New Brunswick band Ogbert the Nerd performing at Pino's in December

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Have you heard the news? Hub City is reaching ever higher into the sky.

The city’s next big thing, The Helix – no, not a rock group – is committing the downtown Wasteland to memory with every square yard of concrete poured and every new tenant announced. 

It’s looking like at least two 10+ story buildings at the site of the former Ferren parking deck and mall over the next four years.

The Ferren mall (and future Helix) was built where shops like the original Court Tavern once stood, pictured here pre-1981 (photo by George Red Ellis) and in 2022 (photo by Bennett Kelly).

Earlier this month, technology company Nokia Bell Labs pledged its future headquarters to The Helix, a “transformative” victory for New Brunswick on par with its biggest dates in history.

DEVCO’s president said that “Dec. 11, 2023 will now rank with Nov. 10, 1766 when Rutgers got its charter, Jan. 18, 1886 when the Johnson Brothers founded the company right here, (and the day) the first college football game was played here, Nov. 16, 1869.”

Continuing, “All three things changed not just New Brunswick, not just the state, but the country. Those three things are really generational, transformative times. Dec. 11, 2023 ranks right there.”

Nokia? Transformative? 

To the country??

Okay, fine. It’s obviously good news with jobs, foot traffic, etc.

But if we’re throwing memorable dates around, how about February 14, 1992: that night, both Nudeswirl and Raging Lamos played the Court Tavern. Same bill, same night. That rocks.

Or how about November 8, 1990? That’s when Iggy Pop played the College Avenue Gym.

Young Springsteen wailing on some blues at The Ledge, August 17, 1971? Jeff Grob remembers that. 

Springsteen sneaking into Patrix, January 15, 1984? Cyndi Dawson was there

Home News Tribune, January 16 1984

Those are memorable nights. People remember those. 

Santa could be bringing a few more toys to downtown New Brunswick in the coming years, too; including those at The Helix, as many as seven new highrises are in various states of proposal. 

One that’s on the Planning Board docket this January 8th is a 23-story replacement for the Elks Lodge, at 40 Livingston Avenue. 

Key to note is that the Elks support the plan, which would include plenty of space for them (as well as the George Street Co-Op) and would “mean the group’s continued survival.”

The current 98-year old Elks Lodge is set to host the Melody Bar Reunion again this February 17. 

In another music-tangent development, even a parking garage is proposed to be torn down and become a 30-story high rise. 

That’s at 11 Spring Street, right across the pavement from the present Court Tavern, which still stands but has been closed since 2019. For Court Tavern gypsies, the developer’s name might ring a bell – Boraie. 

A rendering for 11 Spring Street; Court Tavern for scale at bottom right

At least the Court is included in the mockups this time; see bottom right. Though Freud and Hitchcock might have something to say about the size of that thing. 

There are proposals for others too – a 45-story tower on George Street and a 20+ on Bayard

How about one rock and roll club, instead? One measly club, please! 

Forget transformative, that would merely be restorative. 

The city’s rock club era, seven nights of rock, is a thing of the past. 

As these big buildings go up, the city’s music scene retreats further underground. We’re in danger of becoming the Morlock of H.G. Wells’ Time Machine.

Hub City basements remain great music incubators. They’re just not very accessible to show-going music fans past a certain age. 

And once the bands have played their share of them, they move on to greener pastures in Jersey City, Asbury Park and Brooklyn.

Then for veterans looking to play a reunion gig in their old stomping gigs, it’s basically Pino’s (in Highland Park) or bust.

The Court Tavern in October 2023; The lights are on, but nobody’s home. Photo by Bennett Kelly

A handful of New Brunswick restaurants and bars do present music, but that’s a fraught situation as well. Barça City on Easton Avenue, which just hosted the city’s Hip Hop 50th Birthday celebration in October, subsequently closed in November and is now a Five Guys burger restaurant. 

So Santa, maybe next year, bring us a music club instead? That would make for a memorable date, too.

Meanwhile, it’s still December 31st, a time to celebrate and look back. For that we need some music.

NBT Music 2023 Spotify Playlist

This year we corralled the city’s sounds into a Spotify playlist. 

It includes over 220 songs of all varieties by 100+ musicians, all released in 2023 (with some re-issues). 

Everything from basement-circuit upstarts to veterans who’ve long moved on and out. Musicians that started playing New Brunswick stages in the 1980s, 90s, 2000s, 10s and 20s, together in one playlist. 

It was updated in February, March, April, June, August, November and December.

The whole list is also spelled out in alphabetical order at the bottom of the article. 

The final update, released yesterday, kicks off with a November release from Gabba Ghoul, which is where we turn next in the year-end review.

Lacy Smith and Marc Lanzoff Remembrances

Formed in 2021, Gabba Ghoul, with its distinct blend of math-rock riffs with pop and emo song structures, quickly became a favorite in the New Brunswick music scene and beyond. 

The band captured audience attention at spirited live shows and delivered a serving of Jersey humor as seen in their name, song titles and artwork.

In late November, Gabba Ghoul suffered the tragic loss of its lead singer, Lacy Smith, at the age of twenty-two.

