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Category: Entertainment

W.H.A.T. sends ‘Love Letters’ to Kearny’s Arlington Players Club

Photos by Jeff Bahr/ Mary Costello and Jim Hague in “Love Letters.”

 

By Jeff Bahr

To love someone and to somehow lose that love is a sad circumstance nearly as common to the human existence as our very need to breathe. This divine heartache, as it has often been described by romantics, can attack without warning and it cares not whom it thrashes in the process. Left lying in the vast heap of love’s debris are members of every race, religion, creed, nationality, social stratum; the list goes on. The wrenching heartache that comes after Cupid’s arrow snaps knows no boundaries. And the residual effects of a love unrequited can last for a lifetime.

So, it stands to reason, it is that rare and lucky person who has managed to make it through life without being taken in by this beguiling force. For who really wants to be just another loser in the love sweepstakes; just another fallen warrior in love’s pathetic army? Would it be you, you, or you perhaps? What sort of masochist wishes to spend every waking day mourning a love that just couldn’t be?

It turns out the answer is a great many of us because reasoning has precious little to do with the pursuit of love. In fact this make-it-throughlife- unscathed theory, as reassuring as it may sound, holds about as much water as a kitchen strainer. Poet Alfred Lord Tennyson understood love’s contradictions at a level like no other. In his celebrated 1850 sonnet, In Memoriam, one now famous verse is as noted for its depth as it is for its lyrical beauty.

I hold it true, whate’er befall/I feel it when I sorrow most/ ‘Tis better to have loved and lost/Than never to have loved at all.

Here, Tennyson’s meaning is simple yet profound: Despite the indescribable pain and emptiness that gush forth like a geyser when a love held dear suddenly ceases to be, it is within the former condition that we have truly lived to the highest; that we have transcended, if only for a spell, the mundane, the ordinary, the mortal.

In “Love Letters”, a play written by A.R. Gurney and performed at the Arlington Players Club by members of the West Hudson Arts and Theater Company (W.H.A.T.), childhood friends Andrew Makepeace Ladd III and Melissa Gardner sample such fl eeting love. And lucky members of the audience get to watch their story unfold while nibbling on truffles and sipping on wine. W.H.A.T.’s not to like?

In the two-person play directed by Mark Morchel and produced by Gerald Ficeto, Ladd, played with aplomb by The Observer’s own sportswriter Jim Hague, is a wealthy young man with high ambitions and a sense of charitable purpose. Living happily under his father’s controlling thumb, he believes he can change the world if given half a chance. Gardner, played just as masterfully by Hague’s reallife partner Mary Costello (who functions as a Hudson County Superior Court Judge when not acting) isn’t nearly as rigid or uptight. A freespirited girl of even greater means, she has money to burn and a family life she’d just as soon forget. Brought together by their families as youngsters, Love Letters follows the two for a 50-year span as their love blossoms, wilts, retreats and blooms once again, with each step of the saga recorded in pen and mailed back and forth to each other in the form of – you guessed it.

A natural wit, Hague, as Ladd, is at his finest whenever a line calls for humor and precise timing. But he’s equally impressive when he works his way through the play’s more subtle passages. In the acting business this is commonly referred to as “range” and it’s something that Hague has in spades. Costello, as Melissa, provides the perfect counter balance to Ladd’s booming presence, particularly when he gets up on his high horse. It is then that her rapier-like wit cuts him to ribbons and brings him back to earth.

Producer/emcee Gerald Ficeto sets the stage for “Love Letters” at the Arlington Players Club.

 

As the play progresses it becomes obvious to the audience that these pen-pals love each other, even if it’s something that they themselves aren’t always aware of. When the stars align and they become one for the very first time, the audience is on board with their budding romance and cheering them on from the sidelines. Unrealistic expectations and the force of gravity, however, conspire to make this first physical “outing” a disaster. Luckily, there will be a second act.

The chemistry between Hague and Costello is undeniable and infectious. A good chunk of this must be attributed to the duo’s acting prowess, but the ease that comes from their real-world relationship probably factors in as well. It’s a best-of-bothworlds scenario that adds even more validity to the crisp dialogue.

When the play moves into its final moments and Hague’s voice begins to crack with sadness, only the strongest souls will be able to force the rising lump back down into their throats. In all honesty, it was a feat that this reviewer couldn’t quite manage. Love letters is a beautifully written play that’s brimming with wit, irony, happiness, sadness, and a few unanticipated plot twists. Hague and Costello are wonderfully entertaining actors who – working in tandem as a skilled team – pull spectators in. By show’s end one can almost hear a collective “if only” coming from audience members who, along with the star-crossed lovers are betting against the odds. As plays go, it doesn’t get much better than that.

