On February 16, tragedy struck in a quiet New Jersey town. A crash involving a school bus and a dump truck took place at Bordentown Chesterfield Road (County Route 528) and Old York Road in Chesterfield, a little before 8:20 a.m., according to authorities. The school bus was driving students to Chesterfield Elementary School. One student died and five other classmates were listed as seriously injured in the accident. 17 out of the 25 students on the bus were hospitalized.

The deceased, 11-year-old Isabelle Tezsla was one of three sisters (triplets). Her two other sisters, Sophie, and Natalie Tezsla, were also on the bus and suffered serious injury. Their father is a New Jersey State Trooper. Sophie and Natalie are recuperating at Cooper University Hospital, as is Jonathan Zdybel, another 11-year-old listed in critical condition. Two other students are in stable condition. While the cause of the crash is still under investigation and may take some time to sort out, New Jersey musicians are quick to respond in whatever way possible.

With that in mind, Chesterfield resident Mick Chorba reached out to inform me of a benefit show to help the families of this horrible tragedy. Mick is not only a local resident in the town of the crash, but also a father, whose son attends the same Chesterfield school as the victims. Mick is also the lead singer of the Americana indie rock band Successful Failures. Mick and friends hope to raise not only awareness to this tragedy, but also financial assistance for those involved.

The benefit show will take place on March 30 at The Record Collector in Bordentown and all proceeds from the show will go directly to the Chesterfield bus crash victims. The band will feature songs from their new CD, Here I Am, slated for release on iTunes and direct at FDR Records on April 4.

Also on the bill will be Columbus, New Jersey wunderkinds, M.E.R.C.K! The band claims to be the youngest traveling band in the state. With the average age of each musician being 13-years-old, it is quite possibly the case. Regardless of their age, their involvement is proof that Jersey musicians start at an early age when it comes to helping those in need.

You can order tickets for this benefit directly from The Record Collector (the-record-collector.com) or from the FDR Label (fdrlabel.com). For more information on how we can all continue to help the children of Chesterfield, visit childrenofchesterfield.org.

Boy Meets Machine – The Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing

New Jersey’s premiere progressive rock band, Boy Meets Machine, started in very different places, both musically and geographically. Founding members (singer/bassist Joel Monet and guitarist Mike Mentz) began their journey in Huntsville, Alabama before heading to Atlanta, Georgia, where they entered the burgeoning local music scene. Describing themselves as “cold-blooded country boys,” the two quickly recruited other like-minded patriots for their hard hitting style of prog rock.

They quickly amassed over 50,000 hits on Myspace with their song “Under My Bed” before attracting the attention of famed producer John Feldman (Good Charlotte, The Used, Story Of The Year, Ashlee Simpson, Hilary Duff, Goldfinger and several others) but the group disbanded due to ideology and direction.

The duo seemed to hit a wall until meeting guitarist and Berklee graduate Christian Collabelli. The trio set about putting the pieces back together as fast as possible, recruiting yet another short-term drummer and showcasing themselves to major labels before rolling the proverbial dice and setting out for our fertile musical shore. Once here, they found their final member in the form of drummer Joe Nivare.

With everything in place, Boy Meets Machine got a taste of the first stability they had in years, huddling in the studio and honing songs that would eventually end up on their latest five-song, self-titled EP. After listening to the disc, I understood the dilemma of a band that not only excelled in playing skill, but also were way off course with the A&R people that they had been pursuing.

This band has more in common with Yes or Dream Theater than it does with the world of Blink 182 or Green Day clones. Actually, they have absolutely nothing in common with most popular rock outfits out there today. In a world of quick sales and fear of taking chances, their status as uncategorizable becomes a welcome change.

The band melds composer mentality with producer/writer layering to bring their complex sound to life. If I had to compare them to bands I really like, I would put them in the vein of Porcupine Tree, Steely Dan and Blackfield. However, the band definitely has a sound of their own, relying on a sense of original melody to keep them on their own special shelf.

Songs like “Pulling The Plug” twist and turn, winding from intro to verse with the transition of a finely tuned watch. The chorus here is memorable and strong. Backing vocals are lush and perfectly pitched as the guitar cacophony of Collabelli and Mentz covers the complex rhythms in a sheet of digital, high-tech brilliance. Nivare takes the song way out on a limb before pulling it back into the focused choruses and jazz flavored runs of Collabelli and Mentz.

“Chemical Attraction” is the strongest contender for anything close to pop airplay and it covers many influential styles without losing its identity. I liked the glassy, clean juxtaposition of rhythm guitars and doubled vocals as well as backing melodies that tumble above cycles of trilling guitar arpeggios. Joel Monet’s voice is strong and emotive, soaring high without resorting to falsetto tricks.

“Assisted Suicide Note” features a blitzkrieg of guitar mayhem that brings out the Berklee side of things. Thought provoking lyrics mix with thematic compositional rhythm shifts, breaking out into a middle-eight of coded and seamless guitar work that crashes headlong into the complex chorus before dissipating into an organ driven odyssey of dynamic space and stark robotics. The song fades with purpose as it evolves into song number four.

“The Wolf, The Sheep, And The Clothing” rises on the ending notes of “Assisted Suicide Note,” utilizing an addictive hook attack before downshifting the band into the Arabesque verse. Boy Meets Machine is a band that shows no confusion when it comes to transitioning into different directions and it is a fantastic show of writing strength. Jagged guitars, drums and bass intuition swoop in 3/4 time syncs, screaming in from left field to hammer the song with tilt-a-whirl patterns and feel galore. This is my next choice for airplay excellence.

The final track, “Man Behind The Curtain,” is the song with the most commercial appeal, if this band even cares. Looking at their overall work, this is a band that realizes that you have to do what you feel is right for you, not what some fast talking label person needs you to be so he can finance his next Testa Rosa.

Mixing the traditional ghosts of Yes with the playability stature of Porcupine Tree and the commercial appeal of American Hi-Fi, Boy Meets Machine is a serious addition to our top-shelf New Jersey music scene. For more information on Boy Meets Machine, head over to boymeetsmachine.com.

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