Tierney’s Tavern Fourth Annual Music Festival
Tierney’s Tavern parking lot and upstairs, 136-138 Valley Road
Saturday, June 3, noon- 1 a.m.
Featuring: School of Rock, 94 Proof, Watchung Mountain Riders, Dead Dog’s Eye, The Fabulous Flemtones
The Porchistas, Bern & the Brights, The Defending Champions, Lil’ Bastad
Monetary donations and nonperishable food accepted to benefit Toni’s Kitchen
By GWEN OREL
The Tierney’s Tavern Music Festival will be a little smaller this year, its fourth go-round, than it has been in the past.
That’s all right with sound engineer Miguel Rodriguez, who also plays drums with the Watchung Mountain Riders, a Grateful Dead cover band. “It’s more lean and mean,” said Rodriguez, who has provided sound for the festival since it began.
And it’s all right with organizers Dan and Grace Tierney. The siblings, who both tend bar at Tierney’s, are children of Tierney’s Tavern’s Bill Tierney.
For Dan, 25, who is working the festival for the second time, the best thing about the free festival is that “it changes people’s idea of the bar.” The festival is family-inclusive, he said.
The festival might be larger next year, for its fifth anniversary, but keeping it streamlined is a good way to keep it consistent, Dan said.
Grace, 21, said that with a smaller lineup, the entire festival can move indoors if it rains. Though she and her brother lived in Ireland for a good part of their childhood, neither sounds Irish: “I made friends with two people from New York,” Grace said with a laugh.
Grace said she loves “the community of it all, seeing people come out to support it. We work with a different charity every year.”
This year, the festival is supporting Toni’s Kitchen, the food ministry of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church. While admission to the festival is free, there will be donation buckets for Toni’s Kitchen, and Toni’s Kitchen will have stage time as well, Grace said. There will also be places to drop off donations of nonperishable food.
“Before talking to them I had no idea of the quantity of meals they make,” Dan said. “We weren’t aware how many customers volunteer there.”
Tierney’s is community to Alan Smith, singer with the Porchistas. Smith is so fond of Tierney’s that he even wrote a song to honor the bar: “The Tierney’s Tavern Song” is track four of “Axis & Allies,” which the group released in January.
Smith said he was inspired to write the song when a friend wasn’t sure where he’d left the car the night before.
“I’d always had it in the back of my mind to write them a song,” said Smith. “They’re family.”
For Smith, Tierney’s is “like my living room. It’s a great room to play.”
The performers at the festival are Tierney’s Tavern regulars, Smith said. The festival is “Bill’s vision. It’s the bands that play here, year after year.” The long history of the building and bar is side by side with the history of Montclair, he said. The bar turns 84 this year; the first festival was held for its 80th anniversary.
Bands who play at Tierney’s are given an opportunity to thrive, Smith said. And unlike many venues that charge bands to play, the bar allows the band to take the door.
School of Rock Montclair will also perform in the festival: one of the performance programs featuring the blues will start off the show. Joe Billy, who teaches in the performance program at School of Rock Montclair, described the four-month performance programs as instruction organized around performances, by song.
Students learn to “interact with each other and with other musicians,” Billy said. At the end of four months, performance groups put on shows. He said that instead of teaching music so that students can perform, School of Rock produces shows in order to teach music. About 20 students will perform on Saturday, in different combinations.
School of Rock also teaches adults, he said.
Billy will not perform during the festival but will attend, as he does every year: “I love seeing the different combinations of musicians in one place.”