From The Basement: Harpoon Forever and Fugue ~ Michael Del Priore

Finding a basement show in New Brunswick takes some couth. It’s like the line in Swingers “You tell a chick you’ve been some place, it’s like bragging that you know how to find it.” The speakeasy romanticism of the whole local scene is its exclusivity, the delightful feeling you’re getting away with something the outside world wouldn’t understand.  But you don’t need a password to get into underground venues like Funk Palace – just a facebook message with the address and a few bucks for the touring band. The building is typical nondescript off-campus housing. There‘s no indication that a show is happening except for a solitary porch light and a muffled warble coming from the basement.  Inside, the warble becomes a wail. The two guitarists in Harpoon Forever kick up their volume pedals unexpectedly mid-song and the crowd starts to rock a little harder. In the dim glow of dangling Christmas lights, 20 or so longhaired college kids with doo-wop eyeglasses are dancing and playing air guitar along with the band’s heavy, bluesy solos.

Original songs like “Summer Vacation” are what the band does best – a mixture of compelling chords and grungy breakdowns that’s reminiscent of garage rock revival bands like Cage the Elephant. But despite Harpoon Forever’s tendency to keep songs under 3 minutes, the quartet also has enough classic rock influence to dig into longer jams. Case in point: the epic show closer, “Paddle to the Sea”, which starts out with bouncy alt-country strumming but then dissolves into building repetitions of krautrock drumbeats structuring Sonic Youth-style guitar mayhem. Sure, you can’t hear the lyrics over the P.A. but the sweaty exuberance of the singer and his hipster cowboy style say enough.

After the show, I walk a few blocks to another house, Titan’s Rest, where southern Connecticut band Fugue is making a stop on their 2-week tour. Outside, people are sitting on the driveway peering into the basement windows like stray cats. It’s not a packed house but it’s so hot inside that the girl drummer Alexa remarks, “I’m gonna pass out” with a look like she means it.

After a short break and some water, Alexa nods her head and kicks off the next song with an aggressive prog rock beat that sounds like early The Mars Volta. When the three guitars begin to fade in with lyrical melodies and the singer triggers a sample of birdcalls, it’s only to lure the audience into a false sense of security. Songs like “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles” prove that this band is all about contrast: clean tones are juxtaposed with distorted ones, soft sections suddenly burst into raucous thrashing, and the lead lines play tug-of-war with the rhythm section. With a name like Fugue it’s no surprise that most of the band’s catalogue is instrumental, but some songs feature vocals that provide emotional context and sound like tribal yells laced with Portishead-style effects.

When the band finishes their set and I walk back out into the sultry night of late July, it feels like air conditioning compared to the sauna I was just in. Summer basement shows in New Brunswick are not for the faint hearted, but with bands like Fugue and Harpoon Forever on the scene it seems like things are only going to get hotter.

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Waving to Solidarity: An Art Event at coLAB Arts Gallery

This Thursday coLAB Arts is hosting an opening event for the month long show, “Waving to Solidarity,” featuring one of the Johnsonville’s former artist contributors, Dave Peters. Below you will find the Press Release for the event. We hope that you will attend the event, or visit the gallery during the month long showing in support of coLAB and the Johnsonville’s own, Dave Peters.

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – coLAB Arts is pleased to present Waving to Solidarity, a one-month exhibition featuring the work of the emerging artists, Dave Peters and John Leschak, curated by Theresa Francisco. Our Opening and Second-Look Reception will take place on Thursday August 18th and September 15th from 7-10 PM at coLAB Arts (49 Bayard Street, 3rd Floor, New Brunswick, NJ 08901). These free receptions will feature complimentary wine, food, and live music. Custom made, interior design elements added by kliasi style.

Waving to Solidarity offers the viewer a glance at both meditative solitude and painful alienation through the artists’ formal conflicts with and emotional connections to, their environment and community. Dave Peters and John Leschak both work in a similar vein but their individual messages are quite opposite.

Dave Peters focuses on serene, biomorphic forms and quiet landscapes that are cerebral, captivating, and dream-like. Peters opens his subconscious and paints what comes naturally. This method often conjures up the repetition of imagery, creating both common, visual elements and narratives in many of his paintings. Even though Peters is very detail oriented, he wishes to keep his paintings ambiguous and open for personal interpretations. Dave Peters graduated from Rutgers University with a B.A. in Spanish Literature. Though colorblind, Peters is a self-taught painter and is working towards a full-time career in the arts.

