, there was Chuck Berry who "motorvated" over the hill only to find his dear Maybelline in her (Cadillac) Coupe de Ville. Of course, we always caution not to get "Arrested For Driving While Blind." Cars and girls are the big topics as far as we're concerned and we've done our best to pursue both… of course, with abject loudness at the core.

Why do you think cars have inspired so many great songs?
Initially, that's where so many great songs were heard. On a car radio, away from one's parents - the mobility afforded by the automobile combined with a rockin' soundtrack was a recipe for spiritual liberation. Play loud and drive fast - these things go hand in glove. It's really not a coincidence that the popularity of hot rods and custom cars was concurrent with the rise of rock 'n' roll - they're really about the same thing.

When did you start collecting cars? Tell me about your collection.
Started by sharing a car - a Dodge Dart - with my sister Pam. The sound of that car's motor is what you hear at the start of "Manic Mechanic." Still have it, along with a mess of others acquired over the years. Of course, the Eliminator, the '33 Ford three-window coupe gained celebrity status having starred in those videos and it's currently back on display at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. And there's "CadZZilla", a very significant custom car that's been flown around the globe and remains completely roadworthy. Other favorites are "The Mexican Blackbird", named after an early ZZ Top song that's a '58 Ford Thunderbird done up super fine. There are, literally, too numerous to mention but we did a book that covered most a while back. It's called Rock + Roll Gearhead and you can still pick up a physical copy or download it digitally. We think the New York Times review pretty much nailed it. "The cars and music are part of the same enterprise; creating a shared landscape of mind, a fantasy land where Mr. Gibbons' music provides a soundtrack for imagined journeys in fantasy cars. Many will be happy to ride along."

There are three things that probably come to mind when people think of the legendary ZZ Top videos of the 80s: the beards, the women, and the car. Was the idea to use your Eliminator the plan from the beginning?
Keep in mind that MTV didn't really exist when we recorded the album and decided to use the car for the cover image. By the time it was released videos had come into play and when we were asked to come up with something. We wondered why anybody would want to see three gnarly whiskered dudes so we suggested those pretty girls and that pretty little car. Serendipity!

Did you ever imagine you three would have such an amazing run on MTV or that it would boost your profile so much?
We had no actual thoughts about it. Frank, our drummer, and the only one of us without a beard though his last name is Beard, actually happened into the early MTV while channel surfing. He was delighted to find music on TV and stayed up for 10 more hours, not wantingto miss any of it, not knowing it ran 24 hours. We had some catching up to do, obviously, but it did work out for the best.

You've said many times that all you guys wanted was a hot rod. Did you ever race cars as a kid?
Let's just say that the kind of racing we did as kids was not the kind authorized by any sanctioning body. We're happy we made it out of there mostly intact and, as they say, "don't try this at home" - or on the roads.

In addition to being in some of the biggest videos of the MTV age, the band was also in one of the biggest movie trilogies. What was it like being part of Back To The Future 3?
We loved being part of that flick. You know it was typecasting. They wanted a three piece band fronted by two geezers with chin whiskers so the role was a lock for us from inception. We're still interested in time travel - we made it all the way from our start in 1969 into the 21st century and, one hopes, beyond.

What are some songs that die-hard fans might be surprised to hear in a ZZ Top set these days?
We like to throw a Jimi Hendrix song like "Foxey Lady" or "Hey Joe" into the set list as an homage to our greatest inspiration and much missed friend. We like to go back to our earliest albums for material and even before - we sometimes do Willie Brown's "Future Blues" which is definitely from the past - it was first recorded in 1930. We also like including material from La Futura - do you sense a theme here? - our most recent album release.

Finally, why do you think you three have been able to stay together for 40 years while so many bands break up?
We're always asked this and the answer is always the same. We're having a good time so nobody's come up with a reason to stop. It's true that most bands break up after a while and then there's that inevitable reunion tour so, if you like, you can think of the last, say, four decades as our reunion tour. Our plan is a simple one: keep on keepin' on, turn it up and let it rock!

Annie Minogue Returns To The Area

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By Gary Wien


This March marks the return of Annie Minogue to the area in a big way. She's got several shows lined up in New York and will be coming to New Jersey later in the year. Originally from the Bronx, she now lives in North Jersey and is focusing on this region after years of touring nationally. In addition, she's been in the studio recently and looks forward to releasing her next record (called Suburbia) on the Varese Sarabande record label and distributed through Fontana Universal.

Chances are you may have heard Annie's music even if her name doesn't ring a bell. Among the many places her songs have been played include MTV's Real World, Lifetime Television, the TV Guide Channel, and New York radio stations Q104.3 and 93.3FM. Constantly working on this side of the business, her songs are still being placed on television on a regular basis. She's also been the opening act on tours for artists like David Lee Roth and Chris Whitley, and has played major festivals such as Summerfest, Sturgis Music Festival, and Sundance Film Festival.

"I think I've found my rhythm as a songwriter and have been able to refine what I'm trying to say," explains Minogue. "I was in a band prior to becoming a solo artist and it was a band that I started and co-founded. Towards the end, the dynamic sort of shifted and it changed to where I wasn't as much of a part of it as I used to be. I wasn't really saying the things that I wanted to say. On the last record we did I didn't even write any of the songs, I was just the voice of the record. It had nothing to do with what I wanted to say or how I was feeling or anything like that. It just wasn't the right situation anymore so I decided to branch out on my own and the music has changed from more folky-pop to rock and roll."

The move towards a stronger rock and roll vibe clearly suits Minogue. Her favorite bands are staples of classic rock radio like Led Zeppelin, The Faces, The Doors, Aerosmith, and The Rolling Stones. She also loves bands like The Black Crowes that harken back to the classic rock sound. Minogue says her band aims for a bluesy rock sound that would feel at home on 70s rock radio.

"That's a period when music was at its height in my opinion," said Minogue. "We're going back to the music of bands that really meant something. There just aren't bands like those anymore."

Minogue got an up close view of classic rock bands when she was the opening act for a David Lee Roth tour a few years ago. The experience was so interesting that she tried pitching a reality show about it called "Rock Star and Me." Minogue actually wanted to have David Lee Roth star in the show and call it "David and Me" but despite some very good meetings with industry executives, and the interest of a couple of production companies, the show never got off of the ground. It did, however, help lead her to a different avenue for her creativity. She's since begun working on a screen play for a movie and produced her first music video (a cover of "Jet" by Paul McCartney and Wings).

Music is still her first love and she says she doesn't see herself as a solo artist. She admits to being a bit shy in person — a side of her that is completely opposite of her stage persona — and considers her band to be a real band, not just one in name only. The band, which includes Nunzio Signore, Nick Saya, Dave Archer, Craig Dreyer, Tony Tino, and Brett Bass, is an integral part of her records.

"I've always wanted to be part of a unit," said Minogue. "I've never felt comfortable as a solo artist. There are a few records under my name, but I don't know if that means I'm a solo artist because they were always band projects and it sounded like a band when we made the record. I always ask the opinions of my bandmates of what they think and they are definitely part of the production. ‘Do you think this could be better? Should the arrangement be different?' It's not all about me."

Over the years, the band has played quite a few big time shows. In addition to opening tours for David Lee Roth and Chris Whitley, they've opened for the Black Eyed Peas, Soul Asylum, and Steve Miller Band. They've headlined the Texas State Fair and played numerous gigs at the top clubs in Los Angeles — so much so that they were once named National Artist of the Year by the LA Music Awards. After years on the road and taking a bit of a break, Annie and her band are ready to build up again. New dates are being lined up so be sure to check http://www.annieminogue.com for the latest updates.


