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Category: Entertainment

Hot films for a hot summer

By Anthony J. Machcinski

With the 90 degree temperatures our area experienced June 20-22, many people have been searching for ways to beat the heat. One of the easiest ways is by checking out one of the many films coming to area theaters.

With this summer’s load of movie blockbusters as heavy as ever, it’s easy for moviegoers to get lost in the shuffle of what to see. Here are some quick tips on the films you should be seeing.

The Big Names

Among the big budget blockbusters on tap are: “The Dark Knight Rises,” “The Amazing Spiderman,” and “The Bourne Legacy.” The most surprising of these big names is “The Amazing Spiderman,” considering this is essentially a remake of the 2002 film “Spiderman.” As we’d expect, the new film chronicles the origins of Spiderman and his transition from nerdy teenager to superhero. However, according to several reviews, the plot of this reboot will be much darker and truer to its comic book storyline. In this adaptation, Andrew Garfield (“The Social Network”) will play the teenage web-slinger while Emma Stone (“Zombieland,” “Easy A”) is Spiderman’s love interest.

The other major player for the big names is “The Dark Knight Rises,” with Christian Bale returning as Batman. The big challenge for this film will be creating another great hit with the absence of the great acting performance of the late Heath Ledger, whose adaptation of The Joker stole the show in the original film. “The Dark Knight Rises” is easily the most anticipated film of the summer, with some patrons securing midnight premiere tickets for $100.

The other series continuation yet to debut is “The Bourne Legacy.” Matt Damon, who plays Jason Bourne in the first three installments, won’t be returning for the fourth, citing the need for “a different challenge.” In his place, the story centers around Aaron Cross, played by Jeremy Renner. Cross is another assassin from the same outfit as Bourne’s, and, according to director Tony Gilroy (via movie insider), Renner’s character will be “a whole new hero (in a) whole new chapter.” With that in mind, “The Bourne Legacy” provides a whole new start for a series that has remained fresh for more than a decade.

The not-so publicized

For those simply looking for a good family movie to go watch, Disney and Pixar are looking to continue their success with the film “Brave.” Brave follows Princess Merida, who defies an age-old custom and unleashes chaos into her kingdom. If “Brave” is anything like the other Disney/Pixar-produced films, there will be plenty of fun for both adults and children alike, potentially making this the family film of the summer.

For adults, the major comedy of the summer looks to be “Ted,” created by “Family Guy” writer/illustrator/ producer Seth MacFarlane. The film follows John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) and his childhood Teddy Bear Ted (voiced by MacFarlane). Mila Kunis stars as Bennett’s love interest. MacFarlane utilizes his “Family Guy” experiences and free-range ability of the theatre to make a downright crude comedy that will have audiences nationwide laughing.

For moviegoers seeking something from left field, “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” should provide that type of fare. The film takes place during the Civil War, where Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) discovers the real reason behind the war: vampires. While the plot details are vague at best, avid movie fans can expect a good film, as it was written by Tim Burton, who is known for his “different” but quality films such as “Edward Sissorhands” and “Corpse Bride.”

Already released

Several films that have already been released for the summer have created a buzz about the summer movie season. “

Rock of Ages,” based on the Broadway play of the same name, showcases a love story between two aspiring Hollywood stars to the tune of many ‘80s hits. Big names such as Tom Cruise and Mary J. Blige star in the film.

Don’t let the title fool you: another big box office hit, “Snow White and the Huntsman,” is not the same type of joyous movie Walt Disney bestowed upon audiences in 1937. This adaptation of the popular fairy tale is much darker than other adaptations. The film has received great reviews from the moment it was released. Kristen Stewart (Snow White) and Charlize Theron (The Evil Queen) have drop-dead performances that have blown away all expectations.

This article could not be written without mentioning what many are calling the movie of the summer, “The Avengers.” Based on a continuation of the last few summer blockbusters (“Thor,” “Captain America,” “Iron Man,” and “The Incredible Hulk”), the film focuses on the creation of a group of superheroes facing one of their toughest challenges yet. One great part about the film is that while the film is based on the group of superheroes, it still gives equal time to each of the characters comprising “The Avengers.” This isn’t just your normal comic book adaptation; the film is a must-watch, even if you haven’t watched the prequels or read the comic book.

