SEPTEMBER 2010       back

John Gorka: Sept 29th @ Music On Main Street (Woodbridge, NJ)

John Gorka is one of the most highly acclaimed singer songwriters in the world of folk music. He's also a graduate of Colonia High School in Woodbridge Township so this was a homecoming complete with friends from the old neighborhood and school.

His rich baritone voice resonated in the room so beautifully and with the acoustic perfection of the space and our great sound man you could catchall the word play and every turn of phrase. The set was a retrospective of sorts with some of his earliest material along side song from his two recent releases So Dark You See and his side project with Lucy Kaplansky and Elisa Gilkysen called Red Horse. He performed Lucy's Don't Mind Me from that project which was one of many show highlights. (Don't Mind Me)

Playing acoustic guitar almost all evening he jumped on the piano for just one song, the prayerful Let Them In, which was my personal highlight of the show. Simply beautiful. He's another one known for his dry and amusing between song banter and with a room full of friends he seemed in particularly good spirits which made for lots of laughs


Acoustic Strawbs: Sept 17th @ The Strand Theater (Lakewood, NJ)

In a little "quid pro quo" I put the guys who run this series on my guest list two nights ago and they did the same for us at this show. The Strawbs did the same exact set as they had on Wednesday, which was a little disappointing, but it was still a good set and had the added thrill of having the band and the audience all on stage together. The band performed with their backs to the theater and the crowd of 150 sat in comfortable chairs in the back of the stage facing the theater. In what was an amusing idea, all the audience members also received a backstage pass.

I know they played in Pennsylvania on Thursday night and I wondered if they did a different set that evening and just alternated sets every other show. If not, then some in attendance saw the same set three nights in a row because several people I spoke with went to all the shows. This was a fun evening in a beautiful old refurbished theater.


Acoustic Strawbs: Sept 15th @ Music On Main Street (Woodbridge,NJ)

This British progressive folk/rock band was a favorite of 70's fm disc jockeys like Alison Steele, Pete Fornatele and the rest of the crew at the old WNEW FM. They were also a favorite of mine which is easily illustrated by the fact that their song "The Winter Long" was used by my wife and me as our wedding song.

As it turned out, this show was just a few weeks before our 30th anniversary and so a party seemed appropriate. I announced to the room that all are invited around the corner to the Woodbridge Artisans Guild to celebrate with us after the show.

 The show featured many fan favorites including The Winter Long, as well as Ghosts, New World, Shine On Silver Sun and some rarities from their recently released Sandy Denny and The Strawbs which was originally released and ignored over 40 years ago and is now on the folk charts. (my video)

An evening with The Strawbs is also a storytelling experience as Dave Cousins banters between all the songs in a calm soothing tone which is as engaging as the songs. After the set the trio (Dave Cousins, Dave Lambert and Chas Cronk) signed autographs, posed for pictures and chatted with audience members before doing us the honor of joining the party around the corner. I'll need to see if Jackson Browne is available for our 40th anniversary if I'm ever going to top this. 


Robert Randolf, Mike Peters, Willie Nile, Jesse Malin, The Bravery, Nils Lofgrin, Susan Vega....: Sept 11 & 12 @ Union County Music Fest 2010

The 2 day free festival also featured The Zombies, Train, Soul Asylum, Nicole Atkins, Spoon and others. It was clean, organized and the food was good. All the bands were good and there would be so much to write about that I'll just single out a few highlights. (Nicole Atkins)

Nils Lofgrin didn't get to play for Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young for nothing. His set was great and included his two best known songs Keith Don't Go and I Came to Dance. On the latter song his keyboard player accompanied him by tap dancing  the percussion for the song. Then Nils joined him and was tapping while playing for a bit! Have never seen that before. It was cool! (Keith Don't Go)

The Zombies sounded much better than I would have imagined. The harmonies were beautiful and they had some impressive new material as well. Mike Peters and Willie Nile covering Jim Carrol's People Who Died and Mike Peters and Friends covering London Calling by The Clash were both thrilling. I would have said Jesse Malin rocked the place the most until I saw Robert Randolph & the Family Band who did a set that could never be "out rocked". (Jim Carrol cover)

The others I saw were all enjoyable although I did not stay for OK Go or Train. It was such a long day and I had had enough. I did make a comment on the Music Fest facebook page that the festival could be more diverse as every group appealed to either white baby boomers or young white kids. It was a great festival but making it more diverse would improve it on many levels including artistically. (The Zombies)


Gandalph Murphy and the Slambovian Circus of Dreams: Sept 10th @ Outpost in the Burbs

I had this band in Woodbridge this summer and enjoyed them so much that I came up to Montclair to see them again. Front man Josiah Longo describes their music as "Hillbilly Pink Floyd" which is to say it's a little psychedelic and a little rootsy, but that's a somewhat vague description of the experience. It's amusing, spiritual, beautiful and it rocks.

This was the stripped down "original" 4 piece line up and they did a collection of songs from various CD's and some material from their soon to be released "The Grand Slambovians" which should be available at the October 30th Pirates Ball at The Gramercy Theater in NYC. My favorite among the new material was Windmills. (Windmills video)

Opening Act, Gathering Time, did some beautiful 3 part harmonies, often bringing Peter Paul and Mary to mind, and especially impressed on their "kick ass" version of Sweet Judy Blue Eyes. I've rarely seen such a good cover of such a challenging and iconic song. If you're going to cover a song like that you had better nail it and they nailed it.


Jackson Browne and David Lindley: Sept 2nd @ Monmouth University

This was my first time in the new multi-media center at Monmouth University and overall it was good experience with decent sound. The show started with Jackson and David Lindley side by side doing a few acoustic songs, including a couple of long forgotten early songs that could have remained forgotten, before Jackson left Lindley to do a handful of songs on his own. Unfortunately, many in the crowd viewed this as an opportunity to get something to eat or catch up with friends and so missed Lindley's short but really nice set.

Jackson then returned with full band, including Lindley, and performed his standard fan favorites (For A Dancer, The Pretender, Rock Me On The Water, Lives in the Balance....) to a mostly delighted audience. I did hear some grumbling from behind me about Jackson playing too many "down" songs. Duh! (Lives in the Balance video)