BY RICHARD SKELLY
Working closely with Woodbridge Township Mayor John E. McCormac and the township’s health officials, impresario and concert producer Bill Brandenburg has come up with a solution that will allow music fans from all over central New Jersey to enjoy free music in Woodbridge this summer.
The Woodbridge Wednesdays Concert Series is now in its 11th year. Normally held in the smaller quarters of [historic] Parker Press Park near the Woodbridge train station, due to the COVID epidemic, this year’s concert series has been moved to larger fields at Woodbridge High School on Samuel Lupo Place. New social distancing norms will be enforced via marks on the grass.
All Wednesday concerts begin promptly at 7:30 p.m. and a small number of food and beverage vendors will be on site. Unlike previous summers, there is no indoor rain location for these shows, so if rain is in the forecast, patrons should check the concert series’ website or call (732) 602-6045.
“By design the series is very eclectic, so my approach to booking these shows is always to include a wide variety of music,” Brandenburg explains.
“This summer we have a ska band, an Irish traditional folk band, a blues band, some gospel, Americana and real country music,” he added.
This year’s Woodbridge Wednesdays lineup is also a nod to history and to the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote. The series opens July 8 with Liz Vice and Hopewell-raised blues, jazz and Americana singer Danielia Cotton and her band.
Women won the right to vote in August, 1920.
“I’d had this idea for some time,” said Brandenburg, who was asked to book the prestigious ‘Concerts in the Burbs’ series in Montclair several years back. Since so many of our big draws like Catherine Russell and Amy Helm happen to be women, I said, ‘Bingo, let’s do all women performers this year.’ ”
Schedule for the 2020 Woodbridge Wednesdays “Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment”:
- July 8: Liz Vice / Danielia Cotton
- July 15: Abbie Gardner and Zara Phillips
- July 22: Amy Helm acoustic
- July 29: Joanie Madden’s Irish All-Stars
- Aug. 5: The Big Takeover / Crystal Shawanda
- Aug. 12: Susan Werner / Emily Duff
- Aug. 19: The Honey Dewdrops / Bobtown
- Aug. 26: Danielle Nicole Band / Kerri Powers
- Sept. 2: Tristan McIntosh / Bandits on the Run
While New York City-based classic blues singer Catherine Russell will not grace the stage in Woodbridge this year, she has performed at the concert series in the past and she is one of the more innovative women currently working in blues. Russel spent a number of years working as a backup singer with Steely Dan and David Bowie before forging her own unique path in the world of jazz by becoming one of the most tasteful, classy blues singers in jazz, on par with the great Cassandra Wilson.
“Because of the virus, we cannot move shows indoors this year,” he said, “so some shows may end up being cancelled and some we’ll try to reschedule.”
“This year I had finished bookings in January and then with the onset of the virus in March, I had cancellations and was thrown right back into the thick of things,” he said, “I’ve been scrambling through the spring, but we got it done.”
Blues fans at the Jersey Shore can take the train and walk a few blocks to Woodbridge High School and they will want to mark their calendars for shows by Amy Helm on July 22; Canadian blues singer Crystal Shawanda on Aug. 5 and former Trampled Under Foot lead singer Danielle Nicole and Kerri Powers on Aug. 26.
Brandenburg also served as curator for two other concert series in the township, also held at the Woodbridge High School field, Woodbridge Sundays and Tuesday Tributes.
Here is the lineup for the 2020 Woodbridge Sundays 6p.m.:
- July 12: ZBTB [Zac Brown Tribute Band]
- July 19: Kinderhook [Country Rock]
- July 26: Live at the Fillmore [Allman Brothers Tribute]
- Aug. 2: Jet Weston & His Atomic Ranch Hands [Hank Williams]
- Aug. 9: DeadGrass [Bluegrass Grateful Dead]
- Aug. 16: Southern Steel [Southern Rock]
- Aug. 23: The Band band tribute to Bob Dylan
- Aug. 20: Panama Dead [New Riders of the Purple Sage]
- Sept. 6: Rescheduled 4th of July Fireworks in Sewaren
- Sept. 13: Linda Rondstadt Experience
Tuesday Tributes 7:30 p.m.
- July 7: Best of the Eagles [with Jerry Steele]
- July 14: Sail On [Beach Boys]
- July 21: Beatlemania Again
- July 28: Doobie Others
- Aug. 4: Back to the Garden [Woodstock]
- Aug. 11: Guthrie Brother [Simon & Garfunkel]
- Aug. 18: Frontiers [Journey]
- Aug. 25: Broken Arrow [Neil Young]