Nobody likes to tour in August.  It’s hot in the bus, school’s out, and families are on vacation.  Fourth of July is long over, and the novelty of outdoor festivals has wilted in the heatwaves.  Big shows can wait until the calendar turns.  August is often a programming dead zone for large venues and performing arts centers attached to colleges. 

But for fans of independent music, it’s a time of opportunity.  The action moves to neighborhood clubs and block parties, small label showcases, and bills crammed with area bands.  Live music spaces in Jersey City adjust accordingly: gigs start to pop up everywhere like mushrooms after the rain.  Pet Shop (193 Newark Ave.), in particular, has really stepped up the quality and quantity of its bookings lately, turning the floor over to an impressive array of creative rockers. This month’s Rogue Waves column reflects that commitment.  We’ll get back to the bigger names in September and explore other neighborhoods, but for now, I’m recommending these shows:

Yvonnick Prené @ Barrow Mansion (August 3)

You probably don’t need me to tell you that Barrow Mansion is a striking-looking historic building two blocks north of Van Vorst Park. You’ve seen the white façade, the five thick Ionic columns, and the stone steps leading down to a front yard that’s uncommonly spacious for Downtown Jersey City.  It’s a stately setting for a Thursday night series of shows that’s anything but staid.  On July 20, Music on the Porch welcomed the acclaimed hip-hop band Garden State Warriors, and Barrow Mansion will host a celebration of hip-hop’s fiftieth anniversary on August 17. But the most exciting show on the Mansion schedule might be their first of the month, when Yvonnick Prené totes his oversized mouth organ to the Van Vorst Park neighborhood. The chromatic harmonica player is a Hohner ambassador, and it’s not hard to hear why: no jazz harpist is carrying on in the tradition of Toots Thielemans with more fidelity, grace, or purity of tone than he is. Expect him to blow up a storm. (Music on the Porch, 83 Wayne St., 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.; free; visit

Pons @ Pet Shop (August 3) 

Brooklyn’s Pons brings a glowing imprimatur across the Hudson. They’re signees to Dedstrange Records, the label founded and operated by the noise-rock heroes in A Place to Bury Strangers. These three guys aren’t quite as incendiary as the members of APTBS are, but they’re animated by a similarly frenetic spirit. They play wigged-out, superpercussive glam rock with heavily psychedelic overtones. In their native New York, where their live shows have already become the stuff of legend, they’re probably best known for their novel and visually striking double-drummer lineup. Everybody in the group is perpetually thwacking something — fretboards, toms, eardrums. They’re joining forces with High and Slang Terms at a benefit concert for Ukraine Mutual Aid. Show sponsor Look at My Records isn’t charging a cover, but they’ll be raising money for the NGO via a raffle. (Show Up for Ukraine at Pet Shop, 193 Newark Ave., 7 p.m.; free; visit

Papermaker @ Finnegan’s Pub (August 5)

I don’t usually like to direct attention to out-of-town shows in this column, but this one is a special case. Papermaker features Thomas John Carlson of Jersey City Art School, who surely has lots of steam to blow off after months battling medical emergency. Carlson’s songwriting shares quite a bit with his excellent painting: it’s colorful, wide awake and intelligent, lyrical and dramatic, and full of provocative juxtapositions, right angles, and left turns. With Papermaker, he’s making music that’s broadly psychedelic, but it’s never bewildering — he’s as communicative as a folkie, and he sings with the arched-eyebrow tone of a carnival barker and the conviction of a corner preacher. After a hiatus, the band is recording again, and they’re a pretty good bet to drop the best Jersey City album of the year. They’ll be in the Mile Square this weekend along with their buddies Reese Van Riper and Philosopher Pirate. (The Canadian Wildfire Tour at Finnegan’s, 734 Willow Ave., Hoboken, 9 p.m.; free; visit

Debra Devi @ Jersey City Summerfest (August 6)

Our homegrown Stratocaster titan soloed straight through the pandemic. While the rest of us were re-watching Mad Men and learning how to bake sourdough bread, Debra Devi was airing her lengthy improvisations on a livestream hosted by American Blues Scene. The first volume of her Jamification live EP series (there are twenty-six more to come) consists of three originals and a punchy cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Crosstown Traffic,” a burner from Electric Ladyland. I expect she’ll play it when she takes to the stage at Liberty State Park this Sunday. A high summertime sky demands an expansive approach. It’s a busy season for Devi: she’ll be out on the road at blues festivals in Morristown, Montclair and Bethel, NY before she returns to us for a gig at Fox & Crow in November. There’s no bad time to catch her. Her music is timeless, and she’s about as reliable as Jersey rockers come. (Jersey City Summerfest at LSP, Audrey Zapp Dr., North Cove Field behind the ferry parking lot, 6 p.m – 8 p.m.; free; visit

