Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The Warden Threw A Party In The County...Courthouse 

So, Tris McCall. Singer, songwriter, synthesist. Proponent of all things local, specifically all things Jersey. Muckraker. Baseball fanatic. Web auteur; don't call him a blogger, he's been here for years.

Thanks to a mutual friend, I've been lucky enough to get to know Tris a bit over the past couple years. The passion he puts into all his creative endeavors—his music, his writing, his website, the multi-artist shows and festivals he has curated and booked and publicized, Lord knows what else he's scheming up while I'm writing this—is admirable. His recognition that local issues, events, and politicians affect our lives in profound ways informs his creative output, and we would all do well to emulate his positive mantra of civic engagement and responsibility.

To see the man's website morph from predominantly local indie rock reviews to in-depth interviews with Jersey City mayor and council candidates was to witness an incredible level of commitment to raising the local discourse on topics that affect everyone. Tris did all this with his trademark wit, and what he would probably agree is that uniquely Jerseyesque blend of skepticism and optimism. He is the hardest-working man in Jersey show business, and I swear his days must be more than 24 hours long. People are taking notice, too; around the time of Jersey City's municipal election last month, Tris reported that his website was getting 10,000 visitors a day. The New York Times chimed in with this nice feature (registration required) last week.

Tris' most recent CD, Shootout At The Sugar Factory (Melody Lanes), is an indie synth-pop-prog masterpiece. In retrospect, I vastly underrated it when I put it at #24 on my list of favorite albums of 2003; it should have easily finished in the top 5. Songs from Shootout are featured in Hoboken Rock City Shows #1 and #3, my first and third podcasts.

Anyway, Tris' songs often deal with local politics specifically, and usually deal with New Jersey in general. There's almost no precedent to the coolness factor, then, to the fact that this Friday, June 17, at 7:30 p.m. sharp, Tris will be playing a live set in the old Brennan Courthouse in Jersey City, at the behest of local pol and County Executive Tom DeGise. Admission is $10. There are so many layers of irony here that it would almost be insulting to spell them out for you, so suffice it to say that this is a completely bananas proposition. It promises to be a hoot.

As if that weren't enough, my longtime friends Dave's True Story are also on the bill. Though the three-piece band lacks McCall's Jersey pedigree (they're a New York City kinda vibe, dig?), their jazz-folk stylings are unique in a world where very little music earns that description. Their brand-spankin'-new CD Nature (Bepop) eschews most of the lyrical goofiness that characterized their earlier albums, but songwriter/guitarist David Cantor crafted a solid collection of gems for this record, sung with swingin' style by the always alluring chanteuse Kelly Flint, with Jeff Eyrich on bass. Around the time their album Sex Without Bodies was released in 1998, I sat down for a playful interview with Kelly and David at Fez. I featured tracks from Nature in Hoboken Rock City Shows #7 and #9, and a classic from their self-titled 1994 debut CD on Show #3.

This Friday's gig is the latest in a set of monthly folk-oriented shows presented at the old Brennan Courthouse. As Tris has documented on his site, DeGise is a big-time folk music freak, and this musical series is his way of showing Hudson County's support for the arts. The courthouse might not sound like much of a venue, but it's a grand old edifice, a masterful piece of architecture that effectively dramatizes the importance of law in a civil society. For real—they don't make them like this anymore. It should prove an inviting space for both of these artists. It is not to be confused with the current, functioning Hudson County Courthouse, an ugly-ass building right nearby it, where I've served two terms of jury duty.

Verbatim from Tris, here's how to get there: "The Courthouse is at 583 Newark Avenue. It’s a big, beautiful Federal-style building that you cannot miss. Journal Square is the next PATH stop after Grove Street on both lines. When you get out of the Journal Square PATH station, you’ll be on Kennedy Boulevard. Walk one block north to Pavonia. Make a right. Cross Summit Avenue, and make the next left on Central. You should see the Courthouse building – it's big, imposing, and unmissable, and at the top of a little grass hill. Climb up the hill and go straight inside. The rotunda is right beyond the big entrance doors."

Be there or risk a contempt of court citation.

On a side note, re the podcast, I know I promised a new show for June, but I just flat out lied. I know, I know, I suck. Early July—I promise, ok? And from there on out, I'll try to make it an ongoing monthly deal. I've collected a bunch of cool stuff to play on the next show, and it should be good summer fun. All apologies for the delay.

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