On Friday, February 9, 2018 there were about 100 lucky people in New Jersey who got an education. How, you may ask? Read on.....
Artie's in Frenchtown, NJ hosted the first of 6 in series battle of the bands this weekend. The organizer, Joseph Amabile, who is in a cover band as well as an original band himself; wanted to find a way to increase the apprecation of original music to both the regular guests of the bar and the bar owner himself. You see, as in most cities, crowds will come out to see a cover band where they know the songs over an original band regardless of how good the reviews of that original band are. The bad part of this is that makes musicians lean towards playing cover music-becuase it pays the bills. The problem is it limits the new music in the scene...a lot. Joe decided it was time to change that - hence "Battle of the Bands at Arties"
There was the venue - Artie's is a popular bar/restaurant that features music on the weekends, has a nice stage and viewing area and an outside set up for shows with over 100 guests. The owner is open minded to new entertainment as long as his bottom line looks good, and works great with Joe as well as others in the music industry - in a nutshell - perfect location!
There were judges - Mike Leopold, national recording artist from the bands "Symphony X" and "Mike Leopold and the Silent Assassins", Brooke and Christian Lord; entertainment management team representing up and coming artist "Jay-T". And to round things out ; me, Josie Janci, music reviewer and radio personality for Steel Notes Magazine and Steel Waves Radio (and all around cool chick). We were asked to judge each band on a scale of 1-10 on three items musicianship, crowd engagement, stage presence. In addition, each original song earned them an extra point (5 max).
There was the audience vote - First of all they were informed of the judging criteria, and encouraged to do their part in supporting their favorite band by enjoying themselves and engaging with thembands - dance, sing along etc. Also each member of the audience who arrived by a certain time were given 2 tickets to vote for the band or bands they like-in a clever move Joe didn't give out the tickets until after the 2nd of 3 bands to encourage the audience to stay for all 3 bands before making their decision (a double whammy in the "good move" heading as it served it's original purpose and made people stay longer hence buying more food and drink equating to a happy bar owner)
There were prizes - First place won 250.00 cash along with a hand made vinyl record bowl with gold trim donated by Vinyl Designs by Josie. In addition they will meet the other first round winners in August at the final batlle of the bands.
And then there were the bands - 3 very different genres of music....exposing the audience to at least 1 but probably 2 live performances they would never see otherwise. I can attest to this personally because the 60-something year old woman at the table next to me said she never thought she'd enjoy a heavy metal band- she's never seen one. She later told me she was pleasantly surprised by the skill level of the members and it really was much more than fast and loud, it was performed intentionally - and most of all, she really enjoyed the show! I say chalk up one new fan who appreciates heavy metal and we're already having a good night!
* - First up from Hampton, NJ a 5 person group called "Creeping Charlie" This 5 person did a set of mostly cover songs with a set that appealed to almost everyone. A nice touch for a longer show, but here it was hard to decide what kind of music they prefer to play. After speaking with the bandleader Jeff VanNewkirk, I found out that they do a lot of wedding type events - and I can see that. They don't play music for a living and have families that come first ,so they were the least experienced of the group; still giving a good showing! They ended up in 3rd place and received a hand made record bowl that was awesome in its natural black vinyl coloring.
Band members are: Lead guitar and vocalist - Jeff Van Newkirk, Vocalist - Elizabeth Manner, Guitarist and Vocals - Dave Gabel, Bassist - Stephen King (not the author, silly) and Drummer - Stephen Fitzsimmons. You can find them, and the rest of the bands on Facebook.
* -The second band was another New Jersey native - "Symetria" this old school heavy metal band consists of lead singer, Vince, Drummer Blair, Guitar Players Kevin and James , and bassist Fernando. They recently released their first CD to great reviews and have always put on a phenomenal show. Between the dual lead guitars and the amp-balancing wonders that Vince and Fernando had become, there is nothing lacking in this performance-their stage presence was as good as it gets and their powerful musicianship is evident; even to the unskilled ear. Their set of original songs is what prompted the woman in the above example to speak to me about the music-its a nice feather in the cap of Symetria, I must say! They play at bars featuring rock music, biker events and underground clubs-one downfall with this style of music is that most people don't dance to it...so most clubs dont open their ears and mind enough to book the genre. Truth is, there are fans for metal music, punk rock and hard rock just like every other kind of music-and enjoyment doesn't only come along in a two step. At the end of the day they received second place by a small margin and went home with a silver edged record bowl and a bunch of new fans.
The third and final band was "The Craig Sailer Project" which is a 5 man band of seasoned and skilled performers-not only musicians-but performers. From the second they hit the stage, vocalist and band leader Craig Sailer, Guitar players Steve Clar and Ed Carpenito, bassist Matt Buza and drummer Mike Hanson owned the crowd. Their energy was contageous and their presence was instantly known. This is the kind of band that plays in a huge grandstand before a nascar race or at an outdoor bar at the beach to kick off the season. They do primarily cover songs to get the crowd up and moving and did a variety of songs-from Matchbox 20 and Georgia Sattalite to Led Zepplen and Kiss. They had the floor filled with people and even managed to get them to sing along-they threw in a few originals for points too! By the end of their set they left the crowd dancing and begging for more. To appease the masses they played another song and Battle facilitator, Joe sang some Mustang Sally with Craig to end the night. They took home the 250.00, the gold record bowl, and will be back to defend their title in August. Of course, I'll do a follow up!
For tonight; I say thank you to Joe Amabile, and those like him for finding new and creative ways to promote bands and music. If not for such things, we'd all be deprived of much musical enjoyment! Well done, sir, well done. Josie Janci