Photos & Story by Chris Spiewak
RED BANK – What happens when you gather two dozen musicians from all walks of life, of all different ages, each influenced by a different musical genre, each highly talented with their instrument or vocal ability, and with most already part of an established, working band?
Well, you get the very organized chaos that is open mic night every Sunday night at Jamian’s on Monmouth Street. Organizer and longtime Jersey Shore musician Rob Dye has held this weekly event for five years here, and its popularity has steadily grown.
The open mic concept allows any musician to walk in, sign up and perform for a short period, generally two or three songs (time permitting). Some artists choose to go solo, but several people may arrive separately and form a band for the night, sometimes with a loosely thought-out plan of action and sometimes not. It’s the “sometimes not” scenario that can be the most interesting. Musicians are generally good at thinking on their feet and improvising, and special moments can happen when the very talented are performing without a net.
With music being the universal language, there are no barriers here; age, gender and religion never, ever come into play, and, in fact, add much flavor to the finished product. A fair level of talent is really the only prerequisite, and amplifiers and sound system are provided for you, so there is no ‘lugging’ for this show (a great appeal to any musician).
The weather was much more cooperative for this night’s event, with considerably better access to parking – and sidewalks for that matter – after this snowy and brutally cold winter of ‘13/’14.
An open mic night always brings a sense of anticipation and curiosity, as no one in the audience really knows who might show up. The weekly regulars are always on their game, and frequently a special guest will appear, perhaps someone on a break from touring the country, or the world. Remember, we are fortunate to have several high profile entertainers living in our area. On Sunday, Feb. 23, Mr. Michael Ghegan brought his talents once again to Jamian’s after several months away, and we were all treated to some superb music. Ghegan is an accomplished saxophonist and keyboardist whose resume includes currently touring with The Michael Jackson Experience (a project with the approval of the Jackson Estate, and with members of MJ’s original band), along with stints with Elton John and Justin Timberlake.
A quick sit-down with Ghegan revealed a very laid back musician, eager to share his experiences in life and on the road, and all the while speaking to you as if you were his next door neighbor for the past 20 years. He still laments giving up the very promising baseball career at Rutgers, but I think that he has progressed just fine in life, making quite a name for himself in the process.
This night, he had fantastic support from Jim Ferrante, Sondra H and Alex D’Agnese in an amazing rendition of “Dancing in the Streets,” originally performed by Martha & the Vandellas in 1964. Marvin Gaye, Mickey Stevenson, and Ivy Joe Hunter, the original composers, would have been very proud.
And those weekly regulars, and not-so-regulars, were awesome once again; with Red Bank being a home base for probably 15 to 20 bands, there is never a shortage of performers in the area. The very talented Mr. George Ott is, of course, one of the driving forces behind the Sunday night events, and everyone in attendance including Shannon Gilvary, Cook Smith, Thor Tollefsen, Mark Jones, Poppa John Bug and the other gifted musicians appearing this evening gave the large crowd everything they had, and the crowd ate it up. It’s not easy to play in this venue; the numerous camera flashes are literally quite blinding!
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the great staff at Jamian’s; even with a packed house, everyone is taken care in a timely manner, although patience can indeed be a virtue as servers negotiate the maze of people. The kitchen staff prepares very good food, sometimes lacking in a neighborhood tavern; after a long night of performing, dancing or just plain imbibing, one certainly appreciates a good snack about midnight! All in all, it was another great night on Monmouth Street, where anything can – and did – happen, and a few more people were able to check off “15 minutes of fame” from their bucket lists. Thank you, Jamian’s, we’ll all be back very soon……..
Chris Spiewak is currently the bassist for rock/blues cover band VyntEdge.