Last Friday I trekked deep into the Journal Square neighborhood of Jersey City for a concert. I had read in the local paper that the Loew’s Theater was presenting a concert of local blues artists, sponsored by Jersey City Magazine. Not necessarily a blues aficionado, but always looking for something new, I decided I’d check it out.
I was accompanied by five of my cohorts from kickball. You’ll hear much more about them come springtime. We met at the PATH station at 33rd Street after work and journeyed out together. As Hoboken residents, the longer commute made them nervous. When we started traveling above ground for the last leg of our voyage, they were positively astounded. Amateurs. Fortunately, I didn’t have to act as the tour guide for too long because the Loew’s Theater is right across the street from the Journal Square PATH station. We got to our seats with plenty of time. None of us being particularly well-versed in the blues, we waited for the show to start with open ears.
I was really impressed with the performers, all of whom are apparently well-known in the blues world, locally and at large. I admit that I took a little bit of pride in knowing that they’re all Hudson County natives. Christine Santelli had a great band backing her up, with particular kudos going to her incredible lead guitarist. Santelli certainly had the proper bluesy tone to her voice, but either due to the sound system or her holding the microphone too close to her mouth, her words were a bit hard to make out. However, when she closed her set by tearing through an Etta James classic, all was forgiven. Enzo & The Bakers were a big, fun act with a very enthusiastic drummer. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth overdoing, pal. Go for it! The last act we stayed for was Dave Gross, a young guy with a genuine rock star presence about him. He had some horns and guitars backing him up. There was something vaguely Jeff Buckley about him. He was later joined by vocalist Gina Sicilia, who I wasn’t wild about–probably because she interrupted my interest in Gross.
But the real star of the night, the one that absolutely took my breath away, was the Loew’s Theater itself. The theater was built in 1929, with the intention that it would be “the most lavish temple of entertainment in New Jersey.” Well, just look at the picture. The theater was apparently just that until the 1960s, when attendance began steadily declining. By 1986, the theater was officially closed and was going to be demolished. However, local community members took a stand and worked to rescue the theater and restore it. It’s been a long time coming, and lots of work is still being done, but the theater is now showing classic films and hosting events like this concert. Personally, I love it. This is an honest-to-Jebus picture palace. This is a living fossil of a bygone era of American society and cinema. Anybody who loves the movies has to see this place. I can’t wait until they show something I’m interested in. A concert was one thing, but a film would be an experience.
For more on the Loew’s Theater, click here.
P.S: We finished the night at the Brownstone Diner and Pancake Factory. Because art and food are inseparable.