Local film puts watchers in the ‘Danger Zone’

Photos courtesy Ryan Polukord/ The evil, soul-piercing eyes of Alex Valez provide a bit of fright for local moviegoers.


By Anthony J. Machcinski

Imagine waking up in a totally white room while having no recollection of how you got there. While many people may think this is the beginning subplot of the next installment of the “Hangover” movies, it is far from it.

Produced and written by Belleville resident Ryan Polukord, “Danger Zone” tells the story of a man trapped in a white room who slowly realizes that he was abducted.

Polukord got the idea from the film after seeing a sign on the way home from Atlantic City last summer that read, “Speed monitored by aircraft.”

“From there, I started thinking about UFOs and how they’re linked to government conspiracy,” Polukord said. “It just got my mind going and I built from there.”

Polukord got his filmmaking start while a student of Belleville High School. It was during his high school years that he realized this was his dream job.

“I really got into it while I was at Belleville High School during a mass communication class that I took,” Polukord said. “That’s when I knew I wanted to pursue this dream and applied to Montclair’s film making program.”

The cast and crew from the premiere of Danger Zone (from l. to r.) Gianna Giarrusso, Kevin Polukord, Lia Sprechini, Ryan, Polukord, Alex Velez, and Amanda Goscinski.


Nearly five years after high school graduation, Polukord has one award winning film under his belt and a good shot at grabbing a second. Polukord first created “Camp 139,” an 18-minute horror film during summer 2010 that was a nominee at the Garden State Film Festival and won “Best New Jersey Based Film” at the Down Beach Film Festival.

For “Danger Zone,” Polukord had the support of a dedicated, familiar cast that helped him complete the film.

“My lead (Frank Serco) and I worked together on a couple of short films,” Polukord said. “I was very familiar with his work and got him in on it. Two of my other actors were Alex Velez and Lia Sprechini, who I went to Belleville High School with. I trusted they would help me get this going.”

The film itself took about 10 months to put together, starting with the concept (July 2011), to a written script (October 2011), shooting (December 2011), to its showcase at Montclair State University on June 8, 2012.

The unveiling of the film turned out to be the moment of success for Polukord, as the film was well received by those who watched it.

“We had a great turnout and had a lot of people jumping (scared) at some points,” Polukord said. “We had a question and answer session after the film and a lot of the (audience members) were asking questions about it. The movie made them think. It was one of those films that made you think in a good way.”

In order to produce the film, Polukord had to raise the money needed to buy props, costumes, and the equipment needed to film the project. Using a website called Kickstarter, Polukord was able to raise $910.

“None of the funding went to paying actors or crew members,” Polukord said. “Everyone was doing it for experience on their resume.”

With “Danger Zone” under his belt, Polukord has plans to get the film to several festivals, including the Atlantic Film Festival, the Toronto After Dark Festival, the Gotham Film Festival and the Screen Horror Festival.

As for the future, Polukord is hoping to continue diving deeper into the filmmaking world, where he hopes to work under a producer and “learn more of the aspects of producing.”

To see more information about the film, visit http:// www.infobarrel.com/Danger_ Zone_Premiere_Ryan_Polukords_ New_Horror_Film.

Returning writer wows kids at alma mater

Photo Courtesy Anna Prokos/ From l., Library Media Specialist Kathleen Smith; students Laura Pinto, Thomas Muller, Charles McBride; author Anna Prokos; and guest Christopher Kontakis.


Photo Courtesy Anna Prokos/ Anna Prokos (c.) accepts flowers from Kathleen Smith and first-graders Emma Fernandes-Santinho (l.) and Raquel Cunha.



By Anthony J. Machcinski

After a 26-year hiatus, Anna Prokos returned to her old grammar school on June 6 as an accomplished author. Prokos, who authored the children’s book “The Lucky Cake,” came to Roosevelt school in Kearny to talk to students about writing and being an author.

