Author Archives: Shaun McGann

TVD Radar: “Signal to Noise” WFDU Fundraiser at the Mercury Lounge featuring Monsterland, 2/24–2/25

“College radio” probably conjures up images of walls of records and pimply faced geeks gently dropping a needle on a Ramones record with WWII-era radar operator headphones on. For me it’s hard to update the image I have of college radio from the cliché from the ’80s and ’90s, even having worked at one for the last three years.

Some of the bigger college radio stations have found success within their communities by offering programming that commercial radio does not. Whether it’s the advantage of having their thumb on the pulse of what students in college are listening to because the jocks and programmers are students, or just offering musical options a little off the beaten path—introduced by people who may not be professionals but are passionate about it—can gain these stations a rabidly loyal fan base.

WFDU on Fairleigh Dickinson’s Teaneck, NJ campus is one such station. Over the last year the station has pivoted its main terrestrial programming to a “Retro Radio Oldies” format, filling the void left by other stations who decided to move their “oldies” cuts up to the late ’70s and ’80s, leaving stacks of hits to gather dust.

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Dentist cut their teeth
on new LP Ceilings

Last summer in Asbury Park it was hard to go anywhere without Dentist being there. If they weren’t playing the venue you were at, chances are they just had and they were coming back. This summer they’ve released a new album Ceilings and have seen the single “Meet You There (in Delaware)” take off on platforms like Spotify and Itunes. A video for the song shows the band performing in many of these clubs in which they’ve become staples.

At the end of June they set out on a multi-state tour that included Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois, and Ohio. Returning to New Jersey, they’re right back at it with a full schedule of shows lined up for the rest of the summer.

I spoke to guitarist and songwriter Justin Bornemann on the way to Ohio while the rest of the band was sleeping in the van. Among other things we discussed the choice to release Ceilings on vinyl through Little Dickman Records—which you can purchase here. “We definitely wanted to put it out on vinyl,” Bornemann says. “All of us in the band, when we buy new music we tend to buy it on vinyl. It seems to us that’s the way things are going.”

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Needle Drop: Bill Hicks, Rant in E-Minor Variations

Comedy has a long history on vinyl. The recording of comedy routines goes back before even vaudeville, much less before Netflix began pumping out a seemingly endless stream of comedy specials. Comedy albums were really the only outlet besides a nightclub to hear a comedian’s full set. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, albums by Mort Sahl, Dick Gregory, Shelly Berman, and Bob Newhart set the table for what eventually morphed into records directed more toward college kids. Redd Foxx, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Steve Martin, and Cheech & Chong all expanded their reach beyond clubs and theaters and into the mainstream with their albums.

But as concert films, videos, and cable specials became the norm, the demand for comedy albums shrunk. With the stand-up comedy boom in the 1980s, even network television got into the game and while albums were still released, with so many artists vying for the spotlight of television, their impact wasn’t as prominent

One of the comedians who stood out during this era was Bill Hicks. Hicks’ story isn’t exactly show-biz fairy tale material—a stand-up since he was 16 years old, he toured extensively throughout the country, spent time in New York and Los Angeles before traveling to England where he found the success that eluded him in the States.

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The Asbury Park
Record Show returns to the Stone Pony, 4/10

Back in November of last year Joe Kouckos and Meghan Scott of Hold Fast Records in Asbury Park, long the force behind the regularly held Asbury Park Punk Rock Flea Market, decided it was time to bring a full-blown record show to town.

The event, held at the legendary Stone Pony, was an overwhelming success, so much so that a mere five months later they’re doing it again.

This Sunday, April 10th the doors of the Stone Pony will open again for vendors and buyers alike, starting at 10:00AM for the early birds who want to get a first look at what is available, at the Asbury Park Record Show. I recently spoke with Joe whose philosophy on record collecting is as serious as it is simple, “If you want a record from Jamaica…you go to Jamaica to get it.”

The Asbury Park Record Show, Sunday, April 10, 2016
The Stone Pony, 913 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ

Early Bird 10:00AM ($10) | Doors 11:00AM ($4)
DJ’s spinning all day

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Ron and Gail Bennington: Traversing the history of music via GPS

Scenes are a funny thing. Music has had countless different scenes bubble up over the years and spill their way in to the national spotlight, many of which are now spoken of in hushed tones of reverence. Others—most really—flicker out like a flare in the night sky. The psychedelic scene in the mid-to-late ’60s for instance, is held in higher regard than say, the largely forgotten American Legion scene of Ridgefield Park, New Jersey in 1993.

