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Category: Entertainment

Killing Horse sprints into 3rd year

Photos courtesy www.killinghorserecords.com


By Anthony J. Machcinski

Discovering new talent in the entertainment industry is always a challenge, whether you’re a record label, a journalist looking to cover a new band, or a music lover who just loves some good tunes. Being in these bands, the struggle is often how to get people to come to a show, not from a money standpoint, but so they can appreciate your craft. Two Kearny residents have found a way to bridge that gap.

The pair, 29-year-old Mike Sylvia and 28-year-old Ryan Gross, celebrated the two-year anniversary of their record label, Killing Horse Records, last Friday at Maxwell’s in Hoboken.

The two friends started the label based around the idea of creating a more professional feel for the bands they had been playing with.

“I was wondering how we get this band out there. How do we get this band out to other people,” Gross explained. “I had the idea that if there was a record label attached, it might sound more serious. I went to Mike’s apartment and we figured it all out.”

With no experience, the band had to draw from their playing careers in order to feel things out.

“We didn’t have any experience, but we both played in bands growing up,” explained Sylvia. “We saw what it was like to get people in so we figured we could pool our resources and help our friends on the business end so they can focus on playing music.”

Photos courtesy www.killinghorserecords.com



Photos courtesy www.killinghorserecords.com/ Invisible Lines (top) and Secret Country (bottom), both of Kearny have made waves since joining the Killing Horse label.


“It seems natural to help them out, more than just production, but in the day-to-day stuff to work in music professionally,” Gross added.

The young entrepreneurs started by booking shows at the Kearny Irish-American Club with New Jersey bands that had already had success with the idea of raising money.

“We didn’t make very much money, maybe 20-30 bucks a pop (after paying the bands and other charges),” Sylvia explained.

What the band would gain, however, were the necessary contacts required in order to succeed in the business.

“What we found was that we made a ton of contacts. Between bloggers, press people, all the people you need to know to stay afl oat,” Sylvia said. “It was really essential for us even though it didn’t translate monetarily.”

With these contacts, the beginning of the label’s second year saw the enterprise begin to flourish.

“With some money to work with and new contacts, we were in a place to put stuff out,” explained Gross. “We were able to put out a 7-inch vinyl record for [the band] Ben Franklin.”

While Gross and Sylvia have backed away from their playing careers in favor of other opportunities in the business, the passion to play still burns in their hearts.

“We still do [play] a bit,” said Gross, an accomplished musician in his own right who started playing music as a kid with the piano and saxophone. “I just joined the lineup of Secret Country to fi ll in the lineup a bit and work with them playing out of the area.”

As the calendar reflects Killing Horse Records’ third year, the pair are excited to continue building up the label.

“We definitely got a big year planned for 2012,” Sylvia said. “We want to put together four to five records this year. We have a couple more bands in the works, but our goal is to do one record for the label every three months.”

“I’m excited to be able to play with Secret Country and being in the fold again,” Gross said. “We’re going to start trying to play out of New Jersey more often. Nothing crazy, but going out for a weekend and hitting some places like Nashville, Philadelphia, North Carolina, it would be a great step for the band, the label, and myself.”

Whatever path life takes them down there is little doubt that the Killing Horse label will be even more successful in the near future.

For more information about the label, and the bands under it, check out their website: killinghorserecords.com.

