There hasn’t been much action at Monty Hall (43 Montgomery St.) since the beginning of the pandemic. That’s been a shame.  Any room affiliated with WFMU — the legendary free-form radio station upstairs — is bound to have exciting bookings.  For years, Monty Hall was one of the most reliable spots in Jersey City to catch an idiosyncratic and imaginative touring band. Its silence has been deeply felt by fans of local music.

Well, on Sunday, May 7, the doors to Monty Hall swing open again.  It isn’t a rock show, but it’s rock related: a screening of “What the Hell Happened to Blood, Sweat & Tears?,” a documentary that explores the unlikely circumstances behind the deterioration of one of the most popular bands of the late 1960s. Apparently, the group was big enough to make an impression on Richard Nixon’s State Department, which sent them on a lengthy and costly goodwill tour behind the Iron Curtain. The circuit damaged the group’s credibility with the cognoscenti, who saw them as tools of the state.  This unusual story at the intersection of creativity, politics, and international intrigue is a warning to all artists who get too close to the government — even those who, like Blood, Sweat and Tears, felt they had no choice but to accept the State Department’s mission.  This WFMU Movie Night starts at 7 p.m., and the $15 ticket goes to benefiting the greatest radio station on earth.  Now, about getting some rock bands back in that room…

Lauralie @ Groove on Grove Season Debut (May 3)

If it’s May (and May it is), that means Wednesday music at the Grove Street PATH Station, right there at rush hour and extending into the evening, welcoming homecoming commuters to the pedestrian plaza. Groove on Grove is one of our most endearing institutions, and it kicks off its 2023 season with a 6 p.m. appearance by the Nimbus Dancers and 8 p.m. headline performance by the theatrical Forget the Whale. Me, I’m most interested in a name tucked in between. At 6:10, the choreography stops, and Groove on Grove turns the stage over to Lauralie, winner of the Best Newcomer Prize at the 2022 Hudson Folk Fest at Nimbus. She’s one of the most intriguing young talents in the region: a forceful, bell-clear singer and a solid acoustic guitarist with a knack for melody. She’s got songs, too, including the pained and plaintive “Bully,” the bruised pop-R&B meditation “No Fool,” and the minor-key stomper “Where I’m Going.” They’ll be a pleasure to hear in the open air, and a good way to start a party that’ll continue all summer. (Groove on Grove, Grove Street Plaza, 6 p.m.; free; visit

Tom Barrett and the Cuts @ Sip Studios (May 5)

Spring is for re-openings, but it’s also a time for departures. Hard as it can be for Hudson County loyalists to fathom, it’s true: some talented people choose to chase opportunities elsewhere. Next Friday’s rock show in Journal Square doubles as a farewell party for one of our best-loved strummers. We’re saying goodbye to Tom Barrett, frontman of the pleasantly fuzzed-out Overlake and weaver of mesmerizing folk-rock melodies with his band The Cuts. Rumor has it that he’s relocating to Nashville, a place where, I am told, a few other musicians live. But Barrett has always been a generous performer, and there’s little doubt he’s going to leave the Palisade shaking before he packs up his guitar for points south. He’ll be surrounded by some like-minded friends, including the adventurous Jersey City singer-songwriter Sean Kiely, the excellent roots-rock band CR and the Nones, and the hypnotic dream pop band Cor de Lux, who’ve made the trip to Jersey City from Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. This is another in an ongoing series of inspired shows organized by Look at My Records, and LAMR impresario Tom Gallo will be spinning between sets. No way was he going to miss this party. (Sip Sessions at Sip Studios, 140 Sip Ave., 8 p.m. doors, 9 p.m. music; $10 advance, $12 at the door; visit  

Lara Taubman @ Fox & Crow (May 6)

Lara Taubman makes her headquarters in New York City, but everything about her music murmurs of the American South. Not the friendly, grinning, cosmopolitan South of Music City, either, but the spooky, shadowed towns in mountain valleys, ones with clapboard churches just off the highway. She leads with her rich, sonorous, enchanting voice – one that wraps around her compositions like ivy winds around a tree trunk. Taubman can be very gentle when she wants to be: on the gorgeous “Ol’ Kentucky Light,” she practically purrs through the verses. Her writing, though, is tough and elemental, with roots deep in pop, blues, middle-period Joni-style folk-rock, and the gospel and devotional music that’s her inspiration and her bedrock. She’ll perform at a place where the local audience pays close attention to compositional nuance, and where sojourners, strays, and iconoclasts from Dixie are always made welcome. Chances are, you’ll catch the spirit. (Live in the Parlor at Fox & Crow, 594 Palisade Ave., 8 p.m.; $10; visit   

