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LI Music Scene debates Tribute vs. Original Bands

LI Music Scene

The Long Island Music Hall of Fame held two panels at The Space at Westbury to discuss the state of the Long Island music scene. The panels included original artists, cover bands, venue owners, talent buyers and music journalists. They discussed the Long Island music scene and what can be done to nurture and support original artists.

A hot topic debated was “Are tribute bands taking all the Gigs.” Members of the panel had different perspectives depending on age and what type of band they play in. Overall, older artists just want to continue doing music in any form while younger ambitious bands are using any tool in their toolbox to create new music and get recognized.

Moderator, Jim Faith, producer of the Great South Bay Music Festival and co-founder of the LI Music Hall of Fame, stated 75% of Long Island is an adult market and people want to hear music that they know. Many people seem stuck in their era and rather listen to songs that they know over new music.

Ian Kenny, front man and song writer for King Neptune & NGHBRS, emerged in DIY Pop Punk community on Long Island that played in basements and VFW halls. Unfortunately, he’s seen the shift in the scene, instead of playing at multiple clubs and venues in Nassau and Suffolk County, he has to flock to Brooklyn, Manhattan and other boroughs to play.

Pop music writer, Glenn Gamboa, uses Taking Back Sunday as a benchmark to measure success in the Long Island music scene. Unfortunately, since records don’t sell anymore, no local bands have been able to reach the same heights Taking Back Sunday and Brand New did in the early 2000s. Gamboa stated, “If I hear the next Taking Back Sunday, I’m going to write about it.” However, if young people don’t read newspapers would his coverage even be valuable to up and coming bands playing local shows?

James Skidmore, music writer and chairman for Alive After Five, believes there should be a collaboration between venues and original music to support local music and creativity. He reminded the audience it takes lots of dedication to listen to new music, however some people don’t want to take the time to do so.

Michael “EPPY” Epstein, owner of My Father’s Place, a venue that has original rock, blues and reggae music, came out of retirement to help up and coming artists and bands. “I will help everyone I can,” said Epstein. Jeff Siegel, General Manager for The Space at Westbury, stated the problem with booking up and coming bands is they need to be able to draw an audience. However, Siegel believes building new music is important and he books original bands to play in the smaller lounge area of The Space on Thursday nights. Dan Welch, owner of 89 North, said the reason why venues book tribute bands on the same night as original bands is to draw a bigger audience so they can afford to let original bands play.

Louis Nava, 21, talent buyer for Revolution Bar and Music Hall, urges original bands to team up with like bands and trade audiences in order to grow a following. Mike Acampora, 22, from the band Times Like These, also encourages bands to follow bands that sound similar to yours and follow their followers.

Michael Delguidice, 47, lead vocalist and pianist for the band Big Shot (a Billy Joel Tribute band) and a singer/songwriter sees nothing wrong with playing in a cover band. “I have to feed my family, I rather play music than do something else,” said Delguidice. Big Shot can sell out The Paramount while Delguidice struggles to find fame with his original music. Instead of working a standard 9-5 job, Delguidice rather make money playing cover songs since “it’s about the love of the game.” He even considers artists/bands that sing and perform songs that are written for them “cover bands” because they are singing other peoples songs.

Katie Pearlman, a singer/songwriter and lead vocalist for The Joini Project (a Joni Mitchell Tribute band), uses the money she makes from playing tribute band gigs to fund her singer/songwriter project. She also urges artists to join the singer/songwriter community and share gigs with other artists.

Whether you want to see a tribute band or original band, continue to listen to music and support the Long Island scene.

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CJ Ramone talks American Beauty

cj ramone

CJ Ramone, from the iconic punk rock band The Ramones, recently released his third solo album “American Beauty” on Fat Wreck Chords. Ramone admitted he wrote the entire album in only 2 weeks in his basement and finished recording the album in 11 days. Rather than trying to make a bold political stance, this album has a positive message of unity and acceptance.

What is your inspiration for the new album American Beauty?

Ramone: It’s no secret things are a bit unsettled in the USA right now. It seems to me everyone is looking at what makes them different from everyone else, with a lot of people fanning the flames. I was hoping to get people to take a step back and just enjoy some really good music and put it all out of their heads for a while. I actually see a lot of good and what’s happening. There has never been more people politically aware or active in our history as they’re all right now. I love seeing them stand up for what they believe is right. It’s inspiring.

 Any upcoming American tour dates?

Ramone: Not right now as I am in the process of relocating my family to the East Bay of San Francisco. Later on this year (November-December) I hope to get back out on the road in the US and Canada as well as some European dates in October. I’m also going to play bass for Me First and the Gimme Gimmes for one show in July which I am really looking forward to.

What current bands do you listen to?

Ramone: JD Macpherson, The Secret Sisters, Mean Jeans, The Interrupters, and Nightbirds.

How has the punk rock scene changed since you joined the Ramones?

The Punk scene now is as much about activism as it is about music.

Do you think the Ramones will replay the iconic venue My Father’s Place in Roslyn when it reopens?

Ramone: It’s only me and 3 of the 4 drummers we had still alive, but I’d love to do it! My Father’s Place is one of thee most iconic music venues to open its doors on my island.

Any chance The Ramones will make an appearance on the last Warped Tour this summer? 