The Benjamins win over Lyndhurst fans

By Anthony J. Machcinski

Not everyone has the opportunity to have The Killers, Louis Prima, Lionel Richie, or the Fray play at their wedding or at a local club. The Benjamins are able to incorporate some of that plus more into their shows.
Created in 1999, The Benjamins, consisting of vocalist Joe DeGennaro and his brother bass player Ben DeGennaro, drummer Jeremy Mykietyn, and guitarist Cory Pensa have entertained thousands of people through a mix of cover songs and original material.
“We did originals first with other original bands,” explained Mykietyn about becoming a cover band. “We wanted to do something where we could make a career out of it.”
“Honestly, Joe came up with the name,” Mykietyn said. “I guess the easiest way to say it was that it was kind of slang for hundred dollar bills, so we went with that.”
Nonetheless, the band members don’t consider money-making their sole reason for playing; rather, there is a personal enjoyment that comes from being a musician, the band says.
“I enjoy playing,” Mykietyn said. “It doesn’t really matter whether it’s covers or originals. But there’s a satisfaction that you get from playing your own stuff.”
Despite the satisfaction, Mykietyn points out one trait that all successful cover bands have.
“It’s also the cover band who tries to do covers in their own way and bring a different light to the different covers they do,” Mykietyn explained, whose favorite songs to cover are offerings from Rihanna and LMFAO.
Mykietyn’s favorite songs show the diversity that the band has in their cover material. In a wedding medley that the band put together on their website, the band showcases several songs, including “Jump, Jive, an’ Wail” by Louis Prima, “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers, and “Over My Head” by The Fray, all with a bit of added influence from The Benjamins. The songs have the band’s own interpretation, but still keep true to the original versions of the song.
While the band has made a name for itself off of its cover material, The Benjamins’ original material is just as good, if not better.
The song “Again”, off of the band’s first CD “GO”, is a gritty piece of music that resembles the toughness of Alice and Chains with the upbeat feel of Bon Jovi. The chemistry of the four band members shines bright, as there is a feel of balance throughout the song. This chemistry is not easily achieved, and when it is, crowds appreciate the result.
No show of appreciation was larger for Mykietyn than when the band played Starland Ballroom in 2007. Opening for rock group Third Eye Blind, The Benjamins were able to play their own songs in front of a large crowd.
“On the original side of things, the place that holds fond memories is playing at Starland Ballroom,” Mykietyn explained. “Just being in front of all those people, it was one of those type of moments.”
As the band continues to progress, The Benjamins hope to create a new group with the same members that keeps their original songs separated from their work as a cover band.
“Changing the name will make it easier for those who look to book us,” explained Mykietyn. “People wonder if it’s an original band or if it’s a cover band.”
The band’s new name won’t be released until the new album comes out, but in the interim they’ll still be plenty busy.
“We’re definitely going to be writing some more,” Mykietyn said. “Our plan for 2012 is to come up with more original stuff.”
To purchase music from The Benjamins, go to their website at www.thebenjamins.net. After playing the Whiskey Café in Lyndhurst, The Benjamins will move throughout Central and South New Jersey before returning to the area when the band plays the Whiskey Bar in Hoboken.

Entertainment Year In Review


Mia Borders

By Anthony J. Machcinski

From rock to rap and from paper to canvas, this area is ripe with culture and talent. If you’ve read the Out and About section all year, you know that there have been so many good bands, musicians, vocalists, writers, and artists to grace Out and About’s front page.
To remember the year in entertainment, The Observer wanted to recognize some of the great performers and events of the past 12 months.
Best Musician: Mia Borders. The 24-year-old guitarist/singer came to Donegal Saloon August 12th and blew the doors off the place. Not looking like the stereotypical, factory-produced pop star, Borders, who wore jeans and aviator sunglasses provided those in attendance a style of music only found below the Mason-Dixon line. Borders makes very few appearances in the North, but when she does, they are worth traveling to.  With her well-crafted guitar playing and a soulful voice to go with it, Borders was named one of the hidden surprises at the 2010 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival by USA Today. To listen to her music, check out her website www.miaborders.com or search for her in the iTunes store.
Honorable Mention: Karen Luschar, singer.
Best Movie: Fast Five. Normally, sequels to movies are awful. “Clerks 2”, “Major League 2”, and this year’s “Hangover 2” are only some examples as to how disastrous a film sequel can be. However, despite being the fifth installment of the series (fourth if you take out the out-of-storyline “Tokyo Drift”), “Fast Five” had all the action moviegoers could ask for. Best of all, there was actually a storyline. Sure, this was not the best movie plot of all time, and if your’re looking for a serious movie this was not for you, but if you wanted straight action that didn’t get so blown out of proportion that it took away from the plot (like the “Transformers” movies), this film was definitely the best of the summer.


