Fresh faces at the Fall Arts & Music Festival

Young singer-songwriters featured in annual Washington Street party

Darlene Love knew she was a star long before the world knew her name. A minister’s daughter from San Antonio, Texas, Love sang backup in dozens of classic songs as part of Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound hit factory —“Be My Baby,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” “Da Doo Ron Ron.” Spector even released her first single, “He’s A Rebel,” as a song by The Crystals. Since the 1980s, though, she has taken her rightful place as a diva, and will headline of the 21st Annual Hoboken Fall Arts & Music Festival on Washington Street on Sunday, Sept. 28.
For two young female singer-songwriters, Allison Strong from Union City and Maddy Bowes from Hoboken, the festival is a chance to open for a woman they both consider an idol. And Strong and Bowes are not the only local musicians who will be featured on the Arts & Music Festival’s three stages.

“You really feel like you’re on your own turf and with your people…I’ve never had a show that was unattended here.”—Allison Strong
The day-long event also features Weehawken-based Jeremy Beck & the Heavy Duty Horns and the Sensational Soul Cruisers from Freehold. Other scheduled performers include Tom Vincent & the Romance Commandos, Emily & the Ideals, Gene D. Plumber (of Hoboken), Preschool of Rock, and The Garden Street School Band.
Love will perform on the Observer Highway stage at 4:30 p.m. on Saturday.
The Hoboken Reporter is a sponsor of the event.

Coming on strong

Allison Strong’s appearance at the Arts & Music Festival is just the latest success in a breakout year for the bilingual singer-songwriter. She will be performing songs from her debut album “March Towards the Sun,” which was released just two weeks ago at the concert at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood. Strong said HBO Latino was on hand to document the event.
Because Strong is released her album independently, concerts like the Arts & Music Festival are crucial to raising awareness and building a following.
In addition, to her musical career, Strong recently finished a run as Casey in the off Broadway production of “Under My Skin.” She has previously performed on Broadway in productions of “Mamma Mia!” and “Bye Bye Birdie.”
“I was literally on my days off going to record in Asbury Park,” said Strong. “I’ve always been the type where I don’t like slowing down.”

Ready for the spotlight

Bowes’ first foray into the world of performance was in dance. She started at the Monroe Street Movement Space in Hoboken and continued her training in North Bergen, learning every major style and entering competitions.
At the age of 11, she started performing as ballet girl Margaret Gormly in the Broadway production of “Billy Elliot,” staying with the production for 700 performances.
“I’m still totally in shock that it happened, but it opened a lot of doors for me,” said Bowes.
Though she has always been a singer, Bowes only decided to start writing her own songs around the time “Billy Elliot” was wrapping up.
“I never thought I could be a Britney Spears or whatever I was hearing on the radio,” said Bowes, “because that’s not what I sound like, but then I would connect back to people like Etta James and Aretha Franklin and all these people I grew up listening to.”
Though she is inspired by ‘90s R&B, soul and blues, Maddy Bowes hopes to offer a new sound. “Amy Winehouse is my biggest inspiration, and I could only hope to be put in the same category as her,” she said.
The Arts & Music Festival is only the second time ever that Bowes will be performing her own music in public. Her first show took place at the Bitter End in Manhattan on Aug. 27.

A dream come true

The opportunity to perform at the Arts & Music Festival is special for both Strong and Bowes, both of whom have deep roots in Hoboken.
For Strong, being invited to the Arts & Music Festival was a six-month goal. “Ever since I was a little girl,” she said, “I’ve been going with my family to the Arts & Music Festival, watching bands, eating deep-fried Oreos and funnel cake and butterfly fries and buying all the crafts.”
Maddy Bowes has also been going to the Arts & Music Festival her whole life. “I remember when I was 6 years old,” she said, “I saw a teenage girl perform and I went up to her after the show and I got her autograph and I thought it was the greatest thing in the world.”
Though Strong has performed all over New Jersey and at Rockwood Music Hall and Piano’s in Manhattan, she has a special spot for performing in Hoboken. “You really feel like you’re on your own turf and with your people,” she said. “I’ve never had a show that was unattended here.”
Last November, Strong had a month-long residency at D’s Soul Full Café on Willow Street. She has also performed at Northern Soul and the Lackawanna Music Festival in Pier A Park.
It appears that Hoboken loves her back. Last year, Strong took home the Outstanding Female Solo Artist and People’s Choice awards at the Fifth Annual Hoboken Music Awards.
Bowes is also deeply grateful for the role Hoboken’s music community has played in her growth as an artist. She records all of her material at Water Music, where she has been mentored by Rob Grenoble, and she met her drummer Manny Rodriguez and guitarist Carlos Perez, both from North Bergen, through the Guitar Bar in Hoboken, where she takes lessons.

Stepping out of the chorus

Both women have performed in large ensemble casts of Broadway shows, experiencing the same type of backup role Darlene Love filled for many years for Phil Spector.
Strong’s high school in Weehawken even did ‘Leader of the Pack,’ the musical based on Phil Spector’s studio that features Love as a narrator and key character. “She’s a real diva, really talented,” said Strong.
Bowes called Love one of her idols. “It’s even more exciting that I get to open for her,” said Bowes.
Though she calls solo performance her “passion project,” Strong said it was important to experience working in a chorus. “You need to learn what the importance is because a show on Broadway is not a show if there’s not an ensemble,” she said.
Bowes agrees that working on Broadway was a key step in her musical growth. “ ‘Billy Elliot’ was all about cooperating and being part of a cast,” she said, “which is a great experience on its own, but it’s great to be able to write my own songs and be in the studio and pick and choose what I like.”
Strong will perform at 11:50 a.m. on the Observer Highway stage and Bowes will perform at 12:30 p.m. on the Seventh Street Stage.

More than music

In addition to three stages of live music, this year’s fall Arts and Music Festival will feature over 300 vendors along Washington Street. Among the expected offerings are crafters, photographers, sculptors, local restaurants and businesses, non-profits and car dealers.
Fine artists will be featured between First and Newark, Second and Third and Fifth and Sixth Streets, including artists from Hoboken’s Monroe Center for the Arts. A special children’s area adjacent to the Third Street Stage will offer rides, facepainting, balloons, and games.
In addition, street cafes will offer cuisine from a variety of cultures, including Thai, Indian, Greek, French, Mexican, Cajun and Italian.
Volunteers are still needed to help with setup on day of the event from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Please contact Geri Fallo at the Hoboken Cultural Affairs Office at 201-420-2207 in advance if you are interested.
Food and beverages will be donated by Anthony David’s, Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Luca Brasi’s Deli, Losurdo Brothers Deli/Tony’s Italian Bakery and D’s Soul Full Café.

Carlo Davis may be reached at

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