John Leschak uses heavy symbolism to make a direct commentary on modern society. He contextualizes human passions, vices, and fears to illustrate their effects on relationships and the community at large. Though often depicting scenes of individual despair and powerlessness, Leschak believes his images can bring about a need for action and empowerment. John Leschak is a practicing labor law attorney at Weissman & Mintz and immigrant rights activist.

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CoLAB Arts is a non-profit organization located in New Brunswick, NJ, dedicated to the development and presentation of emerging local artists. coLAB Arts’ mission is to cultivate a hip, mindful, and inclusive Hub City community of artists, audiences, and critics, empowered to create inspired and inspiring art.

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ALBA: EVE’S CONFESSION ~ Danny Cassidy

As when you wake, slowly
with tender simplicity:

a yawn, a stretch
of sinew and bone.

Every inch of the body’s
violin straining to play

a memorable chord. A man
away from his labor:

the Finch dancing dew
off its feathers;

two Robins as light,
blending in and out of dawn.

Let your waking settle
into this, a caress

to cage your quiet
sparrow breathing—

the mud not yet shed
from your lung’s unending

chambers; my own eyes still
heavy red, ripe with dreaming.

Wings too flutter within me,
Adam, like morning

Birds—which you have so
utterly named—after they

have gathered down
and devoured the seeds.

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But it isn’t, so we aren’t ~ Matthew Kosinski

Drinking cold fruit juice out of tall, thin glasses – we bought them (the glasses) at the thrift store in Elizabeth – sweet mango flesh on her face and hands and wrists – the kitchen thick with burnt-butter smoke and the box fan whirlingwhirlingwhirling on the trashcan near the open window – Chuck’s silvery, hot blister bubbling on the back of his hand – a cast-iron skillet mishap – lovingly rounded slabs of vegan country fried steak on paper Christmas plates – in March, no less – a steady and sustained mist hissing against the window screen – Nicole on the floor and infatuated with a Nepalese revolution she heard about five years too late – that same half-assed singsong of regret: “If only I could…” – the wine-stained, cigarette-singed coffee table pilfered from the side of the street on garbage day, one too-short leg bolstered by a New American Bible – the lanky kid with the canyon-wide smile on the dining hall steps, “God bless you, Sir,” when I took his free scripture without removing my headphones – a moon so full it’s about to burst wide open ascending ever upward until it disappears – when George is home, we hide the ashtrays and claim we don’t smell tobacco – brown bottles sanitizing in bleachwater bath in a large plastic tub on the counter – Nathan, bluntfucked from solo hotboxing the broken-down car in the drive way with Mel’s blown glass pipe – an old flannel shirt turned dish rag flagging from a nail driven into the wall above the sink – Rosemary describing lucid sex dreams she’s had in a phone call from Italy – the washing machine’s heavy hum rising like rippling heat phantoms from distant summer asphalt – and if it were warmer, we’d be drunk on the porch –

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But it isn’t, so we aren’t ~ Matthew Kosinski

Drinking cold fruit juice out of tall, thin glasses – we bought them (the glasses) at the thrift store in Elizabeth – sweet mango flesh on her face and hands and wrists – the kitchen thick with burnt-butter smoke and the box fan whirlingwhirlingwhirling on the trashcan near the open window – Chuck’s silvery, hot blister bubbling on the back of his hand – a cast-iron skillet mishap – lovingly rounded slabs of vegan country fried steak on paper Christmas plates – in March, no less – a steady and sustained mist hissing against the window screen – Nicole on the floor and infatuated with a Nepalese revolution she heard about five years too late – that same half-assed singsong of regret: “If only I could…” – the wine-stained, cigarette-singed coffee table pilfered from the side of the street on garbage day, one too-short leg bolstered by a New American Bible – the lanky kid with the canyon-wide smile on the dining hall steps, “God bless you, Sir,” when I took his free scripture without removing my headphones – a moon so full it’s about to burst wide open ascending ever upward until it disappears – when George is home, we hide the ashtrays and claim we don’t smell tobacco – brown bottles sanitizing in bleachwater bath in a large plastic tub on the counter – Nathan, bluntfucked from solo hotboxing the broken-down car in the drive way with Mel’s blown glass pipe – an old flannel shirt turned dish rag flagging from a nail driven into the wall above the sink – Rosemary describing lucid sex dreams she’s had in a phone call from Italy – the washing machine’s heavy hum rising like rippling heat phantoms from distant summer asphalt – and if it were warmer, we’d be drunk on the porch –

