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Category: Entertainment

Hey Bulldog brings sounds of Beatles to Kearny

Photo by Anthony J. Machcinski/ Hey Bulldog during its performance of the Beatles hit, “Day Tripper.”

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

Kevin Wallace, owner of Donegal Saloon, expressed it best when he said, “The music of the Beatles just spans generations.”
This was no more evident when Beatles cover band Hey Bulldog played the Donegal on Friday night.
Hey Bulldog first came together on Oct. 9, 2004, John Lennon’s birthday, when the owner of Clydz in New Brunswick asked a couple of local musicians to put on a show to celebrate the occasion.
“The night was supposed to end, but everybody just kept jamming,” said bass player Gerry Rosenthal. “The audience would call out a song, and we would try to play it. It was such a success that the owner asked us to do it on Sundays.”
It wasn’t until December of 2007 that Hey Bulldog decided to take their talents on the road, playing shows all over the area, including Old Bay in New Brunswick, Dockside in Sea Bright, Harrigan’s Pub in Sea Girt, and the Donegal in Kearny.
“You put 100% into it,” Rosenthal explained. “It’s tougher to get a crowd into an original gig. Everybody loves the Beatles, no matter what we do to the song, everybody digs it.”
While no one can replace the Beatles and their influence on music, Rosenthal and the rest of Hey Bulldog have taken their creative freedom and made the music into their own style.
A great example of this change is in the classic “A Day in the Life.” While the original song is very smooth and mellow, Hey Bulldog made a grittier version, similar to the sound of the Beatles when the band was playing in Liverpool.
The grittiness does not affect the meaning or the feeling of the song. It simply reflects an idea the Beatles would have supported: freedom of expression.
This interpretation of the songs helps the band separate itself from other Beatles cover bands.
“They’re covering songs like the record, and we rock it out,” Rosenthal explained. “We model ourselves after the kind of band the Beatles would have been in the ’60s in Liverpool. We take guitar solos, we jam, and the people respond to that. They’ve been hearing the songs the same way for 45 years, and it’s fresh to hear it done differently.”
Added to the setting of the show was a video display, featuring old concert clips, cartoons, and other stock footage of the Beatles. This visual dynamic created an environment that the audience got into. Members of the audience, both old and young, were up in front of the band dancing and moving to the music, despite some of the audience not being old enough to have heard it when it first came out.
While Hey Bulldog is a band in its own right, each member has his own separate band. Rosenthal, who is a bass player in Hey Bulldog, also plays guitar for Big Wake, a rock and jam band.
Hey Bulldog’s local success is all the band has been trying for.
“We’re not trying to record anything,” said Rosenthal. “Any place or crowd that loves the Beatles, where the staff management and clients love the Beatles, we’re perfect for.”
Hey Bulldog will play The Dockside in Sea Bright on Oct. 14, followed by Old Bay Restaurant in New Brunswick on Oct. 29.

Madison 22 provides breath of fresh air

Photo by Anthony J. Machcinski/ Anderson (left with hat on) Sroczynski (behind drums) and Miller (right).