Like I mentioned earlier, it’s me and 3 drummers left, but if my brothers were still alive, you can bet we’d be showing up!

What’s next for you?

Recording records, touring, raising up my family, and living whatever time I got to the best of my ability.

CJ Ramone recently hosted Vinyl Night at Long Ireland Beer Company in Riverhead, NY. Be sure to follow CJ Ramone for upcoming tour dates, new releases and pick up a copy of “American Beauty.” Rock on!

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My Father’s Place: Launching the Next Generation of Talent

My Father's Place

(Photo Credit: Steve Rosenfield)

My Father’s Place, a music venue in Roslyn, NY that first opened in 1971, is reopening inside the newly renovated Roslyn Hotel. The founder of My Father’s Place, Michael Epstein, also known as “Eppy,” decided to come out of retirement. “I’m disgusted with the state of the art of music industry. There are no records, there is no radio, but that doesn’t mean we need to live in a world where if we don’t fix it we’ll be listening to campfire songs singing we’ll be coming around the mountain when she comes,” said Epstein.

The Ramones at My Father’s Place (Photo Credit: Steve Rosenfield)

Between 1971- 1987, My Father’s Place was the venue to go to for the best underground rock, punk and new wave acts including Billy Joel, The Ramones, Blondie, Roger McGuinn (founding member of the Byrds), Rick Derringer (The McCoys), B.B. King, Linda Ronstadt, etc. WLIR, one of the most influential alternative rock stations at the time, broadcasted live concerts from My Father’s Place in hopes of making the alt-rock genre mainstream. Epstein also helped launch comedians including Andy Kaufman, Eddie Murphy, Billy Crystal, and George Carlin to fame.

George Carlin and Michael “EPPY” Epstein at My Father’s Place (Photo Credit: Steve Rosenfield)

Epstein’s early passion for music began when he first saw rock and roll star Ricky Nelson on TV, it inspired him to learn guitar, start a band, and help young artists get their start. His goal is to help shape future stars by developing underground bands and acts. Newer bands and opening acts will not be asked to sell tickets or buy onto tours in order to play at My Father’s Place. “If an act doesn’t sell 200 seats, it’s my fault not the bands. Blaming the bands is just bullshit,” said Epstein.

Often struggling bands have to play gig after gig for no money, while album sales continue to plummet. “A band has to do whatever, beg, borrow, steal to stay together and get their music out. That’s why we are going to be there to help them,” said Epstein.

My Father’s Place will be a venue for original rock, blues and reggae music as well as stand-up comedy. “There is no reason why you can’t put a young band on first and give someone a chance. Otherwise we are going to have a no new memories of songs that brought us to a certain place in our medulla oblongata because there won’t be any new songs, just old songs that will fade away, it’s a big problem, that’s why I came back,” said Epstein.

You will not see any cover bands or tribute bands playing at My Father’s Place, just original music. “Sixty percent of all the artists playing in concert venues are tribute bands and to me that’s a marketing perversion. My Father’s Place is always about developing new talent, we didn’t have cover bands, we didn’t have tribute bands, if you had a band and wanted to play I’d allow you to play, I’d even let you do a token cover, but it was not about putting on a wig and makeup and pretending you’re someone else, there is too much of that,” said Epstein.

My Father’s Place is not looking to compete with other local venues. “I didn’t open this place to piss off the people at The Space, Westbury Music Fair, Jones Beach or The Paramount. We’re a fish in the pond and we got to play nice with the other fish,” said Epstein. Even though My Father’s Place will be predominantly booking up-and-coming acts, original and other well-known acts will be taking the stage as well. Bands will line up to play on My Father’s Place $120,000 PA system, which will be best sound system in the country.

Billy Joel at My Father’s Place (Photo Credit: Steve Rosenfield)

“With our equipment you’re going to hear each individual voice and instrument so it will come out at your individually not just one big wall of sound. This is how records are made. You’re going to go in and hear everything and no matter where you are sitting in the room, this is a quad system you’ll be able to enjoy this sound, this is what’s going to make it special. That’s what’s going to make all the superstars say I want to play on that sound system,” said Epstein.

My Father’s Place will be an intimate supper club that seats only 198 people. This venue is not is meant for college kids who are looking to jump up and down in the pit, while spilling cheap beer on the floor, rather it’s for the mature music lover who appreciates quality sound, tapas and craft cocktails.

My Father’s Place is where the Long Island Iced Tea was originally invented. Once they reopen, they will be unveiling a new specialty craft cocktail, the Long Island Iced Coffee. They will also have fresh squeezed juice, kombucha and other healthy fare on the menu. This venue is located on the bottom floor of the Roslyn Hotel and resembles an old speakeasy from the 20s or 30s, currently a hot trend in the bar scene.

If you want to score tickets for shows at My Father’s Place, join the Friends of My Father’s Place Club. An introductory membership is only $50, and lets you purchase tickets before they go on sale to the public. A membership also provides access to special member-only-events, pre-show meet and greets, discounts on select shows, sneak peek behind the scenes, and much more.

My Father’s Place officially reopens on Friday, June 29, 2018 with Buster Poindexter, aka David Johansen. Join Eppy’s Army and enjoy the newest way to experience great music, right here on Long Island.