Fast 5

Honorable Mention: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Music act most likely to be famous: I Am Fighting. Mia Borders could have been considered in this spot, but was not because of her success in the South. However, that should not discount one of the best young bands in the area. Comprised of Joe Gehrmann, Dan Tretola, Dom Gaglio, Joe Hughes and Mike Lisa, I Am Fighting won the contest to play at Bamboozle, the annual three-day event that has become one of the largest in the area. Since then, the band has continued to play shows all over the area. With an emotional, yet powerful version of pop music, I Am Fighting is definitely one of the area’s best bands around. Check out their music on iamfighting.com or on iTunes.


I Am Fighting

Honorable Mention: Ripped
Best all-around talent: Steve Egoavil. A true artist in every sense of the word, Egoavil has been the complete package when defining art. Originally a sketch artist who got his start being “a hardcore doodler,” Egoavil went from selling paintings on the streets of New York to becoming a tattoo artist, eventually owning his own business, Art in Motion in North Arlington. However, Egoavil’s added skill as a percussionist makes him the winner for best all-around talent. From playing samba with people in Riverbank Park in Newark to some of the largest stages including NJPAC, Giants Stadium and Lincoln Center, the always-humble Egoavil has certainly become of one of the area’s hidden gems.


Steve Egoavil

Honorable Mention: Karlee Roberts
If 2011 is any indication on the future, our coverage area will continue to be one of the entertainment hotbeds in the New York Metro area. Continue reading next year to track the progress of some of these stars and to discover a few more.

Decorations proclaim: ‘Happy Noel’

Photos by Anthony J. Machcinski/ A home on Noel Drive in North Arlington


By Anthony J. Machcinski

While the economy, bad weather, and busy schedules have done their best to ruin the happiness behind the holidays, one group of residents has done their best to keep the spirit of the holidays.
Every year, millions of people across the nation decorate for Christmas, and none are more diligent in their decoration than the residents of Noel Drive in North Arlington.
“We started the year that we moved in (1990),” said Noel Drive resident Bernadette Antonelli. “We did it because that’s what everyone in the neighborhood did. We’ve always done a lot.”
Winners of three awards this year, from North Arlington Recreation, State Fair Superstore, and a Christmas Countdown Decorating Award on Twitter, the Antonelli family easily have one of the most recognizable houses on the block.
“Everyone would know that something happened if we didn’t decorate one year,’ Antonelli said.
The Antonelli family have their own process in order to try and organize and simplify the decorating. However, even with this organization process, decorating the outside of the house is generally a three-day affair.
“I’m in charge of the layout and (my husband) Tom is in charge of all the wiring so that it’s all lit and it stays that way,” Antonelli explained. “Tom has perfected the art of wrapping the cords.”






Photos by Anthony J. Machcinski/ Decorations from various homes on Noel Drive in North Arlington .

While the decorating process is a family bonding experience, the main reason Antonelli does it is for her children, Brianna and Michael.
“We did it for the kids and they help us put it together,” Antonelli explained. “It’s noted on our block that the homes on Noel Drive are always so decorated.”
Noel Drive is so well-known for its holiday decorations, in fact, that several families travel to the area just to be able to take pictures of the magnificent houses.
“One year, we had a family that went out at 11 p.m. and they were just taking pictures,” Antonelli remembered. “We heard noise outside so when I looked out the window I saw them laughing and taking pictures. All we could do was laugh.”
Every year, the Antonellis try to change up the decorations to give viewers a different experience than the year before.
“We’ve never had the same thing two years in a row,” Antonelli explained. “Last year we had a big waving Santa. We’ve had a big Ferris wheel too. We always just try to put something in the center.”
Even with the bad economy, the Antonelli’s still continue to put up elaborate displays.
“We really don’t (think about the economy), but the spirit of Christmas and the holidays has always meant something,” Antonelli said.
In these harsh times, the spirit of the holidays should always come through.