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

While many musicians today have chased the money by creating music under the rap and pop genres, it’s always refreshing when a young band goes against the trend.
Taking the history of rock into account, Madison 22 is a fresh new sound that has taken the local scene by storm.
“We all love totally different music, so it’s just really odd,” explains bass player Luke Miller.
When asked how they could be classified in a music genre, the group had one answer.
“We have no idea,” they said in sync.
“Rock is a very broad term,” said guitarist and lead singer Tyler Anderson. “If you listen to our music, one song will be in one direction, and the next song you won’t even think is from the same band.”
Before even listening to Madison 22, a simple read of their favorite groups will show how they have accepted everything that has come before them.
“The Libertines, Nirvana, and Wu Tang Clan,” listed Miller.
“Metallica and Dave Matthews Band,” said Anderson.
“Manchester Orchestra and M.G.M.T., “ explained the band’s third member, Aislinn Sroczynski.
Madison 22 started when Anderson and Miller were 8th graders at Lincoln School in Kearny. The band performed under a different name and with a different drummer. After the drummer lost interest, the two picked up Sroczynski.
While she is two years younger than the other two members and is almost hidden behind her drum set, Sroczynski’s play cannot be overshadowed, as she makes the audience feel her presence.
She does not overshadow the other members, however.  The band showed its confidence at Kearny Irish as it performed spectacular renditions of Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” and Cream’s “White Room.” Not only were these renditions true to the original, the band was able to put its own touch on them.
Madison 22 capped the show by playing several original songs. One song that blew the crowd away was “Brother,” a heavy but bluesy number that had members of the crowd dancing to the beat.
While the group has not had a problem entertaining their audiences, they have had one issue that has held them back: getting to the gigs.
“We’re very local,” explained Anderson. “We just got our (driver’s) licenses so we’re able to expand now because we can get to all of these places.”
This inability to travel has not discouraged them, however. They embrace it.
“We want people in our own town to know us first, then expand,” said Anderson.
While they understand how hard it is to make it in the business, they realize the example set before them by other bands from the area.
“I think it’s kind of cool thinking about bands nearby like My Chemical Romance,” explained Anderson. “There were kids that sat in our classrooms who now play for millions of people, and it feels really good.”
“It’s cool to represent our town and to show off that we are good,” said Sroczynski.
Madison 22 has made up for a lack of experience in the business with the help of Sroczynski’s father, Steve, who is the lead singer of the band Ripped.
“It’s pretty cool,” Aislinn said when asked about performing with her father. “He always helps me out and he does a lot for us.”
The band is in the process of creating songs and will produce an album once they feel they have 10-13 songs they consider “awesome.”

Ripped provides blast from the past

Photo courtesy of Ripped/ Band members, from l., are Steven Keller, Brian McGee, Jack France, Steve Stroczynski and Jeff Kelly.

 

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

Heavy guitar riffs and smooth solos normally relate to the style of rock bands from the 1970s such as AC/DC, Black Sabbath and The Doors; however, New Jersey rock band Ripped hopes to bring that style back to the modern era.
Created nearly 25 years ago by guitarist Steve Keller, Ripped has gone through many challenges over time and two years ago, resurrected with a new group, keeping in mind the heavy music that inspired the band in the first place.
“I guess we’re pretty much in the style of classic rock,” said vocalist Steve Sroczynski, who joined the band two years ago after Keller needed a vocalist on a few tracks.
When Sroczynski joined the band, he knew that it just had a good chemistry and could be successful.
“When we’re in studio and you’re making new music and it’s all fresh and it sounds great and everything’s coming together, you think to yourself, ‘This could really work,’” Sroczynski explained. “If you get the right promotion and the right record company, things can go in a positive direction.”
With many years of experience, Sroczynski and the rest of the band show an appreciation for everyone involved in the business.
“You have to respect people,” Sroczyinski said. “It’s tough to really get something going. There’s not too many original bands out there. Guys are doing it because they like to play, but they want to make money. We appreciate and look up to all the guys we play with.”
It is this love for the music that bursts through their entire album. From the moment the first song, “My Friend Alice,” off of their self-titled first album, comes through the speakers, the skillful guitar playing takes control and forces you even further into the music.
The love for the music also shows in the band’s performances. In January, Ripped played the Gin Mill in Kearny to a crowd of 140 people. That night is one that has lasted in the mind of Sroczynski.
“That was the first show I did with the band in this area and we had a great turnout,” Sroczynski remembered. “It’s not the biggest venue in the world but it was definitely one of the best.”
It is the feeling from the crowd that the band thrives off of. While some bands want to play Madison Square Garden or large festivals across the country, Sroczynski says it’s not the size of the venue that attracts him.
“We love to play everywhere,” Sroczynski said. “Everybody aspires to be a great musician and play huge stages. There’s really not one particular place you want to play; you just want to play them all. It’s not about the venue, it’s about the show.”
Despite all the success Sroczynski and Ripped have had in their short return, one of the prouder moments for Sroczynski will occur Oct. 1 at The Irish in Kearny, where Ripped will perform with Madison 22, a group of Kearny High School students including his 16-year-old daughter on drums.
“I’m really excited to see what happens,” Sroczynski said. “I’m really excited for her to be a part of this thing. It should be fun. Besides me being so proud of her, I’m just hoping she has a fun experience.”
Ripped also will be accompanied by Black Sabbath cover band Sabbra Cadabra at the Kearny Irish.
For more information on the band, check out their Facebook page. Their new album, titled “Ripped,” is available on www.cdbaby.com as well as on iTunes.

