What’s this, the eighth time we’ve done an Unsigned Issue? Pretty astounding, mostly in that it took us so long to think of it.

I’m a firm believer in New Jersey rock, and the years have only provided me with more reasons to be one, whether it’s the commercial success found by bands like The Gaslight Anthem, or the heartfelt basement shows Dutchguts puts on at the Meat Locker in Montclair. The intensity of this place, the sheer invasive proximity of the populace from one person to the next, has resulted in a specific brand of creativity and artistry that I don’t think anywhere else in the country has managed to capture in quite the same way, vibrant though their own scenes may be.

We’re a state torn. Sure, we have our own venues and we have our own bar scene, local joints, etc., but in North Jersey, it’s fed into and through New York, and in South Jersey, through Philadelphia. That New Jersey has managed to carve out an identity of its own despite the influence of these metropolises is a triumph in itself, but New Jersey can just as likely mean urban attitude as it can country twang. We are the manifestation of the purported American melting pot.

It’s not all brilliant, but it’s all part of an ongoing and ever-changing milieu, and this year, I’m thrilled as ever to be involved in it as only a local publication can, helping give you just a glimpse of the wide variety of talent and work being done right in our own back yard—or at very least, down by this or that Rutgers campus.

I promised myself I wouldn’t ramble this week and just give a quickie introduction to the issue at/in hand, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t note the exceptional hard work of Roz Smith and Darryl Norrell in putting this Unsigned Issue together, picking bands to be featured, centering it around the Tiny Giant Winter Beach Ball, making sure everything was properly coordinated, and so on. Without their hard work and dedication to the cause, you wouldn’t be holding this paper right now. Well, you might be, but it would be a way different issue. You get the point.

Thanks too as always to Associate Editor Giorgio Mustica, who continues to rise to every new challenge put before him and meets each lowercase ‘i’ and wrong “its” with a professional editor’s level of righteous indignation. That is a compliment. Kudos, sir, and please know that your efforts on the paper’s behalf are appreciated by me and everyone else who reads show dates and assumes they’re correct without thinking twice.

If you’re reading this, I hope you all have a great week and I hope you find something in these pages to ignite your passion for music, New Jersey or whatever else might tickle your fancy.

Rock and roll party time whoa mama yeah.

JJ Koczan

jj@theaquarian.com

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