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Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Evening in Montclair, From Good Homes Edition

The power of music, and art in general, is an open mind and sense of adventure can take you away from the mundane and into another world altogether.  And no, that doesn't mean LSD or mushrooms have to be involved.  

2011, for me, will always be remembered as the year I rediscovered newer alternative bands. 

Last night, in front of nearly 1300 people at Montclair's wonderful Wellmont Theatre, roots rock North Jersey veterans From Good Homes reminded me that sometimes it's good to remember and appreciate the familiar and comfortable too. 

Oh, and before their nearly 3 hour show last night, I had not heard one song from them.  

Music should have no preconceived ideas.  Meaning, where is the harm in dropping some time and money in the unknown?  A friend gives you a date for a band he or she loves/admires.  You check the date and see it is feasible.  You give it a whirl.

From Good Homes is a roots rock, plugged in acoustic outfit somewhere between Widespread Panic, David Sanborn, Dave Matthews, and every polished cover band that plays in rural bars on weekends.  Story songs are mixed with cautionary tales all while  blended nicely with fiddle and melodica solos.  Improvisational guitar and piano fills meshed  with audience sing a longs.  Good.  Clean.  Fun.

The band is made up of three high school classmates (circa mid 80s) Todd Sheaffer(lead vocals/acoustic guitar), Brady Rymer (bass/vocals) and Patrick Fitzsimmons (drums.)  They are joined by Dan Myers (horns) and Jamie Coan (everything but the kitchen sink.)  Easy to tell these men have been together for a while, albeit with a long period apart.  They came back together in 2009 after about a decade layoff.  Each man had and has kept busy with side projects, notably Sheaffer's involvement with the popular and successful Railroad Earth.

Their ease of demeanor and chemistry made it easy for them to cover (and nail!) Bruce Springsteen's "10th Ave Freeze-out" as well as Lou Reed's "Rock N Roll."  The Springsteen cover was dedicated simply to the "Big Man."  You don't have to be from Jersey to understand what that means.  But it helps and the NJ crowd ate it up.  

As they ate just about everything up.  Since they tour/gig so infrequently these days just about every song felt like a hit from their cd collection (they have 5 records.)  Some were slow.  Some were of the "hick-pop" style they claim to be a part of.  Some had jazz.  Some had blues.  Mandolins and saxes were interchanged with slide guitar and clarinets.   The open mind was filled last night.  Rewarded might even be a better word.  Good indeed to see folks moved by the music.  Better still looking in the mirror and not being the oldest one in attendance.  

The Wellmont smelled of Ben Gay and cheap beer.  Peanuts on the floor would not have been a stretch.  And most surprisingly smart phones were only used during intermission.  Yes, an intermission!  Remember them?? 

There was an almost silent reverence when FGH performed.  Save for some unobtrusive dancing and drunken post song cheering.  

Music as inspiration.  Music as backdrop for jovial, Holiday merriment.  Music as art.  

So much of it out there and never enough time to get to it all.

Less than 10 hours after coming home we learned about Canadian singer Justin Hines on the vastly under appreciated CBS Sunday Morning

Hines was born with a rare condition that limits him to a wheelchair.  Meanwhile he does what he loves (sings), has found international success, married, and continues to inspire thousands of fans.  I had never heard of him.  His story is compelling (brought my wife and me to tears- probably just weak and hungover) .  Take a look and then put it all in perspective.

We are all lucky to be alive and be able to appreciate all the creativity that exists these days, as well as the days that preceded us.  During this Holiday season and as we head into another year please map out your cultural schedule.  Get some art in your life...  then smile accordingly.

From Good Homes 12/17/11 Wellmont Theatre- Montclair, NJ
Set 1: Drums, Head, Suzanna Walker, Butterfly & The Tree, Old Man & The Land, Where Songs Begin, Charlie Hogan, There She Goes, Mess>Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out, Comin' On Home

Set 2: If The Wind Blows, Relationships Are Strange, It's Gettin Dirty, Let Go, I Only Want, Blues, Ride All Night, Way To Go Pam, All I Can Do, Raindance, 2nd Red Barn On The Right, Rock & Roll

E: Decision Song, Fruitful Acre, The Ballad of Todd & Tracy
E2: Drift Away, Maybe We Will

For more:
great Star Ledger piece which details the history of the band and their current reincarnation:

Music selections:  "Rock N Roll" from DMB Caravan at Randalls Island in September of this year.  Play a cover version and make it your own and I am impressed.  This take on a Lou Reed classic is well done.

"10th Ave Freeze Out"   Not a great video due to quality...  played live in Blairstown, NJ in June of this year.  

Jefferson Township (FGH alias) "Butterly and the Bee"  There is a zydeco and smooth jazz thing at work here that is jubilant.

"Comin on Home"  From Wellmont 2009 shows.  Fiddle= awesome.  Bluegrass in NJ.  People forget how rural NJ can be.  

One more Springsteen cover...  "Atlantic City"


  1. jsyk..... nearly 1300 people, not 2000.

  2. thanks... was not sure as I was not upstairs. I edited accordingly.