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Category: Entertainment

Book shows swamp’s transformation

Illustrations Courtesy of Thomas Yezerski

 

 

Illustrations from Yezerski’s children’s book, “Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story”

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski 

For many adults, the transition of the Meadowlands from a landfill-laden mess to a beautiful stretch of land has been a lengthy process, one not many can fully understand to begin with.

With the help of Thomas Yezerski, children may soon be able to see this transition with their own two eyes.

“There have been some good books written for adults on this subject,” Yezerski, author and illustrator of “Meadowlands: A Wetlands Survival Story” said. “I thought there was a great story in it for kids and it’s a great way to teach kids about ecology and how people fit in.”

Yezerski, who has illustrated 14 books and authored four of those, fell in love with the Meadowlands while he was living in Rutherford.

“One of the first things I did was take a pontoon tour the week after the 9/11 tragedy,” Yezerski explained. “It was amazing because it was so quiet on the Hackensack River and the water was so still. You could still see smoke rising from the World Trade Center. I just kind of fell in love with this peaceful place.”

The story itself follows along with the history of the Meadows, from when the Lenni Lenape lived on the land, to Dutch farmers and eventually the creation and elimination of landfills. “Little by little, the meadows became a dumping ground,” Yezerski explained. “In the late ‘60s, New Jersey decided they wanted to clean it up because it was giving the state a bad rap.”

However, like any good story, the meadowlands has started to flourish again.

“When they started cleaning it up, the river was able to clean itself, allowing plants and insects to thrive again,” Yezerski said. “Eventually, fish and birds began to come back to the area and every year, more species begin to show back up there that haven’t been in that area in nearly 50 years.”

The story of the Meadowlands comes down to an even simpler story idea.

“It’s a story about rejuvenation, about a place that was kicked around and ignored,” Yezerski explained.

“Now, people from all over the world can look to our urban wetland and see that good stuff can happen.”

However, the story is not as simple as going from bad to good, as evidenced by the amount of time it took Yezerski to complete the book.

“It took me about 10 years to complete because there was so much to learn about it,” Yezerski said.

His largest challenge, however, came when he had to compress that information.

“When you’re making a picture book, its about 800 words at the most,” Yezerski said. “It’s hard to distill all that information down.”

Yezerski, a fabulous illustrator in his own right, will have his illustrations on display at the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission in the Meadowlands Environment Center.

In 2011, “Meadowlands” was named one of the best 11 children’s non-fiction books. The New York Times, in its original review of the book, said, “Yezerski not only can write a book on how to teach children about their environmental impact – he has. ‘Meadowlands’ is tremendously informative, fun to read, and gorgeous to look at.”

Copies of “Meadowlands” are available at the Meadowlands Environment Center’s Tideland Treasures Gift Shop, which is open from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The Flyway Gallery hours are from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Directions are available on the NJMC website at www.njmeadowlands.gov or by calling (201)- 460-8300.

Penque Jr. rides to new adventure

 

 

Photo courtesy of Ronnie Penque/ Ronnie Penque will bring his legendary skills on the bass guitar to Donegal Saloon in Kearny on March 31.

 

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

After noticing that his son had been faking it on the bass guitar, playing just one string and earning the moniker, “One String Ron,” Ron Penque Sr. gave his son a few lessons. One day, Penque Sr., an accomplished bass player for 20 years, saw his son Ron admiring his ‘57 Fender Precision Bass in the closet. Penque Sr. said to his son, who now had become passionate about his play, “Ron, this bass is yours to borrow until the day you stop playing.”

Thirty-seven years later, Ron Penque Jr., known as Ronnie, still has that bass. The bass currently resides in the office of one of the most influential bass players of all time.

“My two brothers and I were all musicians,” said Penque.“Music was always a love.”

Penque is a member of the recently revived New Riders of the Purple Sage, a jam band that featured some of the most influential musicians of all time, including the likes of Jerry Garcia and members of the Grateful Dead. Since 2005, Penque has been the bass guitarist for the New Riders, a band he originally grew up listening to.

“I was sitting eighth row center at the Capitol Theatre in Passaic,” Penque recalled. “My friend and I were sitting there with binoculars trying to get the chords from the New Riders so we could play them at home.”

Penque’s seven-year-tenure with the band has been marked by stability, retaining the same members during that time — a record its predecessor band couldn’t match. Since his involvement with the New Riders, he has been a part of three studio records and a DVD.

“Absolutely not,” Penque responded when asked if he ever envisioned himself with the New Riders when he was young. “It’s like a TV movie. I would dream I want to be in the coolest band on earth and it’s been unbelievable to wind up in that band and end up on a couple records with them.”

While with the New Riders of the Purple Sage, Penque has tried to branch out and perform his solo act, Ronnie Penque & Friends, who will visit Donegal Saloon in Kearny on March 31.