Upcoming Shows


Thursday, March 5 at 8:00pm
Daryl's House Restaurant
Pawling, NY

Thursday, March 26 at 8:30pm
Space At Westbury (Lounge)
Westbury, NY

Featured Music Video for February 2015



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Our featured music video of the month for February 2015 is "Turtles All The Way Down" by A Halo Named Fred.

A Halo Named Fred is a geek rock band from Central New Jersey. They have performed with King Missile, been produced by a member of Ween, and featured on The Doctor Demento Show. Their quirky, off-beat style has been paired with Burlesque and Side-show acts, and they have participated in numerous film projects.

For more information on the band visit www.ahalocalledfred.com


Fortune Cookies

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By Gary Wien


This is the 10th season for South Camden Theatre Company and they call it "A Season of Faith." The neighborhood around the theater has improved dramatically over the years and the company has played a major role in the revitalization. Each of the productions this season has dealt with faith in a unique way. In Fortune Cookies, the company looks at how the audience has kept its faith in the theater. The play, written by Joseph M. Paprzycki, was first performed in 2007 back when the company's home was the basement of Sacred Heart Church. In the years that followed, the play was always the most requested work by the audience. To thank the people who have kept coming back year after year, the theatre decided to bring the production back and give it the type of production that wasn't possible the first time around.
 
The play is set in a Chinese restaurant in Camden in 1997. Four friends who used to work together have kept their friendship alive by returning to this restaurant one Monday night a month. Tonight happens to be the 10th anniversary of the first night they started this tradition. Although the four friends are not aware of the night's significance, Mr. Wong, the owner of the restaurant does and he's prepared a special evening for them. It's a gift that he says is "the thing that dreams are made of."
This production runs from February 27 through March 15 and stars Amiee Theresa, Megan Pisors, Nicole DeRosa Lukaitis, Christopher 'Jumbo' Schimpf, and Dan Kim — the last three were all part of the original production in 2007. Christopher 'Jumbo' Schimpf will also direct the production.

"It is wonderful to see these old friends back on stage again," said Paprzycki. "Remembering the looks on people's faces when they left the first time was so gratifying and to have so many people want to see it again is very gratifying as a playwright. When people walked out of the show, they were laughing and crying at the same time.

"I've made a couple of little changes to the play," noted the playwright. "I think being a playwright who's 9 years older and having written another 10 plays or so since we've produced this one, I'm a better writer now. You learn to hear more. I think part of it is you hear things more as a more experienced writer and part of it is you hear things as a much older person."

Fortune Cookies is not just a snapshot in time for the characters in the play; it's a reminder of just how far the theatre and Camden has come since the first production. A few blocks from the theater in 2007 one could still see crime on a regular basis, but today the neighborhood is much nicer and a safe place to go. Back in the basement, the audience sat on plastic chairs on a concrete floor, while today's audience is in nice seats in a state-of-the-art theater. Not only will this production have professional sound and lighting that greatly exceeds that of the original, but the stage will truly resemble a Chinese restaurant and audience members will even smell the food coming from the kitchen.

"This is a play about real spirituality and friendship and the whole issue of faith," explains Paprzycki. "What is faith? Can magic change faith? Is magic real? And the basic question of what do you really want? What if the dream that you're dreaming might not be the dream that's being dreamt for you? That's what the play is all about. Is there another force out there? You might think your whole life that you want something and then something happens one day and it all gets twisted around and you're like 'I never knew I wanted this in the first place.'"

Paprzycki says that's exactly what happened with him. He never planned on being a playwright and didn't even write his first play until he was 37 years old. Well into his thirties, despite having good jobs and earning a nice income, he had no answer when people asked him what he wanted to do. Then one day he saw an ad for Angels in America in the newspaper and went to New York to see the production and it suddenly made sense to him.

"I had no idea that this is what I would be doing," he recalled. "So, I think the play sort of ties into my own personal journey. I was confused and saw that picture of the angel and something just snapped, but I didn't quite know what it meant yet."

The play is loosely based on a bunch of friends that Paprzycki had at the time. He said he was working at a horrible job, but had a couple friends he hung around with to get lunch and drinks. This is the third of five plays he's written based in Camden. All are different stories with different characters, but the characters here are more or less composites of people he knew. Looking back, the playwright says he sees some parallels with what was happening to him during the period in which he wrote the play.

"Could I write this play today?" asked Paprzycki. "I don't know. I don't know if I would have the same inspiration or if the people around me are the same… What makes me so happy is I don't feel like I'm watching a play, I feel like I'm sitting next to people in a Chinese restaurant. They're just gathered and talking and having fun. There's crazy stuff and some serious stuff, but it's quickly covered in comedy. It's just the way it is when you're out with your friends. All kinds of stuff come up during the course of a two hour dinner. I think people can identify with that. They can see their friends at the table and can feel their lives in this play.

"I guess we all secretly inside would love to have somebody look out for us," he continued. "Someone to point us in the right direction. I think the City of Camden, being in such bad shape at the time, these four friends just for the sake of keeping their friendship alive kept coming back. There's a line like 'So many work friendships are like vacation ones — we'll stay in touch, we'll talk, but you always disappear from each other.' Yet, these people have stuck it out. They've stuck it out by going back to Camden just to keep that friendship alive because they know that Monday night each month is their night — no spouses, no boyfriends, no girlfriends — it's just for them."

As we're talking, Paprzycki suddenly makes the connection that it's not just the characters who are returning for the 10th year, it's his audience. They've been coming back to the same spot in Camden for each show over the past ten years just to keep the dream of live theater and a revitalized Camden alive. Maybe there is a little magic in those fortune cookies after all.


Fortune Cookies is running February 27 through March 15 at the South Camden Theatre, located at 400 Jasper Street in Camden, NJ. For more information visit www.southcamdentheatre.org

And Then Came Tango

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By Gary Wien

The Growing Stage isn't one to shy away from a little controversy. Based in Netcong, the theatre performs productions for young audiences with a twist — they treat young audiences as adults. That mission was upheld when Emily Freeman's And Then Came Tango was chosen as the winner of their 2014 New Play Reading Festival. The play, which deals with the subject of two gay penguins, faced pressure by conservative groups a few years back when an early version was being produced in Austin, Texas. The Growing Stage doesn't expect any such problems in New Jersey, but is committed to presenting the work regardless of what comes up.
 
The play was inspired by the true story of Roy and Silo, two male penguins at the Central Park Zoo who formed a pair bond, built a nest, and were so determined to be parents that they incubated a rock. When given an orphaned egg, the pair successfully raised a baby fledgling. The production runs March 6 through March 29.

"I consider it a journey tale that a young girl goes on when she begins to become aware that the world is a much bigger place than she originally thought," said Stephen L. Fredericks, Founder and Executive Director at The Growing Stage who will direct the play. "The production tells the story of Lily, a 10 year old girl, who forms a friendship with the zookeeper of the penguin exhibit at the Central Park Zoo after participating in a summer enrichment program. Together they experience the reaction of the community when two male penguins establish a bond to hatch an unclaimed egg. And Then Came Tango is a tender story that celebrates both tolerance and the inherent desire of one generation to foster the growth of the next."

