On a snowy Friday night, Westfield showed that it has a deep reservoir of musical talent as four bands with ties to the town played a benefit to raise money for victims of Hurricane Sandy and Westfield High School’s Helping Hands Fund.
Principal Peter Renwick noted the efforts of WHS students for this benefit. “There’s been a lot of hard work and planning that’s gone into this night. One of the easier aspects of this was to get the bands to commit.”
Head student organizer Alex Palatucci said that there were between 20 and 25 student volunteers working on the show.
Renwick explained the importance of the benefit. “The Helping Hands Fund is really a fund to meet the needs of those in our school community. We’ve already supported relief for staff members who were affected by the hurricane. We want to support the Hollaway family as well.”
Student body president Alex Jeffery added, “We made a lot of money for a great cause.”
With approximately 200 people in attendance, concertgoers were treated to a three-hour show that crossed both generations and musical styles.
Leading off the night was Transit Radio, a group of five current WHS students led by singer Colin Barry. Fresh from their appearance at Asbury Park's legendary The Stone Pony, they treated the crowd to some energetic pop music and included selections from their soon-to-be-released EP, The Illustrious Reign of Babar. They apparently also have a large number of female fans!
[Performance clips from the show are linked with this article - one from each band!]
They were followed by Hammond, a local foursome who play rock with a country edge. They played a few spirited originals and a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Time.” The band is led by WHS teacher Jay Ruggiero. Joining the band was pedal steel guitarist Frank Kaiser, father of Hammond's lead vocalist and guitarist Mike Kaiser, who also played with The Flying Dogs of Jupiter.
Said Ruggiero, “It’s a lot of fun to play at the school I teach at. It’s been a lot of work putting this together for the last month and a half. To be able to give back and support the Jersey Shore is amazing.”
The Static Jacks played their first hometown show in six years. The students were more than happy to see them, forming a large mosh pit in front of the stage. They played a short set of tight punk-pop songs from their 2011 album If You’re Young and some new cuts from their second album, which is due out later this year.
After the show, the band members expressed surprise that current WHS students even knew who they were. “That was better than some of shows we’ve had on tour,” noted Static Jacks drummer Nick Brennan.
Closing out the night was the veteran band The Flying Dogs of Jupiter, who showed that you don’t have to be young to rock. The Dogs play old fashioned rock-and-roll. I thought I heard a little Grateful Dead influence on their song “American Dream,” which was penned by guitarist Al Grigg in 1973.
The Dogs played selections from their two recent albums and closed out the night with a few covers, including "Twist And Shout" and “Johnny B. Goode.” They were joined on stage by the members of Transit Radio and a horn section consisting of current WHS students.
The performance took Dogs bassist Jeff Taylor back. “Al, Frank and I played on this stage in 1972 for the senior class talent show. We also played the Battle of the Bands in the gymnasium,” he recalled.
Added Grigg, “On a snowy night like tonight, it couldn’t have been better.”
It was a nice way to close out the night: The oldest band on the bill sharing the stage with the youngest band. All in all, it was an enjoyable evening in service of a good cause.
Listen for these bands and many more on upcoming episodes of All Over The Place Internet Radio's New Jersey music show, EXIT 135. Airing Sundays from 7 to 9 p.m.
For those who could not attend but would still like to make a donation, checks can be made out to WHS, and please include "Relief Efforts" on the memo line. Mailed donations can be addressed to Westfield High School, c/o Lori Scicolone, 550 Dorian Rd. Westfield, NJ, 07090