Published in The Coaster (Asbury Park, NJ), April 2, 2020
“Seattle just banned all live music performances for 30 days!” read a widely disseminated meme that made the social media rounds a few weeks back. “This cancels over 1246 gigs, affecting 320 working musicians…with a total income loss of almost $426.75!”
It’s funny because it’s true, more or less — but with the COVID-19 public health emergency having subsequently slammed into the Garden State like a killer frost, it’s a bit less funny for all those who toil in the fields of what up until very recently stood as this area’s major cash crop: the bar/ restaurant/ theater/ nightclub circuit.
When the region’s music scene shuttered almost overnight, music makers from all stylistic corners of the local soundscape took to the wi-fi “airwaves” to serve up home-cooked concert creations for their fans — a sonic smorgasbord that ranged from “saloon singer” supreme Pat Guadagno, to classic crooner Chris Pinnella, to kidrock romper Yosi Levin, to dancefloor DJ Mick Hale. But it was a longtime patroness of the arts by the name of Ellen Berman who took it as a cue to do something unprecedented, for the scores of creative individuals who have historically counted on eking out a spartan but steady existence making music. Beginning on March 18 and scheduled to continue every night at 9 pm for the duration of the public venue shutdown, a cast of singers from our neck of New Jersey (and the big world beyond) connects with their fanbase via Facebook, in an ambitious endeavor entitled Ellen Berman’s Viral Video Productions presents Corona Classic Concerts.
Appearing in that inaugural mini-concert — and taking a major role in the planning and production of the series — was a familiar presence on the Shore soundscape: Arlan Feiles, the singer/ songwriter/ producer/ multi-instrumentalist and activist whose intensely personal-yet-universal compositions have graced a catalog of acclaimed indie albums, stages of every conceivable size, high-profile film soundtracks, and collaborative projects with the likes of vocal veteran JT Bowen.
“Ellen is one of New Jersey’s great music fans,” observes Feiles in a call from his Matawan home. “I first met her at a holiday show at the Stone Pony, where she bought 40 of my CDs to give out as Christmas gifts!”
“She hired me to help put together this live stream project, with the idea that the musicians get paid for their work…I thought I’d line up a few guys; get a few shows going for a few weeks…but within three days we got a huge response, a healthy schedule, where we’re employing over 40 artists. So far it’s just been overwhelmingly incredible!”
Featured artists have thus far included such Jersey Shore perennials as Emily Grove, Tara Dente and Cranston Dean, as well as nationwide acts like the LA-based Canyoneers, Nashville (by way of her native Neptune City) sensation Nicole Atkins, and Joan Osborne (best known for the hit “One of Us”).
As Feiles emphasizes, “This is a curated schedule of artists who have been paid to perform…they all get 200 to 300 dollars, which is a drop in the bucket for someone like Nicole Atkins, but which goes a long way for someone whose livelihood depends on music-related activity. They can pay it forward, do what they want…but the important thing is that Ellen and I want to see these musicians get paid for their art.”
“They get to produce their segments as they see fit…but we ask them to please let us see where you are,” adds the music programmer in reference to the videos that have presented a quirky and engaging look at these “captive” creatives in their home environment. “And the at-home format has allowed us to get April Smith, who was such a big part of the scene before she retired from performing about ten years ago (the singer is scheduled to perform on Monday, April 13).”
Feiles, who performed his own virtual set on Wednesday night, returns for additional 9 pm schedulings on April 8 and 15 — while other upcoming Corona Classics spotlight such fellow Shore faves as Rick Barry (Sunday, April 5), Quincy Mumford (Monday, April 6), Dentist (Friday, April 10), and Rachel Ana Dobken (Friday, April 17), as well as NJ-to-NOLA transplant Allie Moss (Thursday, April 16).
The response to the nightly series has been such that Berman and Feiles organized a separate slate of virtual “Happy Hour” concerts, scheduled for 5 pm on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. The series that kicked off on March 27 continues into another weirdly quiet weekend with Ocean Township’s own Frank Lombardi featured on Friday, April 3. Gayle Skidmore and John Anaya, respectively of the Netherlands and Scotland, round out the Saturday/ Sunday scene — while Asbury fans will not want to miss a solo appearance by Swagmatics frontwoman Deseree Spinks on Sunday, April 11 (there’s also talk of an 11 pm late-nite series).
“It’s a full time distraction for me…but one that I’m absolutely grateful for,” maintains Feiles, whose duties as virtual ringmaster for the social circus involve lining up the artists, introducing the night’s performers via brief spots that post five minutes prior to showtime, and “doing a lot of tech support; walking through the process” for musicians like Osbourne, whose well-received March 28 concert went according to schedule, despite some logistical issues both before and after the fact.
In addition to the Shore area artists in the pipeline, Berman and Feiles have lined up such regional/ national/ international favorites as The Fab Faux’s Jack Petruzzelli (April 9), Aussie musician and industry exec Dan Rosen (April 11), British-born honorary Shoreguy James Maddock (April 18), and New Zealand native pop artist Greg Johnson (April 19).