On December 17, a memorial concert for Lacy was held at Pino’s in Highland Park – that’s New Brunswick band Ogbert the Nerd pictured atop this article, playing a cathartic set there that night.

On December 27, we caught up with Gabba Ghoul members Henry Ricatto, Josh Skoudis and George Ford, for an interview on how they’re doing and for a remembrance of Lacy. 

Lacy was “Really, truly, one of a kind, incredible. Incredibly talented,” said guitarist Henry Ricatto. 

“But even above that, they were just so caring. They cared about everybody around them. They always were looking out for people and looking after people, even amid their own extremely tragic struggles,” Ricatto said.

For more on Lacy Smith and Gabba Ghoul, including how the band met, highlights of the past two years and what comes next, read here.

And earlier this year, we also lost the beloved Marc Lanzoff, who guarded the Court Tavern basement for nearly thirty years.

Marc Lanzoff goofing with Court Tavern patron Jen Mehm in the 90s, courtesy of Jen Mehm. Said Doug Vizthum, “Heaven’s got a new doorman and you better have your s— in order.”

Marc, who was living in Menlo Park, passed away in February.

He lived a colorful life; in addition to working the door at the city’s premier rock club for decades, he performed in a parody band called The Punsters, worked as a greeter at a city hospital, and was generally a man-about-town, making several appearances in the Home News Tribune. His “scowly” reputation at the Court belied a much sweeter disposition underneath.

We were fortunate to speak with Marc in August 2022 for a profile on his musical life.

Our year-end review continues with a set of milestones.

Don Giovanni Turns 20

New Brunswick indie label Don Giovanni Records celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. 

You might know them from their ubiquitous blue and black stickers, for notable act Screaming Females, or for their commitment to DIY ethics.

In their anniversary preview, founder Joe Steinhardt wrote that he couldn’t believe they made it twenty years, “and thinking about how the label started I’m still not completely sure how we did.”

“To celebrate we’re going to hold an expo in Philadelphia, because it feels like there aren’t enough expos these days and it’s time we do something about it,” he wrote.

Then in the spirit of the label, they kept the “tickets cheap, the stages small, and the good bands over abundant,” a few of which appear in our 2023 playlist.

After combing through the label’s intimidating FAQ, we emailed Steinhardt four questions of our own in December:

Q: Don Giovanni originated in Boston. What compelled the move to New Brunswick? And similarly, onward to Philadelphia where it currently resides?

A: New Brunswick’s always been the home of the label even while the mailing address has changed over the years. I was going to school in Boston when the label started but probably spent more time in New Brunswick. Over the years I’ve moved around a bunch for work including Philly where I live now, but Don Giovanni Records spiritual home will always be New Brunswick, NJ.

Q: Several New Brunswick-based artists are on the label, including Screaming Females and Roadside Graves. How would you describe the “New Brunswick sound?” Or even, the New Brunswick state of mind/being?

A: I’ve never really thought of the music scene as having a sound as much as embodying a spirit of diversity and independent values no matter what genre you play or what your band sounds like. 

Q: Are there any moments through the years that you reflect on as key to survival, key to wanting to go on? Are you set up to go another 20?

A: The label was set up to document what was going on in New Brunswick at the time that I was most involved in that scene and so I don’t think it would be where it is today without those artists like The Ergs!, Screaming Females, Hunchback, Roadside Graves, The Measure (SA), For Science, etc. As for another 20, I don’t think the label was set up for the first 20 but here we are, so who knows.

Q: Lastly – obviously Screaming Females coming to an end is big news. What have they meant to your label, and to you personally? 

A: Everything. 

-Joe Steinhardt of Don Giovanni Records

Screaming Females End

That’s right, if you didn’t catch the prior news, Screaming Females announced on December 5 that the band was “coming to an end.”

It was a busy year and a very abrupt end to one of the bigger rock acts to ever come out of New Brunswick.

Founded in 2005, Screaming Females featured Marissa Paternoster on guitar and vocals, Mike Abbate on bass and Jarrett Dougherty on drums. 

Screaming Females’ first ever show, August 2005 in a Hamilton Street basement in New Brunswick

In February, they released “Desire Pathway,” their eighth studio album and first since 2018. 

The band toured extensively in 2023, from Europe to Alaska, which marked their 50th state performance.

Their final sequence of events began this fall. Screaming Females had been touring North America on a 15 show-16 night run.

They played their fifth stop in Memphis on November 1, and were scheduled to play in Oklahoma City on November 2.

But on November 2, the band posted a Notes-app screenshot to social media that said in part, “We are very sad to announce that due to a family emergency we are canceling the rest of our shows in 2023,” and that they would not be making up dates in the foreseeable future. 

On November 20, Screaming Females announced they were also canceling their February 2024 performances at the Garden Party Festival in Jersey City. 

Then on December 5, the band released its farewell statement.

Confirming the news, Don Giovanni’s statement on the same day was in its entirety, “I’m really going to miss this band ♥.” 

For eighteen years from start to finish, Screaming Females did it their own way, as beacons of the DIY ethos.

As for what’s next, they’ve already decommissioned their website screamingfemales.com, so it would seem a true retirement and digital detox is in effect.

We send hopes that their family emergency turns out alright. 

Fare thee well, Screaming Females. 

