Artist Amplification Aims for Artists’ Exposure
By Jim Testa

Sunrise, sunset. Good news, bad news. People come, and people go. That’s how life is, and that’s how it goes in a local music community as well.

The bright note this week comes with the release of an exciting double-CD compilation from a new grassroots organization called Artist Amplification, headed by longtime Jersey scenester Andy Gesner. The bad news is the loss of a favorite local nightspot, but more on that later.

Gesner broke into the Garden State music scene back in the 1980’s as bassist of Spiral Jetty, a popular indie-rock group whose quirky pop tunes echoed the Feelies and Talking Heads. Since then, he’s remained active as a musician, promoter, journalist and indefatigable fan of local bands. Artist Amplification -an outgrowth of the New Brunswick Underground organization that Gesner ran with New Brunswick attorney Mike Doktorski for several years-combines all those activities.

“I just didn’t think ‘New Brunswick Underground’ was broad enough to describe what we were doing” Gesner explained.

NBU shows, he noted, were routinely being booked in clubs throughout the state, from Asbury Park to Hoboken as well as New Brunswick, and often incorporated bands from up and down the East Coast (although with an emphasis on New Jersey and New York City).

Artist Amplification’s goal is getting local musicians heard by both the public and the music industry, and its agenda includes an aggressive schedule of showcase performances in area clubs, fostering radio airplay and press exposure for local acts, a strong Internet presence and compilation CD’s.

The wonder of it all is that Gesner stands to make very little money from this; There are no dues or membership fees to become a part of Artist Amp, just willingness to get involved, and the first AA compilation is being given away for free.

In today’s crowded high-tech world, in which everyone is shouting ‘Buy this’ or ‘Hear that’ at the top of their lungs, it’s difficult for some of us to have our voices heard,” Gesner stated in Artist Amplification’s mission statement.

The organization isn’t geared to any style or genre of music, either. The only criterion is a dedication to building a stronger music community. The first Artist Amplification CD is a no-frills release package of two CD’s in paper sleeves, identified only as “Winter 2001”. The two CD’s are only differentiated by red and blue liner-notes, which include short blurbs on all the bands.

Gesner and co-producer Matt Emmich (the duo also play together in the band Awake Asleep) have assembled an impressive array of area talent-37 acts in all, ranging from singer-songwriters like Mike Tichy and Robin Renee to a wide assortment of indie-rock bands.

Stylistically, the only common thread is that all of the music is pretty easy on the ears-There’s no real punk rock, hardcore, metal or industrial music, although Gesner hasn’t ruled out including these genres on future compilations.

Age isn’t a factor, either. The Artist Amp comp includes 19-year-old Ben Kweller, the former teen phenom from the band Radish, making his solo recording debut here with a delicious pop tune called “Walk On Me.”

At the other end of the spectrum comes “Revenge,” the debut release from Sunburst, the Haledon-based group comprised of the 40-something members of the legendary Feelies, Yung Wu, and Speed The Plough.

Although there really isn’t a bad track on the entire two CD compilation, Standouts include the adrenalized pop-punk of Asbury Park’s Kid With Man Head, the Big Star -like dream-pop of New York City’s Longwave, the horn-fueled funk of Asbury Park’s Brown, the jazz flavored jangle-pop of South Jersey’s Fulton Pyser (another group still in their teens), the arch city twang of Hackensack’s Cropduster and Brooklyn’s Moths, a hilarious ode to the slacker lifestyle from Union City’s Tris McCall, and the earnest, emo-core of the Rutgers-based Nebulous Thoughts.

Upcoming Artist Amplification showcase include tonight at The Saint in Asbury Park with Brown, Awake Asleep and Fulton Pyser; next Saturday at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick with The Milwaukees, Evelyn Forever and Dewey Defeated; Feb.17 in Manhattan with Brown, Cropduster, Tris McCall, and Jersey City’s Bastards of Melody; and Feb. 18 at the Mercury Lounge in Manhattan with Red Radio Flyer, Awake Asleep and the Moths.

Free Copies of the Artist Amplification compilation are available at all shows, or by mail for 2$ postage and handling from Artist Amplification, 2 Draeger Place, South River, New Jersey 08882. The Artist Amplification website is still under construction, but in the meantime, you can E-mail: or call the Artist Amp hotline at (732) 613-1779 ...

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