“It was really great to go back to my elementary school for the first time in 26 years,” Prokos said. “It was nice to see all these kids excited and how much of a difference my book made.“

“The Lucky Cake,” published in November 2011, tells the story of a Greek tradition where a cake is baked with a coin inside for the beginning of the New Year. The cake is served in order from oldest to youngest and the finder of the coin can expect to have a lucky year.

Prokos and “The Lucky Cake” achieved success, as 1,200 copies of the children’s book were sold in a threemonth span but Prokos is even happier with the reader response that her book has sparked.

“Most of the copies have been purchased by non-Greek people,” Prokos said. “Through the feedback I get, (readers) make this cake not just on New Year’s but at any time. It’s my inspiration to give kids a different cultural experience that they really have embraced.”

What really impressed her during her visit was how both teachers and students reacted.

“I think that the kids really enjoyed it,” Prokos said. “The kids had lots of questions and were very enthusiastic to ask them…The teachers really enjoyed having an author come to their school and talk about what’s its like to be an author and the careers you can have in publishing.”

One student in particular made a lasting impact with Prokos. She recounted the event, saying, “One child (that a teacher later said she didn’t think would be interested due to a disinterest in reading) wanted to talk to me directly. He asked me what were the most and least important things when writing a book. I was really struck by the fact that this child, who has not shown that much excitement in the classroom, had really wanted to ask me a question.”

Prokos answered the child by saying, “(The most important thing is to) keep rewriting as much as possible until you feel that it is done. Don’t ever settle until you’ve done it as well. (The least important thing is) a page or word limit. That’s something you can worry about at the end of it.”

Prokos found her inspiration for writing during her time at Roosevelt School while participating in a literary magazine the school published.

“My teacher created this magazine where they printed everybody’s best work throughout the year,” Prokos explained. “I remember being so excited to see my work with my name on it. I brought (the publication) home and told my parents, ‘I’m going to be a writer when I grow up’ and they didn’t believe me, but here I am today.”

With “The Lucky Cake” published, Prokos is now in the final stages of her next book, “The Lucky Year.” The book will follow the character Billy during his lucky year after finding the coin in “The Lucky Cake.” “

Right now, the book is finished and is in the design and illustration process,” Prokos said. She’s unsure about when the book will be ready for publication.

For more information on “The Lucky Cake,” visit www.theluckycakebook.com. To follow the book on Facebook, visit www.facebook.com/a.to.z.publishing as well as the book’s Twitter @AZPublishing

Next up for W.H.A.T. is ‘Nunsense’

Photo courtesy Linda D’Isa/ The cast of “Nunsense”: Bottom row: Paula Ribeiro, Joan Hemphill, Melissa Miranda. Middle row: Danielle Pennisi and Danielle Romano. Top row: Elizabeth Camarza and Paula Reyes. Not pictured: Francesca Stokes and Don Flynn.


By Anthony J. Machcinski

The West Hudson Arts & Theater Company (W.H.A.T.) will conclude its first season on June 15 when area residents will perform the musical comedy “Nunsense.”

‘Nunsense’ revolves around Sister Julia, Child of God, cook for the Little Sisters of Hoboken who accidentally poisons 52 of her fellow sisters. In order to acquire the funds needed for the burials, the remaining sisters decide to perform a variety show.

Directing his second show for W.H.A.T. Joseph Ferriero has high expectations for the company’s rendition.

“I’m really excited for the first performance,” Ferriero said. “I want to see how the audience reacts. I don’t watch the show as it goes on; I want to see the audience. It lets me know what I’ve done right and what I’ve done wrong and what I need to change.”

Ferriero last directed “Frog Princess” for W.H.A.T., a family-oriented performance in April. As Ferriero started working on “Nunsense,” he quickly realized the two plays would be very different.

“It’s just really a different situation,” Ferriero explained. “Adults get it much faster than kids do in terms of understanding the characters.”