Playwright Emily Freeman said she was introduced to the book And Tango Makes Three in 2010 by a friend of hers. She loved the story and began research to learn more about the three real penguins (Roy, Silo, and Tango). "I discovered that their bond and family were contested and thought that the story would resonate on the stage as well," she explained. "Theatre for Young Audiences and the plays in our canon tell beautiful coming of age stories and address important themes for young people, but, at the same time, there is a desperate need for stories that explore all identities. I felt that dramatizing this story would take a step toward expanding representation of diverse identities on our stages. Therefore, I wrote an original play that explores that true story of Roy and Silo, and added fictional characters who are able to explore what makes a family a family."

The actions of the penguins are told through music and modern dance. The music was composed by Paul Marbach who attended the University at Texas at Austin alongside Freeman. Original choreography was created by Jillian Petrie, who works on The Growing Stage's Main Stage and The Studio Presentation Series productions and teaches dance at Centenary College and Art of Dance.

"I believe this play operates in multiple languages," explained Freeman. "Movement is just as important as the written text and so is the music. Penguin movement does not require narration because it is communicative, dramatic, and active. Chinstrap penguins in the wild and in captivity speak through their bodies. Although I describe the actions behind the penguin movement in the play, I think it is exciting to see how different directors and choreographers imagine those movements. There is an interesting balance between choreographed movement and moments in which the actors are moving organically and as close to penguin as they can."

Executive Director Fredericks believes that the central message of the play deals with family. Throughout the play, the definition of family is extended beyond the normal representations. In addition to Silo and Roy, he points out the family which is created between Lily, Walter the Zookeeper, and Lily's mother. The entire colony of penguins is another family. "As these family structures are threatened in the play, we learn the power of voicing your opinions and standing up for your beliefs, no matter how old you are," added Freeman.

Plays like this will almost certainly inspire discussion between parents and their children. It's one reason Freeman was so upset when conservative groups forced the cancellation of 10 scheduled performances in Austin elementary schools. Although it was a frustrating period, it was an illuminating experience for her as well. "Although the artistic team initially felt defeated, the cancellation prompted some incredible action from parents and community members," recalled Freeman. "Since the tour's cancellation, a group galvanized to make a change by encouraging the schools to adopt a program called Welcoming Schools. This anti-bullying and inclusiveness curriculum was created by the Human Rights Campaign. These Austin parents and community members' efforts are an inspiring product of an incredibly challenging experience."

Despite the play's history, The Growing Stage had no reservations about choosing the play as the winner of their New Play Reading Festival, which comes with a guaranteed Main Stage production. In fact, And Then Came Tango embodies the type of production the company believes should be presented to young audiences.

"For 33 years we have battled the perception of what theatre for young audiences should be — usually a perception promoted by adults that have forgotten along the way what it's like to be a child," explained Fredericks. "How frustrated they felt at that young age when adults treated them with a lack of respect. Thankfully, I have never grown up so that concept never left me! The idea of the piece being controversial was never a major issue because the reason it was chosen is, first and most importantly, that it is a piece of good theatre, well-written, with fully developed characters, and a unique storytelling device woven into the work that hopefully generates thought as well as discussion.

"I view this production as we have with our other New Play Reading Festival winners, as the final step of the process of fine tuning the piece for future presentations," Fredericks continued. "Obviously each new director or designer will have their own individual impact on the piece. This we hope presents it in a form that will allow that opportunity to take place. Regarding the potential for outside pressure, I think our society, while it still has a tremendous way to go, has come to the realization that the LGBTQ community did not arrive in a spaceship or have a condition that can be medically cured, but rather that they are our sisters, our brothers, and our friends, and they deserve the same love and respect that every individual or couple or family deserves."

Freeman adds, "Unfortunately, we are not living in a post-homophobic world. Although marriage equality is slowly progressing across our country, one set of laws does not directly correlate with attitudes. At the same time, families of all shapes and sizes live their lives in every type of community. For individuals who fear presenting this topic to a young audience, I would challenge them to talk to a young person about what love and family mean to them. Likely, those definitions will appear in the play. Literature and theatre offer us exciting opportunities to discuss many different topics through the eyes and world of characters. That aesthetic distance might be the best way to broach topics that make some adults uncomfortable. I would encourage those folks to come see the play as a family!"


And Then Came Tango runs March 6 – 29, 2015 at The Growing Stage, 7 Ledgewood Avenue, Netcong, NJ. For more information visit http://www.growingstage.com

FILM REVIEW: Maps To The Stars

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By Eric Hillis, TheMovieWaffler.com


It's now 26 years since David Cronenberg made his last horror movie, Dead Ringers. In the intervening years he's moved further away from that genre, and as a result his best work is fading into the past. Maps to the Stars isn't a return to the horror genre, though its characters are as horrific as they come, but it is a return to form as the Canadian director's best work since that 1988 film.
 
It won't win any awards for originality. Hollywood has been satirising itself for most of its existence, but Cronenberg's attack is a particularly twisted take on tinseltown. A dark comic tale with surreal touches, Maps to the Stars feels like a collaboration between David Lynch and Larry David. It has the cheap video aesthetic of Inland Empire and Curb Your Enthusiasm, overexposing its characters in every sense of the word.

Pyromaniac Agatha (Wasikowska) returns to her hometown of Hollywood, having been released from a rehab center. Her parents, self-help guru Stafford (Cusack) and Cristina (Williams) are none too happy about her reappearance, as Agatha is privy to a dark secret about the couple. Meanwhile, Agatha takes a production assistant job for actress Havana (Moore), a pill-popping paranoiac who gives Sunset Boulevard's Norma Desmond a run for her money in the crazy stakes.

It's the cast that elevates Cronenberg's film above most of the "Aren't Hollywood folk horrid?" dramas we've seen in the past. While Julianne Moore pulls out all the stops in her portrayal of a Mommy-obsessed straitjacket case, it's young Evan Bird who steals the show as Benji, a Bieber-esque teen star and son of Stafford and Cristina. Despite being 13, he's already been through rehab, and spends his time guzzling giant cans of energy drink and dispensing putdowns like the bastard son of Joan Rivers and Patrick Bateman.

The premise of Maps to the Stars might be somewhat timeworn, but there's an undeniable pleasure in watching its cast essay such a rogues gallery with relish.

FILM REVIEW: '71

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By Eric Hillis, TheMovieWaffler.com


In the past, screen depictions of Northern Ireland's 'Troubles' have veered very much on the 'film' side. Yann Demange's thriller, however, is unashamedly a 'movie', which may point to how much progress has been made in that previously turbulent part of the world.
 
Jack O'Connell has been having a great year in 2014. Previously typecast as the evil “chav” (a British stereotype for anti-social youth) in films like Eden Lake, Harry Brown, and Tower Block, this year has seen him prove an impressive leading man in the gripping prison drama Starred Up. Here he plays Gary, a young and naive British soldier who finds himself shipped off to the mean streets of Belfast in 1971, a place he and his fellow squaddies know little about, having previously been led to believe they were destined for a cushy posting in West Germany.

On what should be a routine search of a Catholic Republican neighborhood, things turn nasty when an angry mob arrives on the scene. The troops are forced to withdraw, but Gary is left behind and finds himself on the run from a group of would be IRA assassins. As he traverses the streets of Belfast, moving blindly between Catholic and Protestant areas, Gary finds himself also targeted by a black-ops group of soldiers led by Sean Harris, an actor who has cornered the weasel-faced scumbag market.

