Having a Blast

I’ve got to say, what I get to do is a lot of fun.  Really.  As the new project (Notes on the State of New Jersey) is developing, I get to visit my favorite NJ locations and research new ones.

Last week, I went back to Pier Village in Long Branch to McLoone’s Pier House to see old friend, Donny G, play an acoustic set for an intimate crowd.  Then this week, I went up to Garwood to see new friends, This Noise Inside My Head (great name, right?), play a rockin’ set – for the very first time! They’re just getting their feet wet, but I think we’ll be seeing some pretty awesome things from them in the near future.

The Notes on the State of New Jersey website is still developing, contributors are working on some great pieces, we’re speaking to new advertisers, and it’s all coming together nicely!

I’m off to research a question that was submitted to the site by a reader.  If you have a question of your own about New Jersey, be sure to ask us!

Ask a question.  Be a part of history!

Hope you are having as much fun as I am!

The Jersey Girl

New Jersey Musicians Support the Wildlife of the Gulf Coast

The organizer of the event, Billy Hoffman, and I take a quick break for a picture. (photo courtesy of Billy Hoffman)

Having a good time while you’re supporting a good cause is pretty much the best kind of win-win situation there is.  And that’s exactly what occurred this summer at Buddies Tavern in Sayreville, NJ on August 7th.  Bands from all around New Jersey came out to perform in a special show to benefit the National Wildlife Federation and their efforts in helping the wildlife of the Gulf Coast after the oil spill.  A large and enthusiastic crowd came out to show their support as well.  (And I had the special honor of emceeing the event!)

Chelsea Gohd on her ukulele. (photo by Christina Rudczynski)

Chelsea Gohd
Opening the show was South Brunswick, NJ resident and recent high school graduate, Chelsea Gohd.  The only ukulele player of the night (and probably the first I’ve ever seen perform live), Gohd was whimsical and fun and set the tone for the evening.  When asked about why she plays the ukulele, she said, “I’ve been singing all my life, and started guitar at around 12 or 13.  A couple of years ago I asked for a ukulele for the holidays, and picked it up and completely love it!”

Gohd is starting at Rutgers University this fall to major in environmental science and is a vegetarian and animal lover, so the show benefiting the National Wildlife Federation was a good fit for her.  Of the work that the National Wildlife Federation does, and is doing for the animals of the Gulf Coast, she says, “I’m glad they’re there to help!”

Rene Avila and Jay Renda from Clash of Influence. (photo by Christina Rudczynski)

Rene Avila
Having played music most of his life and been in many bands through the years, Rene Avila has recently become a solo, acoustic act.  He plays gigs and open mics in New Jersey and New York, and is looking to put a band together for his original, hard rock songs.

“I found out about the benefit through my girlfriend,” Avila says.  When he learned that the show would benefit the National Wildlife Federation, he immediately wanted to do what he could to help out.

Don Guerrazzi and The Greater Kudu
Already booked for another gig earlier in the day, Don Guerrazzi couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share the stage with other dedicated musicians helping out the National Wildlife Federation.  Guerrazzi says, “I was really excited we were asked to be a part of the show – we knew it was going to be a long day but what a better way to close out the night than playing music, meeting new people and raising money for a great cause.”

Guerrazzi even added a verse to his cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights” to pay special tribute to the night’s cause: “Kudu makes a habit living up to the hype / And every chance we get – We support the Wildlife / ‘Cause it’s a Wild Life / And it’s a Wild World / I see some Wild Girls / I like your Style Girls…”

Don Guerrazzi and The Greater Kudu. (photo by Christina Rudczynski)

The Greater Kudu’s collective focus is currently about gaining exposure and growing as musicians and as a band. They are always on the lookout for new venues and this was the first time they performed at Buddies Tavern.  “From that show,” Guerrazzi says, “we have booked two additional shows and have made some great relationships with fellow musicians.”

Clash of influence
Headlining the benefit show was Clash of Influence.   Guitarist, Billy Hoffman, felt that, “This is one of the worst environmental disaster our country has ever seen, and it seems that nobody from our government, corporate America, or our sports & entertainment superstars are doing anything to help.  We are the first nation to rush to the aid of other countries, yet we basically ignore the needs of our own, I wanted to show that it is the common man and woman who can really make a difference in this world.”