Abbie Gardner Trio @ Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza (August 8)

Fans of Debra Devi (and traditional American music in general) will want to direct themselves to the car-free portion of Newark Avenue next Tuesday. Abbie Gardner of folk trio Red Molly specializes in dobro: that old-time guitar with a single cone resonator frequently used in bluegrass music.  The sound is as Appalachian as anthracite, but she’s got a lowlands address — she recorded the spare, bracing Dobro Singer, her 2022 solo set, at home in Jersey City.  She’ll also be performing with a neighbor and fellow traveler. The outstanding folk singer-songwriter Sean Kiely will accompany her on acoustic guitar. Chances are, they’ll harmonize beautifully, too. Think of this as an extension of the outstanding bluegrass and folk concerts that Kiely and friends have been playing at The Archer (176 Newark Ave.) for years, and you won’t be too far off. (Newark Avenue between Jersey and Erie, 6 p.m; free; visit

Nicole Yun @ Pet Shop (August 17)

Roanoke, Virginia in the Blue Ridge Mountains is one of those small and pleasantly weird Southern cities that punches well above its weight. It’s only got a hundred thousand residents, but they’re all up to something interesting. The Eternal Summers, a band minted in Roanoke, made five albums of beguiling, off-kilter, fuzzed-out and surf-spiked indiepop — including one produced by Doug Gillard of Guided by Voices — before pressing pause at the end of the ‘10s. They haven’t broken up, but frontwoman Nicole Yun has been flying solo lately, supporting Matter, her spring ’23 album, with a series of shows that highlight her subtly catchy songwriting and her thin-line colored magic marker of a voice. Like the Pons show, this excellent small-venue booking is brought to us by the tastemakers at Look at My Records, who have put the spaceship in overdrive this summer.  Hats off to them. (With Range Life and Strawberry Blonde at Pet Shop, 193 Newark Ave., 7 p.m.; free; visit

The Royal Arctic Institute @ Fox & Crow (August 17)

Fans of soulful, straight-ahead, blue-collar rock and Americana should take note: Christine Alessi and her band the Toll Collectors will be recording a live set in the Parlor at Fox & Crow on Saturday, Aug. 12. It’s a good move. Fox & Crow rewards intimacy and familiarity, and she’ll sound great in that room. The Royal Arctic Institute, who’ll play a few days later, will probably sound even better. The members of the instrumental jazz quintet are masters of texture and mood. Their music has always been hazy, hushed, and as beautiful and welcoming as a pillow after a long day; From Coma to Catharsis, their latest project, follows the dream-drunk From Catnap to Coma with further reveries. Imagine watching a spaghetti Western at a drive-in on a steamy evening in which the cowboys are too woozy to sling a gun. Appropriately, they’ll wrap this warm blanket of music around the Heights in mid-August. (Live in the Parlor at Fox & Crow, 594 Palisade Ave., 8 p.m.; $10; visit

PYNKIE @ Pet Shop (August 24)

Jersey City pop-rocker Lindsey Radice, who records as PYNKIE, made a fantastic splash in 2018 with a debut set that drew widespread attention to her songwriting. Neoteny  felt like the work of a new Garden State original: casual but never un-serious, romantic but not exactly optimistic, wry, cautiously hopeful, and defiantly spacy. The singer-songwriter seemed on the cusp of national recognition. Followup #37, a winsome but careful record cut in the standard 2023 dream pop style, felt commonplace by comparison. She’ll try again with Songies (out Aug. 18), a set that promises to be weirder and more spontaneous than its predecessor. It’s as hotly anticipated as any local release could be, and it’s a testament to her close identification with her hometown that she’s heading to the corner of Jersey and Newark to air the new material out.  And yes, this is the third Pet Shop show I’m recommending this month.  What can I say?; when you’re hot, you’re hot. (193 Newark Ave., 7 p.m.; free; visit

Tris McCall has written about art, architecture, performance, politics, and public culture for many publications, including the Newark Star-Ledger, the Bergen Record, Jersey Beat, the Jersey City Reporter,...