‘Mediterranean with a soft Asian touch’

Photo courtesy of yelp.com/ Sushi tower

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

NEWARK–

Years of decay and decomposition plagued one former Portuguese watering hole on on Ferry St. in Newark. The once glorious Ironbound icon Roque and Rebelo had become a shell of its former self, with the building showing more years than it had been in existence. Since May 2011, Carlos Pinto has taken that dried up watering hole and created an oasis in Newark.

“It was one of the oldest restaurants in the area,” explained Pinto. “Basically, when the Portuguese immigrated into the area, this was one of their stomping grounds and it became a focal point of the community.”

For Pinto, the restaurant has some history. As a teen, Pinto worked at the restaurant and grew to love the place.

“There is definitely a kinship with the establishment,” Pinto said of the restaurant he would eventually own. He promised himself that one day, if he had the wherewithal, he would make the place something special.

Despite his years of working in the restaurant in various positions, becoming a member of the restaurant business was not something he’d planned on doing.

“I like design and architecture,” said Pinto, who now works as a power plant builder in Latin America and the United States. “This was my opportunity to do something special (for the restaurant).”

While the restaurant had become a fi xture in the area, Pinto wanted to add his own touch to the menu, creating the unique Tapas and Sushi combination that Manu’s currently uses.

“I’ve toured the world quite a bit and I took little ideas of different parts of the world to create a soft fusion,” Pinto said. “Believe it or not, there is a lot in the sushi kitchen that is in the tapas kitchen. I just wanted to create a new experience for the community.”

Manu’s and its unique menu has created a restaurant that has something for anyone, even if you’re not in love with tapas or sushi.

“(Manu’s) is Mediterranean with a soft Asian touch,” Pinto explained. “However, we have traditional dishes as well. The idea was not to own a restaurant – it was to make something special.”

Even the eatery’s name highlights this restaurant’s diversity.

“In Portuguese, Many is a slang term for brother,” Pinto said, referring back to his own history. “My sister used to call me that. It’s short, simple, and not very Portuguese, but I’ve been told people think it seems Spanish or even Asian, so it seemed like the appropriate title.”

While the restaurant has been revamped, Pinto and Manu’s has fought a social taboo familiar to others in his neighborhood.

“There’s a certain stigma that sushi in Newark can’t be good,” Pinto explained. “We can’t buy better fi sh and created our own reputation for good fish. We had to do it right.”

Keeping with the traditions that distinguished the old restaurant, Pinto wanted to keep the comfortable, family environment that had existed with the previous establishment.

“It’s a very family feel type of environment,” Pinto explained. “I wanted to create a cozy, comfortable, and familiar feel to the place.”

The unique challenge for Pinto is carrying the responsibilities of both the restaurant he owns, and his day-to-day job.

“The establishment is operated by my sister and other people who have been here since the beginning,” explained Pinto. “I wish I could have opened it earlier, but it was just a timing thing.”

The recently refurbished Manu’s, with its unique cuisine and comfortable environment, is located at 90 Ferry St. in Newark and is open until late seven days a week. It has a full bar and serves lunch on weekdays.

Bloomfield Restaurant Week hopes to highlight ‘Jewel of Essex County’

 

Photos by Anthony J. Machcinski

 

Photos by Anthony J. Machcinski/ Senorita’s (top) and Anthony’s Cheesecake are just two of the 24 restaurants participating in Restaurant Week, which kicked off on March 4th and will run through March 10th.

By Anthony J. Machcinski

‘Bloomfield’s restaurant scene is labeled one of the best kept secrets in New Jersey. I stand here today to say that it will no longer be a secret.”

These words, spoken by Essex County Freeholder Brendan Gill, signify the goal of Bloomfield Restaurant Week; to expose the diversity of Bloomfield’s restaurant scene.

“(Restaurant Week Committeewoman) Linda (Barucky) would always hassle me about how New York and Montclair have their restaurant week and we were sitting in Newark and they were having their restaurant week and she said, ‘Bloomfield has to have one,’ ” said liaison to the Township Council Michael Venezia at a mid-February press conference. “So I went to the council in October and it unanimously passed.”
Bloomfield Restaurant Week, which will become an annual event, will run from March 4 to 10, showcasing the many restaurants  that Bloomfield has to offer.

“What makes this unique is the diversity of the restaurants participating,” Gill said at the same press conference.

“Our main motivation was the number of diverse restaurants in town and we wanted to promote them in town and out of the area,” explained Barucky.

