This past year, locals could get their fill of music at any of the numerous free concerts held throughout the county, like the Jersey City Jazz Festival in Liberty State Park, concerts under the stars at Lincoln Harbor Park in Weehawken, and at the biannual Hoboken Arts & Music Festival.
Although some live music venues like CBGB in New York have shut their doors for good, the music continues to thrive in Hudson County, thanks in part to great local venues like legendary Maxwell's and the Goldhawk.
But the larger credit for the local scene rests with the musicians who have given their talent and their music, creating a beautiful listening space.
Area musicians returned
This year's fall Hoboken Arts & Music Festival was even more spectacular with former local bands that performed in town from the 1980s and 1990s playing at the main stage. The crowds were treated to performances by Glenn Mercer, former lead singer/guitarist of The Feelies; Chris Stamey, the founder of the dB's; and The Health & Happiness Show.
But perhaps the most exciting part was a set by headliners The Bongos, which includes frontman Richard Barone, bassist Rob Norris, guitarist James Mastro, and drummer Frank Giannini. This power-pop group from Hoboken helped create the "Hoboken sound" and played at Maxwell's in the beginning.
Two of the Bongos (Barone and Norris) returned to Hoboken in December for a guest lecture and performance at the Hoboken Historical Museum. As part of the series Hoboken Tunes: Our Musical Heritage, influential musicians gave performances at the museum and spoke about their rise to fame.
Barone and Norris spoke enthusiastically about the scene at the time, which they said didn't include as many bands as today - instead Hoboken was a tight-knit musical community.
During the talk, Norris read sections of Barone's book, "Frontman: Surviving the Rock Star Myth," to Barone's guitar accompaniment.
Barone also spoke about the book, which recounts his experience at his 1118 Hudson St. apartment including the time that he washed Michael Stipe's hair (R.E.M.) in the kitchen sink. Barone recalled that Stipe's hair was filthy and he couldn't let him go onstage at Maxwell's looking like that.
Another well-attended lecture this fall at the museum included a talk by Steve Fallon (founder of Maxwell's) and current co-owner Todd Abramson. The pair spoke about Maxwell's rise in the music scene and how it became the well-known scene it is today.
The band formerly known as eugene - now The Fave - has gotten new life with the addition of drummer Fran Azzarto, owner of the Goldhawk and former member of the band Skanatra.
The Fave includes three family members from the now defunct eugene, including: Jaime Rose Della Fave (lead vocals), her brother Dominick (guitar), and cousin Ed Smith on bass guitar.
When eugene first burst on the music scene in 2000, Hoboken got a taste of hard-edged original rock. The group built up a grassroots following of locals and others who shared in the band's passion. Often at early shows, the fans were just as hyped up as the band members who gave their all.
Their success grew with the release of the album "Escaping the Paparazzi." Then in 2005, they organized the show "Hoboken Rocks" at Pier A in Hoboken with other area rock bands.
If anything was missing, it was the ability to move beyond the constraints of the fans of eugene who wanted to hear hits from the past. Meanwhile, the band had plans of its own.
Those plans are close to completion now as the Fave plans to release their latest album early next year.
And anyone who has seen the Fave lately live at Maxwell's witnessed the evolution of sound. With Azzarto driving the beat, the Fave has gelled into formidable rock band - with each member working cohesively, blending into a joyful explosive beat. At a live show it's impossible not to feel the passion.
If you haven't seen them live - you should. They aren't the first band to come out of Hoboken, but they are a living testament to original talent.
Jersey City musician Marianne Nowottny proved that she has layers of sounds and songs to sing with the release of her latest album, "What is She Doing?." The CD, which was released this fall by Abaton Book Company, came 10 years after the former teen prodigy first graced major music stages. After that early success Nowottny fell off the industry radar. Yet Nowottny was busy - producing music and finishing school. Nowottny performed several times this fall at venues in Jersey City and at Maxwell's.
Locals are sure to have seen singer/songwriter Val Emmich, who lives in Hudson County, at one of his many area shows. This talented musician released "Songs, Volume 1," this past spring and is currently at work on his sixth album.
The artist, who had a major record contract with Epic until May of 2006, left the company to play music that felt true and not manufactured. The very rewarding result was the acclaimed album, "Sunlight Searchparty," which was the first record Emmich released after leaving the label.
Yet that's not all Emmich is busy with. He is currently at work on a novel and keeps busy with his other job - as an actor. Emmich appeared on "30 Rock" in November and can be seen in January on a few episodes of the new show "Cashmere Mafia."
Emmich recently won an award from the 7th Annual Independent Music Awards for his music video "The Only One Lonely." Fans can expect his next album next year.
There are plenty of talented musicians who live and play in Hudson County. Keep reading the Current for music news!
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