When I was a little girl (age 6/7), my brothers were always going to shows where skate punk, hardcore, metal, and death metal were huge (I won’t be listing those bands here). They are nearly a decade older than me, so I learned a lot about bands that most people were not too familiar with (I had a death metal grunt at that age that freaked people out). It opened up my musical horizons rather than listening only to “top 40” radio songs. By the time I was a teenager, I was really not fond of the music that was big at that time and I mainly immersed myself in classic rock (60s/70s) or classical music (Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, Holst, Ravel, Tchaikovsky, etc). Known bands/artists that I remember people making a big deal about when I was 13 getting radio play were Green Day, Celine Dion, Dave Matthews Band, The Spice Girls, Matchbox 20, Puff Daddy, Alanis Morrissette, and Bush. I wasn’t really into any of them, though I did know maybe a song from each of them. These were all overplayed on the radio. I grew so tired of them all.
By the time I was a freshman in high school, the ska/big band/swing music was climbing its way as well as other things like Inrique Inglesias, Ricky Martin, Backstreet Boys, Nsync, and Britney Spears. There was a combination of terrible and some good sounding things, but I still couldn’t get into radio music at all. However, my church’s youth group at the time put on a couple shows (1998/1999) where some lesser known Christian bands like Element 101 played (they were known as Element before adding the 101 – the lead singer of it eventually married the second singer Jason Gleason of Further Seems Forever. My oldest brother was friends with one of Element 101’s members in our old church where most of the members of the band in general attended as kids. The cool part about the childhood friend of my bro is he now runs an anti-human trafficking organization). Watching bands play and seeing many kids coming to watch was so much fun for me. I adored being at shows.
Sophomore year I didn’t even know what was playing on the radio, but I know everyone was obsessed with Blink 182 & Eminem in the public school that I transferred to. I listened to a lot of techno/trance/happy hardcore electronica music because the normal popular radio stations just bugged me. I was really down about not knowing of any good music. When I met my husband Rob in high school, who was in a band called Romaine Lettuce, I was excited to hear that shows happened regularly, but I just didn’t know where to find them or how to get to them. I was really sad that I couldn’t see his band at that time play at a place called Obsessions. Rob started to tell me about bands I never heard of, which excited me! Relient K’s first self-titled album was just released, and I played it out (Specifically the song “Softer To Me” which impacted me incredibly) as well as The Juliana Theory’s “Understand This is a Dream” 1999 album (Specifically “The Closest Thing” – It was nice to see them live a few years later).
When Rob & I started dating; to hear his band Romaine Lettuce play music was so much fun (listen to their recorded songs here – he was the bassist & sang most of the songs while the guitarist sang the others. All the songs are great, but he sings lead on Tracks 2, 4, 6, 7 & 9, and back-up vocals on tracks 5 & 8 & 10). We began our relationship off with music and local shows. The second weekend after we started dating was spent going to 2 shows. They are very memorable. We gathered in a car filled with other kids from school and headed out to a nearby fireman’s hall attached to the firehouse. This was called “The Wayne Firehouse”. Loads of shows went on there which were hosted by a kid named Ricky. He called these “The Bomb Shelter” shows. There were so many kids there who would pack into this small hall. So many of these kids would smoke inside the building which was always annoying (later they had a smoking section outside, which was a relief since I’m allergic to cigarette smoke). It was so hot inside with everyone there even in the winter, but they would open doors so there was a breeze constantly filling up the place that felt so good. The bands would be right in front of us and would play their loud music. A lot of the bands were created by high school kids or kids who were in college. We’d hear punk, pop-punk, hardcore, Indie, and ska. Usually there would be 4 or 6 bands playing each night. There were always a couple “dud” bands, but it was good that they tried. We would still applaud them.
The first night that we went together to shows, we fell in love with a local band called Shady View Terrace (hear a song called “I Hope You’re Alone” which was probably the first of their songs we heard). We saw them perform loads of times and are so glad we did. They sounded like nothing else we had ever heard before. The passion and energy that the band gave off was amazing. They would get into their music and we adored it. People would point out while singing the songs. A couple times the singer (Billy McGovern) would put the mic out for the crowd right in front of him to sing into. One time he even put his arm around Rob as he’d sing. We don’t know hardly any people who have heard of them, but it is a memory we can cherish together. I can’t right out remember what other bands played that night, but I was hooked into going to shows.
