The Jersey Buzz

Can The Momentum Of The Original Music Scene Continue?

Though the music industry currently leans towards more marketable dance and rap music styles, rock n' roll continues to make a buzz in New Jersey. Highway 9 (Epic), Borialis (Capitol) and Dragpipe (Interscope) have inked deals with major labels and are looking to discover how far their music will go nationally. Others, like Slowdrown, Madjul and High Speed Chase, have networked together by playing joint shows. This cooperative effort beefs up their shows with the heavy music their fans appreciate most.

But is the buzz strong enough and will it grow? The question remains as to whether the momentum develops and additional bands get signed or dies out and takes the scene with it. New Jersey is packed with great original bands. In order for the music's popularity to continue, club support of original music must expand. Presently, the number of original bands largely outnumbers that of clubs for them to perform at. Many venues devote most of their time and resources to cover bands. As a result, the burden of promoting shows is largely placed on bands themselves.

Building a lasting musical group goes further than creating a sound, it involves developing a comprehensive and cohesive business strategy. Bands produce their own full-length CDs, complete with artwork, photos and inset lyrics. They put aside money to finance fliers and other promotional items, including stickers, keychains, frisbees, t-shirts and other merchandise to keep their name in concert goer's minds. They update electronic and postal mailing lists to remind their fans when and where upcoming shows are taking place. They make repeat phone calls to local promoters to secure additional gigs. The list goes on and on.

The ultimate burden may be on the bands, but the work of club owners, promoters and their employees should not be overlooked. They spend countless hours inside their venues and on the road with the purpose of spreading the word, as well as satisfying their patrons. This involves putting together strong concerts and marketing through advertising and other methods. Go into a club and you'll find their employees night after night looking for another way to keep the buzz, and the drinks, flowing.

Bands hope they can maintain a steady schedule of appearances so they can continue to play out and develop musically. This is done while making, and keeping, contact with as many people in the music industry as possible to further their chances of winding up as the next signed New Jersey band. Getting signed may seem like the end of all struggling, but for some it's just the beginning. Highway 9 and Montville's Pete Yorn have both learned the importance of continued radio and record store appearances. While on tour, Yorn sometimes plays in-store gigs on club show days. His reasoning is that it gives those too young to get into the clubs a chance to see him play. His list of accomplishments will hopefully be mirrored by others in the state. Yorn has already received four stars from "Rolling Stone" magazine, and has scored opening act slots for Sting, Train, Matchbox 20 and Weezer.

Can New Jersey rebuild into what it once was in the days when Little Steven and company used to pack its clubs? The circumstances were similar then. Disco dominated the airwaves and you had to fight blood, tooth and nail to get your rock song heard. The difference? At that time the area was one of the most popular resort towns around. Crowds of people came to Asbury Park and many would follow the music and find their way into one of its many open clubs. Now, most of those the clubs are closed. Only the Saint and Stone Pony remain open. Others, north and south in the state, continue to open their doors to original music and remain dedicated.

It took hard work to build this scene then and it won't be any different this time around.

Josh Davidson
Josh Davidson has written music feature articles for Jersey Style and served as the Jersey Shore rock columnist for Steppin' Out Magazine. Other music writing credits include Aquarian Weekly, Jersey Beat, Backstreets and njcoast.com. He has written free-lance for the Asbury Park Press' Community Sports section and has written featured articles for its news section, as well as covering campus news and sports weekly for the Signal, the College of New Jersey's (formerly Trenton State College) student newspaper. He has worked as a staff writer for The Independent, and his work for Greater Media Newspapers has also been published in the News Transcript. He is a former beat reporter for the Ocean County Observer who presently is a news writer for Symbolic Systems Inc. supporting the US Army's Knowledge Center. His music writing covers a vast range of topics, from the current cover band craze, highs and lows of the original scene, to the early days of the Jersey Shore rock scene in Asbury Park. He is also a musician, having written hundreds of songs as a singer/songwriter, and playing them out as a solo/acoustic artist. He has also played with cover bands, including It Doesn't Matter, and several original bands, including as the guitarist for the solo project of singer/songwriter Dave Eric. He continues to work on solo material and is presently the guitar player for Jersey Breeze.
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