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The Man Shrouded in Snow ~ Danny Cassidy

For years you’ve been left there on the oak tree

by the fence. I’ve seen the flurry of squirrels

in spring cling at your feet, claw your bared

torso and climb the height of birds. Absurd

that you were nailed there in the backyard. Left

idle to the labor of weather. Angled just right

so that a mother washing dishes could feel

the rush of hot water and gaze through the kitchen

window at your immaculate form. I have

watched too—at a distant—in the periphery

of comings-and-goings. I knew your name

but never said hello. Because you were the same

man radiant in the paintings, holding your heart

of fire. The emblem gleaming gold at dawn light

off a brother’s chest. How this house has grown

quiet like forsaken ash. But now in the breadth

of this blizzard, three days in, the slowly receding

blanket of snow prostrate at your feet, I am

in awe at your maker. Who said no to precious

metals, who grew tired of the scent of wood, who

lacquered your body with the dew of bones,

a whiteness that makes you cold and somehow more

approachable. You there crucified in silence,

basking like snow in warmth’s cruel ecstasies.

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The Struggles of Modern American Youth and the Coming Together of a Generation ~ Matia Guardabascio

Modern American Youth are notoriously referred to as Generation Y or Millennials. Attempts to name and define our generation have mostly come from those who are not members of this generation. Our identity as a group, as a demographic, as a social class: it must come from within. We cannot let the world tell us who we are; we must assert our own identity. We are Modern American Youth. I call us the MAY Generation. This name not only serves as an acronym for our demographic, but it also refers to the month of May—the time of year when many of us who have completed a college degree are tossed into a world that offers little in the area of employment. May is the month in which we are unleashed into a world that is simply not ready for us.

Part I: The Struggle

I have often heard people joke that the only jobs for college graduates these days are barista positions at Starbucks. Though this remark is often made in jest, it rings true to my ears as I have met many of my fellow young people who complain about their crappy low wage jobs. They should complain. They—we—have every right to be upset. The MAY Generation has incurred debts from either college or credit cards, or both, that near the cost of a car or even a small mortgage. Many have taken on this debt for the sake of higher education—an education that supposedly ensures better job opportunities upon its completion. There are several articles available to read on research that states that those who have a college degree will make more money in their lifetime because the work offered at that level pays significantly more than not having a degree would earn.[i] Under more stable economic circumstances, this assertion would be true. With growing debt and few prospects for a reliable income, many among the MAY Generation are questioning whether the college degree was worth it in the first place. Many of us are angry or may feel betrayed because of the lack of employment and the ever-rising cost of college. ‘What am I supposed to do now?’ is a question I often hear. So what are we doing? How is our generation coping with the unfulfilled promise of higher education?

The truth is that instead of competing with other college graduates for entry level jobs, today’s college graduates are competing not only with each other, but with others among our generation who have not completed a college degree, for minimum or middle wage jobs. This competition in turn only adds to the unemployment issue.

However, beyond the competition for barista positions, the MAY Generation is seeking out ways to defer or pay down debt or to gain job experience through unpaid internships or community service oriented opportunities. One such path is Teach for America. In 2009 around 35,000 applications were received for 4,100 possible positions. Last year the number of applicants increased by 11,000 to a total of 46,000 applications for only 4,400 openings. Back in 2006 there were only 19,000 applicants for 2,400 positions. The number of applicants has more than doubled whereas the number of available positions has yet to do so, even though there has been a noticeable increase in Teach For America opportunities.[ii] Others among the MAY Generation are joining the Peace Corps or partaking in other long-term commitment community service programs like Americorps or City Year in order to stave off debt or to wait for the job market to bounce back.

More and more I hear of recent graduates who are leaving the U.S. to teach English in another country (many to East Asian countries like Korea where the demand for native English speakers is high). The ‘Teach English Overseas’ gig is growing very popular from what I’ve gathered. It’s an exciting prospect for many because of the traveling and the ability to renew terms in case one chooses to stay longer. A large number of recent graduates among the MAY Generation are also going back to school almost immediately in order to not only continue to defer debt, but also to wait out the job market and try again to find a job when yet another degree has been earned and even more debt incurred.

