July 18, 2019 | 81° F

The New Brunswick music scene is a micro-mecca of student involvement and live music

Photo by Brianna Bornstein |

A decrease in local shows hosted by Rutgers has helped boost student participation at underground shows. Alongside vinyl and other musical mediums, live music has helped fill the physical void left by the digital age. 

As a result of popular venues, an underground scene and a constant influx of new students — New Brunswick's music scene continues to find a home at Rutgers and the surrounding community. 

Brianna Bornstein, School of Arts and Sciences sophomore and member of Rutgers Radio, explained just how important the music scene can be to the University’s students.

“There is always something to see here that has to do with music, now I can’t imagine my college experience without shows,” she said.

There is a real sense of passion that comes along with those who attend basement shows, bar shows and other live performances in New Brunswick, Bornstein said. Finding new music or listening to old tunes is easy with today’s technology, and sometimes people dismiss going out and finding a live performance to enjoy. 

She said that live performances can be a fun and different weekend activity.  

“There are so many student’s here that love music and they are looking for a way to express themselves that isn’t partying every weekend," she said. "They are looking for an alternative way to have fun where the focus isn’t around drugs or alcohol.”  

Mica Finehart, a junior in the School of Arts and Sciences and member of Rutgers Radio, said the music scene in New Brunswick is unique compared to other universities. Bands comprised of Rutgers students, as well as those from surrounding towns and cities, come to New Brunswick to play.     

Through the underground scene and venues like Court Tavern, the presence of live music persists and creates new opportunities for local artists.     

“The underground scene is definitely where they start out, like all these local bands, and then they eventually make their way into the bar scene and from there they can go up or can stay there,” Finehart said.

The New Brunswick music scene is an opportunity for local bands to perform, but they also have a chance to network and share their work, Finehart said. The underground scene remains popular because it helps those who are under 21 experience music without the restraints of being underage, fans can interact directly with band members after they perform.    

Frank Bridges, a School of Arts and Sciences doctoral student who has been involved in both the New Brunswick and Rutgers music scenes, talked about what makes it attractive for bands. 

“It’s a constant culture of music going on in some form or another and I think that attracts bands to come here and play,” he said. 

Some students attend Rutgers for the music scene and the large amount of people who come out to New Brunswick to experience it. The scene may never reach a large, mecca level like in Nashville, but the scene will always stay constant, Bridges said.      

He has watched the scene grow and change through his years of involvement. He said there was an obvious shift as local venues have closed or been bought by larger corporations like Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. Court Tavern is one of the well-known venues that remains. 

“You look at Court Tavern and it’s like this little house and everything has been built around it, it just never sold out,” Bridges said. “In some ways, I like that angle because they haven’t changed.”

He said the community will always find ways to keep the meaning and passion for live music going. He has seen the way that technology is utilized in music through his students, but also the ways in which old means of listening are still present. 

“It seems like in the digital age there is like a physicality missing, and people will then fill that void with vinyl records, listening to the radio or cassette tapes or guitars,” he said. 

The scene grew in popularity once Rutgers stopped hosting as many live performances that enhanced the local music scene, Bridges said. 

He said that local music has a future because it is something cultural that will never cease to exist. He compared Rutgers to a heart, pumping fresh blood as seniors graduate and incoming first-year students influence the music scene.

“I think there are still students discovering this when they get here, even though there are students who come here because of the music scene, and others will see this going on and can’t believe it,” Bridges said. 

Sarah Holick

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