Harrison’s Hidden Gem

Photos by Anthony J. Machcinski/ Angelo Freire discusses his cuisine with two patrons. Two dishes, including homemade ravioli (below) and fried calamari


Photos by Anthony J. Machcinski


Photos by Anthony J. Machcinski


By Anthony J. Machcinski

One of the bigger draws to living in our region is our proximity to the luxurious Manhattan life. Unfortunately, the hassle and expense associated with the city takes some of the allure out of the area. But fear not, as La Fiamma Restaurant in Harrison brings the class of New York City to Harrison.
La Fiamma opened six years ago when owner Josepe Freire searched for a new restaurant after formerly owning Amerigo in New York. Now managed by Josepe’s son Angelo, La Fiamma has become a bonafide hidden gem in town.
“We decided to move to Harrison because it has the potential to grow, and we saw the Red Bull Arena was coming and it’s close to NJPAC and all the other establishments in Newark,” explained Freire. “It doesn’t matter where your restaurant is located, it’s the
service you provide.”
Building off of a foundation that his father established, Freire has continued the family
tradition of good service on a par with that of the finest restaurants across the nation.
“Our goal was to please our guests one-hundred-percent and make them feel like when
they come in, they feel at home,” Freire explained.
The restaurant’s name, La Fiamma, “The Flame” in Italian, was chosen because of the
feeling Freire wants customers to have while eating at his restaurant.
“We chose the name because when you come into this place, you really feel a good, warm ambiance,” Freire said proudly.
While the service and environment can help an experience, what really makes the restaurant one of the best in the area is the food.
“Almost everything is homemade,” Freire said, explaining that each item is prepared with the passion of an artist. “We make everything from pastas, ravioli, gnocchi’s, to our own sauces and gravies.”
One dish in particular, Freire’s favorite, easily ranks as one of the top dishes in the
“I think everything is good, but if I had to choose, I would choose the Spaghetti Fruta Di Mare,” Freire said with a smile on his face.
The Spaghetti Fruta Di Mare is homemade spaghetti with fresh clams, calamari, muscles, and shrimp, topped in a light marinara sauce. The dish, served in a bowl, provides a beautiful display of seafood that is delicious and fresh from the first bite to the last.
Given to customers before their first appetizers, is a piece of bruschetta. This one piece
of toasted bread, covered with tomatoes and basil, provides an explosion of flavor that primes your taste buds for the rest of the equally special meal.
While La Fiamma provides New-York-style service and cuisine, it does not leave a
New York-sized hole in your wallet. The Spaghetti Fruta Di Mare can be had for a reasonable $19.
As he walks around, chatting to different customers and getting their input, Freire looks like a proud father.
“This is why I watch the business myself,” Freire explained, saying that it has not only been fiscally successful, but successful in customer satisfaction. “The main thing is to be hospitable and to know our guests are pleased one-hundred-percent.”
La Fiamma is located at 440 Harrison Ave. on the corner of 5th St. in Harrison. To make reservations, call (973)-483-5455 or visit their website at www.lafiammanj.com.

New kid’s book ready for holidays

Images courtesy Christina Tsevis


Images courtesy Christina Tsevis/ The main character, Billy, poses on the front cover of “The Lucky Cake”.



By Anthony J. Machcinski

In the rush of the holiday season, many family traditions get pushed aside because of the many time constraints the holiday season imposes.
Kearny resident and author Anna Prokos hopes to restore some of these traditions and create new ones with her latest children’s book, “The Lucky Cake.”
“The Lucky Cake” is inspired by the Greek tradition of baking a cake with a coin inside for the beginning of the New Year. Once the cake is finished, it is served from oldest to youngest. The one who finds the coin in the cake is said to have a lucky year.
“This was a family tradition my family has had since I was a child,” Prokos explained. “I think that this New Year’s tradition is something that families can start whether you’re Greek or not.”
A three-time winner of the coin herself, Prokos understands the anticipation of the tradition, not just for adults but also for children.
“It’s an exciting time for kids,” Prokos said cheerfully. “They wait all year for a chance at this lucky coin and I think that would be something that all kids would like to experience for their families.”
Harboring writing aspirations since she was in second grade, Prokos began her writing apprenticeship as a columnist at The Observer in 1991, while still a junior at Kearny High, then became an author of children’s books, self-publishing this book after penning 40 other books for kids. this book after writing 40 other books for children.

“It was amazing and I’m very proud of the work that went into it,” Prokos explained when asked about publishing the book. “It was like a dream come true.”