According to Barucky, March was chosen because, “March is generally a slow month for restaurants and we thought it might give a boost to the restaurants.”

In total, 24 restaurants, ranging in cuisine from the conventional American and Italian to the exotic Peruvian and Thai, will take part in the event.

Participating restaurants will feature prefix menus for a cheaper rate than normal, with dinners ranging from $18 to $30 and lunches from $7 to $15.

The event has restaurant owners excited about the opportunity to showcase their restaurants.

“The main thing (the week will do) is it will bring in more people and to get your name out there,” said Phil Byrne, co-owner of Anthony’s Cheesecake, the only Restaurant Week participant offering breakfast as a meal option. “We started with just lunch and it’s now a big thing. We do the normal turkey and beef things, bacon, waffles with chicken. I don’t think you get that anywhere. I think we’re a little more diverse.”

While Byrne hopes to gain more traffic in his restaurant, Andres Quesada, owner of Senorita’s Mexican Grill on Glenwood Ave., already sees positive signs coming from the announcement of Restaurant Week.

“It’s a good way to build a relationship amongst other business owners,” explained Quesada, who is also a member of the Restaurant Week Committee. “I know many (of the other restaurant owners) after this.”

Quesada also explained that the owners have asked about the formation of some sort of group to continue to improve the restaurant scene in town.

For Restaurant Week, Quesada will be doing a little bit of a trial. He has created a black bean soup that, with positive interaction, will become a new part of his regular menu.

“I’m trying it for Restaurant Week and it’s not normally on the menu,” Quesada explained. “I want to see how people respond to it to see whether we will put it on the normal menu.”

Quesada also asks patrons to try the Chicken Mole, as he feels, “it kind of encapsulates our cuisine.”

One possible patron might be Bloomfield Mayor Raymond McCarthy, who talked at the press conference about his excitement for the event.

“We’ve always said that Bloomfield is one of the most outstanding towns in the county,” McCarthy said. “This will bring people back to the community…This will make Bloomfield the jewel of Essex County…My anticipation is at least I’ll hit 10 places.”

To find a full list of participating restaurants as well as more information on Restaurant Week, go to www.bloomfieldrestaurantweek.com.

Donegal Saloon gets ‘Jack’ed up

Photos Courtesy of www.thejacknj.com/ Pictured clockwise from left, Kurt Balchan, Gary Gallagher, Adam Riley, Squigs, Alzie Sisco

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

As time has gone by and music has evolved, many establishments have done away with hosting original bands, giving in to the bands that play the music of an era gone by. Donegal Saloon in Kearny isn’t one of those places, which allowed the crowd to be wowed by the performance of The Jack.

Bringing a new style back to the feel of the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead, The Jack classifies themselves as a jam band, evolving from their earlier days as a Rock ‘n’ Roll band.

“We came more from rock ‘n’ roll and evolved into a jam band,” said Bassist Adam Riley. “We went into more grooving stuff and wanted to let loose. Rock ‘n’ Roll will always be at the roots of our music.”

The band started in the early 90’s, as all the band members had been friends since growing up in Rutherford. The band was originally called One Eyed Jack, but when the former guitarist left, the band had to be renamed due to copyright; thus, The Jack was created, leaving the name similar to the old for simplicity’s sake.

Since The Jack’s reincarnation four years ago, the band has continued to be a mainstay in the Garden State.

“We’ve been playing Jersey for about 20 years,” said Riley. “If you play far away, you have to keep going out there. We’re at the point in our careers where we just want to consistently play.”

With families to support, the band hasn’t had the opportunity to travel outside of the state.

“(When we didn’t have families), there was a lot more freedom,” Riley noted. “Its not easy to just get up and go. We have our responsibilities at home.”

Despite familial responsibilities, the band has still managed to be successful in writing and producing their own music, a feat many musicians nowadays can’t claim.

“We’re always trying to get into the studio,” Riley explained.

When in the studio, The Jack has been able to produce their self-titled album, including five tracks that would make their predecessors proud. One track entitled “Liberty Bell” has the kind of groove found in some of the best funk songs of the ‘70s. The keyboard play of Squigs Minutello shines through the whole song, but never overpowers the performance of the other band members.

The Jack is even able to slow down their style and provide a powerful song in “Steal Your Crown.” The vocals of Kurt Balchan and Adam Riley provide a soulful performance to go over the top of Gary Gallagher’s blusier guitar playing and Alzie Sisco’s subtle drumbeat.

