Buffalo’s Aqueous Settle Into The Urban Nest – Tonight! Feb. 20

Drew Wajnert is a familiar face in the central New Jersey music scene. In a climate where most local promoters pounce on the mainstream Huckleberry schmaltz of the Jersey Shore sound, Wajnert prefers to take the less traveled road of the underground jam scene.

Since 2002, Wajnert has been doing his part in conjuring up community spirit with his Phanphest brand of arabesque bands and unique events. And while Phanphest has struggled with economic and political shifts, nothing has derailed Wajnert when it comes to knowing what he wants out of his musical endeavors.

His recent move to the Urban Nest (formerly Chico’s) marks a clear departure as a co-producer with other venues and logs an independent stance for Wajnert and the Phanphest name. The Urban Nest is an attractive club. After you get past the odd, ramp-like entrance, it opens into a dark grotto that was originally built to watch jazz and blues acts do their thing.

The room features a solid sound system and carpeted stage, as well as seating for a couple hundred. As with any relationship, there are a few growing pain areas that I would love to see improved upon. More promotion and personal interaction from the club staff could go a long way towards changing the decidedly mixed image of the Lake Avenue room.

But Wajnert is closing the gap himself, procuring solid national acts and giving locals the opportunity to open for some of the best on the circuit. Recent shows by regional bands such as Colton Kayser, The Breed, Timbre Coup and others have been offset with local groups like Quincy Mumford & The Reason Why, Dragster and more.

Tonight will feature Buffalo band Aqueous, who are a constantly shifting improvisational machine that borrows from many but imitates none. Their serious musical pursuit is kept in perspective with an offbeat sense of humor. From their quick-witted biography to their hysterical version of Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise,” Aqueous are a band that captivates the imagination while keeping the foot tapping. Wajnert’s Wednesday night showcases have been garnering positive reviews and are another intriguing option in the “City By The Sea.”

For show updates or inquiries into available opening slots, contact Drew Wajnert directly at phanphest.com


Musicians On A Mission – The First Two Years – In Memory Of Brian Mowery

When outsiders think of New Jersey, the images are quite varied. Some bring visions of overcrowded shopping malls and carjacking, of drunken idiots in Seaside nightclubs, cavorting, fighting and mating like wild animals. Some invoke overcrowded parkways and backwater swamps filled with toxic waste. But there’s also our good side.

Our sunny, fun-filled boardwalks. Our Italian-owned, Mexican-run pizza parlors, the invention of the light bulb in Menlo Park, the first brewery in America (Hoboken) and the Miss America Pageant in good ol’ Atlantic City. There’s also the more serious image of people rushing to the aid of neighbors after Hurricane Sandy, pitching in and showing a solidarity that takes precedence over all and evoking the now common “Jersey Strong” slogan.

Another part of Jersey pride is the musicians that call our state home. These are the best of the best and they leave no stone unturned in their pursuit of utilizing their talents for the benefit of all in need. I first heard about Musicians On A Mission from Brenda Wirth, promoter of Rosie’s Cafe shows and member of the MOAM board of directors. She sent me the company’s flagship compilation titled MOAM, The First Two Years.

The CD included a note explaining that monies raised from this particular CD would be going to the Monmouth County SPCA in memory of recently deceased Brian Mowery, drummer for the band The Wag. I hadn’t actually known Brian all that well, but it shocked me to hear of his passing. Brian was a solid member of MOAM and loved helping with the organization’s shows and donations through performance. It’s a sad thing when someone you know dies, but when it’s a vital and active member of our musical community, it’s a tragedy on a whole different level. Brian is actually featured on the CD and plays ukulele on the song “River” by Jenny Woods. His wife (they were married only a week before he died) picked the charity for which donations would be made on Brian’s behalf.

The CD boats a whopping 17 songs, most previously unreleased, with live performances tapped from the organization’s second anniversary party over at Urban Nest in Asbury Park. This disc features off-the-cuff performances from everyone from Tommy Strazza to Brian’s long-time band (over 14 years), The Wag.

MOAM, The First Two Years, is a mixture of acoustic and electric performances that surprised me with its ample, individual style that still manages a smooth continuity. Some of my favorite cuts were the airy and darkly effectual “Kansas” by Sheli Aarden-Monacchio, as well as the storytelling rebellion of George Wirth on “For Your Love.” I also enjoyed “Spoke Too Soon” by ex-Divine Sign guitarist Michael Askin. Askin is a writer that speaks softly but carries a hefty, melodic stick. Michael Patrick provides some genuine Nashville twang with his “As Far As I Can See” and Arlan Feiles serenades the Americana masses with his stellar “Tomorrow’s Gonna Be A Better Day.” Jenny Woods’ “River” features some of the last performance chords by the late Brian Mowery.

It’s extremely difficult not to mention each artist on this CD, as it is an intensely focused and precise group of A-list writers. The fact is that they all do this for the love of the performance, not the money, and it shines throughout on this jewel of a disc. Musicians On A Mission use the power of music to create connection and inspire giving. Kudos go out to all the musicians that took the time to help out and make a difference on this disc. 100 percent of the proceeds from the sale of this CD will be donated to the Monmouth County SPCA in memory of MOAM alumnus Brian Mowery.

For information on joining or purchasing MOAM, The First Two Years, head over to musiciansonamission.org


Kristen Driscoll – “LIFE” From Newborns To Nightlife On March 2 At Gallery 13

Kristen Driscoll is a local photographer with a unique eye and a passion for excellence. Her work at The Aquarian is well documented and includes a November cover where she braved Hurricane Sandy to bring us some astonishing and emotional pictures. Kristen joins top-shelf shooters such as Mike Black and Mark Weiss as part of our gifted alumnus.

Driscoll has assembled an engrossing photojournalist exhibition, and will be showing off her unique work at Gallery 13 on Saturday, March 2. From newborn infants to rock and roll giants, Driscoll will take you through her visual story of the human experience.

Her show is called “LIFE,” and will feature an opening reception starting at 6 p.m. Gallery 13 is on 658 Cookman Avenue in Suite 5. Come have a glass of wine and check out the works of one of Asbury Park’s rising photographers. For more information, go to kristendriscoll.com or thegallery13.com.

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