The following night we went to Club Bene (October 14, 2000), which was later called Club Krome. It wasn’t that large of a place at all. Who was to play? Shady View Terrace, Midtown, and Saves the Day and maybe Hot Rod Circuit (not completely certain on that, though pretty sure). It was one of the greatest shows we have been to & we loved all the bands that performed. We can still remember them playing Radiohead‘s Kid A in the background as bands would set up their equipment & instruments. We stood near the front, though not all the way in front, but on the right to center side of the stage. The cost of the show was maybe $8-$10. It was pricey compared to the $3-$6 shows at the Wayne Firehouse. There were maybe 400 kids there. Rob held me and he knew the music much better than I did at that time. Saves The Day‘s Through Being Cool album was just out and Midtown’s Save the World, Lose the Girl album was all that was out. It was still the earlier stages long before Midtown eventually played on MTV’s Road Rules/Real World Challenge (start it at 6:20, warning – girls in bikinis in it). Everyone was singing along and having so much fun. We were soaked in sweat and we can still smell that show when we think about it (and it is actually a nice smell as odd as that sounds). Of course Rob and I broke up about two days later and were on and off for a couple months (I’d tell him “heart is on the floor, why don’t you step on it?” which is a Saves the Day lyric). We did get a chance to see Saves the Day play an acoustic set at the Wayne Firehouse that January (we sat in the dark on the side as we listened & sang. . it was actually a pretty low-key and empty show). Midtown & Hot Rod Circuit played with them again too. It is crazy to think that a year later we went to see Saves the Day play after their Stay What You Are album release at Irving Plaza in NYC with Dashboard Confessional (Swiss Army Romance was Rob’s favorite, mine was The Places You Have Come to Fear the Most – which was just released then & made him boom – the epitome of “Emo”), The Anniversary (I adore them), and Hot Rod Circuit (“Chicken man!”) which was filled with maybe 1,000 people (biggest show I’ve been to, which I know is still small compared to what many concerts have).
Every single weekend on Friday & Saturday nights we would go to the Wayne Firehouse for shows (or sometimes Skater’s World). There are countless bands that we saw or weren’t interested in seeing. Some of these bands became pretty well known and popular. When My Chemical Romance would play (“saw” them twice). . .we actually were outside or just hang out with other people as they’d play because we couldn’t ever really get into them. Little did we know that they’d hit it huge. The bands we loved the most seemed to go nowhere but deserved amazing attention and credit. One of my all time favorite bands ever that I list in my top 5 is Random Task. They had two albums. Rob loved their first album, but I think because I was so obsessed with the second album called The Dividing Line, he started to grow attached to it too. We saw them play so many times, and one of Rob’s bands played with what I believe was their last show at Cresskill American Legion Hall in Aug, 2002 (members of Random Task went on to form Armor For Sleep and Steel Train which each got radio play). Also Folly was an incredible band and two of Rob’s bands played with them a few times. We saw them so many times and they also were so unique creating ska-core (ska and hardcore combined). We went crazy whenever they’d play. Outline was another great band that we saw a few times. So good!
Another memorable show for us was when we first heard This Day Forward (December 26, 2000). We saw them 10 times until they broke up because it was Rob’s favorite hardcore band (he’s wearing one of their shirts in the photo above). They had a few albums but we always loved The Transient Effects of Light on the Water (which isn’t on Spotify or I’d link it like I’ve been doing – but they have their other stuff). You can actually see Rob about 4 times in this video. You can see Rob and I at 2:00 (I had shorter hair and turned my back while wearing a black tank top. SO funny! These were mainly from Boonton Elks Lodge and Hamilton St. Cafe shows – we also saw them at Club Krome (formerly Bene), M&M Hall, Bloomfield Ave Cafe, and TCNJ) – we always stood by Vadim Taver who was the guitarist/back-up vocalist. Members of the band eventually became Superstitions of the Sky & Circa Survive (which got pretty known). The singer is now in a band called Co|ors (liking it)!
