As one of the songs by legendary NJ rockers XENON states…This was certainly a night to remember as Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ played host on this evening to a special reunion show of sorts. The reunion was for the bands, fans and memories of a special NJ rock club from back in the day named Birch Hill. The club is no longer around but it was just a stones-throw away from the top-notch Starland Ballroom. Bringing back some of the best area artists that made an impact on fans from the eighties and the memories of a club that was filled to capacity on many a night was special indeed.
We got there a little late to catch the first band CIRCLE OF INSANITY’s full set, which was underway as we entered the Starland. It seemed like these guy were the prefect opener to pump up the already growing crowd. We only caught about 10 minutes of their set before finding the man who arranged this event Michael “Smitty” Smith of Zenergy Productions (www.zenergyonline.com).
Once we had our credentials, it was only about fifteen minutes before the second band of the evening, CASHMIER, hit the stage. We really didn’t know much about the band but did check their music out beforehand on their MySpace site. CASHMIER is a highly recommended live band as it was pure adrenalin from the start from this four piece. Front man Vince Albano is a total madman onstage, even handing me the microphone in the photo pit to say a few words during the bands set!
Next up was Staten Island’s own LAW & ORDER. We’ve been a supporter of Shane and company for quite sometime and we know LAW & ORDER have always delivered and this night they didn’t let the fans down. The band hits hard with their southern style bluesy rock. Even though LAW & ORDER were born in the eighties they always had that mild southern rock feel, yet turned up a notch to be a force in the hard rock scene. I have to say being close up in the photo pit you can see the passion singer Shane has for music. The man simply enjoys the rush of the fans and pours heart and soul into every song. People were singing along to many songs at high levels during classics such as “Whiskey”. Drummer Rob Steele is still a heavy-hitter on the skins and as we heard from Shane after the bands set, they are working on new music. Should be interesting to see what comes of that!
After their set we had a chance to mingle a bit, meeting up with longtime rock fan and area personality the Staten Island Stud (aka Sean Hollywood) and bass player Chigger (HOSTLE INC. / MEAN VENUS). A special shout-out goes to Vin Lubrano from Staten Island and the many other fans and musicians who were there to enjoy this event.
Next to take the stage was XENON. We’ve seen them many times over the years but tonight they were just unbelievable. We are big supporters of this once-popular NJ band that just never seemed to hit the big time and we have to say they were exceptional on this night. Playing all the fan favorites such as “Tip of My Fingers”, “Thru The Rain”, “Cry In The Night”, “China Sky”, “Holding On” and even a new track named “Opportunity” (which was just finished the night before this show!). Watching Joey Fiamingo on stage he seems to have a spiritual calmness about him and to his right you have Bob Specht and his masterful guitar playing and to his left you have the sweet midsection of bassist Irene Wohlman and thunderous skin basher Tony Capobianco, and also top-notch and long-time rhythm guitarist Ronny Smith. The band also feature two background singers, namely Sarah Dunlap and Tracey Haskell, and keyboardist John Brixie which gives the band a fuller, more complete sound.
If the band plays again soon you have to check XENON out because they are just a phenomenal group of talented musicians and still have that aura of stardom which so unfairly escaped them back in the day. I know it’s been years and times have changed but we can still hold onto the possibility of a new XENON release too. They do have about three tracks ready so who knows what the future might bring…
Finally it was time for the last band of the evening… collectively, Mark and I have known and been fans of AMERICAN ANGEL for over twenty years. I first met the band back when they were recording their first release and have been friendly ever since. I’m not going to tell you that there haven’t been rough times the band has gone through. From their record label going out of business shortly after the debut release to many other pitfalls a band faces but Mr. Rocco Fury has always delivered the goods and this night was no different. Basically AMERICAN ANGEL played almost the entire debut release, a couple from their second release and threw in “Touch Too Much” by AC/DC, which was a staple of the bands live set back in the day. On this night the song was made extra special with the addition of KINGS X drummer Jerry Gaskill who joined them on it. Then as the bands set drew to the end another special moment came as original guitarist Danny Monchek joined in for the bands signature track “How Can I Miss You”!
Rocco Fury is still funny as hell too, walking on stage with a cane and then as the music blasts he throws the cane to the side and does a 360º in the air to show no signs of slowing down! The man is simply put… star quality. AMERICAN ANGEL was the backbone of the New Jersey hard rock scene at one time and I guess we are lucky we can still catch them live every once in a while. You have a tremendous band with quality musicians such as bassist Jay Druzsba, Mike Bisulca on guitar, Marc Ambrosy on drums (and special guest guitarist on this evening Sean Tarr from area band TNA) making this a special night. AMERICAN ANGEL played all the fan favorites and with the appearances of Monchek and Gaskill on this night it was truly a special evening for the band and the fans.
All the bands were amazing and delivered, it was a packed house and I am so happy we were there to cover it for them and the fans. Hopefully there will be another show like this at some point. Why not make it a yearly reunion? We wish we could see these bands more than once a year but we’ll take what we can get!
Extra special thanks have to go to Jay Druzsba of AMERICAN ANGEL and “Smitty” of Zenergy who took good care of us for this show.