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Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Melody is Where the Heart Is

So we had our second annual Old School Melody Reunion on Saturday, February 16. While the last one was held way up north at the Loop Lounge in Passaic Park (thanks, Pat Pierson!), this one was a lot closer to home, right on Livingston Avenue in New Brunswick. And while I realize there is always a certain fear when you throw a party that no one will come (esp. in a risky weather month like February), both the weather and nostalgia gods did smile on us that night, and we had yet another packed house. And this time, we had the extra-added bonus of Matt Pinfield. Matt was so funny. . .after missing the last two parties (we did sneak an all-ages soiree into September at the Court Tavern), he did everything in his power to ensure he did NOT miss this one, including booking a room at the Hyatt the night before to make sure he would, indeed, be in town!

As others have already noted, the buzz at this reunion was palpable. It was practically crackling in the air. And as a person who's attended all three parties to date, I can tell you they just don't get old. First of all, the DJs are as energetic about their duties as they ever were. Ed Wong was practically bouncing off the walls with excitement, and he trucked all the way from Philly to be here. Sean Carolan was beaming from ear to ear, and with good reason since he is a key driver behind these things (and is trying very hard to keep it going with his monthly--for now--Running With Scissors nights at the Court). And of course, the aforementioned Mr. Pinfield, who, by the way, was looking fitter and sharper than I'd ever seen him, was having a blast greeting his peeps and generally schmoozing the room as the implied guest of honor until he took over the tables at 10PM.

You can see the playlist elsewhere on, and although I have been listening to many of these songs and artists in the years since the Mel shut down/I moved away, hearing many of them in this context brings back to mind long-ago scenes from THOSE days. I think my favorite memories of the Melody/Roxy scene were from 1985-6, before I was 21. If you showed up at the Mel before 10PM, you wouldn't get carded. Needless to say, I had no problem showing up early. Not only could I get in, but I could also find a close parking space if I got there early. And boy do I remember getting hammered. My friend Pete and I would order pitchers of Red Deaths all night and pretty much close the place. Fueled by booze, we'd practically never leave the dance floor, as Matt and the gang spun tunes from our favorite New Wave, Early Alternative, and Industrial bands like The Cure, New Order, Ministry, Depeche Mode, Echo and the Bunnymen, Stone Roses, etc. etc. On Sunday and Wednesday nights, the only place to be was the Melody.

The Melody was probably the most unique nightclub I've ever frequented, and here's why. See if you can add to the list:

  • sheet music as wallpaper in the bathrooms
  • again, Matt Pinfield
  • the ever-changing art on the walls downstairs
  • ripping it up on the postage stamp-sized dance floor, All. Night. Long. (doesn't anybody dance anymore?)
  • oh, the cocktails!
  • the clubby Village vibe without the haul to Manhattan
  • the crowd's edgy style (I used to even spike my hair a bit, but only on the top, so it looked really silly because I had the rest of it french-braided; never had the nerve to cut it all short)
  • Greasy Tony's at 3:15AM
  • seeing Dramarama live in the "attic" room upstairs, as well as others: Kiaro Skuro, Bigger Thomas, Bouncing Souls. . .

Fortunately, we DO still have some places and bands dating from that prime-time in our young lives that still exist today, and I am very thankful for them:

  • The legendary Stone Pony
  • The Court Tavern (how on earth this place survived the wrecking ball I don't know, but they are now building condos up and around it, yet it's still there. . .go Court!!!)
  • The Count Basie Theatre
  • Vintage Vinyl
  • The Garden (need I write its full name?)
  • Bruce
  • 90.5 The Night, a great little public radio station that's risen like a phoenix from the ashes of FM-106.3, boasting many of the same DJs that made that station what it was, right down to Loretta Windas on weekends
  • Everlounge, which has done the same thing and is essentially half of the Whirling Dervishes (who, by the way, are BACK and will be playing Asbury Park's Wave Gathering festival this spring!)
  • Naturally, I've saved the best for last. . .WE STILL HAVE DRAMARAMA!!

And now, we have these great reunion parties. Essentially, the only difference is that many of us are now wearing wedding rings and the party starts a little earlier. In fact, one of the DJs remarked, "This was supposed to be a 35-and-over event. NOT ONE of the women in here is over 35!!" I have to say, I agree. The women looked fabulous! See the pix on PhotoBucket for evidence of this. And by the way, guys. . .you were looking pretty good yourselves. It's gotta be the dancing; keeps ya young!! (Either that, or alcohol really does act as a preservative!)

Sure, we don't have our place any longer, but we still have our music, we still have each other, and if it's any indication from having attended all three of our post-demolition soirees to date, we still have the same joie-de-vivre we ever did. And if home is where the heart is, the same certainly applies here. The Melody Bar wasn't just a place: it was a spirit. And the crowd keeps proving over and over that we still have that in spades. Just then it hit me: I was in the Melody Bar. . .again!!

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