Bringing people, places and events to life
Celebrate Father’s Day with Con Vivo’s semi-annual Bach Concert! On Sunday, June 18th, Cathedral Hall (380 Montgomery St.) will be filled with the sounds of Johann Sebastian Bach.
The concert features mezzo-soprano Sarah Nelson Craft and oboist Christa Robinson in a concert of Bach’s most intimate chamber music for voice, oboe, string quartet, harpsichord, and organ. Con Vivo presents a wide panoply of Bach’s style and achievements, from the elegance of his intimate keyboard works, to the athleticism of his oboe and string repertoire.
The concert begins at 3pm and is free for all ages. Program information and more about Con Vivo here.
To musical bliss,
Con Vivo Music will celebrate Earth Day weekend with a unique performance of “Not Less Than the Good,” a 60-minute musical sunrise and celebration of morning as embraced by Henry David Thoreau in “Walden” at the Barrow Mansion (83 Wayne St.), this Sunday at 6pm. The concert is free; all ages welcome.
“Not Less Than the Good” simulates a sunrise by combining the meditative playing of the saxophone quartet with ambient synthesizers. The music grows from a single quiet note, adding notes and timbres, growing in fullness and depth, much like the literature does with words (Ed. note: I’m only making that comparison because I wrote a term paper on “Walden” while at NYU).
Underneath this are real, pre-recorded sounds during the pre-dawn and early morning hours at Walden Pond: a chorus of insects, the lone song of dawn’s first bird which is joined by others in a raucous counterpoint, and the splashing of morning swimmers.
And keeping even further in trend with Beyonce, the hour-long performance is punctuated by readings of excerpts from “Walden”, considered a secular prayer of hope for enlightenment, that are narrated by poet J. D. McClatchy.
More info here.
May your ears be delighted,
Jersey City’s newest and coolest Newark Avenue hangout is the Pet Shop Bar (and really was a Pet Shop in its former life).
“We were toying with the idea of renting a couple other places in the area and just keeping their names,” says part-owner and head manager Dave Rappaport. “We almost rented Beauty Land and were going to call it ‘Beauty Land.'” 99 Cent Dreams and Pharmacy were also in the running, if he and partners Shen Pan and Eric Speck secured those storefronts.
When the three men, who know each other from being longtime Jersey City residents, secured the Pet Shop space, “We would joke about it. Like; ‘Let’s hang lots of animal pictures on the walls,'” which are very much there now, IRL.
“I think the common thread between all of us is we like really good rock ‘n’ roll, cheap beer and dive bars,” says Eric. Although he admits, “We didn’t really make a dive bar—it’s not dive-y—but we still appreciate those things.”
Pet Shop bar is definitely not a hole-in-the-wall, but it is very comfortable and welcoming—a solid neighborhood spot. “Originally we were trying to open a live music venue, but we couldn’t find the right money and the right space at the right time. It’s a shame because this area needs it,” explains Eric. “And then we found this place that had been a completely disgusting pet shop for, like, 40 years and we were like ‘Well, let’s just call it Pet Shop. I can show you a picture of how disgusting it was.” Readers, just take my word for it: pre-renovation pics were not pretty.
The bar’s logo, an empty bird cage with a bent bar, was designed by Dave Rodriguez. “The birds escaped,” says Shen, explaining that it symbolically represents the three men trapped in their day jobs and deciding to break free and pursue passions of their own.
Opening Pet Shop was a rookie venture [shout-outs for everyone in the community that helped them…pet-shop-shoutout]. As for experience, Shen worked in his parents’ liquor store, Eric used to bartend and book acts for music venues, and Dave is a former math teacher (numbers!). The actual expertise of running and managing a bar arrived with Bar Manager Lindsay Gomeringer, who hails from years of experience, notably at the Brass Rail in Hoboken.
