June 2004

By Mike Doktorski

From indie rock to jam bands, hip-hop to blues, New Brunswick's music scene has a little something for everybody. Here's a rundown of some of the best acts currently making the scene.

Val Emmich
Singer-songwriter Val Emmich is one of NJ's most promising young artists. Emmich is hoping to introduce his smartly crafted, accessible emo-pop to a national audience later this summer with the release of his major label debut Slow Down Kid on Epic Records. He will be supporting the album with a heavy touring schedule, including 8 shows this month opening the Civic Tour with Dashboard Confessional, Thrice and The Get Up Kids. ValEmmich.com

The Anderson Council
Brit-pop revivalists The Anderson Council formed in the late 90s and wowed area music fans with their fantastic 2001 indie debut Coloursound. Among their fans is E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt, who gave TAC a nice boost with regular airplay on his nationally syndicated radio program Underground Garage. The Anderson Council is currently breaking in a new drummer while finishing up work on their as-yet-untitled sophomore CD. TheAndersonCouncil.com

New Blood Revival
In just a few short years, the groove-oriented, 7-piece rock act New Blood Revival have graduated from packed shows at New Brunswick's Harvest Moon to steady touring around the country. Led by charismatic singer-songwriter Matt Witte, the NBR recently recorded their major label debut for Atlantic Records and are looking forward to its release later this yearr. In the meantime, go out and catch them at one of their numerous area appearances (and bring your dancin' shoes!). NewBloodRevival.com

The Stuntcocks
Together since 1995, the Stuntcocks are a New Brunswick institution. Their hi-energy, hi-volume punk shows are the stuff of local legend. If you've never seen the 'cocks, go check 'em out at one of their regular (if somewhat infrequent) area gigs. And while you're there, be sure to pick up a copy of their 2002 self-titled CD which will have you bouncing and moshing in no time flat. Stuntcocks.com

Sparks Fly From A Kiss
A local "supergroup" of sorts, comprised of ex-members of longtime scene stalwarts Aviso' Hara and the Stuntcocks, Sparks Fly From a Kiss released an indie EP last October and has been supporting it with a semi-regular series of shows in and around central Jersey (and beyond). If sophisticated, well-played indie rock is your thing (think The Fire Theft, Grandaddy, Modest Mouse, etc.), check out Sparks Fly and prepare to be blown away. SparksFlyFromAKiss.com

This power trio (average age 23) is part of the newest generation of bands to rock the Hub City. Musically, these guys employ an arsenel of insightful lyrics, capable musicianship, and LOUD guitars to craft a heavy yet accessible modern rock vibe somewhere between Jimmy Eat World and the Foo Fighters. Putting Dibs in a further New Brunswick context, bassist/vocalist Beau Burtnik is none other than the son of local musician Glen Burtnik (who in recent years has toured and recorded with Styx). DibsMusic.com

Following in the footsteps of local legends New Blood Revival and Barbuda, the 7-piece Jones has been making a name for themselves with a regular (and increasingly well-attended) residency at Harvest Moon on George Street. Together since 1999, Jones gets the Moon crowd on their feet week after week by drawing on a diverse array of influences including hip-hop, rock, reggae, and salsa. 4JonesMusic.com

Led by singer/keyboardist/songwriter/producer Tom Brislin (whose resume includes stints as touring keyboardist with both Meat Loaf and Yes), Spiraling's smart, synth-laden pop rock has been making waves on the New Brunswick scene since the release of their debut CD Transmitter in 2002. A band of superbly talented musicians, Spiraling will leave you humming their tunes for days (and their genius cover of A-Ha's "Take On Me" will blow you away!). Spiraling.net

Skyline Rodeo
Formed from the ashes of now-defunct New Bruns indie acts such as Dewey Defeated, the Makeout Party, and Liquid Carousel, Skyline Rodeo got together in 2003 and promptly set about blazing a trail on the local scene with their looping, experimental brand of sometimes subdued, sometimes explosive rock music that keeps the listener guessing what will come next. SkylineRodeo.com

The five guys of Shade perform an engaging set of ambitious rock songs about loss and longing, with a particular emphasis on multi-part vocal harmonies that sets them apart from some of the other bands in town. Shade has been a regular performer at Sunday night showcases at Gaebel's on Church Street…not a usual venue for New Brunswick but a great place to catch a show if you feel like stepping out on a Sunday. Be sure to pick up a copy of Shade's debut Panel Sessions EP at any of their shows. ShadeRock.com

Primitive Soul
The funky grooves of the Primitive Soul grace the stage regularly at the Old Bay Restaurant in New Brunswick (a great place to catch a show by the way!). These five guys are accomplished players and veterans of the NJ music scene, and their live performances add to the dizzying eclecticism of the central NJ music community. Be sure to pick up a copy of their debut CD Devotion. PrimitiveSoul.com

Spook Handy
A legend of the local music scene, singer/songwriter Spook Handy can often be found performing his uplifting folk songs in non-traditional venues such as the Mine Street coffee house. Spook has also been the man behind New Brunswick's longest running open mike night - at the Corner Tavern - for over a decade. Spook's CDs (both solo and with backing musicians) are available at his shows. SpookHandy.com

This article originally appeared in the June 2004 issue of Night & Day Magazine.

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