Weekend Roundup - Valley Arts District
By Patricia Rogers
This past weekend in the Valley Arts District was eventful to say the least. The valley has always been a place for unique and memorable experiences for artists. Ones new to the valley, and old.
Opening the sold out show was Airacuda. The alternative New Jersey-based band eased the crowd with strong vocals. Their songs added a mellow, but dense with lyrics. The band is currently gearing up for their own EP release, Daydreaming coming out next month.
After a brief intermission, family and friends who've come from Maplewood and more neighboring towns to see the line up. Chelsea Carlson took the stage and that is when you felt the overall energy of the room go up. And I am pretty sure at least twenty more people showed up to see her play. Chelsea played a string of hits, within a variety of genres. You look at her expecting one thing, and than she surprises you. Her set ended with the crowd cheering, "Chelsea! Chelsea!" You can get her album on her website www.chelseacarlsonmusic.com. The feeling of love and mutual support was evident in the room and even more so between the bands.
"Oh.My.God. Last night was literally the best night ever, and my favorite gig of all time! My face actually hurts today from all the smiling I did last night. Thank you SO much to everyone who came out for my CD Release Show yesterday and made it the best experience I could have ever dreamed of, and making it a sold-out show! Releasing an album has been a dream of mine for my entire life, and I am so lucky that I got to share this amazing experience with so many friends, family, and fans. Shout out to Airacuda and Garden State Line and all of the amazing musicians who played with me onstage, I couldn't have done it without you! Thanks Hat City Kitchen and their amazing staff for hosting this event! And of course, thanks to my awesome producer Dave (JackedCat Productions) for all of the love and work he put into making my album a reality. It was truly an amazing, memorable night." -- Chelsea Carlson via her Facebook page
Closing the show with just the right amount of punch was Garden State Line. The trio was compiled of talented musicians really feeling the music. Performing songs off of their latest CD The Send Off you can see the passion the three have for their sound as the frontman belted out lyrics. They also possesed the same power as Chelsea, and that is the ability to slip in and out of genres and sounds keep the audience engaged.
Later that night I was able to touch base with all three bands who were just as nice and graceful off stage as intense as on stage. I look forward to seeing how far this specific group of musicians go (Airacuda, Garden State Line and Chelsea Carlson). So far, I see great things. You will see more of them on this blog as well.
Saturday afternoon was a full day. At the Firehouse Gallery, located down the block from Hat City Kitchen on Forest Street, there was a Pop-Up gallery exhibit. The old firehouse building, renovated into lofts and two beautiful gallery spaces by HANDS, is the home to local artists Lara Gonzalez, April Tracey and Mike Griot.
The sun-drenched gallery spaces shined light on photographs by visual artist April Tracey inspired by the Trayvon Martin tragedy. Hung along side her pieces was the following:
"From the tragic death of Trayvon Martin emerges: the hoodie. A simple hooded sweatshirt has becomes emblematic of certain assumptions in America. And of a desire by many to overturn those assumptions." - NPR Tragedy Gives the Hoodie a Whole New Meaning
The pieces, taking up most of the walls in the common space featured familiar locations in the Valley Arts District. The side of the building with ever changing graffiti on N Jefferson Street. The same place that inspired the cover of the Spring 2013 zine by local graffiti legend Panda LESBO.
On the other side of the Firehouse Gallery, in the long hallway lined with lofts were more from the group exhibit. Featured artists also included, Barbara May, Ronald Freeman, Michael Shacham, Raleigh Ceasar and vibrant collages from Sylvia Taylor. My favorite was the sunflower photograph by a mystery artist. The detail and brightly colored flower brought me back to spring. Kudos to that mystery artist and thank you for the ones who shared their work for the pop-up show.
After the show Marafanyi hosted one of their super fun Dance and Drum Circles. They host these at a variety of venues, and collaborations with community groups.
Mike Lee's Jazz Quartet at Hat City Kitchen
Later Saturday night when the musicians and their instruments began to pour into Hat City Kitchen for sound check it was all familiar faces. Mike Lee and his band host the weekly jazz jam Wednesday nights. The night was filled with jazz patrons, for a more relaxed vibe than the night before.
One of the unique aspects to the music program at Hat City Kitchen is being able to grow as a musician on that stage. Mike Lee's jam is frequented by former and current jazz students of his from Montclair State University. One of his students, and faithful jazz attendant Tim was able to perform on stage with the quartet.
Tim's eyes lighting up when Mike introduced him and called him up on stage. Moments like this, the student playing along side the saxophone professor while his mother watched in the crowd, is what Hat City Kitchen and the Valley Arts District are all about. I look forward to seeing Mike Lee's band comprising of Ed Lee on bass, and Alvester C. Garnett in addition to Mike Lee on Saxophone Wednesday night for the open jazz jam. House band plays at 8:00pm followed by the jam.
Al Gold's Blues Sundays at Hat City Kitchen
The following day was a weekly jam, and it was all about blues. The blues crowd is the most consistent crowd when it comes to the jams. It happens every other Sunday and hosted by Al Gold's band. The faithful fans of blues start showing up at 2:45pm to get a good seat at the bar. The jam starts at 3:00pm sharp and can go on till about 7:00pm.
Prior to working at Hat City Kitchen I was never a fan of blues music but after working so many of the jams I began to know classics by heart. It is a pleasure to see the love these people have for the genre. It must be a delight to see all your favorite songs performed live, for free every other week. Friends come together and catch up, while enjoying the drink and appetizer specials for the jam. Including double wings for $10 and $3 drafts.
Al Gold's Blues jam is happening Sunday January 31st from 2:30pm-5:30pm due to the 2nd Annual Valley Gala presented by Masconsumption Media happening that night at 7:00pm. You can find all information here: www.masconsumption.com/valleygala
That was this past weekend's roundup in New Jersey's Valley Arts District. Stay tuned for more on masconsumption.com. Also follow our social media and sign up for our monthly newsletter, THE SCENE here: http://eepurl.com/bdxxNT
About the Writer
Patricia Rogers, #ValleyGirlNJ lives in New Jersey's Valley Arts District. The native New Yorker works as a writer, blogger and community activist. Starting Masconsumption Media in 2012 she has been passionate about capturing the stories of the vibrant up and coming Valley Arts District neighborhood through her blog, zine, events and more. She blogs for Jersey Indie, Luna Stage, Hat City Kitchen and offers many creative media services. Visit her blog www.masconsumption.com and keep up with your favorite Valley Girl on her social media @zine_editor (Twitter / Instagram / Snapchat).