Local Record Label Celebrates 10 Years of Underground Music and All-Ages Shows

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A record label started in New Brunswick is celebrating their 10th anniversary at several concerts taking place in Brooklyn from Thursday evening February 6 through Saturday February 8.

Don Giovanni Records will celebrate ten years in business with their annual showcase, taking place at two separate concert venues in Brooklyn.

The showcase schedule is as follows:

Thursday, February 6 at 8pm
Lineup: Tenement, Night Birds, Vacation, Nuclear Santa Claust, The Groucho Marxists
Where: Death By Audio
Address: 49 South 2nd St Brooklyn, NY 11249
Venue information: All-Ages, Beer and Wine for sale

Friday, February 7 at 7pm
Lineup: Laura Stevenson, Shellshag, Upset, Nude Beach, Worriers
Where: Music Hall of Williamsburg
66 North 6th St Brooklyn, NY 11211
contact: (718) 486-5400
Venue information: 16+ with ID and there will be preshow drink specials

Saturday, February 8 at 7pm
Lineup: Screaming Females, California X, Brick Mower, Priests, Black Wine

Where: Music Hall of Williamsburg
66 North 6th St Brooklyn, NY 11211
contact: (718) 486-5400
Venue Information: 16+ with ID and there will be preshow drink specials

Tickets range from $12 to $16 and can be purchased online.  A limited number of two-day passes are also available for $25 each.

Joseph Steinhardt, one of the label's co-founders, spoke with NewBrunswickToday.com about the beginnings of the record label and how New Brunswick has changed since then.

Currently a PhD candidate for Risk Communications at Cornell University, Steinhardt moved to New Brunswick in 2006.

During his four years as a city resident, he and friend Zach Gajewski started Don Giovanni Records as a way to organize and enhance the DIY (do it yourself) basement music scene in New Brunswick when “everything was organized by bands and their friends.”

“No companies were involved," said Steinhardt.

Steinhardt recalls a time ten years ago when there were more spaces welcome for kids looking for something to do outside of school.

"[The Melody Bar] was great. That’s where part of the hospital is now on French Street… They would go out of their way to have all ages shows and after school shows."

Steinhardt also fondly remembers venturing out to New Brunswick as a high school student to experience its historic music scene.

“I was always calling weird people that I didn’t know that well at all to get me to drive to shows that I couldn’t get to… it was scary and fun.”

In Steinhardt’s view, running independent shows was a great way to “pick a lot of cool, unique bands” and hosting them “was a little cheaper.”

The only downside was promotion, Steinhardt explains.  He says because of the basement shows are not legal, many fantastic concerts had to almost be kept a secret.  He said that Don Giovanni would be "booking the best bands in the world, but it was really hard to tell strangers. I could tell my friends."

“It was all about the music. Not about money and profit margins or legality… You’re not dealing with the things you would at a corporate venue.”

“That’s what drew me into it,” he concludes.

"My dream is to bridge the gap between the New Brunswick music scene and the Rutgers Stadium scene…  Eric LeGrand is a hero," says Steinhardt. “Shout out to Kyle Flood and to Eric LeGrand.”

Don Giovanni Records is very much involved in the New Brunswick community.  The label was an official sponsor for the New Brunswick Mets, one of the city's Little League baseball teams.  The New Brunswick Mets were undefeated in 2013.

"That’s the great thing about getting money from the record label. We spend our money on things that we think are cool,” says Steinhardt.

Don Giovanni Records are also sold at Ta-ta's Pizza, located at 208 Hamilton Street in New Brunswick.

"I love Ta-ta's. I don't think we've ever come to New Brunswick without going to Ta-ta's," said Joseph Steinhardt.

Steinhardt pointed out that there are not many all-age venues in modern-day New Brunswick.

“New Brunswick needs a space for people who aren’t 21 to go and watch live bands. It’s not all about drinking.”

He thinks New Brunswick should reintroduce more all-age concert venues in the area.

"The Court Tavern is great… but it's not all-ages. You have to be 21 or older, and that cuts off a lot of the audiences. And the State Theatre is good for seeing artists like Billy Bragg or Elvis Costello."

Senior Reporter at New Brunswick Today | (732) 743-8993 | mollykob@gmail.com | Website

Molly O'Brien is a law student and reporter in the city of New Brunswick.