On a beautiful evening, May 14th, 2021, the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation presented The Mark LaRochelle Youth Open Mic, and once again had the area’s finest musical youth come out to enjoy an incredible night of fun, friendship, and music. Everyone’s “Favorite Friday Night of the Month” is hosted by board member and coordinator Joseph Vincent Riggio and The Chubby Pickle, who graciously continues its support as the event’s temporary home until The Women’s Club of Red Bank is ready to host live events. The crowd was at house capacity (50% and COVID distanced) while the patio was also totally occupied with people taking advantage of the amazing weather the Highlands was blessed with that night.
Opening the night, as has become tradition when he attends, returning from his spring semester at the University of New Haven, curly-locked Conor McCormick performed. He acoustically reimagined the Mastadon song “Oblivion” masterfully and finished with “Tuesday Morning” by the Pogues.
Next everyone was treated to three new performers from Lakehouse Music Academy in Asbury Park. Through the years many of their students have performed at the open mic, and it was a delight to see some new members join the family this evening. First up was JD Leidersdorff on electric guitar opening with the Van Morrison classic “Brown Eyed Girl” and closing with the Death Cab For Cutie hit “I Will Follow You Into The Dark”. His parents and little sister were a delight to see smiling during the performance and throughout the night.
Raven-haired Tess Rizzi then shared her original song “Bring Ya Back” with a Lakehouse-provided perfectly produced backing track. It was a well thought out and arranged R & B tune which her voice was well-suited for. Her tone and control were impressive. Her parents also were a pleasure to have in the crowd the entire evening.
Following was Tamra Lawlor on (a rather large and beautiful sounding) acoustic guitar. She performed Billie Eilish’s “Your Power”. Showing her vocal power, she was seated a bit shyly on a stool. She apologized for only having one prepared and promised to return with more next time to everyone’s delight.
Riggio addressed the crowd re: the fact that Lakehouse Music is opening a satellite school and performance area in Red Bank as well urging all to look into them if they have know of any musically interested youth . They offer individual lessons, song writing and production classes, as well as house band instruction and much more. We look forward to more “Lakehouse Love” as he dubbed it throughout the evening.
Thomas W. Hagan followed up, promoting his upcoming song release show on June 12th at The Chubby Pickle, for his single “ur boy”. He will be supported with opening sets by open mic regulars, the insanely talented Maddie Freeman and Lexie LaPlante. He played one of his favorites “FourFiveSeconds” by Rihanna, Kanye and Paul McCartney, and his original “Simple Thoughts,” teasing the crowd by not playing the new song, asking them to come to the show to hear it for the first time – it worked– we can’t wait!
Crowd fav and Chubby Pickle stage veteran Justin Coughlin retuned from school as well and fed his continued obsession with the concept album “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by the lo-fi indie artist Neutral Milk Hotel performing “Two Headed Boy” after opening with Radiohead’s “Fake Plastic Trees”.
Another new performer graced the stage this fine night as well by the name of Tamas Bulla. He sang and performed on acoustic guitar with a relaxed manner, showing maturity in his voice beyond his young age. Opening with “Without You” by The Kid Laroi and closing with The Animals super classic “House of the Rising Sun”. We can’t wait to see more of both him and his lovely super-supportive family.
Speaking of supportive families, 16-year-old Mellissa LaRochelle was present as always. Mom and two sisters, Allison and Samantha (both former JSJBF Scholarship Award winners) were there to support as well, always honoring their father’s memory with their presence. She consistently puts in time on guitar and her voice which continues to gain beautiful tone and control. She eased us in with “Uh Oh” by Junior Doctor and left us with her self-empowering themed original “Body That You Are In”.
MAST Junior April Lynn was welcomed back next. She always shows her pro chops and mastery of multiple genres as well as a deep bench of songs from multiple genres and decades. She had the crowd singing along to the Sublime banger “Santeria” and “I Want You to Want Me” by Cheap Trick.
Up next Keyport natives and sisters Eve and Ruby delighted the crowd. First Eve supported herself on acoustic guitar, singing her take on “8” by Billie Eilish and then invited Ruby up to harmonize and split vocal duties on the Dave Mathews tune “Loving Wings”, bringing tears to some of the regular attendees who have had the pleasure of seeing these two mature as young ladies and musicians month to month over the last several years. Ruby (JSJSB 2020 Mark LaRochelle Scholarship Award Winner) then continued on, pink ukulele in tow, and hit everyone with another Billie Eilish tune “Your Power,” and a very cool version of “Chances” by The Strokes. Over the applause she promoted her upcoming 6PM set right back there at The Chubby Pickle on Memorial Day Weekend May 29th opening for the popular bands Malibu and Flourish upon their request.
Drummer Andrew Ahlborn, a 2019 JSJBF Scholarship Award Winner, came this evening with his favorite bassist Tom Hicks and guitar player/vocalist Luke Russoniello for the second month in a row. They did a very high energy three-song tribute set to “The Foo Fighters,” leaving the crowd grinning as much as they.
Closing this amazing event was original Rock Metal band Atomic Battery. They take a classic metal approach to their song-writing. All of them are written, arranged, and executed with masterful precision. Riggio dialed in the delay effect on Daniels’s voice before the first chorus hit and the mix was set for their three-song sonic melodic “assault”. Everyone cheered loudly for an encore, and Riggio gave the thumbs up. As the last notes were playing fireworks were seen and heard across the street of the venue seemingly nodding to the fact that things are looking up after a pandemic-filled year-plus, and the Summer is on the way.