Jersey Beat Music Fanzine


by Jim Testa

Dromedary Records marks its 20th anniversary this year, and to celebrate, label owner Al Crisafulli is rolling out some treats: First off, there’s this year’s Camelfest, Dromedary’s annual benefit concert at Asbury Lanes. On Friday, October 18, Dromedary will present the Everymen, Cinema Cinema, the Coffin Daggers, and Wax Darts, and on Saturday, October 19, it’ll be Stuyvesant, the Anderson Council, the Brixton Riot, and Overlake. Doors open at 8 pm, admission is $10 each night for 18+, and the proceeds benefit the Roots & Wings Foundation, which supports at-risk young adults aging out of the foster care system.

Want more? That night, Dromedary will release its newest compilation, From ’93 ‘Til Infinity, where Al’s favorite bands rework classic songs released in 1993, the year of the label’s birth. The songs include Cinema Cinema’s steroid-injected hard rock interpretation of PJ Harvey’s “50 Ft. Queenie” as well as some of the many artists associated with Dromedary over the years covering songs by bands like Superchunk, Yo La Tengo, Liz Phair, and Seam. And finally, there’ll be another compilation that collects some of Al’s personal favorites from all of the Dromedary releases from ’93 to the present.

Dromedary’s had a long and interesting history, including a long hiatus during which Al pursued a family and a career. But then he got the bug again, and for the past few years, he’s been regularly cranking out both reissues and new releases. (I wrote about the label’s resurrection here.


(I should also mention that around the time Al was remembering his glory days as an “micro-indie label” exec and contemplating restarting the label, he wrote the nicest blog post about me that has every been written. )

You can read all more about Camelfest 2013 and the new Dromedary compilations at Speak Into My Good Eye and United By Rocket Science, two NJ music sites that you should be reading regularly anyway. I talked to Al and started out by asking him to recall some of his favorite memories in his 20 years doing Dromedary Records.

Al: I guess, in the order they happened, my first memory that really stands out is the day our first compilation came out, Nothing Smells Quite Like Elizabeth. I was proud of that record for a really short period of time, then really embarrassed about it for a long period of time, and only recently have I become proud of it again. The day the CD's arrived at my my apartment in Lodi, we had a big assembly party. And some of the people who were there - just putting together the CD's and the booklets, and drinking beer, and enjoying the fact that we had this record in our hands - are people who are still associated with the label today and still our best friends. Steve Bailey was there, Mark Abney was there, Ralph Malanga was there. My wife Sandy and I and our friend Rich, and all of us were just listening to the compilation and assembling everything with rubber gloves on so we wouldn't get fingerprints on anything. And that was great.

The release party for that compilation was great too. That was a moment. We filled up Live Tonight! (in Hoboken,) there were people lined up outside the door waiting to get in. We had nine bands played in one night and raised about $500 for a food bank in Hudson County, and that was really the first time we did anything with the label tied to a charity, which was cool. And that night was also the night of the single greatest live performance I've ever seen in my life, which was Godspeed. They were ferocious, and they had just added a second bass player. I had never seen them live before and only met them at that show, and at one point, they were playing and they just chased people out of the room they were so explosive, it was awesome. And at one point Tommy, the guitar player who went on to play in a big stoner metal band called Solace, took a bottle of beer and just smashed it over his own head. He almost knocked himself out, it was amazing. He went down to his hands and knees for a second and he was bleeding all over the place, and he just stood up and started playing again. That was pretty unforgettable.

Second, the night Ray Ketcham called me on the phone and told me that the Melting Hopeful's "Pulling An All Nighter On Myself" 7-inch was in Spin magazine's "Top 10 Singles Of 1993." That was definitely a moment.

A memorable Footstone performance

And the day that Footstone reunited and played in my backyard was really the thing that cemented the relaunch of Dromedary. Footstone is my favorite band and Ralph is my favorite songwriter. Probably the closest friend I've made from Dromedary. And I woke up that morning and had no idea, Sandy had kept it a complete surprise. I knew we were having a party that day, because we always did a Labor Day thing in the backyard. But when I woke up, Sandy was wearing a Footstone shirt that she had made up that said "Footstone reunion" on it, and she dragged me out of bed and told me I had to set up some stuff so we could have a band play in the backyard. It was crazy. It was particularly amazing because I hadn't seen some of the guys in Footstone for years and years. And then Steve from Cuppa Joe had recorded a song for me and made a video of it for my birthday that year, and they played that song live in my backyard. It was the coolest thing. And from that point on I knew that reviving the label was something I really wanted to do.

The Mommyheads

And then I guess the last one would be the first Camelfest. It was really cool to do an event at Maxwell's that was so ambitious and had so many great artists. We had Richard Barone open the show, we had Yung Wu, Wild Carnation. Richard Barone closed his set with a version of the Bongos' "Number With Wings" backed by the Mommyheads, which was just amazing.

They never even rehearsed it, and it was great. Especially getting so many friends together at a place that was so special to all of us. And we got to reaise a lot of money for Roots & Wings, which was very cool.

Q: We should talk a little about Roots & Wings, the charity that Camelfest supports. I became aware of it from you, but it's such a great organization.

Al: It's fantastic, and it's a cause that no one ever thinks of. When a kid turns 18 and has been in the foster care system, he or she just has to leave. They have no training, sometimes no job, no parents or family to fall back on. Roots & Wings supports those kids and actually trains them to do the things we all take for granted. Believe it or not, I got a piece of paper in the mail, just a piece of junkmail, and it talked about Roots & Wings. One of the directors of the organization has a son who's a member of the youth baseball league I run, I volunteer and do a lot of coaching with the recreation program where I live. So her son was in my baseball program and I recognized her name on the flyer, and I started reading it, and there were just quotes from some kids that blew my mind. There was a story about one kid who just talked about how he had to go to work, and take the bus home from work. But he had no food at home, so he needed to go to the market. But he had no money, so he had to go to the bank first and get some money. And then from the bank he had to take another bus to the supermarket, and then from there he had to take another bus home, and by the time I walked in the door it was 9 o'clock. And I'm thinking, this is what his life is like? It's just a silly, simple thing, and it really hit home. These kids have nobody to teach them these things. These are just normal everyday things that you do as a family and don't even think about, and kids who have been in a facility all their lives have no idea how to do them. They have no role models, no adults to turn to for guidance. It really just broke my heart. So just reading that piece, I felt compelled to reach out. The kids who are that age but who have homes and have families, to a large extent those are the people who are buying rock records. So why not get behind an organization that helps kids who are basically the same age as the people who are buying our records. My wife Sandy and I do a lot of volunteering with younger kids but we don't really do anything with young adults, and to be that age - my son just turned 18 last month - it's weird to see him go to college and his job, and have a nice house to come home to and parents who love him and will guide him through the mistakes that young people all make. To think of kids who are that same age, my son's age, and have none of that, really inspired me to get involved with this organization.

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