Still—many among the MAY Generation are stuck in dead end jobs, continuously exploring the barren wasteland of entry level job opportunities. Discouragement spreads quickly when so many have so little hope. But this is no time for despair. This is a time for self-betterment—a time to get creative. With spare time building up between applying for jobs, or the lingering hours after a day at some in between job, or the time spent traveling—all this left over time breeds uncertainty.

I say, embrace the uncertainty. Harness it. Channel it towards something positive, something creative, something that exemplifies those parts of yourself that lay in wait while you do the things you must. Unleash those parts of yourself that a world built of hopelessness would aim to crush. Our generation has an opportunity to reach out to one another, to forge a connection because of our shared struggles. We have an unprecedented opportunity to come together and make our place in society and in this world—to show everyone what we’re really made of. The MAY Generation is smart, resourceful, creative, spirited, and adventurous. It’s time to harness those traits and put them to use in order to realize our collective social power and cultural influence. It’s time to start the MAY Movement.

Part II: The Movement

When I say ‘movement’ I do not mean marching in the streets with signs chanting “Employment Now! Employment Now!” We are not a labor union. But we cannot sit idly by. Inaction is not an option. Our movement is not a political one, but rather a social and cultural one. Consider what the MAY Generation is already doing to occupy their time: community service projects and teaching stateside and overseas. These pursuits are altruistic in nature and have a positive social and cultural impact. We have already started the movement; what we need now is to make our efforts widespread. One of our greatest assets is the fact that there are so many of us. Power in numbers, right? But like any movement that aims to be successful, we must first have goals and a sense of direction. What are those goals? In what direction are we, or should we aim to head?

The greatest obstacle that we face in pursuing this movement is not imposed upon us like the forces of nature or of the economy. Our greatest obstacle is overcoming the uncertainty within ourselves that has built up as a result of our uncertain place in the world. The first goal of the MAY Movement is to embrace uncertainty. What do I mean by that? How does one embrace uncertainty? The answer is remarkably simple: to embrace uncertainty is to accept it. The only way to accept it is to understand that our uncertain place in this world is actually a tremendous freedom. The author Andre Gide said “to know how to free oneself is nothing; the arduous thing is to know what to do with one’s freedom.” For us this means that to realize our freedom is the easy part; it’s what we should do with it that poses the real challenge.

The second goal of the MAY Movement aims to meet that challenge. As I said previously, this is a time to get creative, to exemplify what you’re good at; this is a time for self-betterment. How do you do that? You find ways to keep up with the things you want to do. Let me say that again, keep up with the things you want to do. So often I hear people our age say, “I work at blah place doing blah, but what I really want to do is this…” “What I really want to do is…” Don’t talk about wanting to do it. Do it. Make it a personal project. Maybe you’re an artist and you’d like to put your work out there: find a blog or an organization or a publication that needs some artistic know-how. Maybe you’ll write for a blog or for a free subjective publication like the Johnsonville Press—who knows! The point is to gain experience doing what you want to do. It may not be paid, but it’s a way to get better at what you want to do, to practice, to help out someone else who needs what you can offer. Let’s say for example that you speak a foreign language, but you can’t afford to travel: you could offer yourself as a private tutor at a local high school or middle school (perhaps even your old high school if you live at home). Many cities also have embassies and cultural centers that offer events, courses and various opportunities to meet and converse with people who also want to maintain their language. Whatever your trade, hobby or area of interest, you should seek out places where you can put them to use. Maybe you can make a little side money from these projects. You can even start something of your own creation and become an entrepreneur.

Just think for a second about the skills that our generation has that don’t even come from the education system. The MAY Generation is on the up when it comes to social media. That is a marketable skill. Just think about how many small businesses lack good social networking, like a Facebook page, or even a maintained website. You can help them with that while at the same time gaining valuable experience and building a network of people you’ve helped. The goal of these suggestions is to show you that there are many ways to keep up with the things you want to do.