“After 18 years we have decided that Screaming Females is coming to an end. A lot changed around us over those 18 years but at our core we operated pretty much the same throughout. We funded and made the records we wanted to make. We did our own art. We printed a lot of our own merch. We managed ourselves. Probably most importantly we loaded up our van with our gear and traveled around the world to play shows wherever you would have us. We tried to build and celebrate community the best we could. There are too many people to thank and too many things that should be said.”

-Screaming Females farewell statement, December 5

However on December 20, Marissa Paternoster, who was named Rolling Stone’s #150 ranked guitarist this year, announced she was dipping her feet back in with a new gig on February 24th with her other band, Noun. 

Matt Pinfield Inducted Into Inaugural WRSU Hall of Fame

Matt Pinfield of Los Angeles makes frequent trips back to his native New Jersey, often for a gig. 

On November 4th he performed with Kanak, The Grip Weeds, Dog Pile on the Rabbit and others at Crossroads in Garwood. In 2021 he was at the Saint in Asbury Park with Kanak and former Melody Bar DJs Pete Santiago and Ed Wong.

This past June, he returned to New Brunswick proper as one of six inductees in WRSU’s inaugural Hall of Fame class, celebrating the station’s 75th year of operations. 

“Thank you Rutgers University and the alumni for the honor of being inducted into the WRSU Hall of Fame in June this year,” Pinfield wrote in a social media post. “The influential college radio station where it all started for me-congrats to all the inductees.”

On induction weekend, he also joined DJ Ed Wong for his usual Saturday set on 88.7 FM, telling stories while primarily keeping the focus on the music. Like its regular programming with Ed Wong, the co-hosted Pinfield show was loaded with the best of eclectic pop across the generations, and of course, the best new wave deep cuts.

A graduate of East Brunswick High School, Pinfield worked at WRSU throughout the 80s and DJ’d three nights a week at the world famous Melody Bar on French Street for a dozen-plus years.

That led him to notable ventures as a rock DJ at the renowned rock station WHTG 106.3, as an MTV VJ including with the acclaimed “120 Minutes” show in the 90s, and as an A&R man at Columbia Records in the 2000s. 

Pinfield also sang in the New Brunswick bands Opium Vala and Slaves of New Brunswick. He currently hosts The Power Hour show on AXS TV and DJs at 95.5 KLOS in Los Angeles. 

Cliff and Ivy were one of nine featured acts in our mid-year review. 

Here he was last month, bringing it all back home to the New Brunswick music scene by introducing Cliff and Ivy’s latest single “We Ignite,” which features Smithereens guitarist and NJ Hall of Famer Jim Babjak on guitar. 

For more Matt Pinfeld, see our 2021 three-part series on the Melody Bar, which revisits contemporaneous Home News coverage of the Melody scene of the 80s, 90s and 2000s.

Hip Hop Turns 50

Another milestone this year was the fiftieth birthday of hip hop music, celebrated both globally and right here in the Hub City. 

The “HH50NB” committee, comprised of Ras Ujimma, Silent Knight, Henny Hardaway, and Gen. Sip Liquor, raised event funding through a Kickstarter campaign that drew more than 75 donors. 

The main event on September 23 was both a musical and “educational celebration,” with performances and presentations on the four original elements of hip hop: DJ’ing, MC’ing, Breakdancing, and Graffiti.

“As Hip Hop has evolved, current and past generations have lost touch with the original elements and initiatives of the culture,” the committee said.

“As artists, organizers, students, teachers and participants of this way of life, we find it of paramount importance to remind all people of Hip Hop’s original goals, direction, and vision.”

Among the performers at Barça City that night were New Brunswick-born Eloh Kush.

We caught up with the prolific Eloh for a feature interview in December, in which he noted that his first performances in the city came at house parties on Seaman and Townsend streets in the early 90s.

About the HH50NB celebration and committee, Kush said “I want to commend those four people. Ras Ujimma. Ras Ujimma is an elder in this. I want to thank those brothers because they did something monumental for the culture of New Brunswick,” he said. 

In addition to the main event, the HH50NB group ran several networking mixers around New Brunswick this fall, and Henny Hardaway hosted a holiday toy drive this month at Rose City Studios in North Brunswick.  

Also among the HH50NB networkers, we caught up with Lana Whitehead in October for a feature on her Inspire Social Change Through Music classes at Rose City Studios. 

Whitehead’s program instructs youth and adults on studio engineering, studio etiquette, podcasting and other behind-the-scenes industry skills.

2023 is officially in the books. Did you miss our mid-year review?

In July, we published a mid-year report on the state of the scene, plus nine interviews, all at once. 

For the year-end review, we spread our nine spotlights from September through December, which definitely helped us hit our December 31 deadline this time. 

I still couldn’t interview everybody I wanted to this year, but the eighteen are a good cross-section of the music scene, both in genre and in era, spanning five decades of their first Hub City performances. Each of them also released new music in 2023.

Here are snippets from the nine New Brunswick music spotlights since September, listed in order of publish date.

Green Knuckle Material – the power pop rockers on success with streams:

September – BK: “Julia” hit over 100,000 on Spotify [and by December has 250,000]. How do you go about that? Is that random, or targeted?