In Demange's hands, the story plays out like a John Carpenter homage. The nightscape of Belfast, with its burning cars and angry shadowy mobs, recalls the Manhattan of Escape From New York, though Gary is far from a hardened Snake Plissken figure. He's blissfully unaware of the conflict, at one point comparing the antagonism of Irish Catholics and Protestants to the rivalry between residents of the English midland cities of Derby and Nottingham. By making all three factions - Catholics, Protestants, Brits - the villains, and portraying Belfast as hell on earth, Demange allows us to root for his protagonist in spite of what side of the political debate we may fall on.

It's taken a lot longer for The Irish Troubles to receive a genre treatment than past conflicts like Vietnam or Yugoslavia, and I have to admit as an Irishman it was an almost surreal experience watching a situation I grew up with handled in such a superficial but technically accomplished manner. Tragedy plus time equals comedy, they say. In the case of '71, tragedy plus time has created an unlikely genre offering, and possibly the scariest release we'll see this year.

Carolyn Dorfman: An Exploration of Sound and Dance





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 By Gary Wien



Jersey Moves! Festival of Dance is an annual production at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) in Newark. Originally composed of performances by multiple companies, it has evolved into a spotlight for individual dance companies in the state. 
 
On Friday, March 13, the series turns the spotlight on the Carolyn Dorfman Dance Company that will be premiering a new work entitled Waves.

"Waves is a sound movement exploration," explained Carolyn Dorfman who commissioned three virtuoso musician / composers (Jessie Reagen Mann, Pete List, and Daphna Mor) to create Waves and perform it with her company on tour.

"It's about waves of motion — that surreal sense of the different ways that sound waves connect. I'm interested in the dialogue between music and dance. I think my work has been taking this direction. It's a very human context of waves of emotion, sequential movement, and the interconnectiveness that we have for one another. At the end of the day, it becomes very intimate between the dancers and each other, between the dancers and the sound, and there's something in this almost objective way of working that creates something profoundly human."

In this sensation based exploration, the dancers will investigate their reactions to the sound waves and vibrations while the musicians are stretched to symbolize movement in tone, breath, sound, and more. This connection between hearing music with our ears and embodying it as movement and seeing bodies move and capturing it as sound, will unequivocally construct a rich dialogue. Solo dancer embodying sound or exploring call and response - a duet ‘blown' together or apart by the breath of both instrument and voice – or a trio carefully woven together in body and movement, as the musicians create an aural tapestry in unexpected ways.

The creation of this production is rather unique for Dorfman. Everybody is involved in the creative process simultaneously rather than providing ideas to a composer and letting them work on their own. Dorfman says the process takes a bit longer this way, but is also very exciting — especially when the music is going one direction and then takes a different turn as new ideas arise. In addition to the creative process, each musician provides something special on a performance level as well.
Jessie Reagen Mann is an award-winning classical, contemporary, and pop/rock cellist. She first collaborated with Dorfman on Hourglass which received support from Live Music for Dance in 2012. For this work, she will be experimenting with manipulated amplified sounds as well as those created with her own voice.

Pete List is well known in the world of tribal belly dance as a multi-instrumentalist composer, producer, and human beatboxer. For one section of the work, List will experiment combining, human beat-boxing (vocal percussion), breath, voice, and instrumentation in layers of live looping to create dialogue with the dancers.

Daphna Mor is a musician trained in western classical music who also explores Middle Eastern and North African traditions and improvisation. In this work, she will be using traditional and contemporary techniques on recorders of all sizes, including flutter tone, harmonics, and singing and playing at the same time.

Dorfman intends to use this eclectic and unusual grouping of artists, their instruments, sounds, and vocals, to create new and visceral movement connections, or waves, between her dancers, the music, and the dance.

Waves is made possible in part by grants from New Music USA and The O'Donnell-Green Music and Dance Foundation with generous support from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation; the New Jersey State Council on the Arts; and the Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation.

The company will also be presenting the evocative and sensuous duet Under My Skin and the award winning The Klezmer Sketch during the NJPAC performance.

Under My Skin deals with relationships and how people get closer to one another by embracing each other's histories and who they are. "Sometimes the very things that we hold back in a relationship are often the very things that are its strength," said Dorfman.

The Klezmer Sketch is the first part of Mayne Mentshn (My People) in which Dorfman mines the exhuberant, joyful, yet soulful quality of Klezmer music that inspired her to explore Jewish gesture, expression, ritual, character, and family. She celebrates the uniqueness of the Jewish journey, and yet, the extraordinary universal connections that it engenders.

"For years I created works that spoke to the pain of the Holocaust experience, but I began to understand — simply by having children — that it was important to speak about the life as opposed to the pain," said Dorfman.

March 13 is also the night of the company's annual gala benefit. Tickets are available for either the performance only or for the gala and performance. During the night, they will be honoring Max Kleinman with the 2015 Encore Award and Laura Aden Packer with the 2015 Keystone Award. The gala begin at 6pm with a light supper and cocktails followed by Special Recognition Education Partnership Awards to Jeffrey Lesser, James DeWorken, and Dr. Scott Rubin at 7:15pm. The performance is scheduled for 8pm. The gala follows the performance with a dessert reception with the dancers and music by the Bucky Pizzarelli Trio.

"This is an interesting evening for us," said Dorfman. "We are in the midst of refreshing our identity and our brand after 30 plus years. This evening is based on the premise of dance revealed. I feel like these works represent a kind of range for us: the intimacy of Under My Skin that speaks to relationships; The Klezmer Sketch that honors our interest in the human story, legacy, heritage, culture, and our commonalities; and Waves that continues us pressing for the new, collaborations, and to allow artists to go somewhere they haven't gone yet. These three pieces seem to capture very much of who we are and where we want to go.

"For me as a choreographer and a director, I have been taking the audience on a journey," she continued. "Each work should be a world of its own that they enter and Waves continues my exploration of the entire theater being the stage at some point. I feel like there is a need for the audience to not be just a bystander but to see themselves that way. I have a very strong need to connect audiences with the dancers. I think one of the strengths of our company is how present and connected the audience feels to the artists on stage."

Jersey Moves! Festival of Dance takes place Friday, March 13 at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), located at One Center Street in downtown Newark, NJ. For more information visit www.NJPAC.org


originally published: 2015-02-22 10:08:02

An Interview With Jillian Petrie






http://www.NJArtsMag.com
 
By Gary Wien

Jillian Petrie is the choreographer for The Growing Stage. Her latest work is with And Then Came Tango. New Jersey Stage caught up with her to learn more about the role dance plays in the story.

How is dance woven into And Then Came Tango?
It is just that, "woven." Dance is an integral part of this play. This makes it quite an exciting production to not only be a part of the creative process, but to watch as well. The movement helps set the tone; without it the play would be very different.

All six male and female performers portraying penguins in our cast are highly trained dancers.
 They are onstage the majority of the production. They perform in fully choreographed dance numbers as well as perform shorter movement phrases throughout the play. In addition to the penguins, movement is used by our actors who portray Lily and Walter. Their daily routines become more fluid and choreographed throughout the play. This helps show the passing of time and highlight the unique friendship that bridges the generation gap between the two main characters.
The costumes are brilliant because they do not hinder the performers' movement at all, and help enhance the dancers' performances. The costumes allow the performers room to emote through movement and facial expression, while allowing the audience to fall into the suspension of disbelief and connect to these characters.

Dance is a universal language; it is showcased and utilized beautifully in this production. Not only are the dancers breathing life into these penguins, but the actors portraying Lily and Walter show their friendship grow with the use of choreographed movement throughout the production.