“We didn’t understand the complexity of all the responsibilities it takes closing down a bar at night,” says Dave. “And making cocktails.” The cocktail list has a reasonably priced variety of bevvies (“We didn’t want a cocktail bar, but we wanted cocktails available,” says Shen), and the beer selection is “kept in the lower numbers,” says Eric, “because sometimes picking a beer can be overwhelming.” At Pet Shop, you’ll find a variety on tap: craft brews like Allagash White , middle men like Sierra Nevada, and basics like Coors Light.
Using the name Pet Shop, though, had some setbacks when it came to the menu. “We were originally thinking of having a barbecue theme, but eating animals? That would be in poor taste,” laughs Dave. So the trio and co. crafted a vegetarian bar menu. What does that mean? In my words, it’s bar food re-imagined. Instead of wings, you get buffalo cauliflower; a “pulled pork” sandwich is jackfruit marinated in BBQ sauce and topped with vegan coleslaw.
The guys auditioned quite a few chefs and were “pretty sold on somebody else” when Eric McGuire came along. “Chef Eric blew us away,” says Shen. “He really changed our minds.”
Eric Speck elaborates: “Every chef came in and did what they do, what they were best at. Eric came in and asked a lot of questions and really challenged himself, trying things that he hadn’t done before. He created his menu to our business plan. We were also sold on him personality-wise; he was cut from the same cloth. He understands the rock ‘n’ roll vibe. He fits our scene. It was a natural choice.”
In a few weeks, Pet Shop will open up its downstairs biodynamic wine bar, named P.S. (a play on “post-script” and an extension of Pet Shop). “At first I thought ‘natural wine’ was just a thing you say to charge an extra few dollars,” laughs Shen, “but once Chris Leo (wine importer and sommelier) educates you…”
Eric chimes in: “The rules of production for biodynamic wines are super strict, more so than just organic wines, which can still have tons of chemicals and all sorts of additives.” The grapes in Pet Shop’s wines come from co-op vineyards in Italy and Spain. “The wine tastes fantastic, and you don’t get hangovers,” says Eric. Dave and Shen look at him in disbelief. “What?!” says Eric. “I tested it. The wine is better for you.” Downstairs will be seating-room only to encourage conversation.
Shen says Pet Shop Bar aims to be a Jersey City staple. “We want this place to be around for at least 20 years.”
Adds Eric, “We’re really excited. I feel like we’ve accomplished our mission and we have a really good bar. It’s kind of…cool. Yes, I said it. The Pet Shop Bar is kind of cool.”
The 26th annual Jersey City Art & Studio Tour kicks off tonight, Jersey City! Perhaps one of the most anticipated events in Jersey City, JCAST has even more artists this year, and especially more shows in the vaster areas of the city (a.k.a. not downtown).
JCAST features over 800 artists during its weekend-long event. It’s not only a great opportunity to meet your local artists and purchase unique pieces at reasonable prices, it’s a fine time to get to know your neighbors, government officials and connect with the burgeoning city’s ever-growing diverse community of eclectic citizens.
Tonight is the kick-off opening gala curated by the Office of Cultural Affairs and Art House Productions, where you will experience 40,000 square feet of visual artwork, installation, performance, handmade art and more at the JCAST Flagship Gallery (150 Pacific Ave.).
The event is free and open to the public, and offers an array of entertainment for all ages. The full list of all artists/performers on opening night is here. Free transportation will be provided to and from the JCAST Gallery at City Hall (280 Grove St.).
Find out about all Saturday and Sunday showings here. Free shuttles will be running from almost everywhere in Jersey City to transport you from neighborhood to neighborhood, as the we are a vast city of highly talented artists. I mean, we are talking about 15 sq. miles of glorious art!
I always try to soak up as much as I can, but it is nearly impossible to see everything over the two days; choose wisely and plan well. 150 Bay St. is always a good place to start if you’re unsure. Share your favorite finds with me on twitter (@jerseycitygia).
Here are some of my past memories from JCAST weekend.
Celebrate Our Local Artists!