Joe Birardi has been plugging away for several years now in different Ocean County bands, and I’ve mentioned him in this column more than once. His latest live and studio band is River Monsters, and they have a new six-song EP out and show at the Stone Pony on Feb. 24 with special guests NJ Rockhouse, Plug Fiction, David E. Ulrich and night closer, Pathway. The new EP is the latest results of singer/songwriter Joe “Ciid” Birardi and his compatriots. The band was named by Stone Pony promoter, Kyle Brendle, around two years ago, and it’s been that ever since. Birardi likes to call what he does power-pop/hard rock and I think that’s a fitting label for the music that they’ve recently completed and sent to me.

  But this CD means much more to Birardi and his friends than most as it also marks a point where he is just getting over a major illness. Birardi is listed as a Stage 4 cancer survivor, and this record was a heavy focus that took Birardi’s mind off physical ailments, and allowed him to get through a very rough period the best way he knew how.  And while he is still battling the disease, he’s making progress and getting better every day. Music is his focus, and it’s helped him through some tough times and allowed him to focus on friends and family during all the technical appointments and doctors visits.

  The live show is also a high point as it’s the first time Birardi has been able to play a show since he got sick. This CD also features the very last vocal assist from the recently diseased Denny Carmella, a long-time band member and friend of Birardi’s and a co-founder of many musical creations over the last several decades here in New Jersey.

  Other contributors of mention include Joey Sinopoli (Carson) and DB Calla and the Forget-Me-Nots, as well as guitarist Bill Tuohy, vocalist Dominick Sangillo, Kevin Losardo — rhythm guitars, Rich Riley — synth guitar, Matt Smith — bass, Gerry Fortrus — drums and Gerry McKittrick on percussion. The disc was engineered and produced by Birardi and recorded in his Toms River studio. Both the new CD and the upcoming show have been getting positive feedback from fans and newbies alike, positioning Birardi and his band for a great start to 2018. Tickets for the next Feb. 24 show have been brisk, and a high turnout is expected for the night. 

  I should also mention that the River Monsters were recently featured on WRAT where DJs played the band’s first single draft, “Hurry Up ‘N’ Wait,” along with an excellent interview by the one and only Tom Hanley. Also, the group took to the airwaves to play their new CD and discuss musical information about the Stone Pony show on Tuesday, Feb. 20 on Hamilton Radio’s Weiscrackin’ Show with Dave Weiskopf from 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.  So, not a bad start for the band this year and we can only hope to hear more in the very near future.

  So, let’s take a listen to some of River Monsters new six-song self-titled EP, and I’ll tell you what I think.

  First up is “December’s Wish.”  Heavy guitars blend with bass and drums as Birardi and crew kick off and dive into the deep end of the rock ‘n’ roll pool. Utilizing a combination of vocal manipulations and studio effects. If you’re into old-school bands like KISS or Humble Pie, you are going to love this song. Birardi mixes up stark, dark verses with upbeat choruses, bridges, and intervals that take the listener along on a journey through pop-rock paradise. The song ends almost as quickly as it starts as Birardi is the master of three and a half minute songs.

  Up next is one of the bands best hopes for a single. “Hurry Up ‘N’ Wait” is the perfect pop song. Part Rick Springfield, part The Knack, Birardi’s songwriting skills are all winners here. Chugging guitars race alongside clear bass and drums as Sangillo croons in the vein of Quiet Riot’s late singer, Kevin DuBrow. Backing vocals don’t get too fancy but sound perfect as they sit just under the lead vocals in the catchy chorus. Addressing the age-old issues of relationship woes, Birardi and crew tear into this song with enthusiasm and attitude, creating the perfect pop-rock platform and delivering exceptional, listenable music. The middle-eight lead guitar from Birardi combines all the theatrics of former Ozzy sideman, Brad Gillis, with the pop sensibilities of Doug Fieger from The Knack.  I don’t think I’ve heard a pop-rock chorus this addictive in years. Birardi pushes the band but never rushes the song, and it comes out as a natural masterpiece for the group. Another terrific song that is over before you even realize it has started. But that’s the beauty of the replay button, and I used it several times for this tune.

  “Best Part” is up next. This song starts out like it may be a slow tempo ballad quickly blows into a bonafide rock tune. Kevin Losardo kicks things off with some excellent 12-string acoustic work as Sangillo explores the relationship avenue once more, pitting the hard-working, middle-class guy against the rich and well to do and their never-ending list of material possessions. Bass and drums nail this song to the proverbial floor as Birardi and Tuohy plow down center-field and deliver the electrical goods. If you were into The Ramones or The Godfathers during the late Eighties, you’ll love this song. It’s a hard-working man’s song of dedication and love, and it’s probably going to be a well-received tune for radio and live performances as well.