Performing in her debut for W.H.A.T. is Joan Hemphill, who will play Reverend Mother in the musical. While Hemphill is excited about the opportunity, she didn’t expect to be thrust into the spotlight so early.

“I was actually shocked to be honest,” Hemphill explained. “I just wanted a role to get me involved and get my feet wet. I’m taking (the role) on as a challenge to deliver a good performance.”

Explaining what those challenges are, Hemphill said, “It will take me more time to get used to. I have to balance my work and my career, but I’m really dedicated to it. I’m not a natural, but I’m up to the challenge.”

Joining Hemphill on the stage at the Grace United Methodist Church on June 15 will be Paula Reyes, who will play Sister Julia, Child of God. “Nunsense” will be Reyes’ second performance with W.H.A.T. after playing Ursula in the “Frog Princess” performance.

“I’m privileged to be in (‘Nunsense’) with (Ferriero) and the rest of the cast,” Reyes said.

One major difference between “Frog Princess” and “Nunsense” has been the ability of the cast to adapt and learn the play, despite the more complex nature of “Nunsense.”

“This is one of the best casts I’ve ever worked with,” Reyes remarked. “It’s nice because people put on productions in a threeto- four month time frame. We’re doing this in five weeks. (Acting) isn’t their main job. It’s an amazing production.”

Ferriero agreed, saying, “(The cast) is really dedicated. Whether it’s music one night, acting another, choreography another. There are things we’ve done seven times and then we say we’re going to change something with two weeks left because it wasn’t working. The cast has dealt with different curveballs very well.”

For this group, acting simply isn’t something they do just to cure summer bordom, it’s a fierce passion that’s been present in their lives for many years.

“I truly enjoy the arts,” Reyes explained. “It’s important to bring it back to the community in an affordable way.”

Hemphill echoed that idea, saying, “Kearny is a town that has a lot of interest in the arts. The people organizing it are talented and have the experience and know-how. It’s good to have that collaboration.”

Aside from the hard work and dedication that takes place to put the performance together, Hemphill points to another factor that has yielded much satisfaction for her involvement in the production.

“(The best part of the whole experience is) getting to know the music and working with people under good direction and meeting new people,” Hemphill explained.

The West Hudson Arts & Theater Company will perform the musical comedy “Nunsense” on June 15 at 7:30 p.m. and June 16 at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. at the Grace United Methodist Church at 380 Kearny Ave. in Kearny. Tickets are available by visiting the company website at whatco.org, by calling the box office at 201-467-8624, or by purchasing them in person a half hour before the show or at 570 Kearny Ave. in Kearny.

‘Aim’ing for success

Photos Courtesy of Steve Egoavil


Anthony J. Machcinski

Artists from all over the area will converge on the Lithuanian Catholic Community Club on June 2 for “Together”. “Together” is a fundraiser for the “AIM Foundation” put together by North Arlington resident Steve Egoavil.

“The Art in Motion Foundation originated two years ago with a premise that anyone can make a difference,” Egoavil explained. “It was this idea and seeing what was going on in our world from a local to global point of view that I decided to get started in my quest to make a positive difference in the world.”

Since its inception, the AIM Foundation has been able to raise funds for the Lincoln Tunnel Challenge, Wounded Warrior Project, and several other groups and foundations.

A few months ago, Egoavil started thinking of doing another fundraiser after the outpouring of support after the last event.

“I had so many people offer to help me feed and cloth the homeless on one of our annual street cookouts,” Egoavil explained.

Egoavil saw this response as a sign to take the foundation to the next level, saying, “I knew it was time to prepare and make a move towards taking it all to the next level to a real non-profit organization.”

For this fundraiser, Egoavil has been able to collect a menagerie of artistic talent, from DJs, Musicians, Artists, and everything in between.

When asked what he was most excited to see, Egoavil said, “ To be honest, there are so many artists and musicians that will be there, so I’m actually just excited for it all. I’m curious to see how we interact with each other as well as how the guests soak in all the art and entertainment provided.”