“I feel very fortunate,” says Feiles. “Ellen and I were able to build something that’s grown so fast; that’s helped so many people stay connected as a community in a really difficult time…and for me, the real good that’s come out of this is the time that I get to spend with my family.”
The 9 pm concert series continues its nightly schedule for “the next five weeks or more,” with the weekend Happy Hours “booked for the next four weeks.” Join the Facebook group at Ellen Berman’s Corona Classic Concert Series to access the daily streaming content (there’s a donation option too, at https://www.facebook.com/donate/2794110604006057/10157433658423533/) — and check in for regular updates.
SOUNDS: NJ Shore Musicians take it home
While the Viral Video series continues its schedule of nightly mini-concerts for the next month-and-change, the Facebook group NJ Shore Musicians “Stay at Home” Live Music has put together a blockbuster one-night-only event that assembles an all-star roster representing mutiple generations of Jersey music history. Presented on Saturday, April 4 as a series of 20-minute programming blocks, the event commandeers Facebook Live between the hours of 8 pm and midnight — with music fans admitted simply by joining the group!
8:00: Laura Catalania Johnson with Brian Kirk, Frank James Palmer Jr.
8:20: Jo Bonanno with Mike Dalton, Brad Hobicorn
8:40: Bobby Mahoney with Vince Berardi, Cheryl Vosseler Hoose
9:00: Jarod Clemons with Glenn Stuart, Doreen Brusca Arminio, Bob O’Connell
9:20: Jessica Rose with Mark Leimbach, Phil Engel, Scott Elk
9:40: Eddie Testa with Lee Scott Howard, Rich Meyer, Sheri Lynn
10:00: Bob Polding with Joe Pahlow, Mary McCrink
10:20: Anthony Krizan with Pam McCoy, Sharon Lasher
10:40: Andrew Harrison with Andy Russo, Deedee Montanaro, Ashley McKinley
11:00: Paul Anthony with Johnny Pisano, Zach Matari, Ken Sadowski
11:20: Tommy Cadawas with Andrew B. Zezas, Jeffrey A. Santori, Frank Manzi
11:40: GARY U.S. BONDS with VINI LOPEZ
SCREENS: Movies for “Mushrooms” and more, from The Showroom
You don’t have to be a mushroom to appreciate Fantastic Fungi, the documentary feature (on the “underground network that can heal and save our planet”) that became a surprise hit when it screened at Asbury Park’s Showroom theatre a few months back. But with so many people living a mushroom-like existence during the ongoing public health emergency — and with an eye toward “just how interdependent we are…and the common issues that we face as a species,” proprietors Nancy and Mike offered an online encore engagement of the film, available for streaming views (via Vimeo). The series of “Virtual Cinema” offerings continues, with Fungi joined by three additional features — and a portion of each online ticket sale goes to support the two independent movie houses in Asbury Park and Bradley Beach. Go to showroomcinemas.com for tickets and updates on MORE virtual screening events from Showroom Cinemas!
FANTASTIC FUNGI. (NR; 74 min.) Portion of ticket sales goes to The Showroom
WHISTLERS. (NR; 97 min.; Romanian/ English/ Spanish) A Romanian policewman who “plays both sides of the law”enters into a scheme that involves a heist, a trip to the Canary Islands, and a secret whistling language. 100% of online ticket sales goes to The Showroom on Thurs. April 2; 50% of online ticket sales goes to The Showroom beginning Fri., April 3
SAINT FRANCES. (NR; 98 min.) Kelly O’Sullivan stars as a woman whose nannying gig leads to unexpected complications, a reluctant friendship, and the tensions of becoming part of someone else’s family. Portion of ticket sales goes to The Showroom
ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND. (R; 102 min.). A confessional, cautionary, and occasionally humorous tale of the musician’s young life and the creation of one of the most enduring groups in the history of popular music, The Band. 100% of online ticket sales goes to The Showroom on Thurs. April 2; 50% of online ticket sales goes to The Showroom beginning Fri., April 3
ALL FEATURED FILMS AVAILABLE 24/7 through Thursday, April 9. Look for ticket details and info on additional streaming films at showroomcinemas.com.
From Parlor Gallery proprietors and curators Jenn Hampton and Jill Ricci comes news that the longtime landmark on the “Arts Block” of Asbury Park’s Cookman Avenue is “doing what we can to help promote our gallery family of artists” during the interlude in which their door remains closed, “so that we can continue to share artists and artworks we love with you.” Running through today, April 2 and available for viewing at artsy.net, the gallery’s inaugural virtual exhibition Hope spotlights works by Elise Cashman Bond (whose painting The Weight is pictured above), and ten additional artists. As part of a community-wide charitable effort, 10% of the proceeds from this special online exhibition will be donated to Asbury Park Dinner Table, the project that teams with the hard-working employees of select Asbury Park restaurants and eateries, to help feed the city’s food-insecure population. Visit the Hope exhibition at https://www.artsy.net/show/parlor-gallery-hope — and stay tuned for more online exclusives from the Parlor partners!