Forget the Whale
Forget The Whale

Masters of salsa, merengue and emo take stages in Jersey City this month. Two of our most reliable local innovators return to Fox & Crow, and the group that starred at Art House Productions’s Snow Ball fundraiser will hunt down the perfect sound in a grand outdoor setting. Yet the show I’m most excited about is a modest one: an intriguing young Garden State songwriter brings her combo north from Asbury Park for a gig at the corner bar at the Western end of the Downtown pedestrian plaza.

Well Wisher, Tula Vera, and Janitor at Pet Shop (July 7)

Well Wisher was supposed to have played at Pet Shop in March 2020. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. Instead, we had to wait through a pandemic to get our visit from Natalie Newbold, whose simple but effective folk-punk songs and casually but sharply sketched romantic scenarios are deeply communicative and instantly memorable. Newbold sings like an earth angel, too. Her grace and unflappability, her evident intelligence, and her knack for getting her tunes to curl open like a flower all mark her as a Jersey answer to Meredith Godreau of Gregory & The Hawk. Should you need something a little more raucous, Tula Vera of Montclair will be on hand, too, delivering their bracing, elbow-throwing, forcefully sung punk rock stompers. (Pet Shop, 193 Newark Ave., 8 p.m., free; visit

Forget The Whale at Lincoln Park (July 20)

Some independent rock bands are too cool to behave like they’re in show business. That’s not Forget the Whale. Everything about the group is designed to catch the attention of passersby. The stage show is kinetic, the costumes are often delightful, the musicians are never shy about volume, and frontwoman Alishia Taiping carries herself, and projects, like an world-famous pop star. For the time being, she and her bandmates have to settle for Jersey fame, which is not too shabby: Forget the Whale’s theatricality (and their nautical trappings) made them a natural fit for an aquatic-themed Snow Ball. This July, they’ll be bringing their distinctive amalgam of literary indie, show tunes and sea shanties, anime scores, heavy metal, and pure Jersey attitude to Music at the Fountain, the summer outdoor concert series in Lincoln Park. They’ll have plenty of room to make a racket and shoot the works. I’d expect something spectacular. (Lincoln Park Fountain, West Side Ave. between Gifford and Kensington, 7 p.m., free; visit

Rubby Perez (July 9) and Viti Ruiz (July 10) at The Factory

Few forms of music in the world generate as much velocity or excitement as merengue. Genuine Dominican merengue throws the listener into a spin cycle of strings and percussion, half-sung, half-shouted backing vocals, and express-delivered tunes. Most of America doesn’t know much about it, but we’re lucky: there’s always been a merengue subculture in New Jersey (Hudson County in particular) and The Factory in Bergen-Lafayette has become the place to experience it. Rubby Perez, who played with merengue popularizer Wilfrido Vargas in the 1980s, will be in town from the Antilles to heat up Communipaw. Latin Music Legends Weekend at The Factory continues the next afternoon with an appearance by an artist with deep Jersey roots. Paterson-born Viti Ruiz made salsa with his brother, the late salsa hero Frankie Ruiz. We lost the impossibly talented Frankie in the ’90s, but Viti keeps carrying the flag for salsa, and he’s in town to get you dancing during brunch. (The Factory, 451 Communipaw Ave., 9 p.m. start time for Rubby Perez, $40; visit

Thursday at White Eagle Hall (July 9 and 16)

Depending on how you count things, there’ve been at least two waves of emo since the New Brunswick band Thursday released their second album in 2001. The remarkable thing about Full Collapse is that it’s one of the few emo albums from its time that sounds as if it could have been released yesterday. It isn’t just the timelessness of “Understanding in a Car Crash,” the ferocious lead single. It’s also the intensity of frontman Geoff Rickly, whose vocal performances manage to be, simultaneously, brutally confessional bloodlettings, and also quite pretty. Thursday is celebrating the twenty-first anniversary of Full Collapse with a pair of shows at White Eagle Hall; the first one is sold out, but as of this writing, you can still get tickets to the second. That second show features an opening set from a man who had a massive influence on all the emo waves of this millennium: Jeremy Enigk from Sunny Day Real Estate. These days, Enigk tends to keep things meditative. Thursday, on the other hand, always reminds the audience that “emo” was once short for “emotional hardcore.” (White Eagle Hall, 337 Newark Ave., doors at 5:30 p.m., show at 7 p.m., $35; visit

Sean Kiely at Fox & Crow (July 21)

Sean Kiely’s folk-rock songs grow like beautiful brambles. He takes compositional risks and chases beauty into the sonic thickets, and he loves to astonish and surprise. Some of his songs are as winsome and delicate as snowflakes, others are barbed, and more than a few are quite funny – in a dry, knowing sort of way. Kiely sings this all in a bell-clear voice with inerrant pitch, and when he’s got some buddies along to harmonize with him, they approach the spectral quality of Fleet Foxes, and maybe even some of David Crosby’s solo projects. Kiely has been doing a monthly series at Fox & Crow (this’ll be the third installment), a room that suits him as snugly as Fenway fits the Boston Red Sox. Seriously, they should just hand him the keys. He’s been calling his series, which includes guest performances by comedians and poets as well as musicians, “A NICE Night,” which fits the genial nature of his project, and also his wry sense of humor and literary irony. He’s one of the best we’ve got.

(Fox & Crow, 594 Palisade Ave., 8 p.m., $10; visit

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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,...