It is through the collective soul of the band that The Jack are able to do something not many bands can accomplish today, providing a new sound that crowds of all ages want to hear at bars, clubs, and other establishments.

“People (out-of-state) are more open-minded about the music you play,” Riley explained. “Jersey has a lot of cover bands and that’s why Donegal Saloon is so great. People just don’t expect you to play your own material.”

After playing Donegal Saloon on Feb. 24, the band will continue to play across New Jersey before booking Spring and Summer festivals around the state. To listen to the band’s music or to buy their album, visit www.thejacknj.com.

Book to film adaptation

 

The Walking Dead TV show (shown with novel on right) hopes to have some of the success of the Harry Potter franchise.

By Anthony J. Machcinski

As AMC’s “The Walking Dead” continues through the second half of its second season, one huge issue has risen. “The Walking Dead,” based on the graphic novel series of the same name, follows a group of zombie apocalypse survivors in their endless quest to fight the odds and survive.

At the end of the first half of the season, the TV show took a turn away from the graphic novel. I won’t give the spoiler away, but if you’ve read the books, it certainly comes as a shock.

This turn got me thinking, with the amount of movies and TV shows taking popular ideas from novels, how many of them actually stick to the plan? I am not including ones based off of real life events like the films “Black Hawk Down” and “Friday Night Lights.”

Arguably, the most popular novelto- film adaptation has been the “Harry Potter” series. The first book, released June 1997, simply took the world by storm, as author J.K. Rowling would follow Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with six more lengthy books.

Four years after the debut of the novel, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” would hit theaters and kick of a chain reaction that would lead to box office revenues of $7.7 billion dollars.

Why did the “Harry Potter” franchise have such good success? It stuck to the book. While there are some minor differences between the books and the films, the main plot and sequence remains the same. People who read the books were able to see what they read visualized.

The “Harry Potter” model, as I’ll call it here for simplification, is not the same approach other studios have taken.

The “Bourne” films, based around super spy Jason Bourne, are taken from the Robert Ludlum series of the same names. There are several differences in the novels that the movies left out. In the film, and again, I’ll try to leave out much of the detail, Carlos the Jackal, an assassin, is killed in the first film, “The Bourne Identity.” However, in the novels, Carlos the Jackal isn’t killed until the second book.

Despite this twist between the film and the novels, The “Bourne” trilogy was a huge box office success, to the tune of $945 million. It has been so successful that a possible fourth film, “The Bourne Legacy,” is in the works.

However, going away from the “Harry Potter” model isn’t always successful. “The Sum of All Fears,” a film built off the Tom Clancy novel bearing the same name, was released in May 2002, and got a 59% rating on rottentomatoes.com. The film, which stars Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman, changed several parts of the movie including bits and pieces of the ending.

Why would studios change scenes from novels? Sometimes, as explained with the “Harry Potter” differences, the films omit certain details for time constraints. Leaving out a secondary relationship that doesn’t affect the outcome of the movie could help in cutting an extra amount of time and money out of the film’s budget.

However, when a production sees such a drastic change, there may not be a reason for that change. In a “Hollywood Reporter” interview with “Walking Dead” producer Robert Kirkman, Kirkman explains the death of one of the characters by simply saying, “When a good idea comes up, you have to go with it.” Whether the show continues to be as successful as the graphic novels is something only time will tell; however one thing we can easily say is this: you will have to read the novels and watch the shows to see how different things will be.

Try Tequila Rose for modern country approach

Photo courtesy Rick Newport/ Tequila Rose after a recent performance (l. to r.): Gary Holly, Rick Newport, Mike Smith and John Brite.

 

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

While country music can’t be listed as one of the more popular music genres today, a resurgence in country music, led by artists like Toby Keith, the Zac Brown Band, and Lady Antebellum is creeping onto radio airwaves. A country band from an unconventional Northern home hopes for this trend to continue.

Tequila Rose, based out of Central Jersey, was created in 2001. Since that time, it has been one of the bands taking an underground approach in the latest country movement.

“I go to Sirius radio and I can hear a new country hit every day,” said Tequila Rose vocalist/guitarist Rick Newport. “There is just so much great, new music written. Since we are a cover band, it’s the stuff people ask for.”

Country, however, was not something that came naturally to Newport. A rock ‘n’ roll guitarist before the creation of Tequila Rose, Newport was initially reluctant to switch genres, but rose to the challenge.

“I was a little hesitant at first because a guitar player, when you get into country, it’s a lot more challenging,” Newport said. “There’s a lot of fast guitar playing. I spent a couple of years really studying country guitar playing. It’s a completely different style and I put a lot of work into it. It’s certainly paid off very well.”