North Arlington resident fights bullying with song

Photo courtesy of karleeroberts.com

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

Ever since the events of Columbine High School 12 years ago, the efforts against bullying have been continually increased. These efforts have mostly been led by parents, concerned about their children in school. However, one young North Arlington resident is looking to change that.
Karlee Roberts, a 12-year-old performer, has taken it upon herself to promote anti-bullying in schools.
“In 6th grade, I had to do a ‘no name-calling’ contest and I had to write a poem about no name-calling,” explained Karlee about the evolution of her song “Call Me Whatever.” “From there, I decided to juice it up a bit and turn it into a song because I had experiences with bullying and saw people who got bullied, so I thought that we should do something about it.”
In the song, Karlee goes through a series of wardrobe changes based on the stereotypes children  see in school, including cheerleader, glamour queen, geek, jock and goth.
The lyrics in particular send a message that many children today do not follow.
“Call me whatever you want, I don’t care. I’ll show you what I got. This is the way I’ve always been. Can’t you see, we’re all the same within?” Karlee sings to a melody evocative of her favorite singer, Lady Gaga.
“Call Me Whatever” is not the first successful music Karlee has produced. With the help of her older sister, Marlee, Karlee recorded a holiday album. All profits from the album raise money for the charity Comfort Zone Camp, a non-profit organization for grieving children.
While Karlee has had success as a singer, her main success has been in theater. Roberts has performed in several shows – some on Broadway, some off Broadway, and some touring – including, “Once Upon a Time”, “High School Musical 2”, “Rugrats-Live”, “The Sound of Music” and “The Wiz.”
Karlee has also made her presence known on television, where she made several appearances on “Jack’s Big Music Show,” on the television channel Noggin.
“I love TV and I love singing,” Karlee said. “I love everything equally.”
In her young career, Karlee has been able to showcase her love for everything by doing just about everything a child can do at a young age. As mentioned before, Karlee has been able to get plenty of opportunities in both theater and on television, but Karlee’s career began working in photography.
Within all of her success, Karlee has remained true to herself. Using her success, she has helped work with Pop Beats Bullying.
Pop Beats Bullying is a charity that “uses the Power of Music to combat bullying.”
One big goal of Pop Beats Bullying is trying to create a Bullying Awareness Year in 2012. The Bullying Awareness Year aims to help those affected by school-bullying by providing them with opportunities to share experiences and come up with solutions and ideas to combat bullying.
Karlee has teamed up with Pop Beats Bullying and is working on what she called “a surprise” that should debut in October or November.
Karlee is also working on a second original song, which will debut in February and a third original song that will debut sometime in spring 2012.
Even with all this on her plate, Karlee still does many things normal 12-year-olds do, such as figure skate, play soccer and cheerlead. All that and she is fluent in Portuguese and is in the process of learning American Sign Language.
Keep tabs on this 12-year-old. You might soon find her on your local radio station.

