For the first time since 1995, the Makin Waves Dirty Dozen returns to the New Jersey music scene.
Here’s a year-end/next-year look at my 12 favorite local music acts, a tradition from 1989 to 1995, while Makin Waves covered the statewide scene for East Coast Rocker and The Aquarian Weekly. But from 1996 to 2007, Makin Waves mainly covered Central Jersey and the Jersey Shore for the Courier News and Upstage Magazine. Then it was on hiatus from 2008 to 2015, covering Central Jersey and the Shore again in 2016 for the Courier, as well as the Home News Tribune and MyCentralJersey.com. But since March 2017, it’s at least tried to cover North and South Jersey too for New Jersey Stage and, once again, The Aquarian. So, for the first time since ‘95, the Makin Waves Dirty Dozen returns to the New Jersey music scene with a look at what The Battery Electric, Colossal Street Jam, Cook Thugless, Crazy & the Brains, The Cryptkeeper Five, Deal Casino, Experiment 34, Lowlight, Nalani & Sarina, P-Funk North, The Vansaders, and The Vaughns accomplished in 2018 and what they’ll be up to in the coming year.
I’d like to thank most of these acts for playing Makin Waves shows this year and/or in years past. This year alone, Makin Waves presented or sponsored a dozen shows with 10 of them. I’m very grateful. For a deeper dive, see coverage of them all here.
The Battery Electric (Asbury Park): Having headlined the Stone Pony’s 44th Anniversary Party in February, been one of the only unsigned bands to play See.Hear.Now Festival in September, and recorded a good chunk of the year near L.A. with their pals in Eagles of Death Metal, Battery expect to release an album in February, which will be a Record of the Week here, followed shortly thereafter by an interview. An additional album is in the can and being shopped to interested labels in L.A. See these cats while you still can before they kiss your ass goodbye. You can do that New Year’s Eve when Battery play a free show with their buds in The Vansaders at Bond Street Complex.
Colossal Street Jam (Jersey Shore): In the wake of their 25th anniversary reunion, Colossal have made two records in as many years. The 2018 Just Take Hold EP followed the comeback LP, Living Free, and preceded a single released nearly monthly. Even sweeter was when the band opened for front man Gene Potts’ boyhood hero, Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad. Another tasty gig was when Colossal amazingly backed Williams Honor and played their own awesome set at the Makin Waves 30thAnniversary Party in March at the Wonder Bar. Coming up, they’ll at Light of Day Festival, at Bar Anticipation in Belmar on Jan. 12 for the annual Big Man’s Birthday Bash in tribute to the late E Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons, and Feb. 16 at Langosta Lounge in Asbury, where they’ve been packin’ the joint. In May, they’ll expand their trajectory with another EP and an 11-day European tour.
Cook Thugless (Jersey City): After celebrating their fifth anniversary with a packed house concert in their joint base of BK, Thugless offered the world three more tasty music vids, one of which “Lockjaw,” starred their Rutgers/Mason Gross pals Brandon Flynn of Netflix’s “13 Reasons Why.” All three tunes, also “DAT MOFK” and “Diablo,” will be featured on the band’s fourth studio LP, which is expected to drop on New Year’s Eve. Look for a Record of the Week here in January, hopefully with a brand-new clip to stream with it. The LP follows Money, the 2017 Makin Waves Album of the Year.
Crazy & the Brains (Jersey City): This fun-filled punk ensemble recently were on a two-week East Coast/Midwest tour with Leftover Crack and Negative Approach in support of the new LP, Into the Ugly. Crazy & Brains filled a long release draught also with a summer EP, Out in the Weedz. Both were produced by Pete Steinkopf of The Bouncing Souls. Into the Ugly made Punk Rock Bowling Festival’s Best Albums of 2018 list, while Out in the Weedz was in Makin Waves’ Top 10. The band played the festival for the second year in a row, this time out in Las Vegas. Upcoming dates include New Year’s Eve at Pet Shop in Jersey City, Jan. 8 at Fiona Silver’s Birthday Party at Mercury Lounge, New York City, and opening for Joe Jack Talcum of Dead Milkmen on Jan. 11 at El Cortez, also New York City.
The Cryptkeeper Five (Trenton): This year, TCK5 signed a deal with Richmond-based Say-10, which reissued the veteran punk band’s best-ever album, 2017’s Stronghold, on vinyl. A video for the misfit anthem, “1,000 Keys,” followed, along with a fall tour with Stringer. After playing The Ramones at a November charity tribute concert at Millhill Basement that raised $3,000 for Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, the year culminated there with Cryptkeeper’s annual Christmas Spectacular, which Makin Waves was proud to sponsor. Upcoming shows for these tireless road warriors include Jan. 19, Dante’s Bar, Frostburg, Md., with The Downstrokes and Defiant Brood, and Feb. 9, The Brighton Bar, Long Branch, with The Graveyard School, Devil’s Whip and a reunion of Sharky’s Machine.
Deal Casino (Asbury Park); Whew! Deal Casino released two fantastic records this year: the Isadora Duncan EP in June and the LLC LP in November, both of which were produced by Erik Kase Romero (The Front Bottoms, dollys). A slew of videos from the masterful Anthony Yebra followed. Just goes to show the powerful effect of a strong team, something every band should have. Deal Casino also were one of the few unsigned bands to play Sea.Hear.Now. While on their first national tour opening for The Wrecks, they played another sold-out show in Asbury Park at Asbury Lanes on Dec. 1. The six-week tour concluded with a Dec. 15 show at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. More great things are on the horizon for Deal Casino, including brand new music and videos early in the New Year that will be announced soon.
