It’s the first of the month, and that means we’ve got some more Jersey City shows to discuss. But before we do, I’ve got an urgent entreaty for you. If you’re in a band, or if you’re a rapper or a pop vocalist, or a local producer, or studio owner — if you’re involved in the scene in any way, or even if you’re just making beats on your laptop at home — I implore you to take the time to apply for an Arts and Culture Trust Fund grant. In 2023, the city is going to disburse another million dollars of tax money. Some of that money could be yours. Don’t be shy, and don’t consider yourself unworthy. When the ordinance passed, it was understood that some of the Fund would go to musicians like you. Should you land a grant, the City will be better for it.
To say that the Arts and Culture Trust Fund has been unsupportive of local pop musicians would be a gross understatement. The first round of grants practically skipped the scene altogether. It’s also become painfully clear that the people in charge of assigning grant money do not think much of popular music. Don’t let them say that the snub is justified because musicians are too apathetic to apply. Don’t let them say that musicians don’t need the dough. Operational costs for a musical project are much higher than the public realizes. If you’re a rocker or a rapper, you already know. You need cash to do the things you do. You’re as entitled to the Fund as any sculptor or poet or ballerina is. C’mon. Go get that money.
The Human Hearts @ Pet Shop (Feb. 9)
Franklin Bruno of The Human Hearts penned the 33 and 1/3 book on Armed Forces by Elvis Costello and the Attractions. That’s helpful to know as a direction, but it doesn’t tell you the whole story. Bruno shares Costello’s ability to rock quite hard while presenting a well-wrought melody — a much tougher thing to do than it seems like it’d be. He’s also a playful lyricist whose artful couplets have plenty of wit and bite. But Bruno has his own skewed way with a tune and his own cracked worldview, and he’s assembled a band that allows him to express his idiosyncrasies and make a racket at the same time. They’ll be rocking Pet Shop this week with other smart, raucous musicians who wouldn’t (necessarily) react violently if they were called power pop: The Ekphrastics, an outfit led by Frank Boscoe of the delightful Pittsburgh group Wimp Factor 14, and the consistently entertaining Bloomfield band Joy Cleaner. The Human Hearts are right in the middle of the bill, which was assembled by the tireless Hoboken tastemaker, music writer, and guitar-pop true believer Jack Silbert. (Pet Shop, 193 Newark Ave., show at 8, Human Hearts play at 9; free; visit www.petshopjc.com)
Nick Dunbar & Sad Cowboy @ Fox & Crow (Feb. 11)
Some country artists write about life on the range from a comfortable chair in metropolitan Nashville. That’s fine, but sometimes it’s better to get the scoop from a guy with actual dirt under his fingernails. Nick Dunbar was a farmer — a singing farmer, mind you — in Colorado for years, so his traditionalist sound and storytelling are authenticated by actual sweat. These days, he’s moved his operations to the fertile soil of West Jersey, and he’s swinging through Hudson County before the growing season starts in earnest. Dunbar is a good guitarist and an even better mandolinist, and while he plainly takes inspiration from outlaw country, he doesn’t come off like a roughneck, and he doesn’t lead with a basso profundo. Instead, on Little Country, his most recent set, he comes off as an Everyman: a little wounded, a little wary, still out for a good time, still very much in touch with roots both actual and metaphorical. He’s also got access to some of the finest independent folk musicians hanging out a Mile High, and that’s more than the average cattle rustler can boast. (Fox & Crow, 594 Palisade Ave., 8 p.m.; $10; visit www.foxandcrowjc.com)
David Moore @ Mana Contemporary (Feb. 11)
Here’s a fascinating one, and something that’s extremely unlikely to be repeated in Jersey City or anyplace else. David Moore of the Brooklyn-based 4AD ambient music project Bing & Ruth will perform at the closing party for The You Voice, a massive multi-channel video installation project by Derrick Belcham. In Bing & Ruth, Moore mostly plays piano, but at MANA, he’s bringing along an organ that Belcham, a master of illumination, has rigged up to a lighting system. There’s also a dance element to the show, courtesy of choreographer and performer Rebecca Margolick. What does any of this have to do with the tribunal of actresses who read Belcham’s self-critical lines, all at once, on videotape in a darkened hall? Plenty, it turns out: both Moore and Margolick are responding in their own medium to Belcham’s excoriating text. Perhaps Moore’s keys activate the videotape, and perhaps it’s the other way around. Either way, this is exactly the sort of multi-disciplinary project that MANA does well. You can expect a Jersey City Times review, right around Valentine’s Day. (MANA Contemporary, 888 Newark Ave, 7 pm.; free; visit www.manacontemporary.com)
Screaming Females @ White Eagle Hall (Feb. 17 & 18)
Desire Pathway, the eighth album by the New Brunswick power trio Screaming Females, comes out on the 17th of February. It’s been a wait. All At Once, the group’s excellent, formidably cohesive prior set, will turn five years old this month. New Jersey rock isn’t the same without the scalding six-string leads of frontwoman Marissa Paternoster, one of the most fearless guitarists ever to strum her way to worldwide recognition from the Garden State. There’ll be plenty of muscle on display during the Screaming Females’ two-night stand at White Eagle Hall — both from the headliners and from the intriguing groups they’ve brought along for support. These include the corrosive Baltimore punk rockers Truth Cult, Armand Hammer, the murky alternative hip-hop act featuring doomsayers Elucid and Billy Woods (both on the 17th), and the Screamales’ labelmate Laura Stevenson, a Long Island singer-songwriter whose music splits the difference between tuneful, catchy ‘90s college rock and emotionally forthright alternative country (appearing on the 18th). They’re calling the event the Garden Party, and if one night of blistering rock and roll isn’t enough, they’ve got you covered with a festival pass. (White Eagle Hall, 337 Newark Avenue, 6:30 doors, 7:30 show; $25 for a single night, $45 for both nights; visit www.whiteeaglehalljc.com)
Nikki & The Skyrockets @ 902 Brewing (Feb. 17)
This year, Nicole Bozzuto’s roots-rock combo has hit the ground running. In addition to their 902 Brewing show, they’ll be at the Parlor at Fox & Crow on the 18th, Crossroads in Garwood in early March, and back in Jersey City that same week for a gig at Corgi Spirits. They’re riding a tailwind of positive regional support that included a nod by Jersey Beat critic Jim Testa, who count them among the “Hudson Musicans to Listen For in 2023.” Newcomers they’re not. They’ve been on the scene for quite some time, and the outfit contains contributions from familiar faces, including guitarist Sid Whelan and singer Chrissy Roberts. It’s always exciting to see a group of lifers catch fire and connect with larger audiences. That might be what’s happening here. Or they might just be doing what they’ve done: delivering good times in a barroom setting. (902 Brewing, 101 Pacific Ave., 7 p.m.; visit www.902brewing.com)
El Varon De La Bachata @ The Factory (Feb. 18)
The Factory has become the best spot in Hudson County to catch Dominican touring artists. The streak continues with a post-Valentine’s Day set from El Varon De La Bachata, specialist in romantic balladry. The bachatero comes from the rural Cibao region of the Dominican Republic, but lately he’s been on the Northeastern circuit. His busy Amor de Febrero tour stops in ten New Jersey cities. He’s spreading the love around, but the all-important Saturday after the holiday is ours. In case you’re wondering what the tone of the show is, there are flower petals and pink hearts all over the poster. Hey, ‘tis the season. (The Factory, 451 Communipaw Ave.; call 201-668-8273).