One of those artists who will showcase his material is Justin Carty. Carty, an animator and graphic artist from New York City, will cross the Hudson with two large 36’’ by 84’’ oil on canvas paintings.

“Steve asked me if I wanted to be a part of it about three weeks ago,” Carty said on how he got involved. “Steve is a great guy and he said it was for a good cause so I said yes right away.”

Despite taking time out of his busy schedule to set up the event, Egoavil will also take part in the showcase, showing off some of his own work.

“I will be showing off some of the artwork I’ve been working on, (including) a painting, a few photographs, and a drawing, as well as a portfolio of Tattoo Art that I’ve done,” Egoavil explained.

Local band I Am Fighting will also be a part of the fundraiser.

While many of the artists are just happy to showcase their work in such a forum, one simple idea rings true throughout the participants.

“I think it’s for a very good cause and I enjoy contributing to causes that I know will directly help people,” Carty explained.

“The more people that get involved, the bigger the positive impact we make on what we decide to get involved in,” Egoavil added.

The fundraiser will take place on June 2 at the Lithuanian Catholic Community Club at 6 Davis Ave. in Kearny. A suggested donation of $20 will be collected at the door. The fundraiser will be from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Art comes in many forms in E. Newark

Photos courtesy of Wendy Born Hollander/ First Grade 3-D artwork based on the book “Bugs in a Blanket”


Photos courtesy of Wendy Born Hollander/ Fourth-grade projects from “Rainbow Star Books” suspended in the East Newark School stairwell.


By Anthony J. Machcinski

A variety of student projects will be featured on May 30 when the East Newark Public School hosts its annual Spring Art Show. The artwork, created by students from the school, will be featured from 5 to 7 p.m. at the school on 501 N. Third St.

“It’s a good way for parents and people in the community to come see what’s happening,” explained East Newark art teacher Wendy Born Hollander.

The art show features a variety of pieces from students from kindergarten through eighth. Some of these projects include Tropical Bird paintings by third-graders, Rainbow Star Books by fourth and fifthgraders, and 3-D landscapes by sixth graders.

The variety of work incorporates what the students are learning in school.

“A lot of times with elementary students, we tie our pieces into books,” Hollander explained. “I can capture their attention.”

For Hollander, who started her art career as an illustrator of children’s books, teaching slowly became part of her life.

“I started working parttime and then found that I liked it,” Hollander said. “I decided to transition from illustration to teaching full time. Being an illustrator, there is never an off-button in trying to find work.”

Now organizing the School’s Art Show, Hollander is looking forward to one thing from the event — “meeting the parents.” “I’ve only met a few parents here and there. The art show is very well attended.”

One special feature about this year’s art show will be the availability of the work online.

“I think it’s great that even relatives in far away locations can see the beautiful work students are doing by just logging onto the website,” Hollander explained.

With the Art Show slowly approaching, Hollander has one main goal for the event.

“I hope that student’s families and friends are able to attend this special event,” Hollander said. “Everyone in the community is invited to come see the creative and exciting art projects students have completed. I’m really proud of what they’ve accomplished.”

The East Newark School Spring Art Show will take place on May 30, 5-7 p.m. at the East Newark School at 501 N. Third St. To view the students work visit http:// www.artsonia.com/schools/ school.asp?id=110876.

Kearny markets new cookbook

Councilwoman Susan McCurrie displays The Kearny Farmer’s Market Cookbook.



Soon there’ll be a new book on the market that’s completely home grown.

The Kearny Farmer’s Market Cookbook boasts 81 pages chock-full of Kearny residents’ recipes which incorporate the use of fresh produce available at the open air market held in town during the summer months.

Proceeds from sale of the book go to Friends of the Kearny Public Library and the Kearny Urban Enterprise Zone.

Library Board President Jennifer Cullen, who also heads up the Friends group, the library’s fundraising arm, said the cookbook was the brainchild of Fourth Ward Councilwoman Susan McCurrie, who has been looking for a way to promote the Farmer’s Market and figured a cookbook was the way to go.

