New Brunswick is probably best known for being home to Rutgers University, a world-class research institute and New Jersey’s state school. But if you’re interested in music, then you probably know about New Brunswick because of the vibrant underground music scene. From basement shows to DJ-Producer collectives, and most recently Sofar Sounds secret shows, NBNJ has staked its claim as an environment to foster artistic growth for indie artists.
But how does one get involved in this underground community? DIY spaces are becoming more popular and ubiquitous, but can still be a challenge to navigate as a newbie viewer or performer.
As a dorky academic that I am, the first place to start is with some of the many, many videos on the bands and DIY venues in the area. The most recent video — that I’ve seen — was done by Jeremy Berkowitz, the man behind the Humans of Rutgers. His video includes interviews with band members from Professor Caveman, Killer Shrimp and johnnycola; and it has shots of local venue The Bunker.
At Rutgers’ Alexander Library, there are also full archives dedicated to the history of basement shows: there’s information about local artists and touring artists that played here, old DIY spaces and indie music culture that the scene has curated.
After you’re satisfied by the plethora of information available, it’s time to get to a show. The best way to find shows is through friends. The best shows are the one’s we’re your with a group of pals or supporting your favorite bands. But until you curate your group of favorites, you should go see everything.
One place to find listings is on nbshows.org, a website that’s regularly updated with local shows across the 5th and 6th wards of the city.
There is also a corresponding Twitter account that posts not only about shows but also new music releases. This Twitter page also helps put artists in touch with different venues that book shows in the area.
Sofar Sounds shows are the newest edition to the NBNJ music scene. New brand ambassador Amanda Leifer recently took over the New Brunswick chapter of the international company and is hosting secret shows all around town, in living rooms, basements and even local businesses.
To go to a Sofar Sounds event, you register online with an email address and the day before the event you’re sent the address to an intimate show that could be anywhere in the city.
Once you’re involved in the scene and start making friends within the NB music world, your Facebook feed will be flooded with invitations to shows; and instead of searching for an event or address, you’ll be forced to decide which show you’d like to go to on any given night.