Years ago, back around the time I was first just starting to scratch the surface of the local scene, I caught a random Friday night show at New Brunswick’s Court Tavern that included a young band called Monterey. Later that night I got caught up talking with the band’s drummer, Matt DeBenedetti and he invited my buddy and I to what would be the first real New Brunswick basement show I ever went to, at a place called the Bomb Shelter, where they were playing with other locals American Lions and The Blithedale Romance.
Thanksgiving Eve turned out to be a fitting occasion to have a show featuring six of Northern Jersey’s acclaimed bands – Sunflower, LKFFCT, Whiner, Trü, Smock, and Shred Flintstone, gathering to celebrate Tyler Curtis’ birthday. Though some groups have been around longer than others (scene veterans LKFFCT, for instance, are somewhat of a collective “father figure” at this point), all of these musicians have been supporting each other for years, as well as the whole music scene of the greater Montclair area.
Of course, every punk show is special. They get your blood pumping and make you feel alive in a way that’s both positive and creative but also a little bit rebellious and destructive. Of course, that’s why we all do this – to scratch an itch that most other things just fucking can’t. But, while of course, every punk show is special, some are still undeniably specialer. You’ve ready Animal Farm?
This past Thanksgiving weekend, Volume IV in New Brunswick hosted Brooklyn punk rock OG’s Shellshag playing a show with Cincinnati anti-folk singer/songwriter John Hays, State Champion Records’ Sweaty, featuring label co-owner King Mike, and newcomers Torpedoes in their second show ever. This show was one of the specialer ones.
There’s a ton of great music coming out of the New Jersey indie scene these days from a ton of talented artists, but there are certain intangible qualities beyond sheer talent which are responsible for a piece of music being able to truly resonate with people on a level that exists deeper than enjoyable listening. Such an album was given to us by Hodera and Take This to Heart Records in First Things First.
On November 3, Hodera celebrated the release with a show at The Brighton Bar in Long Branch along with Save Face, Secret Stuff, and Halogens. The venue was packed with an enthusiastic and attentive crowd. To have followed these guys’ work and to see them receive the feedback and support First Things First has brought them has been nothing short of remarkable.
One of the youngest and yet most accomplished bands in the New Jersey DIY scene for the past several years has been Teenage Halloween, originally from Asbury Park. On October 20, the band released the highly anticipated Eternal Roast on Get Better Records and Fistolo Records. It was the band’s first formal release since 2015’s It Was Weird, But It Worked. Teenage Halloween celebrated the EP release with a show at New Brunswick’s Mt. Moon with good friends Fire is Motion, Ghost Camp, and Spowder.
On September 23, Sniffling Indie Kids and Mint 400 Records hosted the Second Annual North Jersey Indie Rock Festival at Cathedral Hall in Jersey City, featuring twenty-four bands across five different local record labels. N.J. Racket was fortunate enough to sponsor the event alongside the world-renowned Jonathan LeVine Projects.
As I had been looking forward to this event for months, it is hard for me to really explain what that day was like and how the experience was to me on a personal level. I got to work closely with Sniffling Indie Kids and Mint 400 while they planned the event, and while my personal involvement was minimal, witnessing the level of effort and dedication they put into lifting this event to its full potential and to create a space and atmosphere that was positive, safe, inclusive, and (most of all) fun was truly inspiring. Before we o any further, I want to take a moment here at the beginning to say thank you to everyone that participated in the event, from the festival planners, performers, promoters, vendors, and audience members. These types of things cannot exist without everyone’s passion and participation.