What’s up, locals? We meet again on this fine Wednesday. I hope you all have been digging the bands I have been spotlighting lately, and from the feedback I have been receiving, it seems as if you have! Hopefully this column is also inspiring some of you to get out to your local venues and watch some live shows. Perhaps you have been there before and want to rehash your experience or you always drove by and now you’re going inside. Whichever the case may be, keep it up. Live music in your local community is an imperative outlet for inventiveness and social identity for everyone; regardless of your love, knowledge, or desire to hear music. Here in New Jersey, we are lucky to have such a variety of musical outlets and cultural surroundings for people to become engaged in. Just take The Stone Pony, for example; it has become a national trademark for Asbury Park. I’ve heard so many signed acts get on that stage and say, “We always wanted to play this venue, the home of Mr. Bruce Springsteen.” To expand even further, a local band by the name of The Gaslight Anthem recently shot their music video for “45” at the Pony, and that’s pretty radical if you ask me. Basically, the message I am trying to instill in your brain is that the more shows that are booked and the more shows you get out to, the more opportunity the community has to get involved in the music, nightlife, and underground culture. On that note, I am going to spotlight some more local bands that you will hopefully get out and see. This week, please allow me to introduce to you, in no particular order, some dope groups for your radar.
First and foremost, let us embrace the force that is The Agony Family. The six-piece are from Colonia, NJ, and the minute I met them, it was an instant love connection. Back in the spring, I had the pleasure of working with them, along with various other talented acts including Kid Felix, In The Fifth, Stiff Motion and more, for the Break Contest at Bamboozle. They have formed a genre all of their own, combining all different genres of music. Some styles you may hear, in their own words, include a blend of “rock, pop, electronica, hip-hop, musical theatre, hardcore, and classical.” Their live set is completely entertaining and will keep your attention the whole time. Trust me on this, you will even “hold it” if you have to go to the bathroom. Plus, their songs and hooks are so catchy; they will be embedded in your head for hours after you leave the show. Greg, Tony, Steve, Fred, Jakub, and Shawna each bring something different to the table and you can tell by their faces and body language how much they just want to play music. The emotion of their songs comes out through their facial expressions and body movements, and it is super cool to witness. It’s also apparent in their performance that they love the songs they sing; I mean, after all, it is somewhat common sense. If you do not like what you are singing, it will come off almost staged or cheesy. Not in this case. Greg is an excellent frontman/pianist, for he understands how to work a crowd and get people who are sitting down to suddenly be dancing on stage. If you involve the audience, they will be forced to pay attention, and this is just what Greg and The Agony Family does. He is constantly moving, even when he is behind the keys. One of the many things I observed upon working with this band is that they avoid becoming a “rock and roll cliché.” What I mean by that is they do not use the standard crowd questions like, “How’s everybody doing tonight?” They make a special, personal connection with the audience with storytelling, providing background and history on their songs, and the band itself. Trust me, it makes a difference. They recently released a new song called “Autumnatic,” and it rocks, so be sure to check out their Facebook page to hear it. Other recommended tracks include “King Of Kings” and “Circles.” Check these guys out as soon as possible.
Next, let me briefly dabble briefly on a solo artist that demonstrates a maturity and depth that has not been seen for years in a performer so young. Meet Bobby Mahoney. Bobby is the master of all trades; he writes all of his own music, plays guitar, piano, bass, harmonica, and the trombone. I was blown away when I also saw Bobby competing against other acts at The Break Contest. He held his own up there alone; in fact, he kept me more entertained than many of the bands. His confidence oozes on stage, for he owns the crowd. He has it all; a noble flair with the guitar, an eclectic song assortment, humor, storytelling, and engagement with the audience. And let us not forget his singing voice; it is blend of husky and sweetness like lemon with honey. When united with his romantic words, he can melt a skeptic’s heart. Bobby has that old soul sound, with musical references to classic rock from decades past. But don’t get misunderstood; his sound is all original in his own right. I adore his recordings; every song has its own uniqueness that makes it distinct, each comprised of its own charm and hook to keep you coming back for habitual listens. It has outstanding replay value and it shows an artist at a creative high. While the maturity of writing in his melodies is apparent, his lyrics ring with solemnity and a poetic excellence that ranks with the finest of today’s music. I highly suggest you get Bobby on your radar, for he will be around for many years to come. There’s no doubt in my mind that he has the potential to become an all-time great.
So, from two entirely different ends of the musical spectrum, be sure to check out The Agony Family and Bobby Mahoney. Hey, you never know, maybe after this article these two acts will book a showcase together. There is nothing wrong with a little wishful thinking, after all! In fact, this would bring multi-genre fans out of the woodworks. Don’t shy away from booking shows with bands that may not “make sense,” for this may be every music lover’s dream! Whether you have a full band, an orchestra, or just a guitar and a microphone, each musician we spotlight are awesome and distinctive, which is just what the music industry needs these days. Both of these acts put on spectacular live shows, reinforcing my rants of the importance of supporting your scene. Until next week, my friends, keep Maria Mar on your radar!