I think the fact that you would see the same people every week at a show was really awesome. We started to learn who people were and felt united together in a bond (a sense of community). Many of our friends would show up to make it more fun as well. There was always the kid you wanted to stay away from who caused trouble (and yes, sadly you knew him by name), the girls who were there to pick up guys and were so flirtatious that all the girls would get upset about it, there were also the guys there trying to pick them up too. The people who put on shows that you appreciated & also knew by name made it special, the bands you would get to know (a band called Casual Blue, I think, but am not sure if it was them. but they were good, had a member write a song for me because he saw me at shows all the time and thought I was pretty. . .very weird that he let me know about it and even pointed me out at a show which shocked me), bands that had acted like they were a big deal and had security with them (which was SO not a show thing at all. . .I think The Starting Line did that when there were only about 150-200 kids at the show – before they got known – OH! No, It was Brand New! That’s who it was. They were so bad back before they got famous and they didn’t want anyone to go near them as they performed while other bands let you jump all up on them – so I walked outside after the first song they performed). We witnessed a few of the bands that you didn’t like at all (but wanted to like) and who felt they were God’s gift to music and were mean to other bands (we had that problem when Rob was in a band called Silent Film Score because Senses Fail (we called them Senses Overload) attended school with the majority of the other members and they were so cruel .. . and then got huge – which I’m in their thank-you section for their first album and because I did something stupid to get back at them & got my friend to go along with me – so she’s mentioned too. I actually did a side-project band with Rob & members of Silent Film Score where I was the singer and we wrote a song and performed it at a show our schoolmate put on. . .Senses Fail had a bandmate who started trying to hit on me online after that and annoyed me so I blocked him). Anyway, these types of memories are what we have from going to shows. We miss the scent of sweaty kids! We miss the loud music and needing to put an arm out to protect us from getting shoved down or kicked in the face. We miss the excitement of singing along with everyone. We miss bobbing our heads and dancing. These were good memories. Listen to Rob’s 2002 band Silent Film Score’s two tracks “At Arm’s Length” in which he sang/screamed & I did back-up vocals for just the recording & “August 5th” (Rob was sick during the recordings & I hear it like crazy, unfortunately).
As much as we saw a lot of unity between kids at the shows and yes, a little bit of drama here and there, for the most part it was so grand. We’d have get-togethers with some of them. I know a large group would actually go do laser tag and other events together. We often said, “Oh that kid was here last week too! We both loved this band! Let’s say hello to them!” That’s pretty much how it was. Then a guy named Mike from an amazing band called Paulson (SO much fun to watch live) decided to make an online community called The NJ Scene where loads of scene kids would go to see what shows were coming up and to write on forums about everything and anything from music to life. It was pretty much a drama infused area where guys would say who was hot and who wasn’t to the females & made us feel like pieces of meat. Rob joined a band through the site called Silent Film Score who needed a singer for their new band. Eventually he left after maybe a year – as they kicked him out because he couldn’t make it to enough practices because he worked a lot, and they replaced him with a female vocalist. It was a really fun experience though hanging out all the time with them and meeting and spending time with other bands like The Procedure & The Banner. I think that NJ Scene forum pretty much led to the death of the scene, while it also helped its growth. We saw venues rise and crash in such a short time period of a few years. In 2003 there were limited small venues left. In 2004 the Wayne Firehouse started doing shows again but barely 50 people would show up and it was depressing. After that year we couldn’t even find any shows other than ones that cost too much and were only pretty much in South Jersey like at The Stone Pony or in NYC which we weren’t very fond of going to.
