Yesterday, August 13, this article titled “Ridgewood, N.J.: Why Here? Why Now?” went up on NPR.org, providing a look into the Ridgewood, NJ music scene that has birthed countless acts (and Fresh Heirs favorites) like Real Estate, Ducktails, Julian Lynch, and Big Troubles. The title of the article is pretty self-explanatory as it does indeed ask the questions “Why here?” and “Why now?” in relation to the amount of Jersey bands bursting onto the music scene.
This is an interesting read, as it examines how New Jersey’s tax climate inadvertently shaped indie music today, as many tax dollars were funneled to fund the arts at the public schools. Lynch talks about having all or most of his friends being involved in the music program at his school growing up.
From my perspective, the coolest part of the article comes from Alex Bleeker (of Real Estate and Alex Bleeker & the Freaks), who talks about Open Mic Nights put on by Ridgewood High School.
“Ridgewood High School hosted these things called Open Mic Nights. All of the bands that are in this indie rock scene now would frequent these open mic nights,” he says, “myself, Martin Courtney from Real Estate, Matthew Mondanile from Real Estate and Ducktails, Julian Lynch, Evan Brody from Family Portrait. It was cool, it was an opportunity for you as a high school student to showcase what you were doing on the weekends, which for a lot of us was worshiping bands like Weezer and learning how to play their songs.”
There’s no school in the suburban Baltimore area that I can think of that does something like this. Most schools will have a “Battle of the Bands”-type event once or twice (or three times if you’re lucky) a year, but nothing on the consistency of an open mic night. Most musicians in the area are left to get to know restaurant and coffee shop owners and play there, but there’s something to be said for being able to perform in front of your peers on a rather consistent basis with support from your school. A school supporting and helping fuel a scene is something that every community needs to have.
This article also coincides (coincidentally?) with the Underwater Peoples Showcase tonight at Shea Stadium in Brooklyn. So many awesome bands are playing, and hopefully Fresh Heirs will have some coverage from Anna after her New York City weekend. But this group of Underwater Peoples bands playing tonight is an ace group that everyone needs to check out at some point or another. More on some of these bands a little later.