Tequila Rose, which initially had two girls in their lineup, switched to a four piece, four-man lineup a few years back and has performed at gigs all over New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

The band has made its name performing with a modern country style and staying true to the covers that it performs.

In the popular song “Toes,” written by the Zac Brown Band, Tequila Rose provides the same relaxing feeling as the original. The band’s range is demonstrated in its performance of Blake Shelton’s, “Hillbilly Bone.” The song is much edgier than “Toes” and Tequila Rose is able to make the transition between the two songs a seamless affair.

Newport and the rest of the band even manage to pour a little Tequila Rose into Jimmy Buffet’s “Margarittaville.” With the ability to perform vastly different songs in its repertoire, Tequila Rose has become one of the more popular cover bands in the area, playing gigs in both South and North Jersey. Even so, their musical career isn’t yet something that the band can make into a full time job.

“None of us are making a living strictly off of (performing),” Newport said. “If you were trying to make a living, you would struggle. There just aren’t enough places that have live bands at night. Even if you were playing modern rock, it’s not like it was 15 to 20 years ago.”

Despite the difficult climate for all musicians, Tequila Rose still manages to get a full slate of shows for the summer months. Whether it’s at a festival in Pennsylvania or New York, or performing in front of a small crowd at a local summer concert, Tequila Rose puts on great shows for their dedicated fans.

“Country music crowds are by far the most responsive and dedicated fans I’ve ever seen,” Newport explained. “There are dedicated fans who try to make it to every event. Quite often, they’re traveling an hour to an hour-and-a-half to see us.”

While Whiskey Café is one of the band’s favorite spots, there are plenty of other places that Tequila Rose hopes to get to.

“One place we would love to play is the Colorado Café (in Watchung),” Newport explained. “They have a huge hall in the back where they have a lot of line dancing. We’d all love to bring our band in there.”

Wherever and whenever their next show takes place, the band hopes to continue playing in front of its fans and to continue to gain exposure for modern country music.

“Our future plans are to play bigger and better festivals and more summer concerts,” Newport said. “We hope that a country radio station will appear in New York so more people can become exposed to it. We just hope that it continues.”

After having played the Whiskey Café in Lyndhurst on Feb. 9, the band will head to another favorite spot, Prospector’s, in Mt. Laurel. For more information on Tequila Rose, visit the band’s website at www.tequilaroseband.com.

FiKus brings new genre to Donegal

Photo courtesy Hugo Juarez Photography/ FiKus matches their playing style with an unorthodox picture

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

As music continues to constantly evolve as years go by, one Bergen County band hopes to keep pace with that trend with their so-called electro-funkadelic hip-rock.
FiKus, a group of five 20-somethings, is one of the up-and-coming bands in North Jersey. Formed while the group was still at Pascack Valley High School in Hillsdale, the band’s members have been together for the past eight years, bringing their new style with them wherever they’ve taken the stage.
“We always have had a problem when people ask us who we sound like,” said percussion player Pete Kozak. “It sounds stereotypical when I say this, but I really don’t believe that we really sound like any one band. That’s why we came up with the genre.”
Despite being together for several years, the band only started to taste real success this past summer when the band was able to play 11 festivals all over the area. It comes as no surprise that when the band first started out, that audiences all over the area were left bewildered at what they just heard.
“We’ve played like VFWs and stuff like that and people don’t know how to react,” Kozak explained. “Our music is very energetic and they get into it, but it creates an interesting dynamic.”
This new energetic music was not something the band had planned to put together.
“It kind of just happened,” Kozak said. “We were fortunate enough to find each other and inspire each other in the way that we do. We enjoy it thoroughly.”
Their love of their own music brought the band to Catskill Chill in Hancock, N.Y., one of the 11 festivals they played this summer.
“Catskill Chill was the best time I’ve had all summer,” said Kozak, who loved the show because of the amount of great acts the band was able to play with.
Their newly-created genre, electro-funkadelic hip-rock, is really that, its own genre. With elements of several different types of music, including jazz, rock, ska, and jam bands such as the Grateful Dead, no one band, so far, really compares to the style in which FiKus has thrived. The best example of this blend is the nearly eight-minute-long composition “Cool Refrigerator.” The song starts with a minute and a half of dark theatrical styling that is reminiscent of Broadway’s “Phantom of the Opera,” then simply reverts back to more of a jazz-flavored jam band, with vocals you could find on a 311 track.
It is this collection of styles that the band realizes is one of their strengths.
“We all listen to a lot of jazz, rock, and the whole jam scene,” Kozak said. “It’s a large part of what we do. I feel like that’s the strength of the band. We pull from so many influences that it comes out something very blended.”
As for the future of FiKus, the band hopes to keep growing and expanding its horizons.
“We’re working on getting to other markets,” said Kozak. “We want to do some work in Boston and Philadelphia, the soul spots like B. B. King’s in the city. We just saw Tool at the Izod Center and we were thinking how cool it would be to play there.”
Despite the beginnings of success, the band knows that there is so much more for them to accomplish.
“We feel like we’ve achieved a good amount at this point, but it’s not nearly what we want to be doing,” Kozak said. “We want to be traveling the world and the country, making records and having bigger experiences.”
However, in the meantime, the band has one goal that will signify their success.
“Right now, we’re trying to save up for a tour van,” explained Kozak.
After playing Donegal on Feb. 3, FiKus will play Tap and Barrel in Smithtown, N.Y., before playing Sullivan Hall in New York City. Their album “Plus+” can be found on their website www.fikusband.com.

