What was the New Brunswick Music Scene like in the 90’s?

What was the New Brunswick Music Scene like in the 90’s?

New Brunswick Music Scene

Photo: 223 Livingstone Ave – home to BGT, Aviso’Hara & a few basement shows

PART 1: Before todays bustling New Brunswick, NJ basement scene, Screaming Females and Don Giovanni Records there were 6 clubs to play a gig at that were not sequestered or are hard to find in the 1990’s. The times o’ plenty. We had The Melody, The Roxy, Plum St. Pub, Budapest, Bowl-o-drome and the still standing Court Tavern. This might seem like ancient history. For every club there were about a 100 bands that frequented the clubs in rotation. Some of them made broader strokes playing gigs down the shore, Hoboken, Philly, NYC and beyond. If you told somebody you were playing Brooklyn they looked at you strangely because there were really no places to play there. Although a gig at a old mustard factory comes to mind but still blurry. Bands that played basements like Louis St stayed there for the most part unless they were a hardcore outfit of which case we know of the success stories there ranging from lifetime to deadguy then those pesky and annoying emo bands. Now the scene has changed to an extreme 180 degrees in 2014. The balance of “official” live venues that served alcohol slowly have long been eaten up by Johnson and Johnson and UMDNJ to a eradication of mass proportions. New Brunswick is down to one place that we know of. Yea you probably know a guy who blathered this to you. In turn underground places started to have a insulated affect on the scene. It’s totally foreign to us suburban outsider now but we know it exists. we hope it does. Maybe not as publicly as it once did but we feel the force. What is amazing to see is that the caliber of bands has not changed. There’s kooky bands, to downright terrible ones too. They just happen to do things differently with a tremendous output from just one label (that we know of). Plus that whole internet placebo effect. (We will get into this later.)

The point of this pointed post series is to shed some light on the swath of bands we enjoyed watching, much thanks to a couple long threads on the FB’s led by queen-scene bee Amy Saville from Prosolar Mechanics and Jim Testa from the ever present Jersey Beat. Gigs were happening all the time. Actually, when we started doing the zine thing back then; we always wanted to have a local point of view and bring to our readers new bands they have not heard of yet from inside or outside of the scene. All in an effort to make things less insular –you know hippie-dippy punk. Not just for our knowledge but for all. Not much has changed as far as our special purpose in life. You can read our about section if you want. Hopefully we can go as deep with a lot of bands and include friends (jim/amy, etc) doing the writing to give you a different perspective. I’m sure we seem like aliens because in the era where anybody can have their first debut “EP” release in a matter of one weekend is deeply confounding and troubling. There were a lot more hoops to cross to get people to check out your music, record it, etc. Again, we can dive into this trouble in a later post but for let us drag you to the water.

Steve Albini's old studio basement

BGT recording in Steve Albini’s old studio basement, Chicago. Turning knobs.

So lets kick this off with BubbleGum Thunder. Here’s a video of a song that was recorded by Steve Albini at his home studio in Chicago. Plus a bunch of tracks that were never released “officially” on any LP or CD. Here is a posthumous video premier. The band had released three 7″ singles before it’s demise. The best official release was Coward b/w Cheater 7″ on Model Rocket Records. Trust me the irony of posting mp3s of the tunes Steve recorded is not lost on me. He mixed the tracks identified below. They were never mastered properly but herein are the best of tracks from my point of view that the band did. What was great about this band is the chord progressions were bit complex but the playing was ballsy. Joseph the guitar player/singer used lots of open chord tunings to make his life simple and stupid. The results were a very unique sound you rarely hear in my humble opinion in bands today. There was songwriting at work.

RIYL: Cows, Hum, Unsane, Helmet

BubbleGum Thunder New Brunswick Music Scene bands
01. Bedwetter MP3(basement recording)
02. Cheater MP3(Albini)
03. Coward MP3 (Albini)
04. Ghost Town MP3 (Albini)
05. Sad Man MP3 (Albini)
06. Safe from Me MP3 (Albini)
07. Acid Gravy MP3 (Albini)
08. Swallowed MP3 – Basement recording. Probably one of meanest sounding bass parts I’ve ever played. This is nasty and will rip you up like the little music whore you are. Wait for it at the :46 second mark to feel what I am talking about. You might want to amp up this up in iTunes a little for playback.