With the success of “The Lucky Cake,” Prokos will create a second part, “The Lucky Year,” which will follow the main character, Billy, and his continuing adventures with
the lucky coin. In order to create some of the adventures needed for “The Lucky Year,” Prokos has enlisted the help of the very children she hopes to reach.
“We’re running a contest with students in schools all over New Jersey,” Prokos explained. “They’re going to submit ideas to me of adventures Billy can take. If there are enough really good ones, then maybe I’ll make it into a series.”
While Prokos looks to start a new tradition with her book, she also hopes to provide help for the community. A portion of the proceeds from her book will benefit The Greek Children’s Fund, an organization that provides financial assistance towards the daily, non-medical needs of Greek, Cypriot and Greek- American children and their families.
Prokos is scheduled for book-signings at several town events and venues, including the North Arlington Town Holiday Tree Lighting on Dec. 6, and at the Kearny Branch Library on Jan. 7.
To order her book, go to www.theluckycakebook.com.
To enter the contest, send submissions to: info@a-tozpublishing.com by Jan. 31,

Kearny UEZ to hold tree lighting


Photos by Linda Kraus-D’Isa/ Scenes from last year’s event. Decorations in front of town hall (top). Carolers along with Santa and Kearny Mayor Al Santos

By Anthony J. Machcinski

With Thanksgiving officially crossed off the calendar, residents of the area can now
focus solely on the Christmas season. Whether it’s seeing the houses lit up around the area or going to a local Christmas tree lot to get the best pine, the Christmas season
just has a tradition that is unmatched by any other holiday. With that in mind,
the Kearny Urban Enterprise Zone (KUEZ) will be holding its annual tree-lighting ceremony.
The lighting will take place on December 1st, starting at 5:30 p.m. The event, sponsored by KUEZ with help from Midtown Pharmacy and River Terminal Development, has been a popular way for Kearny residents to kick off their Christmas
“The event has been very successful,” said KUEZ coordinator John Peneda. “Some
estimates of the past few years have had crowds over a thousand people.”
To help ring in the holiday season, the KUEZ has gotten several groups to perform
at the event. These groups include the Washington School Dream Team, Franklin
School 5th and 6th grade chorus, excerpts from Mater Dei Academy Drama Club,
St. Stephen Children’s Choir, and performances from Teen Drama and Stonehenge.
Among other activities, children will have the opportunity to sit with Santa and take a picture, providing their parents have their cameras with them.
The KUEZ has hosted the event for the past couple of Years. They see it as a way to bring attention to the town’s business district. The organization is hopeful that
people will do their holiday shopping here.
“The whole idea is to get people to come to the center of town and do some shopping,
but also keeping the town united,” Peneda explained. “Our member stores
charge only 3.5 percent sales tax, as opposed to the 7 percent in normal stores so
customers will save money by shopping in town.”
For Peneda, the event isn’t just about bringing savings to the town’s residents, it’s
about bringing the holiday spirit. The town has done this by putting up Christmas
lights on the telephone poles.
“It’s the Christmas season and like everyone puts lights on their houses, we like to
dress up the town,” Peneda said.
One new way the KUEZ hopes to provide the holiday spirit is through “Frosty’s Dance Party,” an event for children that will feature several beloved characters including Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, the Gingerbread Man, and even the Grinch.
While there is fun for the children, the parents also get a gift from the KUEZ. From
December 9th through December 26, curbside parking on Kearny Ave. will be free
in order to promote shopping in the KUEZ zone.
Even Mayor Al Santos will be in attendance, as he will help Santa light the tree.
“This tree lighting festival has become a wonderful start to the season,” said Mayor
Santos. “I encourage all residents to come out and enjoy the holidays in Kearny.”
The tree lighting will be held on Thursday, December 1st from 5:30 to 9:00 p.m. outside of Kearny Town Hall.