Green Knuckle Material; photo by Briana Sista

Dan Ravenda: With all our songs, we have an advertising budget. With that song, we had an advertising budget and then we went through our advertising budget in about two months and it was doing really well. And then Spotify’s algorithm just kind of lifts it up, and that’s what it’s been doing. We’ll still run a smaller budget on that song in the downtime. Right now our budget is all going towards “Blue.” 

But we started just by running global ads just to try to get the song out to as many people as possible and also find the ads that are working the best. And it’s cheaper to go globally, so you could do more testing. So once I figured out, Okay, this is the ad that works best, this is the audience target that works best, then we started just targeting regionally. So, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC, basically the places that are in our region that we’re gonna go play, the markets that we play in right now. And that has worked out really well. We’re always running something, because we budget to have an advertising budget.

Radcliffe Bent – the hardcore artist on the art of performance:

September – Radcliffe Bent: That original project was based on this town called “Beat Four” in William Faulkner’s work, which was really in-your-face and violent. And fast, quick, nothing’s telegraphed, one-hundred-percent high-octane. 

And I try to emulate that in real life as well. Why? Because of the historical and social conditions that are in my life and underrepresented people. And I think it’s generally, generally a mode of existence in this epoch and history, as it were, with the style which I ape on stage. Which is me really just doing whatever I want with banter, and creating a general degree of consistent, not inconsistency, but somewhat like a chaos. 

Radcliffe Bent, center

At a hardcore show, you have to move. You’re going to have to dodge at times. I may just, like, charge. I may do things with a joke, a quick banter, and then I may just play a very angry track. Or drop kick someone in the audience. That was a big thing of mine for a while when I was playing more. That was like my trademark move, drop kick someone [laughs] in the audience. But yeah, that’s where the philosophy comes from. That’s what the style is, generally. 

BK: Is it a goal to win over a crowd in those basements?

Radcliffe Bent: It depends on my mood. Maybe it will be, maybe it won’t. I might want to alienate the crowd. I might want to win them over.

BK: And when you say drop kick, you mean you literally drop kick someone in the chest as part of the show?

Radcliffe Bent: Oh yeah. That was just every show you went to, like an N.G.G.A. show. There’s a good chance you may be drop-kicked. You might get kicked on the stomach. I’m not pulling any punches either [laughs].

Transilvia – the industrial-metal band on the early 90’s music environment:

October – Jeremy Moss: We were kind of happening when Helmet, and then grunge hit. I just remember hearing “Smells Like Teen Spirit” on WRSU [released August/September 1991], driving in my car around New Brunswick and thinking like, Wow, this is great. Hearing Soundgarden “Ultramega Okay” at Tower Records. And it felt like we were clicking with something. The grungy, sort of distorted music was starting to come up. So I felt like the timing was good in that sense. 

Eric Elliott: That was just that environment in the early 90s, where weird bands were getting deals and people were buying records. And we were kind of right in that niche. 

Transilvia in the late 1980s

I remember we saw Catharsis early on and were really blown away by them at the Court [Tavern]. We probably saw Bad Karma a few times. Kind of that early stuff, and then you would become aware of the scene. 

When we were getting ready for this thing, I was thinking about New Brunswick, and Jer – it was almost like a video game for eighteen-year-olds coming into Rutgers, where you would go around town and meet the bosses in a video game, right?

You’d wind up meeting Ethan Stein at Captain Video, and how many weird freshmen met him? Like he was a gatekeeper or something. Or people at the Court who booked the shows at the Court, or people at the Roxy. And there were just so many characters who were in the music scene.

Jeremy Moss: The scene was so vibrant. I mean, Nudeswirl blew my mind. We played with those guys a few times at the Court Tavern. That’s probably my favorite New Brunswick or New Jersey rock band ever. Awesome, awesome band. Lucy Brown. There were bands getting major label deals. Bouncing Souls, hung around with them. 

And it just felt really alive. And so these days, to go back and see the lack of live music venues is, in my mind, just tragic. It’s sort of like, why? I mean I know why… DJ culture, the music industry has changed a lot. But it’s kind of sad that they don’t have as many options in New Brunswick anymore.

Heathmonger – the psych rockers on their active schedule, including having five shows in a 24-hour period:

November – Mike Horishny: We just do it because we genuinely have fun playing the shows. And we like putting the hustle into it. Trying to get the name out there at the ground level as best as we can before we start expanding into other territory.

Reinah Bauer: Yeah I would say that any band who plays a lot of shows would say they have some goal of expansion. And some hopes of catching a wind and making something bigger of themselves. I think for us, this is us putting the best foot forward so that hopefully luck and hard work will come together, and we feel like we’ve done the most we can do at the end of the day. So yeah, fun, but then also we’re trying to be strategic about it too.

Heathmonger L-R: Reinah Bauer, Mike Horishny and Xaviar Miller. Photo by Leah Hunt

BK: What are your ambitions as a band? Do you have a mission statement or goals particularly?

Mike Horishny: I wouldn’t say we have a particular mission statement. But obviously the goal is to get to a point where this can become something sustainable. Right now we’re at a point where we’re just trying to play to as many people as possible and release music. We’re working on our next project, we’re not sure if it’s going to be an EP or an album yet. But the goal is to just put ourselves in front of as many people as we can, and grow as musicians.