If you never had to pay Mark your entry fee to see a band at The Court Tavern. You really are part of the new generation of bands.
“If you ain’t playing. You are paying.”

Made Violent: Buffalo Gone Beautifully Violent….

Made Violent: Buffalo Gone Beautifully Violent….

inside-out Made Violent - single
SINGLE REVIEW: Made ViolentBuffalo is your typical sleepy, usually cloudy, upstate NY blue collar type of city and was once my old stomping ground, when I attended SUNY Buffalo in the early to mid-90s.  No, not “Buff State”, where besides some cool friends, Fugazi and Quicksand played once, and oh yeah, the Chili Peppers actually played a show in a classroom and being steps away from the coolest record store on the planet  (Home of the Hits-RIP) were the only things going for it.  And no, not UB’s sterile, Greek-infested North Campus.  Classes? yes! Live? Fuck no…

Us cool cats lived in University Heights, an eerily quiet neighborhood near UB’s South campus where many working families lived but never seen.  Rent was dirt cheap and the houses were this close to being condemned.   We were dirt poor, but said “fuck it anyways” and lived on booze/pot,  4/$1 mac-n-cheese and 5/$1 packages of Ramen Noodles when on sale at Tops.  

It was a time my wife’s boyfriend bar-tended with Johnny “Goo” “and Nevermind” was righteously ripping the music world a new one (buying my own copy with 100% financial aid funding).  It was a time when the school’s entertainment section of the newspaper (Prodigal Sun) discreetly revealed where that weekend’s loft/house parties were and what bands were playing because a party without at least 3 bands simply did not happen.   Bands like my housemates in Every Thirteen Days and Kindergarten and Tugboat Annie, and Spavid were playing constantly and Cash Cow Records were pumping out 7 inches at breakneck speed (all RIP).  “Larger” acts like Versus and even Rochester’ power pop darling’s Muler (thankfully, still alive and kicking)made a couple of road trips the City of Good Neighbors.  And despite the Goo’s starting to wear leather pants and, to our collective dismay, declaring on MTV’s 120 Minutes (RIP) that one didn’t exist, Buffalo DID have a kick ass music scene at that time.

But does it now?

So judging from above, you might think you are going to have to seriously impress the fuck out of me, especially if you are a Buffalo band twenty years on.  Ummm yeah, but then I was recently introduced to Made Violent.  3 young lads sporting the 90’s look (flannels and Westerberg-ish, moppy hair) but not necessarily the sound.  “Doolittle” and “Spiderland”aspirations of the past century has given away to a confident, robust, updated Strokey sound.  I could easily say “eh, already heard…next…” but their songs “Inside Out” and “Wasted Days” caught my attention, made my head bob, my foot tap, and “liking” their Facebook page

DOWNLOAD: Made Violent Inside Out MP3 – Single

If Made Violent is what is currently going on in the Queen City, sun rays have broken through those usually pesky clouds and hopefully will shine down for quite some time…

RIYL: Made Violent is totally recommended if you like any of the bands below…

Tugboat AnnieYou Want It To Be Bad MP3 from Superfriends* (1997) As great a pop band as Nada Surf IMHO
Every Thirteen DaysBride Stripped Bare MP3 from E’Tant Donne’s(1994)
KindergartenHere Don’t Eat Our Friends from Iphigenia (1995)
MulerSuite Marine MP3 from Hope You Found a Home
SpavidShe Uses It For Bird Poison MP3 s/t (1997) – This totally sounds like later era fugazi.

Free Singles + MP3s by Pedal Distorsionador, Arc Rev One, Martin Van Ruin, Saintseneca, Emil and Caroline
7″ Review: Don’t let this name fool you. Vomitface are awesome.
LA Music Scene: criminal hygiene withdrawn 7″ review