Is the dancing at Growing Stage based on any previous performances or completely new?
The movement at The Growing Stage is completely new for this world premiere! I am very excited about the opportunity to bring modern dance to this play. In my dance career, my experience choreographing concert dance and choreographing theatre have felt like two separate worlds. This piece will be the first that I have had the honor of bridging the gap between the two in a very rewarding way.

What was your inspiration?
I always start a new project from the ground up. My launch point for this was, of course, the chinstrap penguins. I spent a lot of time observing them and from that I pulled about ten literal movements from their behaviors. Be it a head shake or their posture. From there I go into the studio and build off of the movement to create a dance phrase... "yes and." The dance is modern, unpretentious, and has a very grounded nature to it.

I always pull inspiration from my time dancing in London. There is the constant balance of honoring technique and pushing movement forward in this art form. For this piece in particular, I am inspired by the narrative ballet structure where the music has to come first. I think in the same way that a composer has to find a musical language to describe each character, similarly I have to do that with the movement. Movement is the way these penguins communicate who they are and express their emotions without recourse to words at all.

Do you see the choreography as something that helps elevate Growing Stage to more of an art form rather than just theatre for children?
What makes The Growing Stage unique is that we view children's theatre as an art form. I believe adding dance and movement to any production will elevate a piece. However, I do not view theatre for young audiences as any less of an art form. There is a misconception that family appropriate theatre is a lesser version of theatre. When in reality, it is the perfect platform to produce pieces of real substance such as And Then Came Tango.


originally published: 2015-02-22 11:05:03

Mike Morse: Comedian Who Writes












 http://www.NJArtsMag.com



By Gary Wien

Mike Morse lists himself as a "Writer. Comedian. Comedian Who Writes." It's a pretty apt description of the guy who has developed a solid resume writing comedy for the likes of MAD magazine, Cracked Magazine, and the Weekly World News. He also was a monologue writer for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and has written several celebrity roasts, including the recent one for Terry Bradshaw which aired on ESPN this year. While the writing work keeps him busy, he still performs stand-up regularly and can be seen in March at Uncle Vinnie's Comedy Club in Point Pleasant.
New Jersey Stage recently talked with Morse who was born in Bloomingdale, NJ and currently lives in Bergen County.

You currently do stand-up comedy and write comedy for several publications and outlets. Do you love doing both or would you prefer one would take over and let you run with it?
Even though both involve comedy, they're two different things. With the stand-up you get the immediate satisfaction or non-satisfaction of the reaction of the joke. But when you're writing for other people you're creating a different character and it's a bit of a different challenge. So, they're both good. I like the one that pays the best at the time.

You've had some very cool writing jobs including the one that most writers secretly crave. What was it like working at the Weekly World News?
Oh, that was amazing! It was a lot of fun because you just think ‘What is the weirdest, filthiest idea I can come up with' and then you write it as seriously as possible. It's like ‘A human hedgehog burrows into a family's home' and you have to write it as if you were a real New York Times reporter. That was always a lot of fun. The weirder the story that they liked the prouder you were that you wrote it in their style.

From there I guess the next high profile gig is writing the headlines for the Post.
(Laughs) I don't have that good of an imagination. That would be a little too far fetched for me.

You've written for both MAD and Cracked, did you grow up reading those magazines?
Oh yeah, I had all of the magazines I shouldn't be reading that I was reading instead of doing homework. MAD, Cracked, Famous Monsters of Filmland, and the occasional Playboy when I could sneak that past my dad. I liked the articles… you know, with the naked girls.

How did you first get into comedy?
I was finishing up college at William Paterson University and I really didn't want to get a job. The idea of working for a living was not appealing to me. I was in an acting class and the professor had us come up with our own three minute monologue to do as an exercise. So, I did it as more a stand-up routine and she said, ‘That's great, you should try that somewhere.' Back then, they had gong shows and talent nights at different night clubs, so I tried it and I won something like $50 the first night. When you're in college that's like 3 cases of cheap beer. So, I was like 'Ok, I'm going to keep doing this.' And that's where it all sprang from… my love of beer.

What are your sets like these days? The most recent videos of you are several years old - back when your family was just beginning.
Yeah, the kids are getting a little bit older. I have a teenaged girl so there's a lot of material about having a teenager in the house. There's some topical stuff. It's basically whatever strikes me. I try to say 80% of the set will be written and 20% will be whatever I want to do.

So, if you had a gig tonight, Bruce Jenner is probably in the set?
It would be a lot of Patriots and Bruce Jenner. That's why I was rooting for the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Deflategate gave me some great material on Twitter for the last 2 weeks.

Any politics?
Yeah, sometimes. I do a little on New Jersey politics and some national stuff, but not a whole lot. I'm not Bill Maher.

Chris Christie's a bit easy to hit, isn't he?
He's a pretty big target… pardon the pun. I actually met him at a roast I wrote so I talk about that in the act a bit. Writing for the roasts have been a big thing over the past few years.

What is that like? Is it sort of like pushing for the most outlandish things you can say?
Some of them. I just did the Terry Bradshaw roast on ESPN. It was sponsored by the NFL through The Friar's Club, but because it was going to be on ESPN I had to be super clean and non-controversial. It was very different writing a roast that had to be family-friendly in all those different voices.

Have you ever given any thought about what someone might say about you if you were the subject of a roast?
There is absolutely nothing to make fun of me about. I am perfect in every way.

So, you've thought about it...
(laughs) Exactly!

Speaking about writing in other voices, what was it like writing for Jay Leno? Is it a matter of trying to write in his particular voice?
Yeah, everybody you write for has a different cadence and idiosyncrasies, little things that they like. I did it from home, so I was never there, but just from watching the show you can see what topics he likes and how he likes to tell a joke. When you're looking at him it's all topical material, so you go through the day's headlines and see what you can make funny. You just try to visualize him saying the joke and then try to write it in that style. That's true of any comedian or anybody you write for; you just have to know what their style is.

I would get up every morning and start going through the news websites, pull down stories I liked, and try to turn them into something that would make Jay happy.

How often did you hit?
It wasn't too bad. It got to the point where I was doing one or two a day. There would definitely be news stories that he liked to do jokes on so when one of those hit you would just write as many of them as you could. He always had a thing about Whole Foods. For a while he was just making fun of Whole Foods so whenever I thought of a joke that could make fun of them he'd put that in.

Who are some of the comedians you liked while growing up?
Early on, I think George Carlin was a huge influence. I remember being a little kid and convincing my parents to get me a couple of his records. They had no idea what was on them. I'd sneak into my room and play them really low so they couldn't hear the “explicit language.” And Steve Martin... I loved Steve Martin. The absurd, it was something so different. I had never seen a comedian do it and it really stuck with me.

I don't think I've met anyone yet that didn't list Carlin.
It's sort of like if you're a musician you're influenced by The Beatles even if you don't know you are. It's the same thing with Carlin and Pryor too. I think they both had different styles but you can trace everything everybody's doing now back to them in some way.

Finally, you're a comic that's very involved on Twitter. Is Twitter perfect for comedians?
I love Twitter because whenever I have a stupid idea in the middle of the day — a lot of time I'll be walking the dog and I'll think of something and just tweet it out. That's why I hate comedians who have a Twitter account and they never tweet out any jokes. I mean, it's pretty much your job. Alright, you're not getting paid for it, but you're not going to do every joke on stage that you think of so why not give a little back?