North Jersey country to play Donegal Saloon

Photo courtesy of Mike Martello/ Members of Secret Country, from l., are: Joe Hart, Jason Monaco, Eric Mason, Tim Siegle, Yan Izquierdo, Matt Siegle


By Anthony J. Machcinski

While Donegal Saloon in Kearny has featured several bands with musical influences tied to southern rock and country, not many of these country bands have hailed from North Jersey. On Nov. 23, Secret Country, featuring several Kearny residents, will play Donegal Saloon and bring a country twang from north of the Mason-Dixon line.
Started by vocalist/guitarists Eric Mason and Jay Monaco, Secret Country originally formed after Mason and Monaco’s reggae band had broken up.
“We would just have our acoustic guitars, showing how simple and catchy country songs could be,” said Mason. “We just started playing and it was a natural progression.”
As random as the band’s roots and transition may have been, their success surely hasn’t been as random. With two CD’s since their inception in 2008, as well as several successful shows, the band has started to gain popularity.
“Very favorably,” answered Mason after he was asked how the band has been received. “It’s something new for people around here. A North Jersey country band isn’t something that you see. We have a very entertaining live show and it gets a little rowdy.”
The rowdiness of the shows has been a constant since the band played its first gig at Donegal Saloon a few years ago.
“Our first show we had was at Donegal and it was about two weeks after the band was formed,” Monaco remembered. “We just all could remember everything. We were flying by the seat of our pants. People started dancing right away and we had that great response.”
While initial response to the band has been favorable, the members realize that attracting future fans might not always be as easy.
“At first, people are hesitant to be there listening to a country band but when they listen to it they love it,” explained Monaco. “We just got to think to ourselves that we have to be ourselves.”
If this band follows Monaco’s dictum and maintains their integrity, they can be a largely successful country band.
The band has an undeniable chemistry that shines through in their music. Country music is a simple yet complex art form. If even one member of the band is off slightly, the music will sound like a train wreck.
Secret Country is able to use their unique chemistry to perfect the timing it takes to be successful. This timing is exceedingly evident in the songs, “Temptations” and “Women and Whiskey and Nightlife.” These two songs, both with vastly different tempos, still sound great, despite all the synchronization needed to give their songs the proper melody.
Another song where the band shows off their talent is on their version of the Charlie Daniels’ song, “Devil Went Down to Georgia.” As in the original version, the mandolin is still the featured instrument. Staying in line with the original version, Secret Country mandolin player Yan Izquierdo never overshadows the band’s performance with his solos.
While it takes many years for most bands to find this rhythm and chemistry, Secret Country has done this in only two, which can be attributed to the bands varying musical interests and appreciations.
“We were all in different bands (before Secret Country),” explained Monaco, who pointed out that these included musical forms like reggae, punk, and progressive-rock. “Little by little we all just started bringing our influences into the band,” Monaco added.
With the show at Donegal just around the corner, Secret Country grows more and more excited at the prospect of playing in front of their hometown crowd.
“It’s great to be there for when people come home and to see the same people all the time who notice our progression,” explained Mason.
“This is like home base,” Monaco said. “We’re playing the show next week. We always have a great reception and everyone is home for the holidays. It’s great to play a show in Kearny!”