So what does all of this have to do with talk show hosts Ron and Gail Bennington? Well, anyone who has heard Ron Bennington on the radio, whether it was his early days on the “Ron and Ron” Radio Network in Florida, or the hugely popular “Ron & Fez” show in New York City during the dying days of the rock format at WNEW, or later in Washington, DC, or finally all over the world on Sirius XM, knows that music is something he can—and often does—discuss with the depth of a serious fan.

In 2014 Ron began the “Bennington” show with his daughter Gail Bennington who brought a fresh perspective and unique wit of her own and quickly showed she was not only more than capable of contributing to any of the wide spectrum of conversations the show veered into, but she could also carry them.

Initially airing sporadically on Fridays when Ron’s longtime on-air partner Fez Whatley retired in April of 2015, “Bennington” replaced the “Ron and Fez” show on Sirius XM’s Raw Dog Comedy channel in the 12PM-3PM slot. In October 2015 after years of talking intelligently about music, the Benningtons launched “GPS,” an hour-long show that features the music of one scene from a particular city. 

Anyone who’s listened to you on the radio knows that music is a big part of your life, Ron. You’ve been in the radio business for a long time—why did now seem like a good time to start doing a music show?

RON: They asked. That was really it. We were doing the Bennington show on Opie Radio and we would use a different band as bumper music, and Gail and I would start discussing that, and then we got a call from management who basically said, “Hey, is there any way you guys would interested in talking about music and playing music?”

GAIL: It was already what we had been doing on those early morning shows. They were already kind of music heavy, but because we played a couple of tracks which usually either had a theme or would just focus on one artist—and we’d start it at the beginning of the show—it wound up being a music discussion that was usually fluid. People would call and that section of the show took off on its own.

RON: Yeah, it wasn’t supposed to. We would just be discussing different songs and people would call in and give their opinions and then people would call in and give their opinion against us. But what really got us started on this idea of GPS is not just the music but the scene that was around the music.

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Hunter Valentine:
So Long For Now

The eve of a new release and tour is usually an exciting time for any band no matter how much success they’ve achieved in their career. Hunter Valentine is no different in that respect, however this time—after a decade of recording, tours, TV appearances, and anything else a band could hope for—it’s a little bittersweet.

The “So Long For Now” tour is just as advrtised: a sort of goodbye. But don’t read too much into it. While many bands with half the list of accomplishments might sooner or later self-destruct, this is certainly not a funeral procession—it’s a victory lap for the group to celebrate with their fans before they move on to the next phase of their lives.

Listening to their new EP “The Pledge” wouldn’t give you any indication of a band on the outs, instead founding members Kiyomi McCloskey and Laura Petracca knew going in that this could be its epitaph and wanted to give its fans a parting gift of loud, sneering, catchy rock ‘n’ roll.

The “So Long For Now” tour, featuring touring members Lisa Bianco and Leanne Bowes, makes 31 stops in just under two months arriving at the Saint in Asbury Park on February 12th. I spoke with Kiyomi about “The Pledge,” the tour, and ending the band.

Hunter Valentine has been on such a roll the last few years I guess the obvious question is why go on hiatus now?

It’s funny, because most bands go on hiatus when they are fighting or the music starts sucking. In our case, we are laughing more than ever together and made one of our best records yet! I’ll be starting new projects and I’ve been playing solo acoustic shows already. Laura is going back to the kitchen grind as a chef and is really looking forward to putting her creativity into food.

Was it known during the writing and recording of “The Pledge” that this might be the last Hunter Valentine release?

Yes, we wanted to leave this band on a high note and we wanted to put in our best effort in doing so. It was also really important to us to leave our fans with one last recording and tour. This is going to be a celebratory tour for us. We are very proud of what we’ve achieved over the years.

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TVD Recommends:
The First Annual Asbury Park Record Show at the Stone Pony, 11/8

Hold Fast Records on Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park has long been home to a staggering selection of vinyl. Owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Joe Koukos and Meghan Scott, the store also offers a variety of vintage clothing, art and jewelry, as well as offering a venue for performances by local artists.