The Vaughns @ Pet Shop (May 11)

The Vaughns have never quite blown up, and I wish I understood why. All the ingredients are there. They’ve got a great guitar-rock sound that can go from crunchy to dreamy to surf-y at the rippling turn of a wave. These four musicians draw, judiciously and skillfully, from a variety of au courant styles, including pop-grunge, feathery indiepop, shoegaze, bedroom emo, and beach music, without getting confined by any of them. They’ve worked the local club circuit hard, and they leave audiences smiling wherever they go. Frontwoman Anna Lies is a winning presence with genuine flexibility on the mic — she can be as soft as a powder-puff at one moment, and wail over squalling guitars at the next, and she’ll do both with equal authority. Lies is a thoughtful, wry lyricist too, tucking jokes, complaints, and witty observations into her incisive writing. F.O.M.O., their 2018 debut, is still in heavy rotation in my kitchen, and Rom-Coms & Take Out, their 2021 Equal Vision EP, demonstrates that they’re just getting more playful as they grow up. Some foolish major label is missing a cornerstone band. If you’re a fan of Pool Kids, Bad Bad Hats, or Charly Bliss (and why wouldn’t you be?) you’re advised to report to the western edge of the pedestrian plaza for a Thursday evening that promises to be pure guitar-pop pleasure. (Pet Shop, 193 Newark Ave., 7 p.m.; visit

Pushing Up the Daisies @ Historic Jersey City and Harsimus Cemetery (May 20)

The Ghost of Uncle Joe’s gets the attention from out-of-towners, and rightfully so: what other city can boast a Halloween festival in a historic cemetery with the bands in costume as classic pop and rock stars? But locals know that Pushing Up the Daisies is every bit as cool. Cooler, maybe, since the performers play original material. Anthony “Dancing Tony” Susco is the prime mover behind the event as well as the booker and organizer of Groove on Grove; in other words, he’s immersed in local talent and in an ideal position to assemble a kickass festival lineup. For the twelfth edition of the annual blowout, he’s brought back the wonderfully impudent Little Hag, the vehicle for the laugh-out-loud romantic storytelling (and muscular indie rock) of Avery Mandeville. Hoboken emo upstarts 3 Dollars open the gates at 2 and swampy Tula Vera locks them down with a closing set at 10.; the can’t-miss Yo Kinky!, a duo that really ought to score the next Bond flick, takes the stage at 4:20. Quality Living, a smart Jersey City sextet with a harmony-drenched sound that borders on sophistipop, performs right afterward. Noisy West New York band Starberries rocks the gravestones at 3, shoegaze band Royal Blush strums at 7:40, and the eerie Reese Van Riper appears at 8:30. Oh, and if you miss Tom Barrett at Sip Studios, you’ve got another chance to catch him here. He’s on at 6:50. It’s all for a good cause: making sure there’ll be a historic cemetery to rock in the future. (Historic Jersey City and Harsimus Cemetery, 435 Newark Ave., 2 p.m. – 11 p.m.; $30, $15 for teens, $5 for children under the age of 12, free for children under 5; visit

Miriam Cruz @ The Factory (May 27)

It’s looking like a big month for the restaurant, lounge, and Latin music club in the middle of Bergen-Lafayette. Banda Real plays a pre-Mother’s Day brunch on Sunday, May 7, bachata crooner Joe Veras stops in for a set on Saturday, May 20. But the most exciting appearance on the schedule happens a week later. Miriam Cruz was the lead singer of Las Chicas del Can, arguably the first all-female Dominican merengue band, during their 1980s heyday. So deeply associated with the group’s music was she that in the ‘90s, the act changed its name to Miriam Cruz y Las Chicas. Whatever it’s been called, it’s been hot: Cruz is a master of fusing international pop sweetness with the frenetic rhythms of merengue, and she remains an ambassador for the genre. Remarkably, she’s made much of her best and fiercest music in the 21st century: “Esa Loca,” her 2013 single, is pure, speedy, floor-burning merengue, and she rides the breakneck groove with elegance. (The Factory, 451 Communipaw Ave.; $30; call (201) 630-4396 or 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,...