Trenton Musicians Foundation Benefit; Katmandu, Trenton; 7/12/09

Who needs the Shore when you’ve got riverside blues, beer and burgers right in … Trenton! My girl Lea and I checked out Katmandu’s deck for the first Trenton Musicians Foundation benefit, which raises money to give urban Trenton kids a scholarship to attend a music college and helps fund music programs (taught by member musicians) in the public schools. Prevention, prevention. I’m all for it.

So we got there at four and I meant to leave around six but instead I just got home about two hours ago. I dunno, when all the hot guys want to hang out with you because you’re buying them beers and you’re chilling with talented and on-the-ball bluesmen like Billy Hill, whose song “Easier Said Than Done” made it to #1 on the charts in 1963, and the breeze is flowing just like the tunes, well, like Joe Walsh says, “it’s hard to leave when you can’t find the door.” Oh wait, that’s a story from a different party.

So, foolery aside, the lineup was tight, complementary, and mainly comprised of rockers who would make Bob Weir comfortable at a party. Although we missed Kelly Fragale, who’s probably younger than most of the others by about 25 years, the word on the deck was that she was ethereal and artsy. She was super friendly and I plan to check her out later this summer, as you’ve gotta support the female artists, especially those who are not given to self-posturing. The rest of the bands – D.D. & The Divebombers, Hearts of Soul, Ernie White Band, Joe Zook & Paul Plumeri — mostly gave us straight-ahead electric blues — some originals, some covers – and sparked it up like acts you might catch at a well-produced brew fest.

As always, hearing Blues reminds me how critical it is to sustain them. Jerry Monk, one of the musicians, was telling me today that Trenton used to have a thriving music scene, with guys like Eric Clapton stopping through because it was on the circuit. But gangs and drugs started taking over the area and people didn’t feel safe coming into town anymore. Venues closed. Musicians still played but the circle became scattered. The Trenton Musicians Foundation is in some ways an attempt to combat that. It’s new, yet it brings together local musicians who have played together for decades. Many friends of the performers came to support them and the whole bar felt, as far as the music is concerned, like a communal and sharing space. One artist asked the audience who grew up in Trenton and a nice number of people in their 50’s clapped or raised their hands and I got the sense that for them, today felt like some sort of homecoming.

The closing act starred Duke Williams (front man for the Extremes), a serious looking white dude with a shock of white hair and a snowy beard who was wearing a white nylon-ish suit with black patches. He played the blues piano and everyone treated him a minor celebrity. Our new friend Scott Rednor, who backed up The Duke’s piano with his guitar, whispered after he got off stage that he’d asked The Duke before they went on what they would be playing. According to Scott, The Duke replied somberly, “Whatever God tells me.”

We hung out for a good deal of the day/night with Scott his friends Tony C. (who performed), John and Chris. John and Tony gave me a bunch of good suggestions for places I didn’t know where I can see some great music, and I had an engaging talk with Tony Buford, who’s doing the marketing for the foundation. Scott and his boys graciously asked us to come on their boat after the show but it was late and we had to jet. They were fun, though, and I thank them for showing us a good time.

Katmandu has a nice element to it in that at these types of events everyone interacts. There’s no pretention or separation. There is a small outdoor section where the players stage and wait around but it’s right next to the public deck so you can really talk to whomever you want. Plus, the musicians have to get their drinks from the bar, too.

The foundation should be getting its website up this week so I’ll post a link when it goes online. Yay future musicians from Trenton!

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