Reinah Bauer: I think personally, we talk a lot about traveling. And being able to incorporate that into music would be the dream, the goal. We do some tours locally and some small runs that we’ve set up. But some of the bands that we really look up to, and we’ve gotten to meet members of, kind of getting to hear about their travels, their experiences playing and being on the road and getting to see new places and meet new people. I think ultimately that would be the dream. 

So it doesn’t matter necessarily how big, but just if it could be sustainable to the point of being able to travel and explore and really dig in, would be awesome. Sleep on comfortable hotel beds more often [laughs].

Doug Vizthum – the Court Tavern lifer on his love for all music:

November – Doug Vizthum: At this point in my life, it’s very cathartic for me to make music. I can’t see not making music in my life. It’s something I’ve always done. I’ve been doing it since I was in my teens. So I’ve been always making music one way or another. I’ve been playing guitar since I was twelve years old and I’ve learned a lot of other stuff over the years. I learned how to play the mandolin. There’s a lot of stuff on those songs that I sent over to you. Besides, I’ve been playing slide since I was a kid, too. I always liked slide.

Doug Vizthum (left) performing with Bad Karma at the Court Tavern in the 90s

BK: Yeah. Does that come from the blues at all? You got any blues influences?

Doug Vizthum: Yeah, listen, it’s mostly from guys like Joe Walsh, which, I’m not talking about Eagles Joe Walsh, I’m talking about Joe Walsh. Believe me, Joe Walsh gets a pass on the Eagles just because he’s Joe Walsh. You know what, I can’t say anything wrong about him taking a payday for that. He made a lot of money, and good for him. He deserves it. He’s great. I always love Joe Walsh. And I always listened to guys like Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. There’s a lot of older blues stuff and I’ve gotten more in touch with music history over the years. 

When I was a kid, I had what I had. You listen to what was on the radio or whatever records you had. So the new frontier of music, where you can go find anything you want online, makes it a lot simpler to go dig into stuff from the past and figure all this stuff out.

I mean, I have a lot of different influences over the years. I’ve always loved country music since I was a kid. I have a very odd background in music because I always loved that, and I love funk, and disco. Even back then, people would be like, Why do you listen to that stuff? Because I like it, whatever. It’s music. I love music.

I always loved music back then. I love a lot of different stuff. I always love glam rock. I loved punk rock when it started, I loved that I was right there checking it out. I remember buying the New York Dolls first record when it came out on eight-track. I remember buying [The Stooges’] “Raw Power” because I looked at the cover and was like, This [Iggy Pop] guy’s really nuts looking. 

Hair Magic – the Highland Park punk trio on their formation:

Jen Rector: We just are a trio because it gelled that way. So it’s not a musical choice, but it does work for the style of music that we play. There’s bass features and there’s drum features, but it’s because that’s how we just write it together and make the song go together. 

We just were like… Christine wanted to be in a band [laughs]. And we have a mutual friend and he told her, I know Jen, go talk to Jen. And we all ended up at the same party. Not intentionally, randomly. We were all at the same party. 

Christine Espiritu: And you guys [Jen Rector and drummer Christie Lutz] were talking.

L-R: Christine Espiritu, Christie Lutz and Jen Rector performing at Pino’s in October. Photo by Bennett Kelly

Jen Rector: We were talking and she walked over.

Christine Espiritu: And I was just like, [whispers] We need to start a band [laughs].

Jen Rector: Yes. And she said, John said you play. And I said, I used to, but okay. And then Christie basically learned drums so that we could be in a band.

Christie Lutz: I kind of always wanted to play drums, and my parents didn’t let me. So I still consider myself a really new drummer. But, yeah, I really wanted to learn drums. And also, I think I was sort of protesting that… Can I say this? There were too many dad bands.

Jen Rector: [Laughs] Yes.

Christine Espiritu: We were all protesting that! 

Christie Lutz: We needed, nothing against the dad bands, but I was like, Man, every dad I know has a band in this town. Like, where’s the lady bands?

Shred Flintstone – Dan Barrecchia on rock and roll basements:

November – BK: You sing a lot about basements, or in a few songs, you know, “Scalps,” “Friend of a Friend of the Devil.” I was wondering what the difference is for you, between a New Brunswick basement and the South by Southwest stage?

Dan Barrecchia (left) of Shred Flintstone performing in Brooklyn in June. Photo by Bennett Kelly

Dan Barrecchia: Well, the difference is, in a New Brunswick basement, it’s like a packed room full of a younger audience that is maybe more than 50% intoxicated, who’s there to just kind of go crazy and push each other around, let loose whatever they’re holding on to from their lives, and have a great time. And I found that not as much focus is put on who’s playing, rather just having a good time. 

Which is great, which is a fantastic thing. But you could play a show to a hundred people in a packed basement, and nobody will even know what your band name was [laughs], or care, you know? They were just there to dance.

And then at South by Southwest, it’s like the complete polar opposite. Everyone there is there to see good music and to know who they’re seeing, and find a new band that they’re a fan of. And it’s not an easy crowd to play to, but if you win them over, they’re going to love you. But they’re there to see good music and become fans of a new band.

