As a fan of Toms River’s own River City Extension, spending Thanksgiving-eve with the Folk-Rock collective at their Simple Gifts Stone Pony showcase has developed into somewhat of a tradition these past three years, and sitting one week away from the fourth annual event, anticipation of what’s in store is growing around the SIMGE headquarters.
That said, part of the fun leading up to these Wednesday evening rendezvouses is pondering what River City Extension has in store. Thankfully, the group’s founder and frontman Joe Michelini caught up with SIMGE to shed light on what lies ahead, as well to discus the band’s new roster and forthcoming LP Deliverance…check it out below.
Chris Rotolo: Wednesday will mark River City Extension’s fourth annual Simple Gifts holiday show, and it’s developed into a can’t miss event for members of this music community. How did the idea develop?
Joe Michelini: We wanted to start a tradition in Asbury Park and we all felt that the night before Thanksgiving would be the perfect evening. For the last few years we’ve been out on the road a bit, but we wanted to guarantee that there would be one night each year where we were home to check in; One night a year we played a headlining show at a club small enough so that the hometown audience still feels like it belonged to them. Nobody is traveling the night before Thanksgiving, everyone is home from school, and because of that it really is a local show for all of our friends, family, and fans who were there from the start. That’s why it’s such a great night.”
CR: This annual event is also a food and clothing drive for local charities and organizations and you’ve done this in a day and age where self-absorption is rampant, and concerns for our fellow man aren’t always a top priority. Why does River City Extension feel an obligation to give back?
JM: We felt that if we were bringing everyone together that we had an opportunity to give back to the community that’s taken care of us. We have faith in humanity. Even if its not on the forefront all the time, even if as a society we’re not treating our neighbors as kindly as we should, there’s enough people out there who know it’s the right thing to do. And if we can remind folks of that, that’s what we want to do. Its been done for us in the past. The community has taken us in when we needed it most. This is our way of saying thanks.
CR: River City Extension has shuffled the lineup a bit over the last year or so. We’ve talked in the past about how good of place you personally are in with this group, and though you did play the mainstage at the Jersey Shore Music Festival, there are still many fans in the area who have yet to get a glimpse at the group.
JM: This is a big reveal for us. The lineup has been changing from tour to tour but now we have the group. It’s down to five guys now and this is what we are now, what we’ll be on the new record, and will be from hear on out. For this show in particular we’re going to be backed by a very talented group of string players from New York and Philadelphia that will be playing parts arranged by John [Muccino]. This is going to be a hearty set with a ton of material and will go down as the longest set we’ve ever played.
We’re excited to show everyone what we’ve been doing, what we’re practicing for. We found each other and realized that this is what we’ve been looking for all along. The way we communicate through new material, on stage, is very exciting, there’s nothing like it.
CR: How has the relationship between this collection of musicians that now compose River City Extension affected the songwriting for the forthcoming LP?
JM: I’ve seen the effects all the way down to the album’s title, Deliverance. What we have in place now has allowed us to be delivered from our doubts and ourselves. All the bands we’ve gone through, all the failures we’ve experienced, it’s led us to this point, and it comes through in the writing.
CR: Finally, there’s a lot for fans to look forward to about this yearly Simple Gifts tradition, however, I was wondering what you most anticipate about this wonderful evening?
JM: I look forward to checking in. It’s only once a year we get to do this. We get to talk to our friends, family, and supporters about how New Jersey and our community has changed. Now we can celebrate marriage equality with this performance. We can talk about the effects of Hurricane Sandy and Seaside fire. We can talk about the hope that people still have after these terrible events. It’s a check point in time, it’s a reunion where we get to come together with New Jersey. It’s always a very inspiring experience.
Accompanying this interview is the premiere of a brand new River City Extension demo titled “Girls” that was recorded live (a process Michelini admits he and the band will look to utilize when in the studio for Deliverance) at 816 Studios in Toms River, NJ…the same studio where the collective tracked The Unmistakeable Man.
According to Michelini, “Girls” is one of the earliest songs River City Extension wrote for Deliverance and was penned specifically for two women, “one of the girls who used to play in our band way back when and another friend of mine” as a piece to encourage the pair at different points in their lives.
Stream “Girls” below and be sure to check out River City Extension on a week-long tour kicking off tonight in Burlington, VT at Higher Ground Showcase Lounge and culminating on November 27th at The Stone Pony with Kevin Devine, Those Mockingbirds, and Harper’s Fellow. See all dates below and pick tickets to the 4th Annual Simple Gifts Showcase here.
River City Extension Dates:
Nov. 20 – Burlington, VT – Higher Ground Showcase Lounge*
Nov. 21 – Cambridge, MA – TT The Bear’s Place*
Nov. 22 – Hamden, CT – The Space*
Nov. 23 – Harrisburg, PA – Fed Live*
Nov. 24 – Asbury Park, NJ – The Sone Pony*
* Full Two-hour headlining sets being played