Meghan and Joe are also the driving force behind the semi-annual Asbury Park Punk Rock Flea Market which, like their store, is heavy on records but also offers an assortment of treasures you may not have even known exist. On November 8th, it will be all about the vinyl as Hold Fast will invade the legendary Stone Pony for the first Asbury Park Record Show.

I spoke with Meghan and Scott about the event, the store, the town, and its music scene of which they are such a big part.

How did Hold Fast Records get started? Was vinyl something you guys were passionate about or was it an evolution of the business?

Before we opened up Hold Fast we both worked in the local bars and venues and basically were starting to get burned out on the long, late hours. Opening our own business became our crazy dream. We started out with just the idea of opening a store selling things we were into. In the beginning vinyl was just a part of it.

We sold clothing by independent designers, vintage, art and memorabilia—basically anything we liked. The vinyl section grew and took over becoming the main focus of the store. Joe got completely hooked on chasing down collections and got the “fever” for finding rare records. We still sell a small amount of clothing, art, and memorabilia, and have added used CDs and gear to our offerings, but records are definitely the heart and focal point of the shop.

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Seaside Caves on their brand new, self-titled EP and evoking emotions

The first time I heard Seaside Caves was on a compilation of Asbury Park bands called The Vinyl Heart. They stood out from the other guitar-oriented bands with their hypnotic groove—if the other bands were like waves crashing, Seaside Caves were more like the tide methodically rolling back.

The influences of the 1980s are apparent but there is something Velvet Underground in “Heroin”-mode about them too. The guitars don’t screech and the vocals never get as frantic as Lou Reed pining for a life on the darkened seas, no—what they share is the ability to create a trance-like state with just a few chords. The songs fade in and pick you up, cast their spell, and then gently put you back down.

Regretfully I missed them at the Vinyl Heart release party but finally caught them a few months later at the kick off show of their spring tour at the Watermark in Asbury Park. The Watermark isn’t necessarily known for hosting shows, but the venue fit them perfectly. If you’ve never been there, it’s kind of like someone knew their millionaire uncle was going out of town for the weekend and decided to break into his ocean-front townhouse and throw a party. Under red and white lights with the Atlantic Ocean framed behind them, they drifted through their set, each song sliding seamlessly into the next.

The band is back in Asbury Park on July 16th to celebrate the release of their self-titled EP available on 10” vinyl from Chunksaah Records. The next night they will be at the Starland Ballroom with the Bouncing Souls, Andrew Jackson Jihad, and the Screaming Females. I recently spoke with lead singer and songwriter for the band Todd Gustav Wacha about how they got together, their sound, releasing the EP on vinyl, and what to look for next from them.

You guys have such a specific sound, it seems hard to think you got together through want ads. Did you all know each other before starting a band?

We definitely didn’t get together through want ads. Those days are long gone. I’d rather play with a drum machine and tape loops then go down that road again. Seaside Caves began like that and then became a two piece shortly after with me and a drummer, a friend of many years. We had a falling out and he left the band. I was honestly relieved. I mean we totally had a sincere connection, yet he just didn’t have the same vision as I did musically.

I’ve always craved someone more innovative and focused and that’s when I met James. Sparks flew from the first few notes we played and it immediately took off from there and we’ve become friends as well. You can learn a lot about someone quickly when playing together. I couldn’t be happier. I’ve tried to get Matt in the Caves for a while but he was always busy with other projects. We went through several different guitarists and synth guys, all whom I am fortunate to have had in the band. There were no bad breakups or anything like that, we just wanted more of a constant line-up to move forward and the older bandmates understood my decisions. We wouldn’t be where we are if it weren’t for them, so I give credit where credit is due.

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TVD Recommends: Scenes Collide, Asbury Park & New Brunswick at the Stone Pony, 3/20

I used to be big on scenes. During my first year of high school the Seattle scene started blowing up. I was still reading RIP magazine with Metallica on the cover, but in the back pages stories about Soundgarden and Alice in Chains kept creeping in, eventually followed by Pearl Jam and Nirvana. By the end of the year these bands replaced the mullet and leather jacket dudes on subsequent covers.

Going to a new high school—especially one with a dress code—you tend to flock toward those with similar traits in common. Doc Martens. Flannel shirts instead of dress shirts. Maybe a band patch sewn into a bookbag or a band name drawn on a binder. Stupid shit like that. Before long you find yourself in bands with some of these people. And then there are several bands. And then you glom onto the bands in the higher grades. And then you meet different bands at shows. It’s all new and overwhelming and your naïve mind starts cooking up delusions of grandeur—“Hey man, it’s like we got our own scene going on here.”

