Open mic nights have expanded for both music and literature, and the nightlife scene continued to be strong. Such was the arts and entertainment year in Hudson County.
Maxwell's Bar and Restaurant on Washington Street in Hoboken kept up its tradition of bringing major signed and unsigned acts to the mile-square city to perform in an intimate setting. Performers in 2002 included Mexican Elvis, The Reverend Horton Heat, The Sneaker Pimps, Todd Barry, Luna, Seeking Homer, Las Vegas Basement, Royston Langdon, Glenn Tilbrook, Smoove and eight splendid Chanuka nights with Yo La Tengo. Yo La Tengo, a Hoboken-based group, had signed with Matador records. They donated the proceeds of their sold out shows to local and national charities.
The Goldhawk and the Whiskey Bar in Hoboken showcased their share of live acts like the Nerds, MMMM....Milo Z, and the Rory Daniels Band. The Goldhawk continued to host Scott E. Moore's renowned Writer's Hang for songwriters.
The Ristra restaurant on Washington Street saw the increasing popularity of its Tuesday open mic nights, which attracted a talented array of musicians and poets to its basement, including musical comedian Dave Lindenbaum of Hoboken.
In Jersey City, Uncle Joe's became a formidable venue for original live music this year. Under new management, the venue underwent renovations. With acts like Vic Thrill, Particle Zoo, Andi Camp, the Living Brooks, Spot, All the Dead Pilots, Two Dollar Guitar, Rye Coalition and They Fought Back, the venue is attracting much attention from the New York City music scene.
Each spring and fall, Hoboken hosts one of the most popular street fairs on this side of the Hudson - the Hoboken Arts and Music festival. The event features more than 300 artists, photographers, and craftspeople, in addition to non-stop live music and more than 40 food vendors.
This year the lineup for both festivals included legendary American musician Roger McGuinn of the Byrds, the Tom Tom Club featuring members of the Talking Heads, Marshall Crenshaw, Skanatra, Gene D. Plumber, Shirley Temple of Doom, Bill McGarvey, Eugene, the Demolition String Band, Lenehan, Jose Conde, Stacie Rose and Orchestra C-2.
"Our festivals are designed to bring the community closer together," said Hoboken Cultural Affairs Director Geri Fallo.
Movies and literature
In the spring, Hoboken's first Back East Picture Show showcased more than 80 films from local and international filmmakers. The organizers of the film festival, Anthony D. Costanza and Maria Perfetto, hosted an awards gala at Liberty House at Liberty State Park in Jersey City. The black tie-optional event was a chance for budding filmmakers in the area to show off their projects. The ceremony also honored popular Italian movie-genre actor Frank Vincent, formerly of Jersey City. Vincent is best known for his supporting roles in Hollywood features like Casino, GoodFellas, and Raging Bull.
Also winning awards were the creators of the movie The Russian Job for Best Feature Comedy; Danny Provenzano of This Thing of Ours for Best Feature Director; The Little Red Toilet for Best Animated Short Film; Victor Colicchio and Nicholas Iacovino of High Times' Pot Luck, for Best Screenplay; Paul Borghese of Four Deadly Reasons for Back East Buzz Award; Suspended Animation for Best Feature Film (Thriller); 3 Weeks from Paradise for Best Documentary; Null Null (a short, pleasing and well-directed urinal tale) for Best Foreign Film; Melting Glass for Best Cinematography; Curiosity Killed Brian for Best Comedy Short; and Caught in Time for Best Short Drama.
The Russian Job, shot in Moscow and Hoboken, was a heart-warming 84-minute comedy about a young Italian man (Robert Capelli Jr.) from New Jersey who travels to Russia in search of the con-artist mail-order-bride who scammed his family. The cinematography was superb, and Capelli, a budding actor and director, was featured on a Current cover.
Another cover featured Hoboken resident Artie Lange, a comic who had landed a permanent role in the Howard Stern Radio Show. Every morning, Lange shares the airwaves with Stern and personalities Fred Norris and Robin Quivers. He is also in the process of launching a sit-com on a major network.
"It doesn't feel like work when I'm having fun in the studio," Lange said. "And waking up early and going to bed early has given me a lot of discipline. It makes my mom happy."
Hobokenite Joe Pantoliano, an accomplished actor and "Ralphie" from The Sopranos, stopped by the Barnes and Noble and the Hoboken library to sign copies of his book Who's Sorry Now: The True Story of A Stand Up Guy.
"It went from 'who is Joey Pantoliano' to 'I want Joey Pantoliano,' " said Pantoliano about his career.
Pantoliano's first role was as an extra in The Valachi Papers with Charles Bronson.
Speaking of literature, Hoboken's own Melville House Publishing, founded by writer Dennis Loy Johnson (www.mobylives.com) and artist Valerie Merians, published its first two books this year - the provocative A Reader's Manifesto, which takes aim at pretentious novels that win book awards, and Poetry After 9/11. Both books received good reviews and media attention.
The poetry scene made a comeback in Jersey City this year when two artists provided a chance to catch renowned poets on the first and third Thursday of the month at Victory Hall on Grand Street.
Titled "Alliteration Alley" by its founders Christine Goodman and Radomir Luza Jr., the event is a fascinating chance to interact with talented poets, artists, performers and local residents. The event begins at 8 p.m. and the featured artist goes on for the first 20 minutes. There is a small $3 admission fee that is used to pay for the cost of refreshments and promotional material.
The Symposia Bookstore on Willow Avenue in Hoboken continued to host literary readings, movie nights and discussion groups almost every weeknight. The small used bookstore is becoming one of Hoboken's cultural centers.
While Symposia's discussion groups and movie nights were a way for the city's residents to meet people and make new friends, several other venues developed.
Hobokenite Michael Amdur started a Hoboken Social Circle group that advertised on the web, hosting bimonthly dinners for interested parties. Many new residents came to meet their neighbors.
The nightlife scenes in Hoboken and Downtown Jersey City experienced a boom with events like Team Trivia and the expansion of the Hoboken Swing Scene (HSS). Throughout the year, residents had the chance of testing their trivia knowledge while swing dancing and meeting new people.
According to Earl Hicks, the Hoboken Swing Scene's coordinator, HSS is designed to promote swing dancing in the city and develop a body of swing dancers through instructional lessons, practices and the joy of dancing.
The Hoboken Ski Club continued to be one of the most popular social organizations in this area.
Visual arts, cuisine
Both Hoboken and Jersey City showcased art studio tours in the fall. The studio tours have become part of the county's defining cultural events, bringing artists together from around the New York metropolitan area. The tours feature a diverse selection of styles, including avant-garde video sculpture; figurative, conceptual, abstract, representational and non-objective art; traditional oil, watercolor and pastel paintings; and multimedia graphics.
A few new restaurants debuted this year. The Merchant in Jersey City opened its doors to feature a wonderful American Fusion menu. And Sushi Tango, hidden in the quiet residential streets of downtown Jersey City opened in the summer and it offers a top-notch sushi menu.
As 2002 ends, Hudson County proved to have one of the Garden State's premier arts and entertainment scenes.
"I'm certain the new year will be even better," said Fallo.
To learn more about the arts in Hudson County, check out www.hudsoncurrent.com.