Parts of South Jersey are a compact, musical treasure chest. I never knew this until I traveled north, spending enough time in South Jersey to find my scene. And one of the greatest groups from South Jersey, Cheezy and the Crackers.
Compared to my surface memories from my childhood, my new discoveries were priceless and in depth. Living as children, the world seems vast and unending. Buildings are bigger, walks are longer, trees seem much taller. The ground that we are allowed to cover as children seems like a whole town within itself. I remember circling the sidewalk on my first bicycle. I felt as if I had as much room to pedal as I needed, on Commerce Street in Bridgeton, New Jersey. I compare this vision to that of Peter Gabriel in a live performance of “Solsbury Hill,” where he circles on stage, freely riding a bike, singing “Today, I don’t need a replacement, I’ll tell them what the smile on my face meant.”
As I drove north towards New Jersey via I-95 during the winter of 2007, each chilly stop for gas meant one more layer of clothing. As I neared the Delaware Memorial Bridge, I veered the wrong way and got lost in Philadelphia.
Once I made it to my destination, I stopped at Music Central in Vineland. I walked in, asked about the music scene, and was quickly told to look for Cheezy and the Crackers shows. This suggestion would open the universe, to what I had hoped to find.
About a week later, I opened the door to the Frosted Mug in Vineland. There were greetings from the beat of the music, and I felt right at home. As I looked around at the crowd, I listened to a positive, light, Sublime inspired song. The music was well written and had so much energy. Cheezy and the Crackers songs are parallel to the local bands I was used to. They were by far the cleanest sounding and most well rehearsed reggae/rock/hip hop group I heard in the South Jersey area. Their music stood out and the performance was fun and lighthearted.
Before moving back to Florida, I spoke with Charles, the well- spoken, open- minded front man of Cheezy and the Crackers. I shared information with him about our music scene in Florida, letting him know that I could picture his band playing a show on the Treasure Coast of Florida. His excitement and energy was clearly communicated. He was professional, motivated and optimistic.
And in the summer of 2010, a few years later, this vision came to life. Just as I had imagined, the locals loved the music. This was a free show, for our local Non-Profit Environmental group Treasure Coast Surfrider Foundation. The members of the band, Randy Richardson, Albert Trionfo, Cheezy McNasty, Mike Sarkady and Tom Parker covered their own travel expenses, gifting us with their music. At the end of the set I could feel great energy as we heard a song they had written for us, about what we unite for: The purity and respect of our waters. Their message was loud and clear.
Not only was the show crisp sounding and full of great new material, but I could sense the groups connection with each other, as well as ability and gift to connect to our locals during their performance. It felt like they had been here for a while. This is an undeniable key to live performance. It is a great achievement to maintain balance and connect with the energy of the audience just as is sounding great recorded.
Cheezy and the Crackers is a diverse group obviously inspired by a range of genres. They sound great doing acoustic tunes, like "Twenty After Four." They grab the attention of a Philadelphia crowd, as well as a "surf ghetto." They went on to play shows with Less than Jake, and are currently in the studio recording new material.