Local Jams 2004

An Interview With Chris Grenda

Resilient would be one accurate word in describing the New Jersey music scene, since no matter how many setbacks come before it, it continues to bounce back.

The most recent setback came last week, when the "Green Room" in Seaside Park canceled its shows after the Borough Council there decided to forbid it from operating as a nightclub.

Despite the fact that the Sawmill remains open downstairs, that decision could remain hurtful to the music scene. Representatives of the Sawmill are still deciding on whether or not to appeal, according to the July 30 Ocean County Observer ("Sawmill Cut in Half: 'The Green Room' Concerts Canceled," by Matt Porio).

Asbury Park's Fastlane, another house for local acts, also closed last month due to alleged stabbing incidents there.

Like many area clubs, some bands and musicians have called it quits. Others, like Chris Grenda, a/k/a Mr. G, don't have the word quit in their vocabulary. In August 2001, Grenda began an idea called G-Fest at the Brick VFW.2004-3 While the event's name has changed, it has continued on no matter what circumstances have taken place in the surrounding scene.

Some bands which played or were scheduled to play in the first G-Fest, which was called short due to rain, are still making waves. This includes New Jersey's own Madjul, who has drawn the interest of numerous major labels.

Grenda's own Brick-based act, Mr. G, has returned after a hiatus with a full list of upcoming gigs. One of those, of course, includes the event formerly known as G-Fest. The concert, now called Local Jams 2004, will be held Aug. 22 at the legendary Stone Pony, a club which whose own fate over the last few years has remained undecided. No matter what they have been named, Grenda's concerts are a chance for bands to play a show organized by a local musician himself, under their own terms.

Local Jams' doors will open at 1 p.m. and live music will go until 10:30 p.m. The show is for all ages and the line-up goes as follows:

1. 2:00 - 2:45 - (45) - Skyline Rodeo (www.skylinerodeo.com)
2. 3:00 - 4:00 - (60) - Sprout (www.thesprout.com)
3. 4:15 - 5:15 - (60) - Friends of Bill Wilson
4. 5:30 - 6:30 - (60) - Beggars Canyon (www.beggarscanyonband.com)
5. 6:45 - 7:45 - (60) - Mr. G (www.mrgsmusic.com)
6. 8:15 - 9:15 - (60) - Strength in Numbers (www.strengthinnumbersband.com)
7. 9:30 - 10:00 - (30) - Pray for Death
8. 10:00 - 10:30 (30) - Burn the Tyrant

Chorus and Verse recently asked Grenda for a little more insight on Local Jams 2004.

How has Local Jams grown since it began as G-Fest?

Well, obviously, it's grown to the point that more popular bands want to be involved with the show. It has also grown in that I can rent out the club that I hold the show in and I get to be the stage manager, promoter, as well as a performer.2004-3 I have even had offers to hold the show in other clubs next year in areas a little more popular than Asbury Park. I am in no way knocking Asbury, but it is tougher to get fans to show up there.

I am very proud that the Stone Pony and Max Cruise Entertainment has confided in me enough to give me the chance to continue my dream and help support the music scene as best I can. I do want to mention that it is growing because of all the support I get from Ryan (Martin, bassist) and Chuck (D., drummer) in Mr. G and all the bands that put out so much effort each year. I am starting to have a whole new faith in the music scene again.

Speaking of the bands, how are they chosen?

I usually choose the bands myself. Most of the time, I know people in the bands because I have been playing this scene for nearly 10 years now. If I am not familiar with the band I will go to a show and check them out. Sometimes, someone in one of the bands I have hired to play will pass a band on to me to check out as well.

This year is an exceptional lineup if you ask me. I am more proud of this lineup than any other year so far. I have so many genres playing this year that it truly is a music review. Three of those bands are on publishing deals and record deals.

Why the Stone Pony?

The Stone Pony has been the first venue that will allow me to rent out the whole club for the second year in a row. I have played many shows in the Pony over the years and there is a lot of heritage there. I plan to move the festival to many clubs around New Jersey simply to get the name around and have the opportunity to rock many venues. I give the Pony huge props for stepping up and having faith in me these last couple of years.

Domenic (Santana, former Stone Pony owner) is a wonderful supporter of local bands and has stepped up to the plate for Mr. G many times in the past. Anything I can do for Domenic and the staff of the Pony - has a place in my heart.2004-3 I know I have made comments about the music scene in general in past interviews in reference to being hard to handle and sometimes real tough on bands. For the record, I have always been treated with much respect by everyone at the Stone Pony.

How does your event offer an alternative to the clubs, where bands are forced to sell tickets and so on?

Well, that is a good question. I can't really call it an alternative to the clubs, because we are playing in the clubs now.

In the past, I ran my show outside and it was an alternative for the outdoor venue and vibe. How I think it is better for bands is this: The local clubs expect bands to sell advanced tickets and provide walk-ins as best as the bands can. Most of the time, the bands will work their hardest and get what they can into a club.

The major differences at my show is that the bands get longer set times; minus the first and last sets, most of the time the bands in those slots cannot provide an hour of original music, and they get paid more money per ticket sold. I will not reveal actual numbers, as per the privacy act statement that is involved in my contract with the bands. Bands are still forced to sell tickets 'cause that is the business, but there is more incentive because of the opportunity to make more money.

Ok then, so what are some other problems in the local clubs?

(Laughs.) I see where you are going with this, Josh. I know you are trying to get me all fired up on the clubs, 'cause you know me all to well. Actually, like I said before, I have some newfound faith in the scene. The clubs are really trying to help out bands to play with national acts and get some much-needed exposure. Plus, some original bands are finally getting a chance to get into some of the clubs that have been prone to just support cover bands. That is a huge step in the music business in New Jersey and I think New Jersey is finally heading in the right direction to be a contender in the large-scale music business.

That's great to hear. How do you think events like this are supportive to the music scene?

Well, first, I truly believe that the musicians being able to run the whole show proves that we are more than just puppets who play instruments. Some of us have other loves, like concert production, promotion and management. This gives us musicians that enjoy multitasking at shows the opportunity.

I also feel that designating a whole day to different genres is a wonderful thing in music. It is done all the time on the large-scale music scene. In my mind, it actually gives local bands festival experience, in terms of having to be involved with a show where there are many bands lined up. It is a totally different atmosphere in the backstage of the show. I think that getting the chance to play shows where seven and eight bands are displayed will enhance the artists' capability to handle that kind of pressure in the future. It gives them added experience if you will.

[ 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.