But no, the “Great Paramus Catholic Scene of 1994” didn’t quite make the same dent the Seattle scene did before it, or the DC and Boston hardcore scenes before that, or the London and New York punk scenes before that, or the San Francisco and Los Angeles psychedelic scenes before that, and the dozens I’m either forgetting, ignorant of, or omitting due to personal taste—but that’s sort of beside the point. When the hell was the last time you could get a group of 15 or 20 people to agree on anything? Whether it’s global warming or where to go to dinner, anytime you have a large group of people it’s difficult to maintain any kind of unity. That’s what sets music apart from other things in life.

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TVD Recommends:
The Vinyl Heart Record Release Party at Asbury Lanes, 2/13

Have you ever seen something that seemed so obvious that you’re disappointed you didn’t think of it yourself? I’m talking about a good, simple idea that seems like it’s always been there and someone was just smart enough to not just think of it, but organized enough to put it in motion, and resourceful enough to get it done.

That’s kind of what The Vinyl Heart is. Yes, over the years Asbury Park has been a regular stop for many nationally touring bands, but perhaps more important its cultivated its own scene in and around town. Bands like Brick & Mortar, Chemtrail, and Wreaths have all gained strong followings, and as performance venues for new bands have dried up over the last few years, places like the Saint, the Wonder Bar, and Asbury Lanes have become all the more important in offering a stage to bands heading out into the great, foggy void that is rock music in the year 2015.

So why not celebrate it? Why not get a bunch of local bands together to contribute a song and then have it pressed to vinyl? And why not get the very people who come out to the shows and are keeping the scene alive to chip in and cover some of the costs? And while we’re at it, let’s have a release party for the thing at one of these places? It seems like a simple idea and maybe it is—but it had to be a lot of work.

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TVD Recommends:
Jah9 at the Saint, 2/8

Look, I’m going to come clean right at the top of this—most people do not come to me for my opinion of roots reggae. This is not because I don’t like reggae music, I do, but I also don’t have any claim to being an authority on it. I bring this up to point out that sometimes I get very lucky catching acts on their ascension as they come through town. Jah9 is one of these acts and her current run of shows brings her to the Saint on Sunday, February 8th.

On a tour of the East Coast that’s already been through Vermont, Washington, D.C., and New York City, the last stop is Asbury Park. “Jazz on dub” is how the music is described, but I’m not going to split hairs on genres, but it’s hard to listen to her debut album New Name and not hear elements of soul and blues. Jah9, born Janine Cunningham, lived on the rural end of Jamaica until relocating to Kingston when she was 8 and began singing in her church’s choir however, according to her official biography, “it wasn’t until university that everything came together in her mind and she really began to find her own voice.”

Her music glides along in an addictive groove that is sometimes light and airy (see “Avocado”) and occasionally fiercely jagged (“Preacher Man”) but the lyrics will slap you across the face if you sleep on them. Already a poet, her lyrics are articulate and as stinging as any punk anthem—instead of the bluntness of a sledgehammer her words simmer like a hot knife.

Your bio says you started singing in a church choir, but was there a song or an artist that when you first heard it or them you knew “yes, this is what I want to do” and which set you on the path for what you’re doing now?

There wasn’t a particular artist that made me want to do music in this way, in terms of industry. I never had aspirations of entering the industry. I truly just loved singing and making music and creating, and I’m still in awe that I get to do this as my life’s work and get paid for it.

I think in listening to jazz in particular—separate from the spirit music which kind of created a foundation of what we know—music is supposed to do as its service. I think in meeting jazz, it liberated me from just what I was taught, to kind of give me this space to explore what my voice wanted to be. And that was kind of the first stages of finding my own voice and putting my poetry, which was kind of my foundation, into song. And once I started to see the impact that had on audiences, it made it a little easier to open up and to share to the point where it was more me being pulled into this industry than me being pushed out of whatever I was doing before. So, it really was more of a spiritual leading than even an ambition or an aspiration to be an artist.

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TVD Recommends: Pat DiNizio’s “Confessions of a Rock Star” at Langosta Lounge, Thursdays in January

Not a lot of people would confuse Las Vegas with the Jersey Shore.