Young Artists featured at NJCU

Photo courtesy of Kathleen Astrella/ The group of students, listed below, with teachers from the Kearny High Art Department. The students who will have their work displayed are as follows: Brittany Calero, Cristian Vidreiro, Felipe Fagundes, Carmina Lasam, Edward Curtis, Kevin Zajac, Devayani Kumaran, Gabrilla Robles,Viktorrija Kulvicaite, Nicole Olivares, Mercedes Lois, and Damian Snider.

 

Anthony J. Machcinski

America has been called the land of opportunity, a place where people can make a name for themselves irrespective of their race, gender, or social status. Kearny High School is doing its part to keep that idea alive.

As part of the High School Art Exhibition, twelve Kearny High School art students were selected to have their work presented at New Jersey City University (NJCU).

“NJCU reached out to different high schools and I grabbed the opportunity,” said Supervisor of Art, Music and Media Kathleen Astrella. “It’s only going to help (the students) down the road.”

Two works each from different mediums including ceramic, photography, 2-D design, painting, drawing, and graphic arts will be featured at the gallery at NJCU.

The exhibition will afford students an opportunity to have their works viewed and appreciated – something that doesn’t happen often.

“I never really wanted to stand out,” senior Brittany Calero said. “I didn’t want to be a show off.”

“I didn’t really think I had the ability to do something like that, but when Mr. (Diogo) Neto told me, I was glad that he thought I had the ability to,” said sophomore Gabriella Robles.

This inspiration for art is something many of the children have had since they were young.

“Just from being a little kid, I used to doodle around,” said sophomore Kevin Zajac.

Photos courtesy of Kathleen Astrella

 

Photos courtesy of Kathleen Astrella/ Kearny High artists (Nicole Olivares (top) and Kevin Jazak) show their pieces at NJCU.

 

“I’ve always drawn since I was really young, so I was always interested in art,” junior Eddie Curtis added.

Sophomore Damien Swider also agreed with his fellow artists.

“When I first came to Kearny, I got an interest in drawing and I heard about the art programs and I told myself, ‘Why not?’” said Swider.

Kearny High maintains large art program that goes into great depth.

“I think here in Kearny it’s an amazing opportunity,” said Diogo Neto, the 2-D art teacher. “They have one art teacher in other schools and you never fully conquer anything. You’re never allowed to take those fundamentals further. In this school, you’re allowed to take a medium and explore deeper.”

This level of detail comes into play in the classroom. Even something as simple as a class project can become a great work.

“It was part of a project, so I decided to experiment with it,” said junior Felipe Fagundes, who created a detailed Spartan mask that will be on display.

The hard work that the students put into making such detailed pieces doesn’t go unnoticed by their teachers, whose job it is to decide which students will be able to go to NJCU.

“It’s difficult to select two pieces,” Gary DiVincenzo, photography teacher and Kearny High alum said. “If you came down to my studio, I had about 1,000 to select from. The kids get anxious who I’ll pick and it was difficult.”

“I have a high standard for their work and when I saw work that exceeded it, I chose it,” Chris McShane, ceramics teacher and fellow Kearny High alum said. “I’m happy about my students work.”

Even though it is the students’ work on display, the hard work and influence of those teachers doesn’t go unnoticed.

“My art teacher has always been supporting me a lot,” said junior Nicole Olavares. “He’s the one who put me in the AP art class where I drew the perspective drawing for the exhibition.”

“ I thought the teachers did an excellent job,” said Astrella. “I can’t say enough about them. They’re very talented. They engage very well with the students and they are very much into differentiated education.”