Robert Taylor Jr. teaches at Visions Dance Studio

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Photos by Anthony J. Machcinski/ Students at Visions Dance Studio perform part of a dance routine, taught to them by Robert Taylor Jr. View the video at www.theobserver.com

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

Youthful, happy and charismatic are words that describe performer Robert Taylor Jr., who taught classes at Visions Dance Studio on Midland Ave. in Kearny on Sept. 7.
Taylor Jr. became well known after his appearance on “So You Think You Can Dance” in the show’s eighth season. He came to Visions Dance Studio to fill in for an instructor who couldn’t come in.
“I had asked one of my new instructors if she could come in, but she couldn’t,” explained Visions owner Toni Olsen. “She knows a lot of top people and she called me and said Robert Taylor Jr. could come in and teach the class. He came in over the summer one day, and everybody had a great time.”
Not only is Taylor a capable dancer, but also he is able to use his own personality in helping the children.
“My connection with kids is the fact that I’m just a big kid myself,” Taylor said. “When I’m looking at them and see them laughing and smiling and they have that promise in their lives, it reminds me of when I was a kid. They motivate me.”
Taylor started dancing at the age of 16 after watching a dance show in high school.
“They were doing all different stuff and then I said to myself, ‘That looks pretty cool.’ Then I took classes. I didn’t do hip-hop at the time, it was just modern dancing.”
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in dance, Taylor joined the group the Amount Boyz, where he learned his hip-hop.
“I first realized (I wanted to be a professional dancer) when I started training with the Amount Boyz and I saw them in a bunch of music videos and thought it was something I could do,” he explained.
As Taylor got older, success started to come his way, such as “So You Think You Can Dance.” As he realized, this later-in-life success does not happen often.
“When I got older and turned 27, 28, I had some doubts here and there. The older I got, however, the more things started to happen to me, which was pretty exciting,” Taylor said. “Usually, it’s the other way around. I’m still dancing and I still feel like a 19-year-old.”
Taylor’s big break came when he was selected for the eighth season of “So You Think You Can Dance.”
“I auditioned quite a few times. It was my fourth attempt to audition,” he said. “They have call times in different cities. I went to Brooklyn and made it to Vegas and six weeks later, that’s when I found out I made the top 20.”
The experience was a highlight of Taylor’s career.
“I was able to take on different things from choreographers,” he said. “They told their stories through dancing. A lot of those stories inspired me to be a better person and improve my skills as a dancer.”
Now that the experience with “So You Think You Can Dance” is over, Taylor looks to continue on the experiences from the show.
“Right now, I’m preparing to do music as a pop solo artist. I’m going to start training in my genre of dance and solidify my popping, locking, weaving, and breaking,” explained Taylor.
The Washington Heights resident currently does not have any set-in-stone aspirations for his future, but rather one broad one that people can carry on in their daily lives.
“I want to entertain the world. To make everyone smile, sing, and dance with me.”

 

