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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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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Discernment of Spirits by Robert Addessi at coLAB Arts

Discernment of Spirits
Robert Adessi

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – coLAB Arts is pleased to present Discernment of Spirits, a one-month exhibition featuring the photography of Robert Addessi, curated by Theresa Francisco. Our Opening and Second-Look Reception will take place on Friday July 8th and July 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 a live band. 

Discernment of Spirits is a collection of photographs that emphasizes the incredible variety of subjects in Addessi’s work ranging from landscapes, to portraiture, to abstraction. The images stir up feelings of warmth and nostalgia as they project the idea of a much slower and tranquil time in life. Along with these recollections and feelings of nostalgia, come a demand for solemn self-analysis and reflection on one’s relationship with nature and community. Although some images evoke communal memories, others consist of spaces and patterns of confusion that are dissociated from our understanding of reality. Discernment of Spirits asks the viewer to reassess and heighten his or her level of awareness to self and environment, challenging our ability to distinguish or discover what is visually new, beautiful, or important.

Robert Addessi was introduced to film photography in 1995 at Brookdale Community College. Shortly after, he was invited to join a workshop led by New York photographer Ralph Weiss and has been attending monthly sessions there for the past fifteen years perfecting his technique and developing his identity as an artist. He has chosen to capture each scene with film and transfer the image as purely as possible to reflect the subject as originally seen. The challenge, Addessi believes, is to find new in the ordinary. His creativity lies in his ability to approach his subject with levity and an open mind. He shoots what he finds interesting or entertaining as he
documents his day. In doing so, Addessi has discovered the surreal, the spiritual, and the novel in what most people consider to be the familiar.
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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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