The oil spill devastation is vast, but Hoffman and Clash of Influence wanted to specifically help the wildlife of the area.  “I think we all felt that The National Wildlife Federation was the best choice to receive the donation because we wanted to be sure the money was used to help benefit the animals and environment, and they are a very reputable organization. We all feel bad for the people that have been affected by the oil spill, but ultimately it is the animals and environment that have suffered the worst from this disaster.”

Clash of Influence rocking out at Buddies Tavern. (photo by Christina Rudczynksi)

Clash of Influence has performed at Buddies Tavern in the past and felt that it was a logical venue for the benefit.  Buddies owner, Mike Grau supported the event wholeheartedly and donated 10% of sales that night to the National Wildlife Federation.

Perfect Crime and Slightly Used also performed and entertained the crowd.  The successful show was the result of a lot of hard work and the collaboration of donors and supporters including:  Mike Grau, Amanda Theurich, Lisa Sciblia, Michelle Cutler, Alicia Van Sant & Brian Ostering – from The Wag, The Village Barber Shop, Nick Borzone and Lola’s Latin Bistro, Andrea Di Meglio and Luca’s Ristorante (Somerset), Kristen Lafrank, Amanda Donnelly, Colby Krolak, Joe Butler, Liz Balogh, and Maria Cavalari and The Racing Form.

Hoffman says, “I am thankful to everyone who help make this a success…the performers, the donors, the volunteers who helped with the preparation and running of the show and the people who came out to support us and gave at the door. It was a true group effort and I think we all really accomplished something amazing.”

The benefit raised over $1,000 dollars for the National Wildlife Federation.  If you weren’t able to attend the benefit show, you can still support the National Wildlife Federation by clicking this link and making a donation!

Me, surrounded by the handsome guys of The Greater Kudu. (photo by Christina Rudczynski)

The Jersey Girl

Find out more about these bands here:
Rene Avila on MySpace

Don Guerrazzi (Official Website)

Don Guerrazzi (facebook Page)

Clash of Influence (Official Website)

Clash of Influence (facebook Page)

Perfect Crime (facebook Page)

Slightly Used (facebook Page)

National Wildlife Federation

Don Guerrazzi ~ Live at the Stone Pony

The multi-talented Guerrazzi on the keyboards at his Stone Pony show

I’ve been really fortunate over the last year or so to get to know some talented artists and musicians here in New Jersey.  One musician you’ll want to keep an eye on (and an ear out for) is Hamilton, NJ resident, Don Guerrazzi.  Guerrazzi is a singer-songwriter who plays piano and guitar and reminds me of a little of John Mayer and Jack Johnson.  His lyrics are beautifully introspective, but playful at the same time – with an occasional hint, here and there, of his great appreciation for hip hop and rap.

Guerrazzi has had a pretty eventful year himself.  In the spring of 2010, he completed his MBA from Lehigh University and celebrated the release of his first CD, I Got Your Back, at the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ.  Guerrazzi and I recently had a chance to sit down and chat (lucky me!), and I got the story behind the Stone Pony show, the CD, and some of the other things he’s working on.

The Stone Pony Show
Of all the NJ venues that Guerrazzi could choose from, he selected the Stone Pony for his CD release party in April.  He ‘s seen many shows there over the years and recognizes that, “It’s one of the more well-known venues on the Jersey Shore line.”  Once he decided on the Stone Pony as the venue for his CD release party, Guerrazzi had to make sure that he had a band to perform with him.  He contacted friends and the members of his college band, The Greater Kudu, and without any hesitation, the guys were eager to be a part of the show.

Performing with Guerrazzi at the Stone Pony that night were John Andreach – Lead/Rhythm Guitar, Danny Bauman – Lead/Rhythm Guitar, Bryan Shoff – Bass Guitar, Nick Speach – Drums, and John Larson – Saxophone.  Guerrazzi is grateful that his band mates from college were all there to back him up.  Due to hectic schedules, they only had a day and a half of rehearsal (but no one in the audience would have been able to know that – they sounded great).  In addition to The Greater Kudu members, Mike Naselli from Hoboken, NJ played his congas and made his debut with the band, and Arty Skye from New York and Nick Ditri from Red Bank, NJ made guest appearances on guitar and piano.