Cullen said the lawmaker “approached different service organizations (including the Friends and several local women’s clubs) to make it happen.” Of the 147 recipes for main dishes, sides and desserts, more than half came from members of those groups, she said. Individual contributors were limited to no more than five entries.

But it didn’t happen overnight. “It took two years to get this to fruition,” Cullen said.

McCurrie said she discovered that a lot of people resisted, jealously guarding the ingredients making up their favorite dishes.

But, eventually, sufficient numbers of folks could be persuaded to part with their favorite food formulas to share with the general public and the cookbook is the proof of the pudding, so to speak. “We were fortunate to get the participation we did,” McCurrie said.

Lynn Oelz, owner of Signs By Lynn, a local shop specializing in signs and graphics, contributed the art work for the book and Morris Press Cookbooks handled the printing. Carol Puchyr and Cullen handled the logistics of putting together the final product.

The book, which sells for $9.95, comes with a free stand you can use to support your book while you prepare your dish of choice.

The Kearny Public Library will host a cookbook launch party on June 8 at 7 p.m. and tickets are only $5 but limited to 100 attendees. Guests will sample Jane Mackesy’s recipe for “chopped veggie and corn salad.”

After the event, people can obtain copies of the book from the library or by contacting Town Hall.

The seventh annual Jersey Fresh Farmer’s Market resumes this season on June 21 and continues every Thursday, from noon to 6 p.m., in the parking lot across from Mandee Shops, Kearny and Bergen Aves., through mid- October. Union Hill Farms, of Denville, and Alsteade Farms, of Chester, supply the fresh produce, jams and jellies.

Typically, the season starts with a selection of berries, followed by peaches, lettuce, cabbage and squash; then come corn, tomatoes and melons; early fall brings apples, pears, pumpkins, fruit pies, jams and jellies.

– Ron Leir

It’s no ‘Secret’ this band kills

Photos Courtesy of Secretcountryband.com/ New vocalist Katelynn Siegle is one of two new additions to Secret Country


By Anthony J. Machcinski

That closed-door country band is at it again. Secret Country, the Kearny-based country band under the Killing Horse Records label, celebrated the release of its latest album and first vinyl, “7 Days a Week,” at Donegal Saloon on May 18.

“We’re really excited to put it all out,” said Mike Sylvia of Killing Horse Records. “We built the label around them in 2009.”

“7 Days a Week” is a follow-up to the band’s 2009 full-length “Women, Whiskey and Nightlife.” During the years between the two releases, the band has seen some changes to its lineup, with Eric Mason (guitar/ vocals) and Yan Iziquerdo (fiddle/mandolin) replaced by Katelynn Siegle (vocals) and Ryan Gross (guitar).

“It’s a whole different thing with a girl singing,” said Secret Country bass player Tim Siegle, Katelynn’s brother. “At first it was kind of like a boys’ club. Now that we’re older, it’s not the same thing. She brings something we didn’t have.”

Siegle’s statement could not ring truer. While “Women, Whiskey, and Nightlife” was a quality album in its own right, “7 Days a Week” gives Secret Country another step in the right direction.

Photos Courtesy of Secretcountryband.com


In comparison to its predecessor album, “7 Days a Week” and its brilliantly produced product sounds like a real record – something that one can imagine hearing on the radio someday.

This difference can be attributed to the new work ethic of the band.

“With the lineup we have now, it’s a lot easier,” explained Siegle. “We practiced more to kind of hone the sound. We matured. We look at this as we can have something here. We’ve been trying to work this out.”

The ease is a reflection of the streamlined length of time it took to get the record produced.

“The last record almost took us a whole year,” Siegle explained. “The recording process (for “7 Days a Week”) was very painless and took us a little over a weekend.”

What made Secret Country special on “Women, Whiskey, and Nightlife” was the chemistry that members of the band had with each other. Now, despite losing two key elements of its band, Secret Country is still able to maintain the bonds that solidify its music.

With an “in the family” thread of Katelynn, Tim and Matt Siegle, and with the incorporation of Ryan Gross, a producer with Killing Horse Records, the band maintains a continuity that allows its members not to miss a step.