Rob had joined a band in 2003 called A Moment Too Soon with a friend who had been in his first band for many years (Listen to a tracks “Little Red Volkswagen” “Making Mistakes“, & “Garry’s Song” in which Rob played bass & was the back-up vocalist). They played at one of the last shows at CBGB in 2003 when we were engaged but hardly anyone even showed up for it. After we were married he joined a very odd band again with his friend called Dracula Parade and Rob just started to get down about it all because the members pretty much disappeared for a while (They had personal issues), so they disintegrated. The last show I had been to was to see them in a basement for a Rutgers’ dorm house in New Brunswick (spring of 2006). . I was very newly pregnant (three weeks only) and felt so weird and had major nausea with all the cigarette smoke around. . .and so pretty much that was it for me. Rob got to go to a show with a friend to see bands in Maine last summer which made him thrilled, but he felt old. Poor guy. Though the NJ scene will always be wonderful in our hearts as a memory shared together, we are glad that we have moved on, though Rob misses making music with people (though he’d want to be in a Christian band but the closest he gets is being involved in the worship team at church as a bassist – which is nothing like the energy we feel at shows, and it is very sad to us because it should have MORE energy). I’ve seriously only ever gone to one Festival outside of the local scene, which was a few years ago here, and I don’t think I’d do too well going to actual concerts (and the idea kinda seems weird to me).
Some really cool memories are that we saw a lot of bands before they got big or when there were hardly any people there. Some of these were Coheed & Cambria, which we saw at a show of only maybe 50 people in Feb, 2002. We also saw Prevent Falls (I adored them & we saw them a few times), Liars Academy, Shady View Terrace, and maybe a band or two I forgot about. We saw Thursday release their Full Collapse album (which made them explode, Waiting – their first album, was a better album though) and we were even sitting in the side/back and maybe 75 people actually stood close to hear them. . eeeek! (they were so bad live, I’m sorry. . but we did like them a lot and saw them again a few months later too when more people packed the place – maybe 400 kids that time). We saw This Day Forward & Stretch Arm Strong that night (I have a scar on my leg because of how crazy that got). Shattered Realm also played (Rob was so mad because people weren’t very nice during that performance and they knocked his glasses off his face – there is a clip to show how wild they were there – 3 separate pits were made and it is hard to keep track of in the pushing and it became a giant pit with barely room that was safe). Rob got to see Jimmy Eat World when the Clarity album just came out (I missed that one – but this is a clip from it. . see everyone sitting around. . small and lovely show) and he saw Reel Big Fish (still mad he didn’t take me to that one). We loved seeing In Pieces which is still one of the best live bands we’ve seen. Seeing The OC Supertones, Slick Shoes, at a church was pretty nice, though there wasn’t much room at all (Rob’s sister did an Irish Step Dance to one of the Supertones’ songs on stage with them that night). We also enjoyed seeing Catch 22 and Professor Plum (Oh SOOOO GOOD), Day 19, & Inspecter 7 (love them! They JUST released a new album which makes me so happy). We also saw OC Supertones with Relient K which was good too. Stafford with District Six/Paris was a grand combination as well. We adored seeing Stillwelle no matter where it was too (Dougie went to form The Sleeping). So sad that we actually had their first album (and 200 others) stolen from Rob’s car in 2003 and will never be able to hear it again. If anyone has any Stillwelle songs, send them our way please!
I wish I could remember the load of bands we saw, but there were a few hundred, so we apologize if your band or your favorite bands aren’t listed in this post. We went to shows from 1997-2003 regularly and only a few in 2004-2006, so it is not easy to remember all of them. There are loads of bands we didn’t see that we loved too.
Other Great bands (not mentioned above) we recall seeing at small venues locally:
Trophy Scars, Evergreen Terrace, Beloved, Home Grown, .Hopesfall., Overlook, Lost in Autumn, Dakota Dream, Paramnesia, The Movielife, John Connor, Glasseater, Bigwig, Hidden in Plain View, Tokyo Rose, Piebald, Spindle, Houston Calls, Welcome Home Travis, Breaking Pangea, Five Iron Frenzy, The Plus Ones, Letters to Juliet, The Reunion Show, Evelyn Hope, Over It, Six Fifty Per Shoe, Edna’s Goldfish, Yale Hockey, Nada Surf, Good Clean Fun, The Brimstones, TBI (The Blithering Idiots), Big D and the Kids Table, The Toasters, and The Slackers