Who do you want to hear? Locals share thoughts on bands for the Arts and Music Festival

Hoboken is finally showing all the signs of spring – young families frolic on Pier A, professional-types walk their pampered puppies after work, and people of all ages prepare for the bi-annual Arts and Music festival. As residents gear up for the street fair and concerts this weekend, we decided to ask them to play DJ and tell us which bands they would like to hear play at the festival.

Arts and music for all

The Hoboken Arts and Music Festival is a tradition that has been in place for well over a decade. It has often served as a showcase for local talent, with bands such as Skanatra and eugene giving memorable performances over the years.

The festival has also given locals the chance to see great national acts in person, such as singer-songwriter Patti Smith, the classic 60s band The Turtles, and this year, world-renowned jazz musician Dr. John.

Every year, Hoboken Director of Cultural Affairs Geri Fallo gets overwhelmed with inquiries from bands who would like to play the festival.

But it wasn’t always that way. In the beginning, Fallo had to contact bands herself. The first national act she approached was Patti Smith.

“Her performance at our show was the first time she had played in New Jersey in 17 years,” Fallo said proudly.

She recalled that Smith told her she based her decision on a letter Fallo had written. “She got a wonderful feeling from the letter,” Fallo recalled.

Smith has since returned to play the festival twice. Besides Smith, a number of other nationally-recognized names have played over the years, and Fallo said that there are many more that she would like to include.

Unfortunately, the entertainment business is, in the end, a business, and decisions often have to be based on money.

“We have a certain price range and there are only so many of the national acts playing that we can afford,” Fallo said. “Would I love to get Dave Matthews or John Mayer? Sure. Can I afford to? No.”

But within the price range allotted for the musical acts, which Fallo said is approximately $10,000-$15,000, the city has managed to attract such crowd favorites as Joan Jett, South Side Johnny & the Asbury Jukes, and Herman’s Hermits.

Residents debate who should ring in the spring

Many of the national acts that have played the festival are from another era, and have left some of the Mile Square City’s younger residents hoping to hear more music that they can bob their heads to.

“While I do enjoy the chance to see free live music, I’ve never heard of any of the bands they book,” said Megan Faller, 29, who has lived in town for a little over two years. “It would be nice to be able to see some more well-known bands.”

Others echoed her opinion.

Sara, who lives right outside of Hoboken, named a particular band that she would like to see play. “I’d like to see O.A.R. play,” she said. “That type of music fits in well with the people here,” she mused, referring to the many young professionals in town. She described the music as “rock with a Jack Johnson feel.”

Joseph Vincent, 32, said he’d also like to see a big name rock act play in Hoboken. “I’d love to see the Killers again,” said Vincent, who said he saw the alternative band play just last weekend in New York.

“Obviously that’s not going to happen,” Vincent said, lamenting the fact that Hoboken did not have the money to attract an act that just sold out Madison Square Garden. After further consideration, Vincent came up with two possible ploys for famous bands to play in Hoboken for free: “They could do an illegal rooftop concert like U2 did in the video for ‘Where the Streets Have No Name,” he said.

A hardcore Rolling Stones fan, Vincent also described how the Stones performed “Brown Sugar” on top of a flatbed truck while driving down New York City’s 5th Avenue as part of a publicity stunt in the 1970s.

One could only picture the mayhem that would ensue if the Killers blasted “Mr. Brightside” while rolling down Washington Street at 20 miles an hour.

Don’t change a thing

Many music lovers have been perfectly pleased with the acts that the city has brought in over the years. “To be honest, I’m happy with the bands they’ve had,” said Chris Katchucka, as he catalogued CDs at Tunes on Washington Street.

Katchucka, 24, has worked at the music store for the past three years. Though he admitted that he was not too familiar with the local music scene, he said he has enjoyed seeing past headliners the New York Dolls and Eric Burdon.

Hoboken natives and sisters Marie Crowley and Johanna Fugazzi both said that they were happy with this year’s choice for headliner.

“We like New Orleans jazz,” said Crowley.

Fugazzi suggested another, more local, jazz act: “Danny Aiello comes into town a lot,” she said. “It would be nice to have him perform.”

Entertainers with expertise

“A band like The Ramones would have been great,” mused local musician Jim D., as he sipped from his drink at Louise & Jerry’s.

He said that the classic New York band would have fit in well against the backdrop of the city’s skyline. As far as modern bands, D. said that Dweezil Zappa and the Kaiser Chiefs both put on great live shows. D. has lived in Hoboken for the past 27 years. He sings and plays bass for the band The Shames.

He has been in town long enough to recall the days of the River City Fair, which was the Arts and Music Festival’s precursor in the early 80s. His old band, The Observers, played in 1982.

Bartender and fellow musician Rusty Groh got in on the conversation as he served his customers. Groh suggested fellow New Jersey native Pete Yorn.

“It’s not that he would be my favorite pick,” Groh said. “But he’d be a good act. He’s well-situated for the crowd.”

Groh, a former Hoboken resident, now lives in Jersey City. His band, Cecil, recently broke up. Though they never played together, Groh and Jim D. were involved in the Hoboken music scene back when there was a Hoboken music scene.

Groh said that development and high rents pushed many musicians out to Jersey City and Williamsburg. “We got shuffled around Hoboken for storefronts or condos,” he recalled.

Groh said that more effort should be made in recruiting local bands to play at the festival, especially since they have been left with very few local venues to play at.

Final thoughts…

Jim D. told us who shouldn’t play the festival.

“You don’t want anything too goth out there in the sun. The makeup starts to drip.”

Comments on this piece can be sent to: MFriedman@hudsonreporter.com.


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