So it’s definitely higher pressure playing to a new audience in South by Southwest than it is in New Brunswick. Just completely different. Totally different crowds actually [laughs]. But fun. Both fun and both their own cool thing.

BK: Last lyric question is about “Friend of a Friend of the Devil.” My interpretation, so, “Went to the basement and the devil was there, said a prayer and then he vanished into the air, found God yeah everything’s alright.” I took that as a tribute to basement scenes, and I like how it centers the basement as like a holy place. You know like in Grateful Dead, “Friend of the Devil,” how he goes down to the levee, meets the devil and vanishes. Or like meeting the devil at a Mississippi crossroads or something like that. Was that the intent with that lyric?

Dan Barrecchia: You know, the intent was to kind of finish the Grateful Dead’s for me. The Grateful Dead was so cathartic for me and healing, and I felt like that song needed a happier kind of finish to it. That’s why I put “found God” in there, and then the devil was forgiven in a way or something. I’m not religious or anything, but yeah, for me, that’s a very spiritual song by the Grateful Dead, one that I’m referencing. 

Eloh Kush – the Hub City hip hopper on his home city:

December – BK: When you’re out of town performing, I know that New Brunswick is especially known for its rock and roll basement scene, and used to be the club rock scene, when it was more clubby. But does New Brunswick have a reputation in the hip hop scene, when you travel around?

Eloh Kush at Recreation Park, New Brunswick. Photo by Jakell Foster

Eloh Kush: Absolutely.

BK: What is it?

Eloh Kush: Mmm, I would say that our reputation in the hip hop scene is, college. Colleges. Also will say Old Bay. Also will say Court Tavern. I would say Unity Day. Just different events. 

But prior to New Brunswick being a rock and roll or hip hop, it was a live-band place. Parliament would come here, Sly and the Family Stone would come here. Big groups would come down here and play. 

It was all different types of clubs that we were raised around, like the Camelot, the Country, all these different places. Places you wouldn’t know about or the average listener wouldn’t know unless they researched. 

But, yeah, New Brunswick is known for being… It was known as a party town, period. Even in the days of George Washington. If you look at it, New Brunswick was a city of debauchery. If you really research New Brunswick’s history, you’ll see it’s a city of pure… Like, it was a hellhole [laughs]. It was a real rowdy spot. But it was also one of the access points to Trenton, so.

BK: What do you think is ailing New Brunswick right now? Any changes you’d like to see happen?

Eloh Kush: I know gentrification is a blessing and a curse. It’s a cancer, but it’s also soursop, which is the thing that you use to eradicate cancers.

BK: What is it, sour? 

Eloh Kush: Soursop. S-O-U-R-S-O-P. It’s a Caribbean fruit used to eradicate… look it up. You’ll see what I’m talking about. 

I say that because I love New Brunswick, but I don’t like how a lot of the cultures are being eradicated by the new things. I do understand the science of change. I’m not oblivious to that. But I would love to see New Brunswick retain some of its ground roots along with the new things and beautiful, great things that they’re doing. 

Gabba Ghoul – Henry, Josh and George on the band’s fulfilling two-year run

December – Josh Skoudis: We had a lot of milestones as a band. We all had bands that we really liked and looked up to. Floral was one of them. Rob Ford Explorer, Invalids, bands like these. And it was incredible because they were asking us to play shows with them. It got us the opportunity to play with all those three and some other really amazing bands we met along the way. We kind of did everything we set out to do [laughs], honestly, at least for me.

Clockwise from bottom left: George Ford, Lacy Smith, Josh Skoudis and Henry Ricatto. Photo by Emma Murphy

Henry Ricatto: Yeah, that is true. It all came together very, very quickly and we got a lot of really cool opportunities right off the bat, because everything gelled so nicely. It was definitely better than I expected it to be. Even off the rip, people started offering us really cool shows, and we really started getting good opportunities. It was really nice.

That’s the thing, everything about the band was like trying to catch lightning in a bottle, like trying to hold on to a cloud. Alright, the ship’s set sail, everything’s going and we’re just going to ride this out till it’s done, see how much we can do.

BK: The band name itself is pretty hilarious. And then the song titles, there’s a lot of whimsical, fun song titles. So creatively this must have been a very fulfilling couple of years.

Henry Ricatto: Definitely.

George Ford: Oh absolutely.

Josh Skoudis. Especially cause, we had a very democratic process when it came to things. We all took turns naming the songs. We were all super involved with each other when it came to writing them. The band couldn’t have worked without any of us, you know what I mean? We were all integral in what we did. And we did it pretty great.

George Ford: I got questioned a lot for the song titles. And I’m like, It’s late 2000s metal-core titles, dude, I don’t know what to tell you. We’re bringing it back.

NBT Music ’23 Playlist

Lastly, here is the full listing of the NBT Music 2023 Playlist from Spotify. Over 220 songs from 100+ artists. Musicians, thank you for all the music, and so long, 2023.

