Local Jams 2003

Mr. G On Booking The Scene

He's a local musician that remains passionate about the music scene he plays in. That combination had made Chris Grenda a force in exposing New Jersey's top local acts.

On August 4, 2001, Grenda held a show called G-Fest, in Brick, New Jersey, in hopes of bringing music fans together to see popular local original bands like Red Engine Nine, Venus Butterfly, Slowdrown and Majestic 12. Rain ended the event early, but the show's attendance doubled the previous year's attendance at 200. Not bad for a self-organized outdoor festival.

It's about two years later, and Grenda is back for another challenge. This event, entitled Local-Jams 2003 will take place August 17 at Asbury Park's Stone Pony. On the bill are Grenda's band, Mr. G, along with Virginia, Sideshow, Friends of Bill Wilson, Downstage and Anon.

G-Fest was a festival-style show, with food and drink available, merchandise tables and support from radio station 95.9 WRAT. The indoor show is a new opportunity for Grenda to see how he fares without the threat of rain that got in the way of his last effort. In the past, Grenda has built on his successes, so the outcome of Local-Jams may show how strong his next G-Fest will be.

Grenda's events give bands a chance to play together and all local music scene players a chance to meet, become familiar and possibly share ideas on the state of New Jersey music. It's an event run by a musician, giving attendees a few hours away from the standard club owner/promoter-booked event.

Grenda has a mind filled with ideas and opportunities for talented new bands and the heart to execute them. If luck plays its part, eventually those ideas will benefit Grenda and the bands around him.

Doors open for Local-Jams 2003 at 1 pm. It's an all-ages show, 21+ to drink. Tickets are available at the Stone Pony's box office.

What will Local-Jams 2003 offer the scene that other local and national [events] don't?

Usually, when the show is outside, I think it offers much more in terms of the bigger stage and sound. This time, it's the same idea. I just needed to rent out one of our local clubs in order to get rid of the possibility of rain messing things up. So, I think of it this way: this is one of the first times that one of us (local musicians) is renting out a club and able to put on our own show.

To me, it's the first time that I am actually working hand-in-hand with the club. Yeah, I pay for the club, but I get to keep the door and pay the bands through me. I get to run the show and treat the bands with the same reputation that I have with my outdoor show.

This is not G-Fest. This is a whole other monster. G-Fest will always be outdoors. This is another attempt at helping the scene come together.

Six local bands kicking hard, that's just awesome to me.

Is there a specific type of music you tried to stick with?

You know me, I always like to mix it up. I took different genres again. I grabbed pop, rock and hard rock. I know for a fact that fans of bands are pretty open-minded to many different styles of music. If they come out to see the band they chose to see, they may see someone else in a different genre that they really like and may tell people to check them out.

It's all about networking. In the local scene, networking is the most essential tool for a good scene.

How did you select the bands?

Well, selecting bands is the same process for me as always. I find a list of bands I like by either searching through bands in New Jersey or by word of mouth. I will listen to music that they have to offer and, if I like the music, then I will throw them a line to let them know the show is going on and they are invited to talk to me about playing it. Usually, I do this to a number of bands. All the bands I send mail to or call are invited to play. It's a first-come-first-serve basis to narrow it down.

So, if I call 10 bands that I want to play the show. The first five to give a green light will play. I always get bands that contact me back too late and I have to tell them that I will keep their name on file and contact them for the next show. I do spend adequate time listening to their songs, though, and try to picture the live show that will accommodate. Plus, there are bands that I have played with so many times that I don't have to listen to, just offer them the show. They take it or they don't.

What are your goals for the event? How do you think it can affect the scene?

My primary goal is to throw a successful show. All the bands get good sets, good press release and we all have a great time. I do have to pay the bills at the end of the night, so I hope we can at least bring enough people to do that. I want to be in good standing with the Pony, so that we can have this particular show again next year.

Local-Jams is my second baby. It's my way to help unite the clubs and the musicians to work together. We get to pick who we want to play with, we get the door and the Pony makes some money on the alcohol sales. As long as the Pony makes some money that night they will be happy, too.

I want to be able to run this show annually, as well. I have goals of being able to do stuff like this nationally. I never think as small as just New Jersey. It's simply where I am from and need to start out. I think the Jersey scene can be great if we work together.

Have any other efforts by other bands to improve the music scene impressed you?

It's always hard to comment on the practice of other bands. You know that I do have much respect for the bands with longevity. I mean, I have nearly put a decade into the music scene here now and have experienced a lot. I love to see bands stick it out through good and hard times. It seems as though the scene is really running just the way it always has. Nothing has really stood out and blown me away yet.

If you wanted to see me do a cartwheel, it would take the popular clubs, Bar-A, Jenks and now the Sawmill, letting cover and original bands merge. We should be able to share crowds. I think it would make for great shows. I know personally that people love cover songs. One of my good friends is Henry [Robinson, the lead singer] from the Lifespeed, so I get to see the way the crowd reacts to covers. They love originals too, however, and the masses cannot be at two different clubs simultaneously.

Therefore, if we were able to merge our shows it would really help to boost the popularity of original bands and get some new music out there. I think you would see many more Jersey bands hit the national scene if we had more exposure. Why do you think so many bands make it from L.A, Seattle and Miami? Well, if you have ever been to any of those places, you would get to see that cover bands do play with original bands at a lot of clubs in those cities. Those local bands get the much needed press coverage and exposure it takes to rise.

I love music, man. I love it so much it hurts sometimes. Sometimes I wonder why I was installed with this much passion for something that is so difficult to achieve. But, I will never give up.

[ Website: www.mrgsmusic.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.