“I just felt like I needed to start recording these songs,” said Penque, who plans to play some of his solo works as well as some covers from his time with the Jerry Garcia Band. “‘Only Road Home’ (Penque’s most recent work) started as a glorified demo and it just kind of turned into a record.”

Penque’s solo debut was a successful one, as “Only Road Home” was the number one record on Jam Bands Radio in March of 2011 and was number two on the same list for January and February of the same year.

“It took me almost two years to get it produced and out to the public,” Penque explained. “I have many more and I’m thinking about getting back into the studio.” Penque’s songs off ”Only Road Home” are very similar to the style that Penque played with both New Riders of the Purple Sage and with the Jerry Garcia Band. Penque’s soft vocals help accent the relaxing feel that his playing produces. American Junkie, a tune off “Only Road Home,” showcases the natural flow that a jam band needs to have in order to be successful.

Regardless of what band he is playing in, Penque loves just one aspect of every show.

“Every musician likes big crowds at their shows because the energy is great,” Penque said.

Anyone with even the slightest ear for music will have no problem providing Penque with all the energy he needs.

Graced by the gods, locals invited to watch wily Pseudolus, anew

Photo courtesy of Matt Boryszewski/ William Ruff (l.) and John Pinto rehearse a scene from “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.”

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

HARRISON –

Harrison High School will turn back the back the clocks a dozen years when the school’s Drama Club will present “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” at the end of the month.

“It’s a hysterical comedy on topics that everyone can relate to,” said producer Matthew Boryszewski.

The idea for reviving the performance came from Boryszewski, who acted in it during his junior year at Harrison High in 2000. He played Senex.

“I’ve tried to do a revival since I was (hired as a staffer),” said Boryszewski, who is now a social studies teacher for the high school.

And even though the play’s an old chesnut in the club archives, it continues to generate excitement among the cast.

“I think everyone is very happy with it,” Boryszewski said. “The students have been having a ball since (rehearsals) started in the beginning of the year.”

The play’s central character is Pseudolus, a slave living in the house of Senex who hopes to buy, win, or steal his freedom.

Harrison High’s Pseudolus will be played by veteran student thespian William Ruff. Ruff, a four-year member of the HHS drama club, is starring in his fourth performance. In past years, he has played Pippin in “Pippin,” Horton in “Seussical,” and Johnny Casino in “Grease.”

Photo courtesy Matt Boryszewski/ Cast and crew of Harrison High Drama Club’s upcoming production

 

“For this performance, I have to work harder and prepare and do whatever it takes to put on a great performance,” said Ruff, a recipient of the 2011 New Jersey Governor’s Award in Arts Education for Excellence in Acting.

Among the other actors involved in the performance is ninth-grader Heather Harris, who is playing Domina, the wife of Senex. “I was very excited to learn that I was being put up to the level that the upperclassmen were at,” Harris said. “It’s been such an honor to work with these people like (Ruff) who have been here for years.”

Boryszewski hopes that Ruff, Harris, and the rest of the cast will be able to learn from this experience.

“I just want them to have a deeper appreciation for musical theatre and to grow as individuals and as actors,” Boryszewski explained. “This is an excellent experience for a musical comedy.”

For Ruff, Boryszewski’s advice has resonated strongly with the young actor.

“This is another chance to show my talent and do what I do best on stage,” said Ruff, who will attend Montclair State next year where he hopes to major in musical theater.

The lesson has rubbed off on the young Harris as well.

“(The other cast members have) helped develop me as an actor,” said Harris, who hopes to build on this year’s experience during the balance of her high school tenure. “I’ve admired this program for such a long time.” The curtain will rise March 29 and 30 at 7 p.m. at the high school auditorium at 800 Hamilton St. Admission is $10 for adults and $5 for children and seniors.

Rounding out the rest of the players: Michael Cruz as Hysterium, Johnathan Pinto as Miles Gloriosus, Carlos Montufar as Hero, Kaina Almonte as Philia, David Pineda as Senex, Lucia Fernandes as Lycus, Wence Morales as Erronius, Natalie Camargo as Tintinabula, Vanessa Valeiro as Panacea, Alessandra Gomez and Letizia Gomes as Geminae Twins, Cecelia Rodriguez as Vibrata, Kayla Middleton as Gymnasia, DJ Droz as Tiberia, Kiara Bermudez as Statue and Eduardo Velarde as Statue. The Proteans will be played by Pola Farinas, Patty Jackowska,,Zenaida Miranda, Breann Mobus, Thayjin Suquitana, Ana Teixeira, Liliana Valeiro, Luis Velez, Daniela Villalobos, and Gennesie Zuniga. Luisa Coppola is directing; Leonardo C. DaSilva is musical director; Mary Pat Shields is technical director; and Colin Shields is set designer.

And the Oscar goes to….

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.