By pursuing these personal projects you are opening the door to the third goal of the MAY Movement: networking. Networking is about mingling. It’s about conversing with people, giving them a sense of who you are and what you’re about. It’s about reading people and learning to understand the dynamics of professional and socially professional situations. If you want to be successful at networking you need to be a good observer. Good observations lead to good talking points in a conversation. You should also definitely get business cards that tell people who you are and what you do. Keep it simple; you can even design them yourself if that’s your trade. The exchange of business cards is always a good conversation starter. Networking helps you develop your conversational skills so that you become really good at telling people who you are. This is a particularly valuable asset in a job interview. Some people call it “knowing how to sell yourself,” but I’d say it’s more like “knowing how to confidently talk about yourself”. You are not for sale. Anyone who tells you that you are, you should avoid. If you can show someone that you know who you are, if you can assert yourself like that, then people are going to notice you. Confidence stands out.

Ultimately networking not only helps you develop your conversational skills and build a network of like-minded people, but it also leads to the fourth goal of the MAY Movement: Build a community. When pursuing these personal projects, I implore you to reach out to others in our generation. We can help each other and we can help other people. The most important thing to understand about this fourth goal is it’s meant to bring us together as a group—put us all on the same wave length so that we’re in tune enough to knowingly steer American culture. That is our power.

I say this to you: Don’t expect the world to give you what you’re looking for; a lot of the time you have to make it work for you. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. There will always be haters and appreciators. Put that aside. This is our moment. You can choose to commit to it or not. You can choose to do something creative for yourself or not. Embrace your freedom or let it pass? It’s your choice. I choose to embrace it. I will continue to do so here at the Johnsonville Press. And the Johnsonville Press will continue to be a space for the free exchange of ideas, a platform for anyone who chooses to pursue their personal projects in a public setting. We are already a part of the MAY Movement, and I invite you to join us.

More than anything, I implore you, the MAY Generation–my generation–to pursue your passions, to create opportunities for yourself, and to assert yourself in this world. Only then can we take our place in society as the social and cultural powerhouse that we truly are. Finally, you must remember that you are not alone in your pursuits. We all share these struggles. Lean on the people around you. The MAY Movement will be the most successful if we help each other out. For that reason, I am personally available to any of you who need guidance, advice, suggestions, or just someone to bounce ideas off of. Write to me and Iwill write back.[iii] I want to see this happen and I will do everything in my power to see that our generation finds success in the pursuit of our passions. Good luck my friends. I look forward to hearing from you.


[i] Benefits of College Education: 1.http://www.collegetocareers.com/10-benefits-college-education-2/; 2.http://education.yahoo.net/articles/college_degree_benefits.htm;
[ii] Teach for America:http://www.teachforamerica.org/newsroom/documents/PressKit_Overview.pdf;http://www.teachforamerica.org/admissions/;http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/05/28/national/main5046901.shtml
[iii] Please email me at: johnsonvillepress@gmail.com. I sincerely hope to hear from you.

Photo courtesy of davidmusingsthoughts.blogspot.com
(http://davidsmusingsthoughts.blogspot.com/2011/03/generation-y-characteristics.html)

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The Rise of Local Arts in New Brunswick ~ Matia Guardabascio

Recently I sat down with Theresa Francisco of the coLAB Arts organization in New Brunswick to chat about the organization and the people involved. CoLAB Arts is a non-profit organization that seeks “to cultivate a hip, mindful, and inclusive community of artists, audiences, and critics” as they so eloquently say in their mission statement. The people involved in coLAB work there on a volunteer basis. They are a passionate group of people whose goal it is to promote the local arts so as to make them accessible to the widely diverse audience of the New Brunswick community. CoLAB offers a starting point for local artists who want to make a career out of their passions, or who simply want to make their work available to the masses.

CoLAB is representative of the kind of organization that is so valuable to the promotion of the arts in an area that to many would seem bereft of cultural pursuits. They are a beacon of hope that enables otherwise unknown or unheard artists to connect with a wide audience. Like the Johnsonville Press, the people who are involved in the organization do it because they want to, because they are passionate about the arts, and because they want to give local artists the chance to be known and to promote themselves. They are making an incredibly valuable contribution to the growing cultural scene in New Brunswick.

I am proud of what they are doing for this community. It is my hope that they continue to gain support so that they, in turn, can continue to promote the arts with the same vigor and enthusiasm that I have already witnessed from them. I encourage the reader to visit their website to learn more about the organization and their mission. And please continue to check in with the Johnsonville Press for announcements of upcoming events. To the folks over at coLAB: keep up the good work! Cheers to you guys!

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