  One other song I wanted to mention is “Mesmerized.” The song starts off with more of Losardo’s 12-string work under drums and vocals before the band kicks in for a rousing chorus. This is another song where Birardi has excelled at writing compelling music as the chorus just screams at you. Feel-good vibes that remind me of the best of the Eighties. I love how the verses come down before the chorus kicks the song into high gear, melodic and compositionally brilliant, Birardi hits the nail on the head once again. This song forgoes any real over the top guitar gymnastics but makes up for it with an eclectic blend of keyboard work and supportive guitar parts throughout the piece.

  I’d love to go through more but were out of time, and you can get more information on the band’s webpage over at 2btbmusic.com. Just go to the page, scroll down and pick the River Monsters page to get details on the music. Birardi and his crew have come up with another beautiful CD, and I think you’ll truly enjoy the band on disk and in person.

  And don’t forget the first show back for Birardi and the boys at the world-famous Stone Pony in Asbury Park on Feb. 24 with a special guest MC for the night, who will be provided by the one and only Steve Hook from WRAT.

  You can also get show information on Facebook over at facebook.com/River-Monsters-Band.

16 Responses

  1. Bill Tuohy

    Thank you John for a great article! I appreciate your review of our work and for support throughout the years.

    Reply
  2. WPT

    Great read Mr Pfeiffer! I checked out the bands site and your review is spot on! I have seen these guys before at The Stone Pony and they are great! Can’t wait to see them on the 24th!

    Reply
  3. Rob Furey

    Great review Mr. Pfeiffer!….As i’ve seen this band before, i have to state how much i enjoy their live shows. They are all having fun up there and it shows through in their music.
    Looking forward to hearing the new CD!!!!!

    Reply
  4. JOHN

    I KNOW THE ARTISTS AND THEY ARE AS NICE AS MR. PFEIFFER SAYS THEY ARE! THEY HAVE PUT OUT SONGS/DISCS BEFORE BUT THIS IS BY FAR THEIR BEST YET! CIID&BILL ARE 2 OF THE NICEST MEN I EVER MET! AND EVERY ONE OF THEIR BAND MATES ARE AWESOME! I WILL BE THEIR AND HOPE TOO HAVE A PACKED HOUSE TOO ENJOY THEIR RE-COMING OUT PARTY! THIS I TRULY BELIEVE WILL BE THE NIGHT YOU WILL TELL YOUR GRANDCHILDREN ABOUT! I REMEMBER THIS SONG AND THE FIRST TIME I HEARD IT! WITH A TWINKLE IN YOUR EYE!

    Reply
  5. Patti A Ogletree

    Great article Johnny. …way to shine boys! Stone Pony this Saturday will be a blast!

    Reply
  6. DOCG

    What a great band ,The first I heard them I knew everyone would say the same thing.Great article about River Monsters.May I add too all of the band are approachable and have a one on one relationships with their friends and fans.Great to see artists who appreciate you as much as we appreciate them for playing cool music.

    Docg Hamilton radio

    Reply
  7. 2BTB Music

    We are very proud of our River Monsters Band. These guys are the best to work with and do many things behind the scene for charity and for aspiring musicians. Thanks you John Pfeiffer for an amazing review and for letting the public know how great these guys really are.

    Reply
  8. Teresa Tuohy

    I am very proud of my boys Bill, Joe, Kevin, Rich, Dominick, Gerry, Matt and Gerard! They are a wonderful group! Even though I might be a little biased, I think they are the best. Thank you John for writing the article. I loved it!

    Reply
  9. Bill Tuohy Sr

    Great article on a bunch of great guys! I have been to all of their shows and they are always exciting!

    Reply
  10. Kurt Angle

    The River Monsters rule! Their show at the Stony Pony was incredible. Expect big things from this group. Oh it’s true, it’s true.

    Reply
  11. Philip Beehler

    As a close friend to Joe and the boys from River Monsters and musician with the band Pathway, the closing act for River Monsters, I can tell you from being there that it was a very entertaining performance. Everybody was on point and ready to rock. Your gonna definitely wanna be at the next show. Joe is actually one of the studio engineers Pathway is using to help record our new songs. He has been an amazing and very talented engineer for us and the boys and I from Pathway appreciate him very much. We wish Joe well during his recovery and our thoughts and prayers go out to him and his family. Rock On Forever!

    Reply
  12. Ed S.

    I love seeing coverage like this for great local bands such as the River Monsters! I also enjoyed the mentioned interview that was on WRAT which gave you bigger picture of the individual band members. I’m hoping I can see one of their future concerts when I’m in town!

    Reply
  13. Teresa S.

    I loved this article on the River Monsters and the interview on WRAT. Looking forward to seeing them at a future concert!

    Reply

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