Top five movies of the summer

By Anthony J. Machcinski

As Labor Day weekend comes and goes on the calendar and the leaves on trees begin to turn, the 2011 summer movie season comes to a close.
This year, moviegoers have seen everything from romantic comedies like “Friends With Benefits” to science-fiction thrillers like “Super 8.”
With quality films coming out nearly every week, creating a top five list for the best movies of the summer is as tough as it has ever been.  Several good movies ended up outside the top five.
The much talked about “Hangover: Part II” missed the list because it failed to live up to the standard the original created.  “Green Lantern” also missed because, although the film was stunning visually, the mixture of comedy and action was not the right blend for the Green Lantern character.
Coming in at No. 5 was “Captain America: The First Avenger.” Captain America came into theaters July 22 and did not disappoint. While the film comes out of the same mold of other super hero films, the ending puts enough of a twist on the film to crack that mold and keep the audience waiting for “The Avengers” movie next summer.
Another hyped film that lived up to its billing was “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” What made the latest “Apes” movie a thrilling and interesting prequel to the original “Planet of the Apes” was a story that was the focus of the film. While all the action and cinematography were brilliant, the story remained the core of the film, as it should be.
No. 3 could have easily been No. 1. Shia LaBeouf identified with people searching for a purpose, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley successfully replaced Megan Fox as LaBeouf’s love interest and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” pulled in $97 million on the opening weekend to create a film that was successful in both money and story.
After a subpar second film, the third installment of the “Transformers” series included many things an audience could hope for: a love story, explosions, comedy and depth to many of the characters.
The second-best film came a bit early, having been released April 29, but it soon became the Rickey Henderson of the 2011 summer movie season, leading off the season with a bang.
“Fast Five,” the fifth installment of the “Fast and Furious” franchise, starred its consistent cast members Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster, as well as adding Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson to the mix.  The story continues as the audience meets up with Walker, Diesel and Brewster on the run in Brazil and trying to find a way out.
“Fast Five” could have easily been the No. 1 movie, with all the action, thrills, and drama that have been in the series since the first film nearly 10 years ago. What holds “Fast Five” back from being the best on the top five is the inconsistency. “Fast and Furious: Tokyo Drift,” released in 2006, seems to have been ignored, since one of the main characters in “Tokyo Drift,” who dies in that film, is alive in “Fast Five.” While many defending the franchise will say the films are just out of sequence, the ending of “Fast Five,” which alludes to a sixth film, has audiences too focused on how to piece the storyline together, instead of leaving the theater appreciating the story itself.
As for the top movie of the summer, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II” takes the cake. Audiences flocked to theaters to view the most anticipated movie of the season, and it did not disappoint, as evidenced by an opening weekend of $169 million and an estimated overall gross of $906 million in the first month. The film wowed audiences, with action, suspense, great visuals, and great acting to go along with all that.
The 2011 summer movie season has been as good as any in the past. One can only hope that the 2012 season will follow suit, filled with blockbusters such as “The Expendables 2,” “The Dark Night Rises,” “Star Trek 2” and “The Amazing Spider-Man.”

Lyndhurst-rooted comedian takes West Coast by storm

By Anthony J. Machcinski

Thirty-four years after Stephen Boehringer left Lyndhurst for California with his mother, he continues to grow as a comedian. But it was not easy.
After spending time on the West Coast, Boehringer experienced something that all comedians fear, getting booed off stage.
“They wanted a drunken Santa routine,” explained Boehringer. “When you’re booed and stuff, if you love the business and art of performing, that won’t get in your way.”
Indeed, he managed to take this negative situation and turn it into a learning experience.
“I didn’t let it get in my way,” said Boehringer.  “That sort of thing doesn’t happen anymore.”
Boehringer got into comedy after he moved to California. After talking to a girl who said he could perform, Boehringer went to an open mic night at a local stage to impress her. She never showed up at the event, but the young comedian’s rising career had begun.
One of the challenges that Boehringer faced while being in California was his New Jersey personality.
“I really learned how to cater my act to California,” he explained. “My basic personality and pace of my speech weren’t readily accepted in California. They didn’t quite get it, but it works very well now.”
Another part of Boehringer’s delivery that had to be changed was his strong opinions about his religion. These needed to be pulled back for audiences who would not understand or appreciate the jokes.
His strong opinions have forced him to lengthen the amount of time it has taken to produce newest effort … a sort of “how to” guide for fellow comics.
“I really have to edit myself on being too preachy,” Boehringer said. “It’s taking much longer than I’ve expected.”
The book, which Boehringer hopes will be completed and published by early 2012, will attempt to help other comedians by telling them about his own experiences and how to learn from them.
“This book is really about entertainment and comedy from the prospective of a non-secular audience and the challenges you face performing for them,” Boehringer explained.
Boehringer has been in California ever since he and his mother made the trek in 1977. Since then, he has been unable to return and perform in the town where  he was raised.
“Never had the opportunity to return (to Lyndhurst),” said Boehringer. “I think it’d be fun to see how my act plays there.”
Many people in the business attempt to define their success based on monetary value. Boehringer’s success is defined in other ways.
“Some people classify success is by the fame and the money,” Boehringer said. “Mine was completely different. It’s being confident in yourself and knowing what was on the paper and being confident. After six years, I got it. It’s when the hecklers don’t bother you and the jokes that don’t work don’t bother you. That’s success on the comedy stage.
After a successful 34-year career that even his role models, Bill Cosby and George Carlin, would be proud of, Boehringer realizes that there are further plateaus for his career to reach.
“What I want to do is have my stand-up act be more than just a stand-up act,” Boehringer explained, saying that he wants to include more music, presentations, and video displays.
When asked if he has future plans to move back to the East Coast, Boehringer said, “I’ve been married 23 years and have three kids. It doesn’t look like I’ll be back.”
However, it is this culture and atmosphere that he misses most.
“When you have a friend in New Jersey, you have a friend for life,” Boehringer explained. “The people are different. They may be more abrasive, but they’re just different.”
Boehringer will continue to perform on the West Coast and write his book, which is currently untitled, to be published next year.

