Live in JC: The Roadside Graves & The Press at IM Automata Chino

It’s a crooked and socially dangerous line to walk; one that metaphysically winds and dips like the Rio Grande. But here I am sitting on it, like the Border Patrol, and I’m drunk and corrupted by the power.

I’m talking about the slight difference between being the guy and being that guy. As I sit in my room listening to a CD of the band I saw a night before while wearing their T-shirt, I can’t help but think I have finally crossed the line.

So how did I get here?

On Saturday, May 9, at about 5 minutes to 11 pm, I slipped out of work into a cab over to IM Automata Chino to see the Roadside Graves. Jim Testa of Jersey Beat had hit me up earlier in the week to send a congratulatory nod on my new home here at JCI and let me know he’d see me out at the show. Sadly, Jim wasn’t able to make it out due to scheduling conflicts, so I pledged to do my best to recreate the event for him. Here goes.

The Poconos finished up just a few moments before I got to the door. I wanted dearly to get there in time to see them, but alas I did not. The Jersey City band, which just released its debut CD, will be playing around soon though. They’re at the Lamp Post this Saturday and will be at Groove on Grove in August. I’ll be sure to make that, rain or shine.

I hustled over to the bar, took a Blue Moon and sat loose while Roadside Graves set up. It’s been a weird few weeks for IMAC. They’ve had a great bunch of acts, everything from Rockabilly to Epic Concept Rock to bands that defy genres like Paul Atreides defied the Spacing Guild in Dune.

I say all that to say this: the quality of the bands has been great but I remember early on that the quality of the sound wasn’t always up to par at the venue. But they recently brought on Jon Perrelly to deal with sound. Let me be the first to say that was a great decision. In the venue’s early days, the sound board was next to the stage and the bands were adjusting inbetween songs. It was haphazard and didn’t always work out great. But in the last few weeks Jon’s additional support has had a positive impact. You can tell by the crowd of familiar faces.

OK, back to the show.

Roadside Graves resurrected themselves onto the stage and lurched into their set. The band is made up of Rich Zilg (acoustic guitar, vocals), Dave Jones (bass), John Gleason (vocals), Mike DeBlasio (piano, organ) Colin Ryan (drums, percussion) and Jeremy Benson (electric guitar, vocals, percussion). Country rock is really taking Jersey by storm, with the Graves at the forefront of the resurgence. These guys from Metuchen have masterfully composed songs with lyrics to match — what more could you ask for? They charmed the lookers-on at IMAC, that’s for sure. I really fell for their song “God Touched Me,” which I made sure to get a video of (scroll down for it). That song was one of several the Graves played from their soon-to-be-released (June 9) album, My Son’s Home. For their finale, the entire band stepped down into the crowd, creating a danse macabre that had the crowd, already reeling from the rest of the act, in a trance. I dare say there was full-on crowd participation going on.

After the crowd got a bit of a rest, The Press started up their set. Mike Henry (vocals, guitar) is the bands silverfox lead man and jokester. David Schneider (guitar) and Alex Picca (bass) also give a big hand with vocals, while Chuck Davis (drums) rains down a steady strong beat. What I like about these guys is how utterly simple they make it seem — solid guitar work and an unfaltering rhythm section are all too often sacrificed nowadays for something flashier and more overwhelming. The Press seems to understand that less is more; they keep a low profile and just set out to have a good time. I could tell by the looks on their faces they were doing just that on Saturday. They played their final song, but the crowd wanted more. It seems The Press hadn’t expected to play an encore — but after a short tete-a-tete they reconvened and shot one off to the moon.

Shortly after, I made my break for the door. It was only 1:30 and I still had some damage to do around town. It’s a funny thing, leaving a venue for another bar. I always feel disconnected from what’s happening around me for the rest of the night. It’s like nothing is real and I’m just observing things from the outside. The feeling most likely stems from my constant experience as a photographer — then again, it could be the Blue Moons, the tequila and the Jameson doing their work. It’s all in a night’s work as when you’re on patrol holding the line.

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is a rogue rock writer. He is an avid blogger/indie music junkie and founder of Rocker Tycoon as well as an award-winning photographer, specializing in rock, fashion and weddings.