Jersey Beat Music Fanzine

Brings Rock N Roll To Newark

by Jim Testa
Photos by James Damion

The first annual Brick City Sound Riot brought together about 40 bands and close to 500 fans over three days at Kilkenny’s Alehouse in Newark, and left behind a lot of true believers.

First, Brick City showed that a handful of Do-It-Yourself’ers with ties to the local music scene could indeed program and pull off an event of this size; while there may have been a few hiccups and behind the scenes glitches, overall things ran flawlessly. If anyone seemed unprepared for the event, it was the so-called professionals who run Kilkenny’s Alehouse, which kept running out of beer and food. I will say though that the staff reacted to three days of rock ‘n’ roll mayhem (and a lot of unaccustomed noise) with resoundingly good spirits. Everyone involved in the festival was made to feel welcome, from the bands, to the vendors selling crafts and t-shirts, to the fans. Waitresses got yelled out for listening to bands and not taking orders. They even opened the roof so the techie staff could videotape after-set interviews with many of the performers. Kudos to Eric Moeller, Jen Schwartz, Will Acevedo, Zac Clark, and all the other organizers and volunteers who put the weekend together and kept it humming.

Killing The Messenger

Secondly, Brick City Sound Riot proved beyond any doubt that no matter how much synth-pop, laptop-core, chill wave, witchhouse, and whatever other flavor-of-the-week may dominate the blogosphere, these days, New Jersey still loves its rock ‘n’ roll. You could count the synthesizers on one hand this weekend; this event was all about big loud electric guitars, bass, drums, and vocals. The music came tinged with folk, blues, and country, infused with metal and punk, expanded with saxophones and xylophones; but with only a handful of exceptions, Brick City Sound Riot was a Rock festival, with a big loud capital R.

Unfortunately I couldn’t attend the opening festivities on Friday night, which centered around folk and country-based acts like Darren Deicide, Cicada Radio, The One And Nines, The Ashes, and Secret County playing in Kilkenny’s first floor lounge. I was told that not only was the entertainment excellent all night, but Friday was the biggest draw of the weekend.


On Saturday and Sunday, the festival expanded to two floors, with the second floor turning into a combination rock club and flea market. Vendors sold homemade jewelry, art work, t-shirts, and other merch while a constant stream of bands played on the room’s large stage as well as the downstairs lounge. The venue never seemed crowded but it certainly felt full most of the time, with Sunday actually outdrawing Saturday by a bit.

Bands came from different parts of New Jersey and a few from New York, although the heaviest representation seemed to hail from the burgeoning Jersey City music scene. The weekend’s headliners - the iconic, reuniting Rye Coalition on Saturday and psychedelic garage-rockers Black Hollies on Sunday - both have long histories in the Jersey City scene, but it was also heartening to see so many young bands that have migrated there. Of course, organizer Zac Clark – photographer, blogger, and local entrepreneur – books shows at several Jersey City bars, so he’s especially familiar with the talent there.

Here are just a few of the weekend’s highlights.

Rye Coalition


I AM THE HEAT - Brooklyn garage-punks who impressed with taut, wiry songs and excellent musicianship.

WYLDLIFE – Celebrating the release of their new self-titled disc, Wyldlife’s retro 70’s raunch-rock got the place jumping, including a well-executed Replacements cover.

NOT BLOOD, PAINT – Far and away the most original band of the weekend, Not Blood,Paint painted their faces and played in white body suits while performing experimental prog-rock inspired by the likes of Zappa and Bowie.

NO PASARAN left the room bloodied and bowed as they always do with their hypercharged post-hardcore sonic assault, while THOSE MOCKINGBIRDS lived up to their hype (Tris McCall in the Star Ledger called them the next likely NJ band to break out into the mainstream) with a strong set of melodic folk-rock with an urban twist.

The infamous ‘hard luck four,’ RYE COALITION, enjoyed a hugely successful reunion last winter and are the subjects of a new documentary film. They proved why they are so fondly remembered by those of us who rubbed elbows and blew out our ears at Uncle Joe’s back in the day with a powerful career-spanning set of old favorites.

Downstairs on the Hudson West Stage, we were especially impressed by the country-flavored rock of Jersey City’s PORCHISTAS, the latest incarnation of the long-lived NJ indie-pop quartet FAIRMONT, and our first taste of Brooklyn’s THE PRESS, who played an uptempo set of heartfelt rock ‘n’ roll refreshingly free of the ironic affectation we’ve come to expect from that boro’s up-and-coming acts. (Looking at their Myspace page, The Press seem to play more shows in Jersey City than Brooklyn anyway.)


BLACK WATER and BEN FRANKLIN (who share guitarist Adam Copeland) both played strong sets of frenetic, spazzy indie-rock. We hadn’t seen Black Water in a while and they’ve never sounded better, with Copeland’s ironic, almost David Byrne-ish vocals dancing playfully over fluid leads and the charismatic Geri Rivera’s bouncing bass lines. Ben Franklin shocked and saddened the room by announcing onstage that this would be their last show. The crowd went apeshit, dancing and singing along until the set sputtered to an end. We’ll miss these guys but we’re frontman Billy Gray will be back with a new project soon.

THE COURTESY TIER on the upstairs stage and CINEMA CINEMA on the lounge stage both represented the swelling ranks of duos in indie rock; both come from Brooklyn, and both feature sonic guitar textures and drums.

BLACKOUT STEREO did a good job of representing Jersey’s blue-collar rock scene, with a sound that seemed equally indebted to Springsteen, Social D., and the Replacements. Also I liked the bass player's look in a wifebeater and shades; wear your influences proudly!

Jersey City’s WJ & THE SWEET SACRIFICE sounded a bit like Neil Young & Crazy Horse (which of course is the biggest compliment ever) with their booming bluesy garagey rock, while Kearny’s INVISIBLE LINES impressed with a tight set of their melodic yet energetic indie. Zac Clark described them as “long-stretch getting it done 80's movie montage driving music” and they remind me – at least in spirit – of Eighties progenitors like Eleventh Dream Day or early (not shitty ballady latterday) Goo Goo Dolls. They played near the end of the weekend and guitarist Will Acevedo (one of the organizers) must have been exhausted by that point (I certainly was!), but you’d never know if from their set. I was a big fan of this band’s debut CD too, watch for them on the local front.

CRAZY & THE BRAINS turned in what had to be the most punk rock set of the festival; with their mix of catchy anti-folk and xylophone, they’ve got a raw but original sound that’s totally captivating.

MAN LEE was one of three duos playing the fest (along with Courtesy Tier and Cinema Cinema) and one of the few female-fronted acts. Looking for more information though, I was surprised to see that their only online presence is an outdated, barebones MySpace page. It doesn't even have their names on it. Note to bands: Nobody's going to care about your music if you don't.

I was a big fan of THE NICO BLUES' debut CD and happily the band more than lived up to expectations. Bedecked in gauzy veils ("we don't usually dress like fairies but tonight is special," one of them quipped), they played with energy and passion, great vocals, and memorable melodies.



Ben Franklin

Black Hollies

Blackout Stereo

Cinema Cinema

Black Water

Courtesy Tier

Crazy & The Brains

Dead Ex's

Elsa & The Awesome Awesomes

Holy City Zoo


Nico Blues

Lost Glove

Man Lee

No Pasaran!

Not Blood, Paint

WJ & The Sweet Sacrifice is an independently published music fanzine covering punk, alternative, ska, techno and garage music, focusing on New Jersey and the Tri-State area. For the past 25 years, the Jersey Beat music fanzine has been the authority on the latest upcoming bands and a resource for all those interested in rock and roll.

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