On the surface, Southern New Jersey is much like the brackish bays that cradle our coast. The weather is warm and inviting in the summer, but once winter comes everything freezes over. In reality, the locals are relaxing and enjoying the calm until the thaw arrives and, soon after, summer itself. So what is there to do in South Jersey in the winter besides haunt table games at any number of casinos? The answer is live music. To my dismay, my favorite bar and live music venue recently closed. The Pearl was my go-to place for good music and dinks, and since its unfortunate closing, I've been wondering where I can go to drink a beer and watch a band, on the cheap.
Le Grand Fromage is one of Atlantic City's best kept secrets. Hidden at 25 Gordon's Alley, Le Grand Fromage has been letting local musicians loose on stage for years. I've seen bands play both upstairs and down; both are great places to watch bands perform. On the nights when they have live music, they often charge a flat fee that gets you a bracelet and as much draft beer as you can safely (or sometimes not so safely) consume. Local bands such as DearDarkHead (who, rumor has it, has disbanded), The Bacon Strip, Three Quintet, For Alderaan and many others coming from Atlantic City, Egg Harbor Township, and even further inland have played recently. The Grand Fromage is a great place to pick up the local flavor without paying through the nose to do it.
Of course, other venues exist as well. Hibiscus Island Grill & Bar in Somers Point (formerly Stumpo's) has several live music events. On Sunday afternoons, the restaurant has an open jam on the microphone, and as the name implies, anyone is welcome to participate or just relax and enjoy some music. It's musical events like these that allow local musicians to connect and play.
Located inside the Borgata, the Gypsy Bar is an upscale venue that features live music and the ambiance of a casino all wrapped in one. Every weekend, the Gypsy Bar features several live bands from the tri-state area. Besides live music, the Gypsy Bar also offers a great beer selection, making it a prime location for late night shenanigans inside the Borgata.
While this is not a complete list of places to see local music, it's a starting point. If you check this blog regularly, you can expect more articles about the local music scene, and the people who make that scene possible. So go out and enjoy your Friday night with some live music and good friends. I know I am.