Artist – Song

A Parallax View – Rain – Live
The Anderson Council – Alone With You
The Anderson Council – This Is Where I Belong (Kinks cover)
The Anderson Council – Times On The Thames
Blaa Fugl – Climb
Blaa Fugl – Frontwards (Pavement cover)
Blaa Fugl – Planning the Escape
The Bouncing Souls – Ten Stories High
The Bouncing Souls – True Believer Radio
Byrh – Elliot (Succulent Chinese Meal)
Byrh – Fiddle Crisps
Byrh – Pinkish Clouds
Byrh – Yin Yang Horse Girl
Cliff And Ivy – Die Tonight
Cliff And Ivy – We Ignite
The Clydes – No Name #3 (Elliot Smith cover)
Cold Weather Company – Let Your Love Last
Cold Weather Company – The Winter Song (Ba Ba Ba Da Da)
Cold Weather Company – Will Tomorrow Ever Come
Crown Euphoria – Melancholia
Cymarshall Law – Insecure
Cymarshall Law, Broadway, AceWonda, DJ Phillip Lee – FUCK BEING HUMBLE
Cymarshall Law, Slimline Mutha – Find The Top
Cymarshall Law, Slimline Mutha – Soul Mates
The Cynz – I Need You (Kinks Cover)
The Cynz – Tell That Girl To Shut Up (Holly and the Italians/Transvision Vamp cover)
Daddy’s Closet – PLAY ME FOR A FOOL
Daddy’s Closet – VERTIGO
DAEAZYLIFE – HELL ON EARTH
DAEAZYLIFE – SHAWTY ON ME
DAEAZYLIFE – TEK IT
Depressionista – Caveman Champagne
Derailment – Creeper
Derailment – Generic Pop Punk Song
Derailment – The Fallen
Dinosaur Eyelids – Basilone Bridge – Live at the Court Tavern
Dinosaur Eyelids – Maelstrom of Malevolence – Live at the Court Tavern
Division-One – I.N.C.H
Division-One – Inch – Live
Division-One – Live and You Learn
Dogpile on the Rabbit – Back of the Bar
Dogpile on the Rabbit – Favorite Song
EDMAN X SEANIMAL – Desert Level
EDMAN X SEANIMAL – Hammers
Elephants in the Storm Drain – Tequila?
Eloh Kush – Custom Of The Game
Eloh Kush – OSIRIS & ISIS
Eloh Kush, Jahbaton, Juelz White – Freedom or Death
Eloh Kush, Jahbaton, Juelz White – The Arrival
Eloh Kush, Reckonize Real – Pillarz
Eloh Kush, Reckonize Real, Ransom, Nucci Reyo, Left Gunnz, DJ Ives – Jersey Down
Eric Harrison – Melody
Eric Harrison – No Defenses
Eric Harrison – The Ending
Eric Raven, Anemoia – Fangs on the Fragile
Eric Raven, BULLHEAD – Hold Me Now
Flycatcher – Always Selfish
Flycatcher – Quitter – Live at Studio 4
Flycatcher – Rust
Flycatcher – This Must Be the Place – Live at Studio 4 (Talking Heads cover)
Freezeheads – Seven Dead Soldiers
Funeral Doors – Fireproof Pants
Gabba Ghoul – Electric Feast
Gabba Ghoul – I Was Born in the Same Hospital as Danny Devito
The Gaslight Anthem – Autumn
The Gaslight Anthem – History Books (feat. Bruce Springsteen)
The Gaslight Anthem – Positive Change
Green Knuckle Material – Julia
Green Knuckle Material – Walk Away
Green Knuckle Material, Madhavi Devi – Blue
The Grip Weeds – 2000 Miles (Pretenders cover)
The Grip Weeds – See My Friends (Kinks Cover)
Hair Magic – Flammable
Hair Magic – Not Friends
Heathmonger – Blunder
Heathmonger – Change
Henny Hardaway – Dedicated Freestyle
High. – Bomber
Hodera – Waiting
Hope Julia – Cherry in My Hand
Hope Julia – What a Way
Horse Boy – Horse Music For Dreaming
Hot Dress – Killing Time
Hot Dress – Pick Your Poison
Jag One – Godspeed!
Jag One – The Witching Hour
Jaheim, Keke – Take Your Time
Jay Das – Achilles
John Robinson, Figub Brazlevic – F.L.O.S.S.
John Robinson, Figub Brazlevic – Welcome Everyone
John Robinson, Surebert, CEG – Welcome to the Cool Out
Kanak – Outside – Demo
King-F – five10twenty
King-F – On My Line
Kyra Camille – Six Dollar Masochist
Kyra Camille – Trying Times
Lathckey Kids – mo(u)rning anthem
lazlo – Crazygonuts
LKFFCT – Mourning Dove
LKFFCT – N.J. Rain
LKFFCT – New Taboo
LKFFCT – Patrol everything
LKFFCT – Slump
Loon Lord – Tumult
Loveseat Pete – Polly
ManDancing – Days Of Our Lives
The Make Three – Hoover Dam (Sugar cover)
The Make Three – Local Scene
MettaUniverse (John Russello of Transilvia) – Evolve
MettaUniverse – pimp strut moondust
MettaUniverse – Thee blowback
Midtown – Cut Your Hair (Pavement cover)
Midtown – Know It All (Lagwagon cover)
Midtown – Pump It Up (Elvis Costello cover)
