Makes the World Takes. That was what the city was all about, back when.
The halfway stop between the City of Brotherly Love and The City That Never
Sleeps, back in its heyday, Trenton was happening.
But like many of the smaller industrial cities in this country, it began to
perish as suburban movement swept the nation. When the work moved out, a once
bustling marketplace of life was turned into a perilous environment wrought
with desolation, poverty, and struggle, a cloud which still hovers over the
city to this day. For six days a week behind two inches of bullet proof glass,
I bore witness to life in Trenchtown.
In that summer of 2001, I earned my income at Pawn USA, a check cashing agency
and pawn shop in downtown Trenton. I met all kinds of folks working behind the
glass as I cashed their checks, helped them get their bills paid and lent some
money out to those with something to trade. (Now with trade we're talking television
and stereo equipment and jewelry mainly, anything gold would get you some cash.
One time this cat dropped his gold fronts through the drawer. I saw some things).
I found out real quick how dirty money really is, but those days taught me there
were many other lessons to be learned.
Don't Turn Your Back
Being exposed to this pain everyday began to get to me after a while and
I became frustrated with my situation in all of this. What was this job? Am
I part of just another business looking to cash in on poor and disparaging souls?
What am I doing here? These discouraging thoughts rang true for a while but
as my tenure behind the glass continued, I began to notice things. Maybe it
was because I was surrounded by so much depression that every bright life spot
began to jump out at me. I noticed many of the same faces coming in all the
time, talking it up, asking about families and who was doing what. The Trenton
community was out, there was some life left in this town. Life and survival
were happening here.
There were women who had enrolled their children in classes at Princeton University's
elementary education program for the summer. They always talked about giving
their children the life chances they never had. They wanted their children to
have a better place so maybe they could come back home one day and make things
This is when I began to realize that what I was doing was helping. Helping
members of this community facilitate these changes by giving them opportunities,
albeit financial ones. But most of these people do not have bank accounts or
collateral to get one. They are renters, not owners in need every cent they
work so very hard for. It is about surviving on what they sowed for themselves
everyday, an idea often forgotten. Behind the glass I learned what this really
meant and was able to take part in providing people
with an opportunity. That was what I was doing there.
Give this Love a try
Not at all far from my old stomping grounds at Pawn USA, folks at the Conduit
and Joe's Mill Hill Saloon are cooking
up some "scenery" in the old-style Trenton fashion. Showcasing a myriad
of nationally touring acts as well as acting as fertile ground for many local
acts to cut their teeth and gain a solid, supportive fan base.
Holding it down for the roots cause in Trenchtown, Mike Polans is giving many
bands the chance to kick it for a burgeoning community of music freaks that
have been coming in from the all over Tri-State area to get up and get get down.
His weekly Jam Tuesdays throw down at the Conduit has been a hit for
sometime now and has featured the funktology of Addison
Groove Project, the trancematic vibes of the late Ally,
and the intelligent idiosyncrasies of Color
and Talea. With a solid foundation in place, Polans has been looking to
bring some of the more prominent names in music to his little nest egg in Trenton
and has hooked up some hot shows for the future: Sex
Mob will be in the house with Calvin Weston's
Big Tree for weekly the Jam Tuesday on November 19th and the rub-a-dub styles
of the Wailers hits on November 28th.
And this is just the beginning. Talking with Mike, I get the feeling that he's
got some big things planned in the upcoming months at the Conduit so keep your
Hit me with music
Your more recognizable names may bring some flair, but the true heart of
the Trenton scene lies within the bands at its center. Bands like Grandfather
Ridiculous, Caveman, and Electric Jellyfish are keeping Trenton
heads bobbing, hips shaking and the vibe alive, each doing it with their own
eccentricities and flair making them unique and important to what is happening
there. All of these cats are some serious players who have done their homework
and have linked up with some of the greats during their quests for musical expression.
With Polans acting as the brains behind the operation, things are getting hot
in Trenchtown as the Conduit and its
lesser known street mate, Joe's Mill Hill
Saloon, are the becoming the boom spots, mixing in all types of flavor for
your listening pleasures.
some of that smooth flowing hip-hop essence (ala Digable Planets) to the jazz
infused side of drum n bass, Grandfather Ridiculous
maintains superb minimalist instrumentalism while remaining unafraid to take
things out. Their music holds true to its urban elements while setting tonal
escapes from the darker confines of Trenton life. The intelligent rhyme styles
of Taylor McFerrin are laced with the percussive undertone mirroring
that of his father, the great revolutionary jazz vocalist Bobby McFerrin. Holding
down the rhythm, bassist Jason Fraticelli and drummer Nigel Sifantus
work beautifully creating the groundwork for each movement, leaving space for
keyboardist Joe Rybczyk Jr. to fill the air with soft landscapes. Each
of these cats has been around, playing out and schooling and recording with
some class-A players, and it shows as their positive consciousness and stimulating
beats have been setting rooms ablaze in the Tri-State.
further exploration into the primordial and psychedelic, the music of Caveman
encompasses a more complex instrumental hybrid of heavy layering and dynamic
mood and tempo changes. Each tightly woven composition expresses the originality
of the musicians and the multi-dimensional approach they have taken with this
band. Tribal infused rhythms, silky dub style and straight out sublime rock
fusion is found in exemplary fashion encased in the quartet's 18-track record
Before the World. As yet another positive installment to the Trenchtown
scene, Caveman is one group that will keep the room's attention, keeping you
guessing where one tune will end and next will begin. Another gathering of the
well-traveled, Caveman is more tribe than band as each member is an integral
piece of the creative village. Guitarist John Lee's iridescent vision
is propelling and often peculiar as he is complimented by the strong work of
bassist John Buck and keyboardist Brian Marsella. The tight rudimentary
foundation laid by drummer Tim Keiper and his assistant, percussionist
Matt Brundrett, is the cavern wall where, in words of intrinsic chemistry
and transcendental melody, the band paints their tales of journey and discovery
for all to read.
On the funkier side of things, Electric Jellyfish
has got the jazz straight up. Keeping it danceable and full of nice, these cats
fill out the versatility of the Trenton scene. All tight-knit and souled out,
the Jellyfish have the groovessentials down pat. Tenor man and flutist Tim
Shay just blows the hell out of his horn. Bassist Dan Manchester
and drummer Casey Marshall keep live it in the back and on the floor
while guitarist/organist Tim Conley adds color. If order the groove, they bring
it to your table.
Yes I'm groovin'
It is breathing, it is alive. In an environment stricken and lacking, life
is born, art is born. All it takes are some believers and it will grow. And
then more believers will come and it shall grow some more. This is what the
Trenton scene is all about. Life and art are happening on a scale I never thought
possible. It is simply extraordinary.
Mike Polans and the members of Caveman and Grandfather Ridiculous and Electric
Jellyfish, and every other band and artist that has come or will come to Trenton
is participating in a life affirming act. They have built a small but firm community
in a place where there was little other than depravation and despair. As the
community continues to grow, hopefully the positive will throw ripples into
the air, shedding some light into the darkness that shrouds the city of Trenton.
And maybe "Trenton Makes the World Takes" will on day hold
the meaning it once did, way back when
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