[Dixielandjazz] If you play/promote Swinging Dixieland will an audience come?

Stephen G Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sun Mar 1 06:58:44 PST 2009

Is this an idea whose time has come? Can Dixieland regenerate like  
rock did in the below article. Maybe, maybe not, but there are 4  
locally well known Dixieland and/or Swing bands here in Pennsylvania  
and New Jersey that are now in discussions about a cooperative effort  
to draw a new young audience to the music via similar performances.
We figure nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Steve Barbone

March 1, 2009 - NY TIMES - by Dave Caldwell
A New Stage So Local Bands Can Play On


NO more than 20 minutes into the first of three sets, all 25 round  
tables in the makeshift coffeehouse were taken, and customers were  
still streaming through the front door. Children mingled with grown- 
ups, and happy chatter blended with rock ’n’ roll.

Dozens of musicians are in South Orange and Maplewood, most of whom  
play for fun when they get home from their day jobs. But these are  
tough times, and three sites in the area that provided steady weekend  
gigs for these grass-roots groups all closed recently.

So Alex Silberman of Millburn, who plays in a band when he is not  
running a consulting firm, and some friends in South Orange and  
Maplewood decided to rent the main room at the Baird Center and put on  
their own concert. They put out notices, and Mr. Silberman and  
volunteers created a stage, set up tables, hung tapestry on the walls,  
punched up the sound system and dimmed the overhead lights. Then they  
crossed their fingers.

Before the mid-January event, Mr. Silberman said he would have jumped  
up and down for joy if 100 people showed up for Rock the House NJ, as  
they called the concert. The event, featuring three local groups, drew  
nearly twice that number. So another one is planned for March 20.

“There’s a real interest, which is really gratifying,” Mr. Silberman,  
49, said as he worked his way through the crowd.

After the costs of the room rental and concert posters were covered,  
he divided the modest proceeds from the $5 cover charge among the  
three bands that played at the Baird: Felt, MoodRing and 3rd Gear.  
Three other local bands will play the next concert.

Posters in fluorescent colors included text that read: “Rock the House  
NJ is a collective of musicians and music lovers who provide a  
structure to an otherwise homeless music community — bringing the  
music to your backyard.”

Given the growing popularity of Maplewoodstock, the summer weekend  
concert held for the last five years near the Maplewood train station,  
no one seemed surprised that the first Rock the House NJ event drew a  
sizable crowd.

“It’s very clear that people want music — I don’t know why those  
venues couldn’t survive here,” said David Gomberg, a Maplewood  
psychologist who plays in MoodRing and was the sound man at the Rock  
the House NJ concert.

The Dancing Goat, in South Orange, and Here’s 2 the Arts and Café  
Meow, in Maplewood, have closed within a year of one another. Another  
pub on the Maplewood-Millburn border has cut back recently on  
appearances by local bands.

Nevertheless, Mr. Silberman decided the South Orange-Maplewood  
community was capable of sustaining its own regular concert series  
through the fall and winter.

“Everybody loves to play, and the idea of creating something appealed  
to everybody — the sooner the better for most of the bands,” said  
Billy Fishkin, a lawyer who lives in South Orange and plays guitar in  
a band called Walk the Dog.

Mr. Silberman sent e-mail messages to members of other local bands,  
and about 25 musicians attended a meeting in December to talk about  
whether his idea could work. He had no shortage of volunteers.

Dawn Botti, a lawyer by day, signed up to be the concert emcee. She  
and her husband, Gary Szczecina, a graphic designer, moved to  
Maplewood five years ago from Jersey City mainly because the town had  
a thriving arts community.

Ms. Botti, whose voice sounds somewhat like Pat Benatar’s, is the lead  
singer of a group called New Day Dawn, which just released a CD. Mr.  
Szczecina is the drummer. They did not play at the first Rock the  
House NJ event, but they wanted to help.

“I think of it as a local movement — it’s like a renaissance,” she  
said. “It’s all for one and one for all.”

The organizers had decided to keep the cover charge low to entice more  
people to attend. Children under 12 got in free, no alcohol was served  
and the items on a small menu, which included Belgian waffles and  
baked Brie, were made by Mr. Gomberg’s wife, Leah.

There are 10 to 15 bands in the community, Mr. Silberman estimated —  
including Test Pattern, his band — and he would like to have enough of  
these concerts so everyone would get to play at least once.

He said he also wants to bring music to more young people in Maplewood  
and South Orange, perhaps to teenagers who might want to start their  
own bands and play before an audience.

“We’ve got to get some teen bands at this thing,” said Gary Shippy, a  
Maplewood resident and Walk the Dog member who was one of the  
organizers of Maplewoodstock. “Look at this space. It would bring in  
whole, new blood.”

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