You can see Mike Morse perform at Uncle Vinnie's Comedy Club ( www.unclevinniescomedyclub.com ) in Point Pleasant March 4-5

Rio Clemente: The Bishop of Jazz



http://www.NJArtsMag.com
 
 
By Danny Coleman


I've always been an improvisationalist; I didn't know what I was doing," says Rio Clemente one of the jazz piano greats of our time. "I used to play like Liberace until I heard the improvisations of jazz players. My trio has no idea what I'm going to do and neither do I. All I can say is; it keeps it fresh!"
Clemente grew up the son of a milk man in northern New Jersey with a sister who had an interest in playing the piano. From the time he was very young, Rio took to the instrument and had the uncanny ability to play by ear. "Believe it or not," he started, "I was three years old when I played my first song. It was "You Are My Sunshine" and I learned and played it by ear, just by listening to it. I played on my sister's toy piano. My sister kept bugging my dad for a real piano and back in those days, pianos were a lot of money - especially for a guy supporting a family on a milk man's salary. One day my dad saw a real piano on a curb while he was working; that was very odd for that time. So he gathered his buddies up and they helped him load it in his truck. My father brought it home and one day my aunt was over the house, I crawled up on her lap in front of that piano and played "You Are My Sunshine." She was very surprised and amazed that I was able to do so with no music; funny thing was, my sister never played that piano (laughing)."

Clemente's fascination with the ivories began to grow but his love of music still baffles him a bit. Even to this day he is unsure as to how he's been led down this path. "I don't know," he tried to explain with a laugh. "I think it was probably from listening to records and the radio. I guess it had to come from someplace. I always had a good ear. I knew all of the music from radio programs and most radio shows used music from classical composers as theme songs or during the broadcast. I could play them all and did so often. As I grew older I started taking lessons and when I was ten I was asked to play a birthday party. Can you believe it? I was ten! I was paid fifteen dollars. It was like being a millionaire! The party was for a doctor and then he threw in a ten dollar tip. I said, "Really?" I thought ‘Hmmmm I kind of like this!' I mean that was a lot of money back in the day. My dad had to work hard for that kind of cash and I did it in an afternoon; pretty neat I thought."

Now bitten by the bug that infects so many musicians, Rio sought out work, not as a pay day but because he realized he was now connected to his craft. "I played a lot of minstrel shows with no music whatsoever. I had to improvise everything but I'm guessing they liked what I did because they kept hiring me back. Like any other musician, I like to play as much as possible. I don't play for the money. I play because it's my passion. Being passionate has much to do with my demeanor and how I approach life. We all need to have a passion don't we? I played anywhere that I could and pretty much still do today," he stated with that infectious laugh which was now prevalent during much of his recollections.

Time has a way of changing things and for Rio the change was in genre and style. Never one to conform, Clemente's desire to express himself through his music grew, settling on jJazz as his mainstay because of its openness. "I gravitated towards jazz because it allows for much freedom, there is no limitation there. The reality is that you are limited only by what you're willing to know."
Rio's reputation as a jazz pianist and player grew rapidly and to this day, there is no gig too large or too small for this modest performer who was once dubbed "The Bishop of Jazz" by a friend; a moniker which has stuck with him ever since. "That still sounds funny to me," he said with an amused chortle. "I was doing a concert for a pastor friend of mine. It was the first time that I ever played in a church and I was a bit nervous because when I play I am known to wear hats. I asked him about me wearing a hat. I mean it was in a church and I wanted to be respectful because, when I was younger, men never wore a hat in church. He told me that this was an Episcopalian church and that it was fine. Come show time he tells the story about the hat and pronounces me "The Bishop of Jazz" and it was because of the hat! I didn't mind, I mean Duke Ellington wasn't a Duke, Count Basie wasn't a Count and I'm not a Bishop so I just go with it!"

Well this Holy Eminence of Jazz, who blesses any keyboard that he touches, has kept some great company over the years, even performing at the White House in 2011. "I've played with Stanley Jordan, Jeff Becker, Milt Jackson. You never know who is going to show up at the Iridium. I played with Les Paul there. He was a clown! Les was always saying funny things. He was such a pleasure to not only perform with but to be with as a person. Several years ago I was lucky enough to perform at the White House in the East Room. I didn't get to meet or even see the President but I did see his children. I was one of the Christmas holiday players. It was a beautiful experience and yet, there was something I found very unnerving. There were no Christian elements on display or involved. Geez, it was Christmas and no reference to the Christ child? I was disappointed but such is the way it goes today I suppose."

As a lover of his country and a current member of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, Rio wore his uniform when he played at the White House. "I'm very patriotic," he said with conviction. "I didn't view it as going to play for the President. I went to play for all of America. I wear my flag on my sleeve. I can't help it."

That feeling of patriotism was increased tenfold on that fateful September 11th morning. Clemente was in the air on his way to a performance in Colorado when the first tower was struck. "I'll never forget that day. September 11th is something that is burned into my mind, body and soul. I was in the air on my way out west to Colorado and we were turned around mid-flight. I remember looking out the window and seeing fighter jets. We were forced to turn around and land in Raleigh, NC and we couldn't even land anywhere near the terminal. They made us land way out on a far tarmac and they walked us out from quite a distance. I recall getting to a TV just in time to watch the towers collapse and that horrible feeling of being helpless. I was stuck in Raleigh for three days with no communication with family. They didn't know whether I was dead or alive."

This experience along with his service to America have kept Clemente focused on what he feels is really important; family, freedom and country. "I always end my shows or concerts with a patriotic song and I do so to remind of those who serve for us. Remind them that there is someone else willing to lay down their own life to keep us safe. I end with either "America The Beautiful" or with "God Bless America" and you'd be surprised at how many people love it. Usually the crowd all stands and sing along. It can be very powerful."

"A regular Joe", "the guy next door", "one of us", are all phrases that come to mind when one speaks with Clemente as he is all three wrapped around an enormous talent. Whether it's major concert halls, Bruschetta on Passaic Avenue in Fairfield or the Best Western near his home in Morristown every Tuesday, Rio takes on all comers. This man, who has never strayed far from his roots, has stayed firmly grounded for that same reason.

Playing a set with legendary performers like Les Paul or at the White House are seemingly no different than having a local performer join him on stage as he enjoys playing and performing just as much today as he did when he was three years of age and shows no signs of slowing down. "Hey, as long as my hands work and the passion is here, as long as they want me; I'm there!"

For more information on Rio visit www.rioclemente.com

The Wayside Shakeup




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By Gary Wien


Two guys were walking down the street carrying guitars when a limousine pulled up, a window rolled down, and a guy who appeared to be Sylvester Stallone said, "You guys looking for a wayside shakeup?" The window then rolled up, the limo drove away, and a band was named.
Of course, it may or may not have actually been Stallone, but who cares? It's the perfect story for a band from Philly.

The Wayside Shakeup includes founding members Chris D'Antonio and Rob Volansky along with John Mcleod, Eric Raible, and Mike Leger. Three of the guys grew up just outside of the city in nearby Haddon Township, NJ.

The band members range from their thirties to fifties — a range that make the "Rocky" underdog comparison apt. It's difficult to get people out to the clubs these days no matter who you are, but especially when band members are of the age when their friends are all getting married, having kids, and generally staying home. To get around this problem, the band has chosen to play out less, but play the bigger venues in Philadelphia. In essence, turning every show into an event.

