Lucky 7’s Annual Rock ‘N’ Roll BBQ Brings the Beer, Music and Meat to Downtown Jersey City

What better combination is there for a summer afternoon than live music, cold beer and plenty of roasted meat?

All that and more is on the menu this Saturday, July 21, when Lucky 7 Tavern delivers its annual Rock ‘N’ Roll Barbecue, blocking off 2nd Street for an all-day street fair that will include nine bands, a suckling pig and an outdoor beer garden. Smack in the middle of it will be one of Jersey City’s most exciting new bands, Life Eaters.

The Jersey City supergroup – which made its debut a few weeks ago at the Lamp Post – features ex-members of No Pasaran and Rye Coalition, with Mike Sylvia of Killing Horse Records on the mic.

“For a new band, they came out of the gate with a ton of post-punk energy,” says reviewer and musician Dave Urbano. “I’d put them somewhere between a melodic Jade Tree band from the ’90s mixed with the legacy of Rye Coalition.”

Life Eaters will perform at the outdoor stage at 2nd Street and Coles, part of a a bill that includes local favorites like the Static Sea, the Micks, Wax Darts and the Gully Hubbards. The lineup also features the return of Tree Jackson, who will be performing with the Old Glorys’ reunion set. (Jackson had been a popular figure in the Jersey City music scene for a decade in bands like Any Day Parade and Old Glorys before moving back to her native Kentucky in 2010.)

To top it off, there will be a performance by a surprise supergroup that will include members of the Micks and the One and Nines will follow to finish the night. Stanton is moving soon with his family, and the BBQ will also serve as his going-away party. 

The grill will be fired up at 1 pm and live music will start at 2 and continue until about 9. The day promises an eclectic mix of folk, country and metal, but the Life Eaters promise they will be there to bring the rock.

While Mike Sylvia and guitarist Eric Mason had been talking about the idea of starting a band for a while, Life Eaters really began to gel when Mason’s band No Pasaran decided to go on an indefinite hiatus.

“At that point, I was figuring out my own plans, and was thinking about asking [Rye Coalition member] Gregg Leto to play drums in a new project with me,” explains No Pasaran’s Romel Espinel. “Then Eric came over one night and we just started talking about our individual plans and thought maybe we should just join forces. And after a bottle of whiskey, it seemed to make a lot of sense.”

Sylvia knew a young Nebraska transplant named John Feuerbach who was recruited to play bass, and Life Eaters was born.

“I don’t think any of us knew what this band would sound like when we first decided to play together,” Sylvia says. “We talked about doing something simple. We didn’t want to overthink it. I brought in one song that I had been working on and I said, look, the band doesn’t have to sound like this, but let’s start working on it and see what happens. And immediately, it just clicked.”

“I think simplicity is really the best word to describe what we’re going for,” adds Espinel. “It’s definitely rooted in rock. No Pasaran was really more on the experimental side, that’s what we’d been doing for the last seven years. My perspective coming into this band is that I just wanted to play rock, and I wanted to keep it simple. And it’s been very easy writing songs with this band.”

Sylvia has long been a champion of the local rock scene, booking and promoting shows at various venues and co-running Killing Horse Records, whose roster includes Secret Country, Cold Fur and the Everymen. But there’s a big difference between helping your favorite bands from the sidelines and standing on stage with a mic in your hand.

“I’m super busy, so there are times when I can’t be as creative as I’d like to be,” he notes. “But this was one of those times when I just felt like I needed to get that outlet back. So I started paying rent on a rehearsal space that some other bands share, and I said, let me get myself in a room for a couple of hours a week just to work on music and see where it goes. Then me and Eric started linking up, and then Romel and Gregg came into the picture, and then we found John, and we had a band.

“There’s something that all of us in this band share, and that’s the DIY viewpoint,” Sylvia continues. “If you want to make something, just go do it. All of us have that mentality, and we’re all really good at that stuff, whether it’s recording ourselves or putting shows together or getting records out. We’ve all got tons of experience, so it’s just what we do.”

“What’s really cool is that this is the largest band I’ve ever played in,” says Espinel. “I’ve never been in a five-piece before. It’s like an orchestra to me. When you play in a trio, like No Pasaran, if one person is absent, you’re really out of business. With this band, if one person can’t make it to a practice, we can keep going. Mike wrote a song, Gregg wrote a song, me and John wrote another song together, it’s been very egalitarian.”

“We really don’t have a single writing style in this band,” Sylvia explains. “We just throw ideas together, take a riff or a piece of a lyric, and we’ll see where it goes.”

The common thread that does define Life Eaters is that this is very much a Jersey City band. “Some of us live in Jersey City, some of us live nearby, but this is the scene that we’ve chosen to align ourselves with and identify with,” Sylvia says.

Espinel says he really doesn’t like the music coming out of the Brooklyn scene, with maybe one exception.

“One thing I kept in my mind when starting this band is that too many people are overthinking music,” he says. “It’s not something that hits you in the face. And that’s what we want to do. There’s a lot of music out there that has no urgency to it. It just seems very escapist. Maybe it’s because we live in Jersey that we just feel it more, but that’s what we’re looking to do, bring that sense of urgency back to music.”

“There was great energy in Jersey City when Uncle Joe’s was there,” he adds. “Then the Jersey City music scene just got put into limbo. It created this strange situation, because you had all these musicians living in this city and there was really no place to play or hang out together. One No Pasaran show we played got shut down by the cops because we were too loud. So hopefully it gets better with the new [entertainment] law. But I really do feel that energy coming back. In fact, when No Pasaran decided to go on hiatus, I kept thinking this was the wrong time to do it. There’s a lot going on right now, I feel kind of numb not being a part of it. So we have to do something. This is how all scenes go. When you feel the momentum, you have to take advantage of it.”

“You really feel local musicians are starting to come together,” Sylvia adds. “The Tiny Giants Collective has been a part of that, my label has been a part of that. But a lot of the other Jersey City musicians are starting to reach out to each other too. It’s not as insular as it used to be. I think there’s a sense today that we’re not going to be able to do this unless we do it together. It’s different from the ‘unity’ in the ’80s, it’s a new era of coming together. It’s not perfect yet, but I think bands are starting to figure it out. And that’s really what helped spark the formation of Life Eaters. We knew there was that community that we could be a part of.”

“That first show we played at the Lamp Post was great,” Sylvia says. “It was high energy, people were digging it, a lot of people didn’t know what to expect, and looking up, I could see a lot of the crowd with big smiles on their faces. So now with the barbecue, I’m definitely excited to play outside. All our friends will be there. The other bands are awesome. It’ll be hot and sweaty. We’ll be able to just run around and unleash it.”

Lucky 7 Rock ‘N’ Roll BBQ:

Saturday, July 21, 1 p.m.

Free and all ages

Food: Ribs, chicken, vegetable kebabs, suckling pig, mac-n-cheese, baked beans, corn on the cob, slaw

2 pm – The Static Sea 

2:50 pm – Wax Darts

3:40 pm – Life Eaters

4:30 pm – The Micks

5:20 pm – The Gully Hubbards

6:10 pm – Old Glorys
7:00 pm – They Live

7:50 pm – Aminal

8:40 pm – TBA

Jim Testa

is the editor of Jersey Beat, an online fanzine that has been covering the local music scene (first in print, now on the web) since 1982. He is also the host of Jersey Beat Podcast and writes regularly for the Jersey Journal,, Ghetto Blaster, and other publications.