Open Mic Jam

Monte And The Betty Ford All-Stars

Monte and the Betty Ford All-Stars open mic jam is a chance for local musicians to possibly further their careers.

"Everybody gets a chance, nobody gets preferential treatment," said Rob Monte, event founder and lead singer of the mega-popular cover band Dog Voices.

For the summer, the event is held at Long Beach Island's Quarter Deck. It moves there from the Ringside Pub in Caldwell, New Jersey, which plays host during the spring.

Walter Stacey, lead guitarist for Big Orange Cone, regularly plays the show, and has since its inception, said Monte. The event also draws other top-notch musicians, including Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes' guitarist, shore legend Bobby Bandiera and John Allen, from Tommy Lee's band, said Monte.

The Benjamins have also made appearances, performing one show while switching instruments; their singer playing drums and their bassist playing guitar.

The open mic jam began in the summer of 1997. Monte had a night off from his Dog Voices schedule and his agent suggested doing a show alone. Since its beginning, Monte has tried to arrange the format so bands get more than one chance to play. This takes some of the pressure off them. "It was very quick and also it was intimidating," Monte said of the situation for bands when it first started. Bands had to prove themselves in their first week playing, and a change was needed so they could be given more a chance to play, Monte said.

"We like to showcase bands that want to become a part of S.T.A.R.S. Productions," Monte said. "They call and let me know in advance that they are coming down." The sessions are a great opportunity for bands who are looking for gigs, or full-time management.

Each band is allowed to do five or six songs, individuals are permitted one or two. "We encourage people getting up there for the first time," Monte said. "We try not to discourage first-timers." Participants don't even need to bring their own instruments. The format has the Betty Ford All-Stars doing two or three songs and then calling others who are looking to play up on stage.

The Amy Ward band, who Monte now works with personally after seeing perform at the event, is one of the up-and-coming bands to play the event, said Monte. He is also impressed with a band called the Monster. The show gives him a chance to work with younger bands. "I try to give them constructive criticism," he said. The jams give Monte a chance to see bands repeatedly and take additional looks at bands he potentially would like to book with S.T.A.R.S.

"There's a lot of agents out there that grab bands when they're not ready," said Monte. The opportunity to see a band perform many times over several weeks gives Monte a chance to make quality decisions in choosing bands for working with in the future, he said.

The shows are also a chance for Monte to stay out in the music scene, even on his night off. "I enjoy it. I really enjoy the whole music scene," he said.

Further details about the open mic jams can be found on the Dog Voices official web site at www.dogvoices.com.

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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