Youth Open Mic Challenge – LOVE Songs

On the eve of Valentine’s Day Eve the Jersey shore areas musical youth brought the Love to Highlands NJ.

The Mark LaRochelle Youth Open Mic presented by The Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation (everyone’s “Favorite Friday Night of the Month”) is hosted by board member and coordinator Joseph Vincent Riggio. He always spends a considerable time setting the stage and lights as well as greeting the arriving crowd to create an inviting and fun mood for the always full (now 35% capacity, COVID distanced) house. This month he challenged the participants to play love songs in a few teasingly funny social media posts. JSJBF venue member The Chubby Pickle continues its support as the events temporary home until The Women’s Club of Red Bank is ready to host live events again at the Anthony Reckless Estate and the staff is as eager to please as the performers are to show their stuff.

First up was Taryn a 14-year-old singer and Highlands local who brought along Conor Quigley (a very fine local musician who aged out of the “youth” category but always welcome and willing to help someone out on any number of instruments) to back her up on Keys. Her voice is well suited for diverse styles of pop and highlighted this night by two love (lost) songs her opener “Arms” by Christina Perry and her closer Gloria Ganors’ classic ” I will Survive”.

Then came April Lynn promoting her up-coming full length set scheduled for 6pm Saturday February 20th right back at The Chubby Pickle. At only 17 she has a regular gig at Burlew’s in Keyport every other Thursday and Sunday early evenings as well. She gave the crowd quite an impressive preview of what she plans to bring to her performance with her three excellently presented love teasers “Dance With Me”, “I’m Yours” and I Don’t Care” by Olly Murrs, Jason Mraz and Ed Sheeran respectively.

Sixteen year Melissa returned, after a much missed absence last month. She has spent a lot of her quarantine time building her guitar chops and it really showed this night. Melissa has a natural and relaxed playing and singing style and she floored everyone with a three song set ending with two very well written and arranged original tunes “Sick of Writing” and “4300 Miles” both speaking of the eternal search for love. Melissa started performing a few years back monthly at the open mics singing acapella then learned to back herself on ukulele. It is a delight for all to see her progress as a performer and now song writer, one of many who we get to watch take this journey at this much loved event.

Next up was homeschooled Junior Eve sporting a Chubby Pickle Beanie and a new head of blonde locks (to a bit of confusion to some of the regular spectators of the event). She too has gained quite a bit more guitar skill during her COVID forced down time as well as upping her song writing skill and confidence as noted by her sharply delivered original closer “Aquamarine Fairy’s Torn Apart”. She started with one of the hosts favorite songs (he speaks of it often) the Jesus Christ Super Star Rock Opera love ballad “I Don’t Know How to Love Him”, made famous by Yvonne Elliman seemingly just to keep with the night’s theme. She also snuck in a cool version of “The Less I Know the Better” by Tame Impala to keep the crowd on their toes.

Closing the night was JSJBF 2020 Mark LaRochelle Scholarship award winner Ruby. She charmed the crowd as always with her sweet and powerful voice accompanying herself with her signature ukulele playing which has progressed to a hybrid percussive strumming alternating with multi-fingered picking style, since she too has had more fret time due to Quarantine. She sang the toxic love tunes “Hopeless” by “Halsey and “My Strange Addiction” by Billie Eilish as well as the less toxic love banger “Fallen” by Ron Sexsmith.

Our President, Tom Baldino, arrived with the 2021 raffle guitar, a Fender American Stratocaster, which raised some much needed funds for the Foundation.

Next scheduled for Friday March. 12th The Mark LaRochelle Youth Open Mic is presented by the Jersey Shore Jazz & Blues Foundation one Friday night each month, providing the musical youth community a forum to perform in a fun, supportive, friendly and inviting environment. Usually at the Red Bank Women’s Club in the Anthony Reckless Estate in Red Bank NJ, but due to current restrictions our new temporary home is graciously provided by venue member The Chubby Pickle at 23 Bay Ave., Highlands New Jersey.

Sign up sheet available at 6:30 PM 

Music happens from 7 PM – 10 PM 

$5 Donation to perform or attend (Under 21 to perform) 

All ages welcome to enjoy

Full backline provided (musicians bring instruments and pedals)

Music not limited to Jazz and Blues 

For further information read about the Mark Rochelle Youth Open Mic Nights or contact  Joseph Vincent Riggio at 732-670-2157 

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