I’ve Got Your Back
The CD’s thirteen tracks are all written by Guerrazzi, and I’ve Got Your Back is a collection of songs that span his musical journey so far.  Some of the songs have been in the works for a while and were written back when he was 18, and others were written as recently as this year (he’s 24 now). He explains that the variety among the songs represents his evolution through the writing process, and says, “I’ve always had a passion for music.  And I’ve always known that you’re not going to be taken seriously at first.  I can only really write as seriously as I’m being taken.”  As Guerrazzi’s audience grew and he saw that his fans were taking him more seriously, he began to write what he referrs to as more serious songs.  Though he may be serious about his music, he still has a lot of fun with it, and the CD has a little something for everyone.  Many songs on the CD have moved up to the top of my personal playlist (especially “She Said” and the title track, “I’ve Got Your Back”).

Our conversation over a cup of coffee at the fabulous Grover’s Mill Cafe in West Windsor, NJ (photo by Christina Rudczynski, artwork by Robert Hummel www.artistroberthummel.com)

Defending Jersey
Of course, I had to find out what his opinions of New Jersey are, and what he thinks about all of the “Jersey” shows out there right now.  Like many other New Jerseayns, Guerrazzi wishes that the attention New Jersey was getting in the media was a little more accurate and portrayed the many facets of the state.  “For my Stone Pony show, some of my Buffalo friends from St. Bonnaventure came down and it was the first time they were in Jersey.  They said, I can’t believe how nice it is here.”  Guerrazzi took his friends to areas of New Jersey including Rumson and Asbury, Red Bank, and Shrewsbury.  “We did our part and showed them around.  I love New Jersey.”

Guerrazzi on guitar during the Stone Pony show in April

Looking Forward
Guerrazzi is just at the beginning of a very promising musical career, and it is keeping him busy.  He and conga player, Mike Naselli, were recently featured on BalconyTV, and that episode, and plenty of other videos of his live performances, can be found on YouTube.  Between shows, he continues to write songs, for himself and for other artists, and spends his time recording in the studio.

Performing is what he loves best, however, both when he’s on stage with just his guitar or with the full band behind him.  Guerrazzi has numerous shows planned in New Jersey and New York in the coming months.

“For now, it’s going to be a lot of singer-songwriter nights,”  Guerrazzi says of his upcoming schedule.  In fact, on September 13th, Guerrazzi will be performing in a special showcase with other singer-songwriters at The Bitter End in New York City.

Trust me, you won’t want to miss it.

The Jersey Girl

Don Guerrazzi official website

Don Guerrazzi’s facebook page

Don Guerrazzi on iTunes

Benefit Show for the National Wildlife Federation at Buddies Tavern, Sayreville, NJ

this photo of a pelican being released is from http://www.nwf.org

Saturday, August 7th, from 6:00pm to 12:00am bands from around New Jersey will be coming together to put on a special benefit show to support the efforts of the National Wildlife Federation as they help animals that have been affected by the oil spill in the Gulf.

The event is being organized by the members of the band, Clash of Influence.  Clash of Influence wanted to give people of New Jersey an opportunity to help alleviate some of the destruction and devastation that has occurred in the Gulf due to the oil spill.  They extended the opportunity to other bands from New Jersey and the response has been remarkable.

cover art from Clash of Influence's first album

Many well-known, local bands are donating their time to perform.  There will be performances by Clash Of Influence, Perfect Crime, Rene Avila, Don Guerrazzi and The Greater Kudu, Slightly Used, Those Mockingbirds, and other special guests.

singer-songwriter, Don Guerrazzi

In addition to great music, there will be many donated items up for auction.  Some of the items include apparel from The Racing Form and artwork from Kristen Lanfrank, Amanda Donnelly, and Colby Krolak.

Live music will begin at 6:00pm.  A suggested donation of $5 will be collected at the door. 100% of the evening’s proceeds will go to The National Wildlife Federation, to help their efforts with the animals affected by the oil spill disaster in the Gulf.

Those Mockingbirds

I am really looking forward to this show and hope to see you there.  For anyone who can’t make the show, please know you can still help the National Wildlife Federation by making a donation on their website through this link.

The Jersey Girl

Saturday, August 7th from 6:00pm to 12:00am
Buddies Tavern
277 Johnsons Lane, Sayreville, NJ 08859