Shoreworld: Third Cape May Singer-Songwriter Conference and Stokefest

Steve Forbert & Nicole Atkins To Headline Third Cape May Singer-Songwriter Conference March 26 and 27

The Cape May Singer-Songwriter conference is back and larger than ever before bringing in the big guns to rattle the shore town’s clubs, pubs and history packed hotels. Seriously, the paranormal hunters need to check this old seaside haunt out as the rooms creak and moan with the spirits of pirates, vagabonds and hot young chambermaids (I hope) from days long gone.

But at least they get to moan and clank their chains to the updated sounds of the East Coast in comfort. The Cape May dwellings at one time were the summer vacation homes of the well-to-do families of Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. The centerpiece of the town is Congress Hall, a big and majestic old building decadent cool in its The Shining vibe.

Commercially, The SS Cape May Conference steps it up with the cool addition of Steve Forbert on March 26 at 5:15 p.m. and Nicole Atkins on March 27 at 5:15 p.m. (both in the Grand Ballroom), adding to the already burgeoning amount of quality acts featured during the weekend. The third annual conference will feature two afternoons of music business panels, workshops and musical keynotes. Over 70 music industry professionals will participate as speakers and mentors at the conference this year.

The general showcases are open to the public and free of charge but the panels and main stage shows are not. So, if some guy named Lloyd comes up to you at the Grand Ballroom bar at 3 a.m. and says, “Your money’s no good here, Mr. Torrance,” refer to your festival schedule before doing anything “crazy.”

Dusk is when the real party begins, as 125 selected acts will showcase new music at Cape May bars and restaurants. Featured players from my perspective are of course Forbert and Atkins but there are many other interesting up-and-coming acoustic and band acts that you just must see.

The first of two that stand out in the crowd is The Williamsboy. This is a band that has been touring the East Coast and working on a great CD. This working class nine-to-fiver has a sound that captures the American life in action. Paycheck to paycheck, ups and downs, and the simple little pleasures in life, which everyone can relate to.

Unlike a lot of the hip-hop and diva pop on the “ray didi-o” this is drawn from real life conundrums. With storytelling elements reminiscent of the plot in My Name Is Earl, The Williamsboy brings old time rock ‘n’ roll, blues, folk, funk, country, and humor back in focus for a public that has been longing to hear music with passionate meaning.

His tune “Trouble” should be the New Jersey state song, combining rock and roll tradition and imagery a la Springsteen, Dylan and Waits. Faded blue jeans, Telecasters and cold beer mean you can cross that unsolved dilemma off your list, Earl.

As band founder Mathew Williams says, “The struggles of life see no color, creed, or status. “At one time or another we had to take detours to get where we are headed.” If you can find something in my songs that you like, I’m thankful.”

The Williamsboy will be performing at the Cape May Singer Songwriter Conference over at Tunes2ya HQ at Altheas Restaurant right after another must see Lisa Bianco (11 p.m.) at 11:45 p.m. on Saturday, March 26.

The other artist that knocked me out is Lili Roquelin, a diverse and stormy talent that attacks her piano-based compositions with a flair I would place as close to Kate Bush as I could get without getting my hand slapped. This former resident of the La Cote d’Azur moved into the USA and high gear at 14, honing skills in PR and Marketing that put her soundly in the path of TV, radio and production opps. She went from Cleveland’s Neverending Sundown (Universal Records) to New York City releasing her first fan-funded EP with Grammy Award winner Marc Urselli. Her new disc is titled Will You Hate The Rest Of The World Or Will You Renew Your Life.

Mixing a minimal feel somewhere between Portishead and Charlotte Gainsbourg, Lili’s lush gift of darkened tale is immediately vital and her ability to usher that honest emotion to the listener elevates her to the good stuff shelf. Her writing sense is unearthly and her voice is miles beyond the many pseudo songbirds flocking to the East Coast. Glissando smooth, and pitch perfect, Lili Roquelin catches your musical eye quickly. Like the passing of a strange and beautiful woman amongst a bustling gray sidewalk crowd you cant help but turn and look directly in her direction. And in this case, I’ve done a 360 to catch things I didn’t see at first. Complex changes, smart production technique and the romantic melancholy feel of this disc make for an addictive hotshot to the heart.

Stand out songs on her new disc are, “Should You Get Mad” an Annie Haslam-vibed gem that moves seductively in three-quarters with glistening piano rolls and sparse rhythmic tranceability.

“Give You My Love” is the delicious down beat hit filled with breathtaking bleakness and implored determination. Choruses come into full bloom with beautiful violin melodies, shuffled trip hop beats, and warm analog tinged pianos that wrap warmly around Lili Roquelin’s sure to be famous vocals on this underground jewel.

Her version of Danny Elfmans “Sally’s Song” (from Tim Burtons Nightmare Before Christmas) is eerie with its spiraling piano orchestration, urgent and ethereal vocals and original Roquelin production treatment that puts this song way over the obligatory “cover tune” bridge. The Stormy and baroque feel of “Renew” is a multiple platform filled with level after level of twists and turns, vocal and music going from major to minor, half stepped trills and sprinklings up and out the dark and mysterious mind that is Lili Roquelin.

Lili Roquelin is a forward thinking artist possessing scary talent and an ambitious eye on the future. If you’re into Kate Bush, Beth Gibbons, Annie Haslam or Skye Edwards, this is the girl for you. And you can see her at the Cape May Singer Songwriter Conference at Altheas Restaurant on March 27 at 8 p.m. For more information visit or

Festivus For The Rest Of Us—Stokefest 2010

Springtime means Festivals and benefits. There’s always a lot of both and the reasons for getting involved in them are obvious. No, you don’t get involved so that people wave at you and throw roses (although some folks around here think so), you get involved to help people with real needs and causes. I see a lot of Facebook shit where people are asking for help with everything from car repairs to replacement guitars and to me, you’re on your own with that far-fetched craziness. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, festivals and benefits. An outstanding fundraiser takes place this coming Sunday at the Stone Pony called Stokefest 2010 and it’s sponsored by the Jersey Shore chapter of the Surfrider Foundation.

Of course Surfrider is well known for their work as a grassroots, non-profit, environmental organization that works to protect our oceans, waves, and beaches and has more than 90 different organizational chapters to it. Surfrider Foundation began in California by surfers who were getting physically sick due to contaminated waters that they were constantly surfing in. It has grown nationally and internationally since then and means lots of people are doing what we should all be focused on anyhow which is policing our waters. That takes money and manpower, both of which you will have the opportunity to donate come March 28.

This is your chance to help where it matters most. For a small donation you get entry to the legendary Stone Pony for a show that includes performances by, The Verdict, Glimmer Grass band, Predator Dub Assassins with Stringbean, Matt O’Ree Band, Outside The Box and Quincy Mumford. There are raffles and education on the foundation and it takes place in actual daylight from 3 p.m. till 9 p.m. so it’s good for the younger generation too. If lovin Stokefest is wrong, I don’t want to be right. Catch a wave and rock along the Jersey surf on March 28 at the Stone Pony. Tickets online before show are $10, $15 at the door. Check it out and