Hudson Reporter Archive

A beacon for local bands Lamp Post Bar and Grille sheds light on JC’s music scene

Many artists have flocked to Jersey City, including groups like ArtKore and Art House Productions, who have provided a platform for poets, musicians and performance artists.
But aside from the coffeehouse functions and studio tours, there are precious few venues that feature live music performances on a regular basis in downtown Jersey City.
High insurance costs, noise complaints, and niche interest in original music forced many music venues to close their doors. Even ones as popular as the legendary CBGB’s in Manhattan, which closed last fall, have faced problems drawing a crowd. Locally, musician James Black reflected on this fact while throwing back a couple of beers at The Lamp Post last Sunday. “The scene is good down here,” he said, “but there are no outlets.” His friend, fellow musician Chris Brooks, agreed. “There are a lot of bands, just not a lot of venues,” said Brooks. A few local venues

Brooks listed The Lamp Post, along with The Iron Monkey and The 58 Gallery as some of only a few spaces that feature live music on a steady basis. The Lamp Post Bar and Grille, located on 2nd Street, is a place where the bartenders know the patrons by their first names, where there’s Pabst on draft, and where the menu includes the “comfort zone” sandwich: breaded chicken topped with mashed potatoes and mac & cheese, served with gravy. With its nondescript green and white awning, and its off-the-beaten path location, it looks like your typical neighborhood watering hole. But since January, the bar has grown to become one of the most important live music venues in Jersey City. Once a week, the sleepy-looking dive bar springs to life, its wooden-paneled walls struggling to contain the crowds that come in to hear some local talent. So long, Uncle Joe’s

Uncle Joe’s, the long-standing bar formerly located on First Street, used to be THE place that people went for good live rock, Lamp Post bartender Diane Arrieta said. The classic downtown dive bar, which closed in the spring of 2005 was a place where many Jersey City bands like Rye Coalition and Dirt Bike Annie got their start. Even when there wasn’t live music, many Jersey City residents considered it home with the long-time staff members, pool table, and a great rock juke box. “When we lost Uncle Joe’s it kind of killed the scene,” Arrieta lamented. But that is not entirely true. The loss of Uncle Joe’s killed one of few opportunities to see live music in a bar in Jersey City, but it did not drive away musicians. The way Brooks and Black tell it, the place is swarming with talent and people who appreciate it. That may explain why every week when the Lamp Post hosts its bands, the place is packed. “There are people from here to there,” Black said, motioning to the entirety of the bar’s larger front room. Your friends and neighbors

Arrieta has been working at the bar for five years, and knows many of the musicians that have performed there. “Almost everyone I know is in a band,” she said on a recent Sunday night behind the bar. Black, from the band bipolar j, is one of them. “You could throw a rock and hit a musician,” Black said, laughing. One could almost believe him. On a recent Sunday night there were no less than three of them at the bar. Black and Brooks (who is the frontman for the band Water under Water) live in the same neighborhood as the bar. “It’s a very tight-knit group,” said Arrieta. When asked how everyone has become so tight-knit, she smiles. “Drinkers know drinkers,” she responded. Another thing is the friendly neighborhood feel of the bar, which often contains many locals. “It’s a huge walking community,” Arrieta said. “Within 10 to 15 blocks everybody knows everybody.” The music

Arrieta described the musical acts that she and Lamp Post manager Jude Kosky work to book as “all-original Indie Rock.” April is the first month that The Lamp Post featured bands every weekend. Before that it was more sporadic, with a band playing maybe once a month. On most of those nights you’ll also find bartender Jacqueline Dunleavy behind the bar singing along. Dunleavy is a huge rock fan. “There’s so much great music down here,” she said. “It’s better than anything I’ve heard on 92.3.” Though it’s been mostly local bands that night manager Jude Kosky has booked for Saturday nights, the bar is looking to book other bands as well. Arrieta said they expect a group from Elizabeth and another from South Jersey to play soon. Better than Brooklyn

Jersey City’s artist community has drawn many comparisons to the artistic rebirth that Brooklyn experienced. In Jersey City, the Lamp Post has become a place for many of those not-so-hip hipsters to congregate. “I think a lot of people feel it will trump Williamsburg,” Chris Brooks mused. James Black explained how: “It’s not so full of itself,” he said. “There’s more of a feeling of community. It’s a little rough around the edges, but it’s more welcoming.” A new place to play is one reason why local musicians find The Lamp Post so welcoming. And judging by the friendly vibe, customers think so too. The Lamp Post Bar and Grille is located at 382 2nd Street in Jersey City. Catch Miss Ohio at the Lamp Post this Saturday at 10 p.m. For more information on the music or the specials at the Lamp Post, visit the bar’s MySpace page:, or call (201) 222-1331. Comments on this piece can be sent to

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