"We need to schedule gigs months and months in advance," explained Rob Volansky whose band has played venues like the World CafĂ© Live, the Trocodero Theatre, The Legendary Dobbs, and Ardmore Music Hall. "We tell them to put the shows on your calendar. You're coming out on May 1 or whenever it is. We can't just call them on a Friday night and say, ‘Hey, we're playing tomorrow night, come on out.' They need to get babysitters and rearrange schedules and stuff. So we try to be sparingly with our gigs so we can make each one count. We give everybody time to get it on their schedule and prepare. And then we make sure it's heavily attended; we have a good showing; and we make a little money."

Philly can be a tough place to be a musician. While the major music venues are great for bands, they are few and far between. It's not the type of city where every bar or restaurant features live music and there are tons of opportunities for musicians. Bars often are places friends simply go to hang out and drink and watch sports on tv.

"It means there are a lot of bands competing for precious Friday and Saturday night slots," said Volansky. "Instead of being able to play anywhere on any night of the week, making a little money, and having the bar owners happy to have us, you have to schedule shows, get on a bill with bands with similar sounds, and make sure you bring your audience with you."

Finding bands to share bills is a bit difficult for groups like The Wayside Shakeup who incorporate rock, funk, country, pop, and a bit of jam band into their sound. In a way, the band's sound is reminiscent of the reasons guys like Volansky love living in Philly. On any given night, you could hit an open mic which includes a guy playing acoustic guitar, one playing piano, someone rapping, and jazz and funk acts. Volansky loves the diversity and how everybody influences one another — exactly how his band's sound emerged.

In 2011, the band released its self-titled debut album. They followed it up two years later with Optimistic and are currently working on a new record. The guys in The Wayside Shakeup are in it simply for the love of music. They all come from similar musical backgrounds and connect well when they perform together. Music doesn't have to fulfill a dream of being a rock star or someone's job, sometimes it can be best as an escape from a job. For Volansky, that job is writing about infectious diseases as a medical writer.

"I was overseas for many years and came home and needed a job," recalled Volansky. "I wanted to write and a buddy of mine worked at this medical publishing company. I started at zero, I knew nothing, but I've been doing it for 7 years now and kind of feel I have a pretty good handle on how medical research goes. I'm writing about hepatitis right now. I don't think I even took a science course in college. When I first started working at the company, my buddy who got me the job said, ‘You'll drown if you try to understand the science of what you're writing. You basically need to understand if there's a study or a new drug and how the testing went. If you try to understand what's happening in the cells or the biology or any of that you're going to drive yourself nuts.'"

The band just finished recording a new single with Reed Kendall from the Philadelphia band Up The Chain. Look for more singles and shows in the area in the next few months. For more info visit www.thewaysideshakeup.com

originally published: 2015-02-22 11:08:15

No More Pain Stakes A Claim For Prog Rock In New Jersey

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By DW Dunphy

The genre of progressive rock, known affectionately by its fans as "prog," has a few distinct regions of origination. Most notably, the U.K. gets namedropped most often, followed by New York and California. But aside from Monmouth County stalwarts Symphony X in the prog-metal ranks, New Jersey simply isn't a hotbed for the complex and theme-driven eccentricities of prog.

That may be changing. With the official release of their second album, The Post-Human Condition, Old Bridge band No More Pain may be envoys for the style. As an accomplished live performance group, No More Pain reflects several of prog's touchstones – Peter Gabriel-era Genesis, Pink Floyd, Kansas, and King Crimson * – while forging a sound and perspective of their own.

New Jersey Stage spoke with writer-singer-guitarist Mike Roman and drummer Dan Rainone as they mapped out plans for playing the album live and promoting it to as many people as possible.

Approximately when did Debate and Rhyme come out and what accounts for the time between that and The Post-Human Condition?
Mike Roman: Debate and Rhyme came out in October of 2011. Within that period of time we had a couple of member changes and began the process of writing some new material, much of which appears on the new album.

This is a concept album, so can you give me an idea about the narrative and what was involved with writing it?
Mike: The writing process was a mix between taking heavily calculated sections, developed over time, and taking sections involving a lot of spontaneity.

Dan Rainone: It tells the story of a man awakening to a world run by technology, and his failure to escape it.

That's shown with the cover art illustrating people tumbling out of an all-seeing electric eye on a computer monitor with each successive person is morphing into sheep. So in a way, is this a bit like a "Rip Van Winkle" story where the outsider is the only one capable of seeing what's going on?
Mike: It's more of an esoteric story, not necessarily of a concrete character, but of one who can be molded using the lyrical ideas and musical moods. The music represents his mood, taking the same musical theme but introducing it using different environments and tones.

The main melody has its appearance in multiple tracks. It appears first as a dainty piano piece and is reintroduced later as a chaotic frenzy. So in a way the narrative and lyrical passages play directly off of the musical ideas we had already written.

The band's sound, while cohesive, certainly has a lot of influences. What is required to actually develop a band identity, or a signature band sound?
Mike: Well, a portion of developing identity involves understanding other identities by playing off of influences and learning different styles. The other portion is taking all you've learned and throwing it out the window to give way to a more instinctual reaction.

Some of the moments had a purposeful attempt at synthesizing pre-existing styles. Sometimes we'd say okay that sounds like Pink Floyd, Radiohead, and Soundgarden all mashed together. Sometimes it would be a King Crimson sort of thing with multiple time signatures. Other times jazz and freeform make its way in. But never losing focus of the conceptual sphere was the most important thing for me.

Dan: We all have varied yet similar tastes in music. We go with what feels right at the moment.

Have there been instances where a piece was being developed, but had to be taken down to the basics and built up again, to get back to that "instinctual reaction." Or even the piece had to be put on the shelf for not working?
Dan: "Bleed" was a song that took a while to finish. We over thought it for a while and it wasn't feeling right. We ended up making up the last few minutes on the spot a week before we entered the studio. Sometimes you have to chuck what isn't right and just start again. There were several pieces that weren't used because it didn't fit in. They may serve a purpose in the future though.

To be blunt, New Jersey is not a hotbed for prog rock. The state has Symphony X and Jerry Gaskill from King's X lives here. How has it been building a fanbase in a region without that support infrastructure in place?
Mike: I think the American audience for progressive music has always been a difficult sell. There hasn't been much of a supporting scene for this stuff since the 70's. There was resurgence in the 90's of proggy bands like Dream Theater, Tool, and Radiohead, but it was always the select few bands that shined through. I think identity makes it easier to develop a devoted fanbase. The mass media markets don't necessarily see it. We do have our dedicated fans though, and we can see a lot of people really getting into the material, which has been beyond awesome.

Dan: There's also a ton of other local bands that are very supportive of one another. There's a lot of incredible talent out there that will never make it to the mainstream, but it's there.

The cover art is intriguing. There's a binary code in the spiral design. What does it translate to?
Mike: In regard to the binary code, ha-haaa! That's for the fans to find out and decode for themselves. I can only hint that it will be eerily familiar when uncovered.

What are the long-term plans for the band through 2015?
Mike: The goal is to have our website up and ready with all sorts of merchandise available to the public, playing lots of shows, and finding bands with similar styles and ambitions is another. We plan on hitting the road at some point as well. It's open ended at this point, but we plan on being very active through the year.

We figured it would be most appropriate to perform The Post-Human Condition in its entirety. Although a very daunting task, it has been a great time trying to figure out how to cover all of the parts with just four people. At times it becomes stressful and I can't stand it because it doesn't come out exactly how I'd wish it, but once you work through it, the sound sort of makes itself, and the stress is relieved.

Dan: Shows, shows, shows. Unleash this baby to the world! I can play all these songs in my sleep at this point.