Through the lessons taught by these teachers, several students have transformed their passion for art into careers.

“I want to go to a college that has art and literature,” said junior Nicole Olavares. “I want to make Manga in Japan.”

“I want to go to college and major in graphic art and business,” said junior Cristian Vidreiro. “I’m looking forward to being a graphic designer and making ads on the computer.”

The amount of passion expressed by all the children is a warming thing for Astrella. “It’s like seeing a kid in a candy store,” Astrella said in describing the feeling students have when they see their work on the gallery wall.“They walk in a room and their artwork is on the gallery wall. It’s like being a little kid on Christmas morning. To me, when you go through life and you get that appreciation, it gives you the energy to want to do better.”

While appreciation is always wonderful, having fun is a worthy goal too.

“Every year I get involved in something different,” said Senior Mercedes Lois, who hopes to go into the physical therapy field. “(Art) is something I enjoy doing, and I got pretty far with it.”

The High School Art Exhibition is currently open at the NJCU Visual Arts Gallery, 100 Culver Ave., Jersey City.

For taste of good music, try The Pietasters

Photo courtesy Steve Jackson/ The Pietasters (from l.): Dan Schneider, Jeremy Roberts, Carlos Linares, Dave Vermillion, Andrew Guterman, Steve Jackson (sitting), Toby Hansen, Alan Makranczy.

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

In the music culture, a band being together for over twenty years seems like an eternity. Many bands such as Metallica, the Rolling Stones, and Aerosmith have become legends not just because of the music they produce, but for the longevity of their careers. One band, who will play the Kearny Irish Feb. 4, can be considered with those names because of their members’ ability to stay together.

The Pietasters, a ska band out of Washington D.C., was formed in 1991 and still remains together today, playing wherever crowds appreciate its music. Ska music, which originated in Jamaica in the 1950s and moved into American culture in the early 1980s, is characterized by a walking bass line and rhythms on the upbeat.

“It’s pretty much rock and roll with a different beat,” explained Pietasters’ vocalist Steve Jackson.

The Pietasters got started while Jackson and other members were in college.

“We were a bunch of friends who tried to put together a punk rock band,” Jackson said. “We had a friend do ska, so we gave it a try. We started playing it at parties and people seemed to enjoy it. It was a fun thing.”

Since its inception in 1991, the band has seen its share of lineup changes.

“This band’s been around a long time. It’s hard to reinvent it,” explained Alan Makranczy, the Pietasters’ saxophone player who became part of the band around 1993. “(Joining the band was) the best opportunity as a horn player like that. Truth is, I wasn’t that into ska.”

The band’s longevity can be attributed to a passion that exists in all of the members.

“I just want to keep playing music,” Jackson said, inspiringly. “We’re older, we have kids and have other responsibilities. Everyone in the band is proud of where we’ve been.”

“Our love is playing live and having a huge stack of songs to choose from,” Makranczy added.

Even with longevity, good music is required to continue to be able to perform live in front of audiences. This is a statement that the Pietasters definitely back up. With a strong horn section, definitive beat, and soulful vocals, the Pietasters give the evidence needed to make a statement on their longevity.

“Told You the First,” a very funky number that can’t stop listeners from moving to the beat of the song, showcases the band’s horn section with the right amount of grittiness in the vocals similar to a James Brown song or any song from the late Sublime lead singer Bradley Knowell.

While none of the songs make listeners feel unhappy, the band’s rowdier side comes out in the song “Maggie Mae.” In what can only be described as a modern day drinking song, the Pietasters use strong beat and an equally strong horn rhythm to create a song that just oozes good vibes. The multi-man vocals also stay consistent to another band the Pietasters have traveled with, the Mighty Mighty Bostones.

In their travels across the nation and the world, the Pietasters have been able to perform with several headline acts, but none larger than when they were able to play in their hometown with one of the greats.

“(One of the greatest moments was) playing with James Brown,” Jackson remembered. “We were approached by a local radio station and told James Brown was going to play here. He was the tie into the older generation of music and asked if we thought we could play his music. We went in the garage for a night and just did his songs. Three days later, James Brown and his guitar player came in. We were the backing band for James Brown at the MCI Center.”

While the Pietasters have been able to perform at highlevel gigs, the band has no reservations as to where it plays.

“Everywhere you have a good time and it’s a good crowd (are our favorite places to play),” Jackson explained. “It doesn’t have to be huge to be a great show.”

The band is in the process of making another album, although a date and name have yet to be released.