Experiment 34 (Asbury Park): Having recently moved into new bassist Bryan Viegas’ Matchbox Studios in Eatontown, the twice Asbury Music Award-nominated Experiment 34 are calling Asbury Park home these days. Also joining them are new drummer Keith Leming of Fun While You Wait. They are quite happy with the new lineup. A year in the making, E34 have created a brilliant political concept album entitled, What Dying Feels Like. The second single, “Well You Know,” was released on Dec. 14 with the announcement of an album release party on Feb. 16 at Asbury Lanes with Des and the Swagmatics, Bulletproof Belv feat. Matty Carlock, P-Funk North and Flourish. The show is being co-presented by The Aquarian Weekly and Makin Waves. A long-form video of “What Dying Feels Like” is in the planning stages.
Lowlight (Asbury Park): Having played with them twice before, Lowlight toured with The Pretenders on the East Coast last spring, including two shows at Count Basie Theatre, Red Bank. The tour coincided with the release of an EP bravely entitled “Born to Run,” a follow-up to the brilliant 2016 debut full-length, Where Do We Go from Here. A single, “Burkhalter,” will be released on Holmdel-based Telegraph Hill Records on Dec. 28 that will be on an LP expected in the summer. In February, Lowlight will do a Southeast tour. Upcoming hometown dates include Dec. 28 at Wonder Bar with The Burns; Jan. 11, The Saint; Jan. 19, Langosta Lounge during the Light of Day Festival with Levy & the Oaks, and March 3, Danny Clinch Transparent Gallery. Lowlight also will play Feb. 15, Coney Island Baby, New York City; Feb. 22, Pino’s, Highland Park, March 2, Boot & Saddle, Philadelphia.
Nalani & Sarina (Flemington): Hot damn, if Nalani & Sarina aren’t destined to be a national act! They’ve toured the country in support of their phenomenal The Circle LP, including Nashville, Chicago and L.A. The tour continues New Year’s Eve at the Trocadero in Philly opening for Low Cut Connie and Jan. 19 at Asbury Park Yacht during Light of Day with American Trappist and Avery Mandeville and the Man Devils before it heads west to Columbus, Ohio; Chicago; Des Moines, Iowa, and Columbia, Kansas City, and St. Louis, Mo. Nalani & Sarina were the first act Makin Waves interviewed upon its January 2016 return and the only one interviewed a second time since then. Both landed them on the front page of their hometown newspaper, the Courier News, and the second on the cover of The Aquarian. Oh, and Springsteen biographer Dave Marsh loves them too, as does Billboard!
P-Funk North (North Plainfield): The tasty baked goodness of P-Funk North was grooved at a slew of amazing shows, including monthly at Blackthorn in New Brunswick, as well as at Starland Ballroom, the Stone Pony, White Eagle Hall, Brighton Bar and House of Independents opening for nationals, such as The Wailers, Ballyhoo!, Fishbone, and Yellowman. More fun will be had with a raucous first weekend of the New Year when PFN opens for feel-good Cali rapper Shwayze on Jan. 4 at Stanhope House and the Sublime tribute band Badfish on Jan. 5 at Starland Ballroom. They’ll make their Asbury Lanes debut on Feb. 16 with Experiment 34, Des and the Swagmatics, Bulletproof Belv feat. Matty Carlock, and Flourish. Expect a third release from P-Funk North in the New Year.
The Vansaders (Asbury Park): One of the best-drawing bands in the popular honky tonk town of Asbury Park, The Vansaders played so many great shows this year, including Dillinger Four at House of Independents and PEARS at Asbury Park Brewery, as well as The Slackers at Stanhope House, plus a bunch of jam-packed sweaty sets at Asbury Park Yacht Club and Millhill Basement, often with The Cryptkeeper Five. Coming up will be New Year’s Eve with The Battery Electric at Bond Street Complex, and it’s free! The Vansaders then will release an acoustic LP, Standstill, on Jan. 15 that features a single of a rootsy cover of Jawbreaker’s “Kiss the Bottle,” a video for which dropped Dec. 26. Look for a Record of the Week here in mid-January. Rack ball!
The Vaughns (Springfield): I have enjoyed The Vaughns since I saw them in a dark, dense, dusty New Brunswick basement three years ago. It’s great to see them commanding such great gigs as their own night at House of Independents, opening for Tor Miller at Asbury Lanes, playing North Jersey Indie Rock Festival at White Eagle Hall, and touring the Mid-Atlantic this month with Walkney. They also dropped two fun videos this year for “Coffee Sundae” and “Bring Your Kids to Work Day.” The beginning of the New Year, The Vaughns will be in creative mode, finishing up their next album, which will include “Coffee Sundae.” Expect big things in 2019.
Bob Makin is the reporter for www.MyCentralJersey.com/entertainmentand a former managing editor of The Aquarian Weekly, which launched this column in 1988. Contact him at email@example.com. And like Makin Waves at www.facebook.com/makinwavescolumn.