Even among the good-guy rockers who star in the history of Garden State music, Brian Fallon is particularly ingratiating. His narrators are earnest, tough, hopeful; they’ve got one eye on the past, but they don’t tend to put their nostalgia ahead of the obligations of the present. On vigorously strummed, rootsy solo albums like Local Honey (2020), Fallon explores passion, heartbreak, redemption, and the daily bravery and heroism that ordinary life requires. His work fronting The Gaslight Anthem is much the same, but with considerably more wattage. When the New Brunswick punk rock (with an ever-increasing emphasis on the rock) band announced two shows at White Eagle Hall (337 Newark Ave.) to celebrate the release of History Books, their sixth album and first in nine years, they immediately sold out. Ever accommodating, they added two more shows to the calendar. Those sold out too.
Why am I telling you about October concerts that you can’t get tickets for? Am I an irrational and cruel person? Well, yes, but there are other reasons, too. For starters, sold out shows aren’t necessarily sold to the capacity of the venue. There are sometimes ways to wrangle your way in. Should The Gaslight Anthem release more tickets to the shows on the 27th, 28th, 29th, and 30th of October — or add shows to the run — that wouldn’t be unprecedented.
But mostly it’s noteworthy because of the character of the shows in Jersey City over the next few weeks. After a summer listening to jazz and bachata and hip-hop on the porch of Barrow Mansion, we’re having a rock month. Not just any rock, but classic rock: foursquare, non-psychedelic, straightforward six-string accompanied by storytelling lyrics. That means respect paid to the masters of the art, including homage acts, covers, and straight-up copycats, and aspirants with distortion pedals and deep record collections.
For instance: September closed with a White Eagle show by Lez Zeppelin, a tribute act that’s exactly what it sounds like it is, and October’s lineup contains appearances by the long-running lo-fi heroes Guided by Voices (Oct. 7), a gang of Blink-182 and Warped Tour imitators (Oct. 20), a book tour from the influential noise-rock guitarist Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth (Oct. 24), and Sam Grisman, son of Jerry Garcia collaborator David Grisman, re-animating Garcia-Grisman originals (Oct. 25). Rockers will be bringing their amps and distortion pedals to Pet Shop (193 Newark Ave.) for a series of raucous shows, too, including an appearance by the terrifically winning LKFFCT (Oct. 5). Even our most notable acoustic space is getting in on the action with a show dedicated to a beloved album by the one Jersey classic-rocker to rule them all:
Widely Grown Performs Nebraska @ Fox & Crow (Oct. 5)
The Boss sings on that new Gaslight Anthem album I mentioned. That’s him growling away on the title track to History Books, staking claim to territory he tilled decades ago. Nobody making rock in New Jersey can ever get free of Bruce Springsteen — his music is a conceptual anchor for all the ambitious artists who’ve plugged in, counted off, and fist-pumped in his wake. Local favorite Widely Grown, a frequent presence at Fox & Crow, are known for their freewheeling, rambunctious shows, but they’ll settle down for a tour through Springsteen’s first exercise in melancholy and stripped-down late-night highway desperation. 1982’s Nebraska wasn’t the megaseller than some of the other Springsteen sets were, but it’s weathered the years very well, and its stark songs about killers, paupers, the imprisoned, the hunted, and the downcast of Reagan’s America still invite reinterpretation from sensitive singers. The imagery from that album has entered the Jersey creative vernacular, and there those songs are likely to stay, available to any singer tough enough to grapple with them. I’m glad to see these guys are giving it a shot. (Live at the Parlour at Fox & Crow, 594 Palisade Ave., 8 p.m.; $10; visit www.foxandcrowjc.com.)
Bob Mould @ White Eagle Hall (Oct. 8)
In the 1980s, Bob Mould was a walking (and strumming, and howling) contradiction. He played with the ferocity and belligerence equal to that of any punk in the land, but he also minted tunes catchy enough for an advertising pitchman. Mould reconciled the sides of his personality by embedding his melodies in dense walls of overdriven six string and runaway drums and bass, and by singing his sugared hooks like he had a finger in a wet socket. In so doing, he created some of the most memorable music of the decade and set the stage for subgenres — fuzz-pop, noise-rock, melodic hardcore, shoegaze, grunge — that would dominate alternative music in the 1990s. Since the Eighties, his temper has cooled, but his compositional smarts have never left him. You might think that a hard rocker who pays so much attention to the architecture of songwriting would be rewarding to hear in a stripped-down solo electric context. You’d be absolutely right. If it was my Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he’d stroll right in. (White Eagle Hall, 337 Newark Ave., 7 p.m.; $35; visit www.whiteeaglehalljc.com.)
