Many people often forget about the New Jersey music scene being that New York is a train, bus, ferry or car ride away. Sure we have the greats - Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi and you can't forget Frank Sinatra was born here also. Indie-band Thursday as well as current teen pop sensation the Jonas Brothers are all Jersey natives too. Even Jimmy Eat World sings "I'm a New Jersey success story" in one of their songs, "Big Casino" from latest album, Chasing This Light, despite being from Arizona.
Often, it's not just these bands, but the venues that encompass New Jersey that makes for a great place to discover new bands. Starland Ballroom in Sayreville always has a great, for the most part extremely eclectic, tour line-up. Even Rutgers in New Brunswick puts on good shows, both on campus and at The State Theater on George Street. And then you can't forget about Giants Stadium which hosts the Bamboozle Festival in May, the many concerts that go on at Continental Airlines Arena or even down in Asbury Park.
Hoboken is also a great live-music spot, especially Maxwell's, where I was Friday night covering Brooklyn-based band Hello Tokyo. Although they may be based in Brooklyn, lead singer Kat is herself a Jersey girl. She told the crowd Friday that she was born in Hackensack and grew up in Wayne. And boy does this Jersey girl know how to sing.
Hello Tokyo is definitely a band to be on the look-out for. Their music has been featured on various MTV shows and they were a part of Fashion Fights Poverty's 2007 Dress Responsibly Look Book. The female fronted power pop band is an eclectic mix of pop, rock and even dance music, or rather just music that makes you want to dance.
Having been working on their first full-length album, Sell The Stars, due out later this year, their performance Friday night gave a glimpse to what can be expected. While Kat fronted the band on vocals and keyboard, the rest of the band - including Sam on drums, John on guitar and guest performer Michael on bass - greatly accentuated her singing style.
I'm not sure how to best accurately describe their music style to be honest. It's a mix of many different flavors and styles which definitely helps Hello Tokyo's live performance and credibility. For more of an idea of their style, check out their MySpace and decide for yourself. And let me know what you think by leaving a comment.
Hello Tokyo played a 40 minute set featuring 10 songs on Friday. While I recognized a few from their MySpace page, such as "The Affair" and "Run To You," others were a pleasant surprise, like "I Spy" and "Alert the Authority," which Kat told the audience is a song about living in New York City. You could definitely sense the New York City lifestyle with the fast beat throughout the song as well as when she starts whispering during the song, slowing down the beat and then picking the tempo right back up again. Lyrics such as, "You'll never save me because I won't ask you to" definitely gets the independent New Yorker lifestyle across. This song encompasses strong singing on Kat's part and strong guitar features as well. Hello Tokyo definitely has the blending between singer, drummer and guitarists well polished.
While "Rain or Shine" might have had the best guitar sound of the set, the keyboard feature in the song slowed the night down for a bit, but Kat was able to quickly pick it right back up and continue through the rest of the song. A few of the songs played had longer intros, featuring Kat on keyboard while the rest of the band jammed in the background.
My favorite of the night was "Radio," which Hello Tokyo closed with. This song, by far, had the most energy of the night and got many in attendance dancing along or tapping their feet and bobbing their heads to the music. You can check out their video for this song on YouTube.
Stay tuned for a complete interview with Kat from Hello Tokyo later this week.