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Night Howl
By Karen Reardanz

[whitespace] Who's the Boss?:
Former East Coasters pay tribute to the Garden State and a cappella music

IF THERE'S ONE THING New Jersey folks have had a lifelong affinity for, it's a cappella and doo-wop. On Saturday night, SC's Poet and Patriot recognizes this love affair, as well as the long-overlooked New Jerseyites, when it plays host to New Jersey Night, a salute to everything gritty, grimy and oh, so Jersey.

Organized by the Poet's Chris Matthews (a one-time New Jersey resident) 13 years ago, New Jersey Night has quickly become the No. 1 reason in Santa Cruz to break out those muscle shirts and Aqua Net hair spray and start humming all the Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny songs you thought were long shelved in the recesses of your memory.

Matthews began this yearly ode to Jersey as a chance for all the uprooted, exiled sons and daughters of the Garden State to honor their one-time homeland and their roots.

But it's also about the music of the state, particularly the old-school styles of doo-wop and a cappella--and it's the perfect showcase for Matthews and his a cappella band, the Bad Boys, to set their vocal stylings loose. The 14-year-old doo-wop quartet kicks the night off with a performance of all its favorite tunes, like "Ain't Too Proud to Beg," "Imagination" and the most stripped-down version of Dylan's "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" you'll hear any time soon.

The Bad Boys then don the judge's hat and pick the best of the best during the night's a cappella contest. This is the opportunity for all the wannabe tunesters to flex their vocal chords. "You can sing in Spanish, Yiddish, jazz--whatever style you want," Matthews says. "You can do it in a group or solo, but it has to be a cappella."

The best crooners will be rewarded with bright shiny prizes, but even if you're no singer, the night still holds boundless entertainment. Matthews alludes to the possibility that Saturday may even see a New Jersey Night first--the crowning of the King of the Garden State--and those who just want to sit back and watch will be treated to a bounty of our abundant local talent.

New Jersey Nights are always a success, drawing both homesick Jersey and non-Jersey folk alike. "We've got people pretending they're from New Jersey," says Matthews.

But the man is quick to emphasize the fact that no one should get too teary-eyed and sentimental about his or her former homeland. "I just want to remind everyone from New Jersey that we should appreciate what we've got here [in Santa Cruz]. It's paradise," Matthews says.

New Jersey Night starts at 8pm on Saturday night at the Poet and Patriot, 320 Cedar St, SC. For more info, call 426-8620.


Songwriter Diane Patterson plays Herland on Saturday night. ... Choreographer and dancer Anna Halprin will be joined by Bruce Lee & A Company of Strangers and Barbara England for a movement performance on Feb. 28. ... The Crystal Method will turn Palookaville into a mini-rave on March 11.

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From the February 19-25, 1998 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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