Mansion hosts musicians

Photo by Anthony Machcinski/ Daryl Glenn (l.) is accompanied by pianist/vocalist Karen Dwyer.

By Anthony J. Machcinski

A warm sunshine filled the large windowed room at the Oakeside Bloomfield Cultural Center on Sunday as an intimate crowd of about 50 people attended the most recent Music at the Mansion concert.
The event featured several performers, including Daryl Glenn, Garry Novikoff, and D.C. Anderson. All who played for the audience at Oakeside did so as volunteers, taking time to promote their music and entertain the crowd.
Playing for the smaller-sized crowd was no issue for Glenn, who sang and played the guitar for the audience.
“I really like being able to look into people’s eyes,” Glenn explained. “That’s something because I really had to learn how to do since I was used to playing in large musicals on stage.”
Glenn, a former resident of Lexington, Ky., has been in musicals since he was in sixth grade, performing at a dinner theatre in Lexington. Thirty years later, Glenn is still performing.
On Sept. 18, Glenn, Jo Lynn Burkes, and others will be featured in the musical “Nashville,” based on the 1975 film of the same title by director Robert Altman. The group will perform at Feinstein’s at the Loews Regency Hotel in Uptown Manhattan.

To read the full story, see this week’s issue of The Observer.

Rising star Mia Borders moves through Kearny

Photo by Anthony J. Machcinski

 

By Anthony J. Machcinski

While many young, modern, and popular female musicians have broken through to stardom through rap and pop music genres, Mia Borders is doing things her own way.
Not looking like the stereotypical, factory-produced pop star, Borders, with jeans, and aviator sunglasses, arrived at Donegal Saloon on Aug. 12 and gave the crowd a taste of rock music usually found only below the Mason-Dixon line.
From New Orleans,  the 24-year-old Borders grew up listening to bigger vocalists like Celine Dion and Whitney Houston, but as a teenager, her role models changed.
“I was very athletic and physical and always thought that it could be part of my show,” Borders said, who also lists James Brown and Otis Reading as inspirations for her music. “Now, it’s just not even close to where I want to be.”

To read the full story, see this week’s issue of The Observer.

Jersey Four tribute to the Four Seasons

By Anthony J. Machcinski

Decades have passed since the Baby Boomer generation was young and Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons had the top pop hits in the nation. Nearly 50 years after “Sherry” peaked at #1, the Jersey Four hope to pay tribute to those times gone by and to make their own hits. And this week, you can hear them in Lyndhurst.
Started four years ago by Anthony Newell and Joseph Cilento,  the Jersey Four tribute show has been touring the area. Group members have covered several bands from the 1960s and 1970s, including  the Four Seasons, Blues Brothers, Beach Boys, and Jay and the Americans.
“We got together when the hottest thing going was the Frankie Valli tribute for the Jersey Boys,” said drummer and co-founder Newell. “We had a liking for the Four Seasons, and they’re in demand for our area, but they don’t tour the area often enough.”

To read the full story, see this week’s issue of The Observer.