The Replacements Tim: Let It Bleed Deluxe Edition Listening Party @ Pet Shop
Bob Mould’s Hüsker Dü was one of the brightest blooms of the Twin Cities musical efflorescence of the ’80s. Their neighbors in The Replacements were similarly brilliant, and similarly beloved. The Mats, as their fans called them, were wild, rowdy, Stones-y, lovelorn, and soulful; they spoke for Midwestern last-chancers as eloquently as Springsteen sang for Turnpike desperadoes. Even though they were too ramshackle — and too inebriated — to be embraced by the mainstream at the time, their albums have long since slipped away from the underground and crossed into the classic rock canon. One of the biggest events of the fall rock calendar has been the reissue of Tim, the band’s 1985 set, on which some of their greatest songs were subjected to one of their flattest mixes. The re-done version of the set is certainly clearer and sharper, but songs like “Bastards of Young,” “Hold My Life,” and “Swinging Party” are undeniable in any context. The reissue has been an occasion to celebrate a band that can’t get too many accolades, and the aficionados at Look at My Records are doing their part with a Tim Deluxe Edition Listening Party, highlighted by Mats memorabilia, a raffle for a copy of the album, and two sets of Replacements music by a tribute band called Bastards of Old. They’ve got that irreverent, fatalistic sense of humor down, I see. (P.S. Wine Bar at Pet Shop, 193 Newark Ave., 7 p.m.; free; visit www.lookatmyrecords.com and www.petshopjc.com.)
Dirty City @ Corgi Spirits (Oct. 14)
Cleaning up landmark ’80s releases is probably an irresistible temptation for rock producers. They complained about the glossy, treble-heavy production on all those records at the time, and they’re still complaining now. But you’ll never see them balk at the songwriting. Strip new wave favorites down to their component parts — their beats, their baselines, their melodies — and the sturdiness of the composition becomes apparent. Should you need more convincing, allow me to direct you to the work of local band Dirty City, a three-man outfit that boils the fat off the bones of world-famous hit songs, and presents them in unvarnished arrangements: drums, bass, voice, a touch of guitar, occasional electric violin. The three Dirties have applied this treatment to songs by The Cure, The Psychedelic Furs, The Clash, and other groups associated with the early MTV era, banishing the studio sparkle and concentrating instead on the groove. They’ve made the rounds of local clubs and drinking houses, including 902 Brewing, The Brightside, The Archer, and Finnegan’s in Hoboken: places where you don’t get asked back if you don’t know how to please a crowd. They get asked back. (Corgi Spirits @ The Jersey City Distillery, 1 Distillery Dr., 7 p.m.; free; visit www.corgispirits.com.)
The Ghost of Uncle Joe’s @ Historic Jersey City and Harsimus Cemetery (Oct. 20-21, rain date Oct. 22)
Maybe it’s just the spirit of the season that has been making us want to dress up and pay homage to our rock heroes. We’ve got an annual event that’s nothing but — and it’s arguably the biggest and best-established music festival on the local calendar. The Ghost of Uncle Joe’s, ably assembled, organized, and promoted by “Dancing Tony” Susco, is a Jersey City institution at this point. By now, you know what you’re going to get: talented local artists taking the stage in the ancient boneyard at the Western fringe of the Downtown, playing complete sets in the guise of world-famous bands. This year, there’ll be facsimiles of The Who, The Dolls, Johnny Cash, Motorhead, Guns N’ Roses, and other canonized guitar-slingers. Once again, there’ll be spillover events and afterparties at other venues, including a Saturday night show at Low Fidelity (328 Palisade Ave.) featuring an imitation of the inimitable: Elvis Costello & The Attractions. That same night, Porta (135 Newark) hosts a pop-Halloween haunting by Dead Sheeran. Okay, maybe that one isn’t so respectful. But Ed kinda did that to himself. (435 Newark Ave, 6-10 p.m. on Saturday, 1 p.m.-6 p.m. on Sunday; $5-$400, money benefits the historic cemetery; visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-ghost-of-uncle-joes-halloween-benefit-masquerade-ball-tickets-722899721527.)
Brian Dewan @ Monty Hall (Oct. 27)
I close this round-up of flame-carriers and traditionalists with a tip of my San Francisco Giants cap to an utter original. I could call Brian Dewan one of the most articulate, communicative musical storytellers in New York City, but that’d undersell him. It’s not just his clarity that distinguishes him. It’s the unapologetically pedagogical manner in which he addresses his audience, his highly skewed sense of humor, and the highly unusual subject matter he chooses to sing about: wastepaper basket fires, cadavers, boiling lobsters, iconoclasts in museums righteously destroying artifacts, the human heart (the organ, not the metaphor). He’s invented his own musical instruments, but he often performs on the accordion, an AutoHarp akin to those you might remember from elementary school, and a massive electric zither. He performs his originals alongside material from nineteenth century primers, campaign songs, and dusty hymnals. In a rock scene where it often seems like all of the participants sing in the same vaguely impertinent voice, here’s something totally different: not likely to be canonized, not standing on anybody’s shoulders, but, once seen, as unforgettable as any classic artist. (Monty Hall, 43 Montgomery St., 8 p.m.; $20; visit https://donyc.com/events/2023/10/27/brian-dewan-tickets.)