Time to Meet the Muppets


By Louis Sullivan

‘It’s time to play the music, it’s time to light the lights. It’s time to meet the Muppets…” So begins the theme song of the classic 1970’s-era “Muppet Show” and so too begins the real action of 2011’s “The Muppets.” A staple of 70’s and 80’s entertainment, Jim Henson’s Muppets have been absent from the silver screen for more than ten years, since Muppets from Space was released in 1999. Older fans, raised on their madcap antics, have sorely missed them, while a younger crowd, to whom the film is equally directed, may be less familiar with Kermit the Frog and his zany cohorts.
“The Muppets,” under the masterful guidance of devoted Muppet fan Jason Segel, caters to both audiences perfectly. For the old-school folks, there are countless allusions to The Muppet Show, ample nods to the fame that the Muppets once enjoyed (and hopefully will again), and revisited musical favorites like “Mahna Mahna,” the aforementioned “Muppet Show Theme,” and “Rainbow Connection,” the tune that started it all in The Muppet Movie of 1979.
For those to whom the Muppet culture is fresh, there are several celebrity cameos in “The Muppets”. These include turns from “The Office’s” Rashida Jones and John Krasinski, and “The Hangover’s” Ken Jeong and Zach Galifianakis.  Toe-tapping musical numbers like the opening duet, “Life’s A Happy Song” and the moving “Pictures in My Head,” add to the lures. And finally, there’s Walter.
Walter is a brand new Muppet who was introduced for this movie. More than any other character in “The Muppets” he seems to represent exactly what this film stands for. Somehow, he manages to bridge the gap between old and new Muppet fans by providing a fresh face for newcomers to familiarize themselves with, while establishing, within the first five minutes of the film, that he is indeed a Muppet fan himself – a sentiment that is certain to delight old time Muppet fans.
The Muppets follows Walter in his quest to get the Muppets back together after they’ve gone their separate ways. He tries to reunite the old gang for one last show, so they can raise $10 million to buy back Muppet Studios from greedy tycoon Tex Richman (played by Chris Cooper) who wants to destroy the property for oil. However, Walter’s twin goals— inspiring the Muppets to regroup, and actually raising the money— prove quite difficult, and Walter, his brother Gary (Jason Segel), Gary’s girlfriend Mary (Amy Adams), and of course, Kermit the Frog, all end up on a madcap journey of uplifting self-discovery.
“The Muppets,” with its touching emotion, laugh-out-loud comedy, and show-stopping musical numbers, greatly exceeded my expectations. It not only blends perfectly with the fantastic Muppet canon already in existence, but also serves as an excellent introduction to Jim Henson’s hilarious and heartwarming characters. Whether it’s your first time meeting the Muppets, or a long-overdue revisit, “The Muppets” is definitely worth seeing!
“The Muppets” opens nationwide on November 23.

Visions of progressive rock

Photo by Chris Onjian



By Anthony J. Machcinski

In the middle of what was the pop revolution of the late 1990s, Russell Murray created a band that went against that trend. While no bands at the time were playing progressive rock, Murray had his vision of one that would be able to cover progressive rock groups such as Rush. It was then that Visions was born.
“We’ve stayed true to it,” said Murray, who plays drums for Visions.
Since the band’s formation in 1999, Visions has played all across the area, making stops at B.B. King’s in New York, Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, and Hartley’s in North Arlington. At all these venues, the band’s message has remained the same.
“I know I’m not going to get rich off of it,” explained Murray. “But I do it for the love of it.”
The band, which  also includes lead singer John Pine, guitarist Bruce Sokolovick, bass player Chris Onjian and keyboard player Damon Fibraio, has crowd satisfaction, not making money, as its main goal.
“Most people don’t believe bands when they say this, but it’s true, you do feed off the vibe and energy of the crowd,” Murray said. “It’s so true. You make them happy and they give it back to you and it gives you shivers right up your spine.”
One of the obvious differences between a normal band and a cover band is the use of original material. This difference is one that Murray knows all too well, as he is in both the cover band Visions as well as an original band called Lipstick Magazine.
“It’s impossible to take your original stuff to a place like Hartley’s because they don’t know your material,” Murray explained, when asked about the difference in performing with the two bands.
To Murray, it’s not a matter of which band he’s playing with as much as the playing in general that counts.
“When you play your own material, it’s music from the heart,” Murray said. “Playing live and covering bands and being able to copy those gives a great bit of satisfaction. People realize how difficult the material is. Both have their own ways of satisfaction. I don’t know if I could decide between either.”
This idea carries into the other members of Visions, who also play for other bands.
“Decent musicians are in demand and it’s hard to find good ones who are in only one band,” Murray explained. “This band has had multiple lineup changes between moving and being involved in too many projects. Damon and I are the only original members left, and even he left at a point.”
When talking about the challenges these turnovers pose, Murray acknowledges how much that the band has had to overcome.
“It’s hard to keep your continuity going,” Murray said. “There’s been lapses of time when we haven’t played a show so new members could learn the material.”
Coming back to Hartley’s on Oct. 29 was a homecoming for Murray, who works for the Kearny Water Department and lives in the area.
“All the people that I know in the area, most can walk (to Hartley’s) and we always draw well there,” Murray explained. “When I play Hartley’s, I know 90% of the people in the audience. The intimacy level is much better at places like that.”
Next, Visions will play Crossroads in Garwood and The Rock Bar in Clifton. The band will return to Hartley’s on New Year’s Eve.