I also heard a rumor that a vinyl version of the new album may be possible.
Dan: If money happens in good heaps, it could be possible. But there may be some sort of special vinyl release in the future. You'll just have to wait and see.


Sights & Sounds of Note: February 2015


http://www.NJArtsMag.com

 By Rich & Laura Lynch
February is the shortest month of the calendar year but there is no shortage of new music products to explore. SoundPress.net recently checked out an eclectic stack of new CDs from Dylan Howe, The Mangoes, Richie Kotzen, Smokin' Joe Kubek and Bnois King. We also received the 10th Anniversary CD re-issue of Back Against The Wall a compilation of various artists recreating Pink Floyd's epic album The Wall. The Chord Buddy also arrived at the office. Cold northeastern winter months are the ideal time to start this two month guitar teaching system.
Dylan Howe is a band leader and drummer. Dylan's latest instrumental album is a creative spin on the "Berlin Era" of David Bowie and Brian Eno. From 1976-1979, Bowie released three records that reflected his interest in ambient, minimalistic music. Howe approaches the material from a jazz perspective, giving many of the pieces a distinct jazz feel with plenty of innovative interplay The title Subterranean New Designs on Bowie's Berlin aptly describes the artful arrangements within. In the opening track, keys amid deep bass lines captures the mood of "Subterraneans". A sax adds accents to the piece as it meanders through crafty changes revealing a pattern used effectively throughout this nine-track album. Howe's drumming ranges from deliberate to delicate depending on what the music calls for and he allows plenty of space for his band to shine. The "Moss Garden" features his dad Steve Howe (Yes) playing a Koto. This 13-string Japanese instrument was used on Bowie's Heroes record. It gives the closing number a subtle mystical vibe.

The Mangoes are Bret Bingham and Tim Morse. Their self-titled CD The Mangoes is a concept album of a turbulent relationship woven into commentary on the music industry. The two paint from a broad pallet of musical genres ranging from Beatle inspired pop, to EDM and more. Although this 19-track CD is diverse, the pairing of like sounding styles gives it cohesiveness. The Spanish flavored "Barista Girl" served with "Samba Mambo" (tracks 3&4) complement each other before the mood switches with the swagger and swing of "The Future (Will Be Yours)". Later "Dirty Love" grabs attention with its hint of gritty rock and the fast paced closer "The Mangoes Theme" combines a bit of punk with keys along with rhyming lyrics. The Mangoes present a juicy story in colorful instrumental and vocal compositions.

"Cannibals is an interesting record for me," Richie Kotzen explains, "because much of this material is comprised from recordings that are as old as 10 years." Richie's 20th solo album hits you with its many musical shades ranging from hard rock, R&B, soul and even a disco track. The danceable "Come On Free" includes a chant that feeds into "I'm All In." This spirited rocker features Kotzen trading vocals with Dug Pinnik of Kings X. It's a bold piece with the two singers giving it an additional boost.

The meaty title track is a tasteful blend of chunky riffs and rhythms. The soulful "In An Instant" showcases Richie's rich reflective vocal range and is well paired with the edgy "The Enemy." Cannibals serves up rockers along with more pensive pieces such as "You" a piano/vocal arrangement that Kotzen penned based on a piano idea that his teenage daughter had written. "Time For The Payment" flows on a similar vibe as "You" with more instrumentation and bigger vocals. Cannibals is a diverse flavorful record filled with riveting riffs, rousing rhythms and sensuous singing. A very satisfying platter!

Smokin' Joe Kubek and Bnois King's new CD Fat Man's Shine Parlor hit the streets on February 4. The two guitar players who have very different musical backgrounds have been working together for 25 years. They have conjured up their own unique blend of Texas styled blues on their latest Blind Pig Records release.

Fat Man's Shine Parlor features twelve originals that reflect the past and present of the blues. As is common in the genre the soulful Bnois sings stories of heartbreak. Yet they have other tales to tell including a flavorful tribute to "Cornbread". "How Much" is a modern version of the woes of a traveling blues man, playing gigs that instead of being a paycheck end up being a payout. An idea expressed in drivers charging too much and a comment that "my wallet is losing weight." In addition to fine song writing the pair is backed by a solid rhythm section.

Both Kubek and King are agile axe men. In his early days on the scene, Kubek was backing many famous blues players including the 3 Kings. His hot licks on Fat Man's Shine Parlor are a testimony to his moniker "Smokin Joe". Bnois came from the jazz world and his softer jazz approach blends brilliantly with Joe's bolder riffs. Fat Man's Shine Parlor is a strong CD from seasoned players, melding old and& new school blues with passion.

Pink Floyd's The Wall was an art rock opera; one that might be considered untouchable. Yet, a group of musicians including members of ELP, King Crimson, Styx, Toto, Yes and more took on the challenge. Back Against The Wall stays true to the original double album with some artists giving the time tested songs an occasional different spin. The 10th Anniversary re-issue also has all new artwork and 5 bonus re-mixes, 4 variations ranging from dub to radio of "Another Brick In The Wall Part 2" and a backburner re-mix of "Comfortably Numb."

Long-time musician Travis Perry is the inventor and instructor of the "as seen on Shark Tank" Chord Buddy. Laura of SoundPress.net began with the DVD/booklet. Both address the fundamentals starting with "have fun." Next, is practice. Travis recommends a minimum of 30 minutes a day but hours will produce better results. Perry stresses that timing and tuning are essential. He highly recommends that people invest in a metronome and an electronic tuner both available from the Chord Buddy website or from a local music store.

Travis gives an explanation of the parts of the Chord Buddy and how to put it on a guitar. The program begins with the basics of holding the guitar and pick. Next is strumming - starting with a straightforward downward movement to the more involved "pop-strumming" technique that is demonstrated in future lessons. The idea behind the Chord Buddy is for the device to hold the chords down as the player works on strumming and rhythm first. Later in the program, parts and eventually all of the Chord Buddy are removed allowing the student to play the actual chords once they have learned proper strumming and timing.

After some adjustments, Laura with the aid of the Chord Buddy was playing the G, D, C and E minor chords. The advantage of a DVD program is that one can pause and reverse to review concepts. By the end of Laura's first session with the help of the Chord Buddy she had played "Tom Dooley" - a two chord tune. Based on Laura's first try the Chord Buddy is a good starting point for those who are ready to put the time and effort into learning how to play the guitar.

SoundPress.net founder Rockin' Rich Lynch returns with his third official digital single "Hollywood Star" that is receiving promising reviews for it's melancholy country vibe based on an all too true and tragic story ripped from the local headlines, listen at https://soundcloud.com/richlynchband/hollywood-star ... Warwick, New York-based The Levins return with their second full-length CD Trust and trust us, it's great. The acoustic folk duo excel throughout the album's 12-tracks and take us on a poignant musical road trip celebrating our common humanity with a lighthearted depth ... Illinois indie rocker Andrew D. Huber's Mercury Gets a Moon has been called an acoustic-rock-folk-celtic hootenanny throwdown and it marks another step forward for his straight-forward, personal folk-rock storytelling that is bound in earnest and emotional songs. See ya next month!

Richard J. Lynch and Laura Turner Lynch are the founders of SoundPress.net , an Internet-based music industry magazine and review site, online since 1999. Laura is a published author of the inspirational Positive Power Secrets From A to Z ( www.positivepowersecrets.net ). Rich regularly interviews famous rock stars for the site's radio show and he has recently launched his own recording career at ( www.richlynchband.com ).




originally published: 2015-02-22 11:24:04