2010 Union County MusicFest

A sunny Saturday at the Union County MusicFest (photo by Tim Beil)

For 13 years, Union County has hosted a free music festival featuring local and national artists.  On September 11th and 12th this year, the lineup included:  The Bravery, Soul Asylum, Spoon, OK Go, Jesse Malin, The Zombies, Suzanne Vega, New Jersey’s own Bern & the Brights, and headlining the Saturday night show, Train.

“When putting together MusicFest, we have the goal of creating a diverse and well-rounded event, with bands of many different backgrounds and styles,” says Sebastian Delia, one of the dedicated people working hard behind the scenes to make the festival happen.  At MusicFest, bands play for crowds on four separate stages.  There are also plenty of rides and attractions to see between performances, and a seemingly never-ending supply of carnival food (that you know I love so much).  What’s also great about this festival is that you can bring in your own soft cooler with some snacks, and collapsible chairs or a blanket and make yourself at home for the day.

A Caring Community
The festival is an opportunity for community awareness as well, and  folks from the Love Hope Strength Foundation encouraged people to volunteer to sign up for the bone marrow registry. “The bone marrow registry,” Delia explains, “is part of the mission of the Love Hope Strength Foundation, one of our non-profit partners, which along with, another non-profit charity, the Valerie Fund, is a beneficiary of the Rock on! Walkathon and 5k Rock N’ Run.”  In addition, there are other non-profits who benefit from MusicFest, such as the Union County Arts Center, and FM Charities.

With Bern & the Brights at the 2010 Union County MusicFest (photo by Tim Beil)

Local Talent
One of the bands I was especially excited to see at MusicFest was Bern & the Brights, a local band whose name was once the notion of what an aspiring singer might want to call her band someday, and is now known widely throughout New Jersey.  Bern & the Brights came together in 2008, and their lively and heartfelt performances immediately caught the attention of local audiences.   Having played over 200 shows in just a short time, the band has developed a devoted and growing following known as “The Light Brigade.”  Bern & the Brights are Bernadette Malavarca – lead guitar/vocals/percussion, Catherine McGowan – acoustic guitar/vocals, Nicole Scorsone – violin, Shawn Fafara – bass, and Jose Ulloa – drums.  To me, their sound is a little bit of country, a little bit of rock and roll, and a whole lot of soul.

Bernadette Malavarca and Catherine McGowan of Bern & the Brights (photo by Tim Beil)

“We were fortunate to be invited by 101.9 RXP to perform in the festival,” McGowan says.  “They’ve been so incredibly supportive of us as a band and it was a real honor to have the opportunity to be a part of this festival.  None of us really knew what to expect from the Union County MusicFest and we were absolutely blown away by the caliber of musicians and artists who were a part of it.  It’s truly amazing that this festival takes place in NJ!”

Bern & the Brights released a new EP this year called Swing Shift Masies, available for download on iTunes.  You can also catch them live on WPSC Radio in Jersey City, NJ on October 14th and see them perform at Jacket Weather Fest in Montclair, NJ on October 15th.

The crowd making its way to see Train on the main stage (photo by Tim Beil)

The headliner on Saturday night was Train.  This was the first time that I had the opportunity to see Train perform live.  They were just amazing.  Performing songs from their new CD, Save Me San Fransisco, Train captivated the audience from the moment they took over the main stage at MusicFest.  Save Me San Fransisco is a collection of cleverly written songs chronicling the beginning of the band’s journey in the mid-90s, is laced with sounds of folk and blues – and contains two of my new favorite songs, “Marry Me” and “If It’s Love.”  (Click this link to download Save Me San Fransisco on iTunes.)

The Union County MusicFest continues to be an immensely successful event for all involved, and Delia says, “The event is here to stay!”

Keep an eye out next September for the 2011 Union County MusicFest, grab your cooler and blanket, and make sure you don’t miss this spectacular music event in New Jersey!

The Jersey Girl

Photo taken by Train of the crowd at the 2010 Union County MusicFest during "If It's Love"

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