The title track of “7 Days a Week” is a perfect showcase of this chemistry.

A quick start and a solid guitar solo help get the song on a roll and set the pace for the whole track. Jay Monaco’s voice, accented with the voices of Katelynn and Matt Siegle and Joe Hart, provide the fun-loving feel that the lyrics look to convey. With lyrics that say, “Wake up, it’s Monday/I didn’t get to see the sun today/At this rate, I don’t know when I will,” the fun-loving nature of the band’s style certainly comes into play.

The other song on the album, “Deep-Fried Delight,” is another quick start. “Deep- Fried Delight” also is another fun-loving track, with Monaco singing about falling in love with fried chicken as if it were his lover.

Both these tracks fall in line with the band’s reputation.

“(The new album) is probably in the same range where we’ve been the past few years,” said Gross. “Drinking, eating fried foods, and having a good time. (This album is) a little more representative of our sounds and what you get at the live shows.”

The album “7 Days a Week” is only the beginning for Secret Country, as this record is a precursor to a fulllength album to be released sometime in the late summer/ early fall of 2012. While preparing for this record, the band hopes to get out on the road more and travel farther than they have in the past.

“With the lineup we have now, it’s a lot easier to travel,” Siegle explained. “Boston was the farthest we’ve ever been outside of Jersey and we want to continue to grow. We’d like to do more in South Jersey, too.”

With its fun-loving nature and quality music, Secret Country is on the right track for future success.

For more information on Secret Country, or to purchase their albums, visit www.secretcountryband.com.

Fighting in the Dark

Photo courtesy Joseph Gehrmann


By Anthony J. Machcinski 

What a difference a year makes. A little over a year after I Am Fighting took the stage at Bamboozle Festival at the New Meadowlands Sports Complex, the band will return to the Bamboozle Festival debuting a new EP, “Not Afraid.”

“This time, we went for the complete opposite (of last year’s upbeat CD),” said I Am Fighting lead vocalist Joe Gehrmann. Those words can never ring truer.

In their first album, “All The Ways We Can,” Gehrmann and bandmates Dan Tretola, Dom Gaglio, and Joe Hughes created an album that was very upbeat and powerful, from the first track “Ghost” all the way through the last song “Noah.” With “Not Afraid,” the band turned in a different direction for the songs on this album.

“They’re very dark,” said Gehrmann. “The songs are so different in this CD.”

I Am Fighting achieved this “darker” sound by using lower notes. In the song, “John Francis,” the band starts out with the piano playing of Gehrmann and continues the darker theme with a slow bass drum beat in the background. While the band strayed from the upbeat feeling of its first album, I Am Fighting still manages to keep its power through Gehrmann’s voice, which jumps off the track and grabs your ear.

In a 2011 interview with The Observer, Gehrmann described his music as: “emotional, powerful, beautiful and dark pop.”

Following this trend, the song “Falling in Circles” has a different feel than the other songs on the record. While still retaining its power and emotion, “Falling in Circles” is the one song on the record that is a ray of sunshine through a much darker album.

With these new songs in tow, I Am Fighting will play the Bamboozle Festival in Asbury Park after winning a contest at the Stone Pony in April.

“It’s more exciting this year because we get to play at it and we don’t have to deal with all the stress of competing against other bands,” Gehrmann explained. Last year, I Am Fighting was placed in a multi-round competition for a spot in last year’s Bamboozle lineup, losing in the final round of the contest.This year, the contest was downsized to one day, giving the band more time to focus on its act for the actual show instead of the contest.

Asked to measure the impact of the Bamboozle Festival on the band, Gehrmann said:

“It allows you to get a taste of the dream that you’re going for. … When you play these giant festivals, it allows you to just play. When you play smaller shows, we do very well, but you’re scraping the surface to try and fill a venue. When you play the festivals, you get to play on an incredible stage with the best sound system that the state can offer and it allows us to play for the largest crowd we can possibly play for.”

Still, Gehrmann allowed that, “smaller venues (make it) easier to connect to the crowd.”