Mikey Erg – Drinks with Margaret
Mikey Erg – Why Was I Programmed to Feel Pain?
Mikey Erg – You Wreck Me (Tom Petty cover)
Mom Pop Duma – Down
Mom Pop Duma – Heatstroke
Mom Pop Duma – Muppets, Pt. 2
Mom Pop Duma – T.W.I.T.A
N.G.G.A., Zoloft Zombie – Perc Angle
Necto – Bugs Bunny
Nematode – Stone Age
NEO CYCKEDALIK, King Trippy – BLACK NAIL POLISH
NEO CYCKEDALIK, King Trippy – SHANGRI LA
Ogbert the Nerd – Bike Cops
The Phensic – Don’t Test Me
The Phensic – I Got The Feeling
The Phensic – Number 1 (Again)
The Phensic – War Inside
Pillowinde – baby yr mine
Pillowinde – froggy
Pillowinde – jets to brunswick
Pocket Gum – Slipping / Waiting (Acoustic)
Prettier Now – Secrets
The Promotion – End of September
The Promotion – Stop DMing Me
Public Access – Delaware Water Gap (Semester)
Public Access – Exit Strategy
Public Access – Prosopagnosia
Public Serpents – Not Forever
Public Serpents – Irreverence
QUICKCLOT – STABILIZER
Renee Maskin – Let Down (Radiohead cover)
Renee Maskin – Rain, Rain
Renee Maskin, Mike Noordzy, Ben Ross – Hot Moon
Renee Maskin, Nike Noordzy – Horses
Renee Maskin, Tom Barrett, Mike Noordzy – Nashville
RGD – Transmission (Joy Divison cover)
RGD – Turn On/Off
Rich Po, FlowDigOnTheTrack, Suke’eq – High Rollerz
Roadside Graves – Family and Friends
Roadside Graves – If You Know Where To Look
Roadside Graves – Man At Every Port
Roadside Graves – We’re Not Here
Rugburn – Archangel
Rugburn – Muffin Man (Frank Zappa cover)
RUYi, Nike’ the Artist – Heart Of The World
San Tropez – Here is Glowing
San Tropez – Nearly Lost You (Screaming Trees cover)
San Tropez – Valley and the Shore
School Drugs – Epicedium
School Drugs – Work Forever
Scienz of Life – Sound of Color pt. 2
Scienz of Life – Victory Vibes
Screaming Females – Brass Bell
Screaming Females – Mourning Dove
screenager – Make Believe
See Plus – Awake
See Plus – I’m So Cold
Shalom – Happenstance
Shalom – Lighter
Shawn Mars – Dyin’ Man
Shawn Mars – Four Track Mind
Shawn Mars – Hooked On Phonix
Shred Flintstone – Blue 42
Shred Flintstone – Rhodamine – demo
Shred Flintstone – Toy
Sierra Peaks – Fall From Grace
Silent KnightCeasing Greetings
Slow Transits – Parallel Moves
The Smithereens – Don’t Look Down
The Smithereens – Waking Up On Christmas Morning
Something Odd – I’m Not Petty (I Wrote This Song to Prove It)
Something Odd – Ruining You
Something Odd – Slutburger
Sonoa – Haze
Sonoa – Pacing in Circles
Speakeasy – SUFD
Starberry – heartbroken boy
Starberry – Hold Me Lovingly (A Fantasy)
Steve Kelly – 10 yrs
Steve Kelly (Primothy) – BONUS TRACK ‘Gold Mine’
Super Jack – Dusk
Super Jack – Glass House
Super Jack – She’s A Go-Getter !!
Super Jack – The Number
Super Jack – Understanding
Super Jack – When Do I Get To Be Happy?
Super Jack, $olon – Watching Eyes – Ripped From Broadcast
Super Jack, ISAA, Kayla Joe, Záire – Dreamland
Super Jack, Kaiser Unique – Peaches & Cream
The Thrill of Meandering – Impresson, Sunrise (Lite) – Live
Toads – Gasp – Raw Single Version
Toads – Sploads
Transilvia – Hit By a Machine
Transilvia – Son of Man
Transilvia – Night at the Roxy
Transilvia – Smug Boys
Tula Vera – Daisy Road
Tula Vera – I Hurt You
Tula Vera, April Gloom – I Sang To The Moon
valentines day – eat me!
valentines day – I BITE BACK
The Vaughns – Day by Day
The Vaughns – Dimes
The Vaughns – Gizzards
The Vaughns – Turn Around
The Weeklings – Brian Jones
The Weeklings – I’m On Fire (Springsteen cover)
The Weeklings – I’ve Just Seen a Face (Beatles cover)
The Weeklings – Lola (Kinks cover)
Zoloft Zombie – Tallgeese

Music Reporter at New Brunswick Today
bkelly@nb.today

Bennett Kelly reports on music for New Brunswick Today. He has twice won the Best Arts & Entertainment Coverage award from the NJ Society of Professional Journalists, for his features on the music scene in 2022 and 2023.

Bennett Kelly reports on music for New Brunswick Today. He has twice won the Best Arts & Entertainment Coverage award from the NJ Society of Professional Journalists, for his features on the music scene in 2022 and 2023.