I mean, I suppose if you dumped enough booze in someone, spun them around a couple dozen times, and sat them at a bar they may not know the difference. Luckily however, you won’t have to go to such lengths this January.

Smithereens guitarist Pat DiNizio is bringing his Las Vegas show, “Confessions of a Rock Star” to the Langosta Lounge in Asbury Park every Thursday this month at 8pm and, perhaps best of all, unlike most Las Vegas shows these performances are free.

Mr. DiNizio will perform hits from the Smithereens (for whom he is still an active member) and pepper the performance with colorful stories from his last 30+ years in rock ‘n’ roll.

Pat DiNizio’s “Confessions of a Rock Star” is performed January 8, January 15, January 22, and January 29 at Langosta Lounge.

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TVD Recommends: The Saint’s 20th Anniversary Show with Chemtrail,
A {rocket} to Mars, and Dentist, 11/18

Over the course of the year a lot has been made about the Stone Pony celebrating its 40th anniversary. While that is a huge milestone and certainly one worth celebrating, especially for a place that not that long ago seemed destined to suffer the wrecking ball, it has slightly overshadowed the fact that up the road, away from the beach on the corner of Main Street, the Saint has been spending 2014 celebrating its 20th anniversary.

While the Saint doesn’t necessarily have the history or mystique that the Stone Pony does, nor does it boast the lineup of national acts who swing through town, it’s been a home base, cultivating a local scene through the dark days when Asbury Park was almost a ghost town. Whereas the Pony’s impressive history is hanging on its walls and Asbury Lanes bursts with the red glow of a kitch-y punk rock haven, the Saint is a dark rock club. They have early and late shows. They have comedy shows, spoken word shows, and seated, no-talking performances.

November 18th is their official birthday and fittingly they are celebrating it with local favorites Chemtrail who’ve steadily gained a following since their inception in 2006, playing epic instrumentals that range from emo and metal, to stoned-out psychedelic. You can check out their latest release Your Frequencies Have Been Missed here. (Before the album came out the band posted a video to help raise funds to release it on vinyl.)

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TVD Recommends: Antarctigo Vespucci at Asbury Lanes, 11/13

Alright, I’m going to be completely honest here—I’ve never heard of Antarctigo Vespucci. I’m not even sure I can pronounce it correctly if I had to, and this isn’t some secret treasure I’ve been sitting on to tell people at parties, “Oh, you know who you should check out? Antarctigo Vespucci, they’re good.”

It’s because I know absolutely nothing about this name that I checked it out when I saw it listed at Asbury Lanes tonight. My first thought was—I wonder if this is an Italian pop singer, booked ironically, who will be so intensely committed to his act that by the end of the night you can’t help but look at your friend or whoever is left standing in the vicinity and surrender a compliment, “You know what? This kind of thing ain’t my thing, but he’s pretty good. If I was into Italian pop music, Antarctigo Vespucci is probably all I would listen to.”

But alas, and perhaps luckily, Antarctigo Vespucci is not an Italian pop singer. It’s …well even their own label isn’t completely sure of what they are.

From the Quote Unquote Records website: “I’m not sure what Antarctigo Vespucci is. Calling it a band started by Chris Farren (Fake Problems) and Jeff Rosenstock (Bomb the Music Industry!) wouldn’t be quite right. Calling it a recording project sounds too serious. Basically, this record sounds like two buddies sitting in a small room in a Brooklyn apartment in winter having a good time making fuzzy pop songs, and then asking a few more friends to jump in on the fun!”

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TVD Recommends:
The Rentals at the
Stone Pony, 9/26

I used to really love Weezer. It might have just been growing up with them, being of that age where there geek-rock jived with actually being something of a geek or an outcast. They sang about simple things, like playing in a garage band, going to shows, dreaming about girls, and Buddy Holly.

They were everywhere for a little while, or so it seemed strange when their bass player, Matt Sharp, showed up in a video with a band of robo-nerds called the Rentals on the Weezer-with-Moogs-on-overdrive single “Friends of P.,” a song so idiotically catchy just writing this sentence has ensured it will be glued to my subconscious for the rest of the evening.

Meanwhile back in Weezerville, Pinkerton came out in 1996 and it was a little weirder, a little less accessible than their debut, and for a while it seemed like that might be all we hear from them. Sharp left the band two years later to focus on the Rentals, however their sophomore effort, Seven More Minutes also suffered from disappointing sales.

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