With the new EP under its belt, I Am Fighting will play at Bamboozle on May 20 in Asbury Park before coming to Maxwell’s in Hoboken on June 23.

To learn more about the band, check out its website at iamfighting.com and to buy its new EP, “Not Afraid” or its previous album, “All The Ways We Can,” search I Am Fighting on iTunes.

Running on full throttle

Turbine to bring unconventional energy to Kearny’s Donegal Saloon


Photo Courtesy of Turbinemusic.com/ The band Turbine


By Anthony J. Machcinski

A turbine is commonly used to create energy. When using that name for a band, one might think the band would come out of the heavy metal, punk, or ska genres. However, the band Turbine is far from those musical formats.

“It kind of sounds like a German death metal band,” said Jeremy Hilliard, guitar player from the band Turbine. “It started out as a humorous thing we thought was kind of funny. As we sat with it, we realized it was more than just that. It had energy to it.”

Turbine origininated in Manhattan in 2004 when Hilliard and harmonica player Ryan Rightmire heard each other play in an unconventional way.

“(Rightmire) and I were next door neighbors in Manhattan and we heard each other playing through the wall,” Hilliard explained. “From there, we just ended up forming a duo and that ended up in Turbine’s first album.”

Soon after forming, the duo realized they would need a rhythm section. After what Hilliard described as an “intense audition process” formed through networking, Turbine became a full, well-oiled machine. The band would go on to debut the new lineup at several national festivals including the famous Bonaroo music festival.

“It was nice to be included in that,” Hilliard said of Bonaroo. “It was one of the greatest gigs to get recognized at.”

What makes Turbine one of the most unique bands hitting the scene is the band’s unique style. With an eclectic group of influences that would make many bands crumble from the sheer variety, Turbine continues to purr.

“(The) style is something that I’m proud of as far as the band is concerned,” Hilliard explained. “We have songs that we play, but it’s the style we play in that’s more important – that separates us. “

Besides their style of play, the style in which they write songs is unique in it’s own right.

“We look from a mix of different themes and places to inspire us,” Hilliard explained. “We also try to look at modern songwriters and lands that write songs in our style.”

The band’s style comes off very similar to that of many jam bands seen at music festivals.

“Our style is a little more improvised,” Hilliard said. “We look to more of improvising at our live shows. It’s a take on the jazz approach and the jam band style.”

This unique style of play showcases itself in many of Turbine’s songs.

“Invited”, a four-minute, bluegrass-infused song off the album Reward, is one of the many songs showcasing the band’s range. With an ever-present harmonica and simple lyrics, the song invites you for a nice relaxing time, transporting the listener to a warm summer’s day down on the river. Even for the greatest bluegrass opponent, Turbine’s great play can be easily appreciated.

Moving away from the bluegrass feel, “Eddy the Sea” brings back more of the jam band style. A soft, rhythmic drum beat accompanies Hilliard’s smooth guitar solos. “Eddy the Sea” is a song that, beyond it’s great studio version, can be expected to be taken to a different level at any live performance with several areas for improvisation.

With a steady group of fans and several albums under their belt, Turbine has slowly worked its way into being one of the best live bands in the area. Despite their success, Hilliard still knows that the band has the opportunity to continue growing.

“Bands are like running from a shark, you got to keep going otherwise you’re dead in the water,” Hilliard explained. “We’ve always managed to grow in one way or another.”

Hilliard continued to show examples of their growth, saying, “If you look at the progression of our records, they keep getting better and better. As long as we are working on our live shows and continue to work on our writing, then the opportunity for growth is there.”

While Turbine’s success cannot be measured by the particular venue that the band plays in, Hilliard just looks at one thing.

“(Its unrealistic to) feel like you’ll sell out Madison Square Garden,” Hiliard explained. “You got to be able to enjoy the little things and enjoy the process. It’s never really over. It’s about growing and playing the music.”

Turbine will come to Kearny when they play Donegal Saloon on May 11. To listen to their music or buy their albums, visit www.turbinemusic.com.