Kearny band is ‘Fighting for Fatima’

Photo by Stephanie Formoso/ I Am Fighting will be the lead band in Camp Fatima fundraiser.

 

 

Photo courtesy of Google Images/ Campers and volunteers at Camp Fatima.

 

 

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

KEARNY —

For over 40 years, the volunteers of Camp Fatima of New Jersey have spent summers providing a special place for children and adults with mental disabilities to have a truly unique experience. On Friday, Jan. 27, Camp Fatima will have its first CFNJ Benefit Rock Show.

Featuring a slew of talent, including Kearny’s own I Am Fighting and rock group The Tonight Life, “Fighting” for Fatima presents a great show for an even greater cause.

“I got the idea in August of this year while I was at Camp Fatima itself, hearing the director of the camp speak about how, although the camp is free to campers, fundraisers go on all year round to prepare for the upcoming summer,” said Joe Gehrmann, lead singer of I Am Fighting and counselor at Camp Fatima. “I told myself that moment that, the following year, I was going to throw a fundraiser with my band for the camp.”

The camp, which is free to all who attend, is a nonprofit organization that relies on donations from generous parties in order to survive. The camp itself is unique in its ability to offer one on one services to the disabled and provdes an overnight experience for the children and a bit of a respite for their parents.

“Once they see how wonderful the treatment for the kid is, they can’t wait to bring their kid back,” explained Camp Director Paul Murphy, who recounted a story of two parents who were able to go on a vacation for the first time in 25 years after having their daughter attend the camp.

Deciding which children will get into the two oneweek programs, is the sticky part of Murphy’s responsibility.

“Unfortunately, we cannot take everybody,” explained Murphy of the camp’s application process. “How we determine our numbers is based on the number of volunteer applications we have. Every child gets one counselor, almost like a big brother- big sister type of deal.”

The volunteers of this camp, who come every year to make the experience as great as it can be for its participants, are the ones who solidify the camp’s exceptional reputation.

“You watch and they do more and it’s selfless,” said Murphy, who started working with the camp in 1997 when his cousin, Eddie Raguseo, became a camper. “You want to help give in a way that you feel will be unique to each other.”

Photos courtesy Google Images and Stephanie Formoso

 

Photos courtesy Google Images and Stephanie Formoso/Top and bottom: Images from Camp Fatima.

 

Members of the band I Am Fighting posing with longtime Camp Fatima volunteers.

 

“No one gets paid,” said Harrison’s Nick Landy, a former Camp Director who got involved when he was in high school in 1986.

As for “Fighting” for Fatima itself, tickets for the show cost $15, with the proceeds going directly for the camp itself. The show, which will take place at Teaneck’s Mexicali Live, will feature two of the area’s Pop Rock bands, a must listen for anyone who enjoys good music. For those who may have missed the April edition of the Observer where I Am Fighting was previewed, or in the year end review where they received an award for Music Act Most Likely To Be Famous, I Am Fighting is a pop rock group featuring several songs containing emotionally powerful music that bleeds through many of the band’s tracks.

Joining them at Mexicali Live will be The Tonight Life. The Tonight Life, made up of guitarist Joe Crawford, bass player Kevin ‘Jazz’ Siedel, and vocalist Kim Crawford, matches the tone set by I Am Fighting and their powerful music. The Clifton-based band has a sound similar to the rock band Paramore.

The band’s up-tempo beat helps provide a foundation for Kim Crawford’s soft, but powerful, voice to take control of the crowd. Songs like Catching Fire and Right Through You showcase the band’s talent that will definitely be on display at Mexicali Live.

All proceeds will directly benefit the camp, which uses the money to allow free admission and cover the costs needed to feed and take care of the nearly 50 or 60 campers per week of the two-week camp.

While the experience provided is exceptional for the children attending, the volunteers derive a lot of happiness from being able to help out those in need.

“It changed my life in so many ways,” Gehrmann explained. “Everyone who does the camp will agree it is one of the best times of the year. You completely get lost in this world, forget about your job, your responsibilities, and anything else the current times offer.”

One factor keeps Gehrmann returning every year since he started in 2005.

“You experience friendship, love, and fun in the purest forms. Nothing else matters in the world for that one week,” Gehrmann explained.

To purchase tickets for “Fighting” for Fatima, please visit www.campfatimanj.org and click on “The CFNJ Benefit Rock Show” under Events. Tickets for the Jan. 27 event cost $15. Mexicali Live is located on 1409 Queen Anne Rd., Teaneck.

To donate to the camp itself, visit www.campfatimanj.org and on the right side of the page, click “Donate Online.”