The Jody Joseph Band Ends Its Summer at Buckalew’s

Aug 29, 2018
Photo by: Margot Miller

The Jody Joseph Band had a surprise guest kick off its first set at Buckalew’s in Beach Haven last Friday evening. Among a crowd of expectant middle-aged bar goers, 10-year-old Angelina Bella left the booth her parents were occupying, cleared her throat and inaugurated the weekend with a Creedence Clearwater Revival hit, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain.” And the crowd went wild.

When Jody Joseph Bongiovi, the lead singer of The Jody Joseph Band, isn’t performing with her crew, she’s developing up and coming artists. From vocal lessons and music theory, to microphone technique and confidence building, Bongiovi shares her experience and performance prowess with her young students. Angelina Bella, the rising star who graced Buckalew’s with her adolescent presence, is one such student.

When Angelina finished her Buck’s debut, Bongiovi reclaimed her place behind the mic. Clad in western boots, a sheer, flow-y, floral kimono and jean shorts trimmed with white lace, she was a 1970s vision. A fan was positioned on the floor, propped up before her mic stand so that her blond, layered locks whirled around her face, a music video in the making.

The band’s set list gravitates toward the classic rock genre. Bongiovi performed covers from such groups as Led Zeppelin, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Guns N’ Roses and more – a testament to her versatility and edge. She pleased the crowd with a rendition of a Fleetwood Mac favorite, “Rhiannon.” Bongiovi’s smooth, husky tone was chillingly identical to Stevie Nicks’ famed vocals.

It’s no wonder she coaches performers in developing a stage presence. Bongiovi made liberal use of the dance floor, stepping beyond the confines of her equipment and speakers to take her cordless mic for a spin in the crowd of bopping, swaying listeners. She moved with the confidence, ease and charm of a seasoned performer.

“Isn’t anyone going to dance with me?” she asked, in between verses of “Feelin’ Alright.” Sure enough, a crowd of women encircled her, drinks in hand, moving and singing along as if they hadn’t just met.

The lineup of her band changes frequently but for two key players: guitarist Nick Ryan Piescor and vocalist Johnna Marie, whom she refers to as her dream team. Piescor ripped skilled electric guitar solos and took the lead vocals on a few songs here and there while Johnna Marie belted power ballads, made music mashup magic and played tambourine.

Though Bongiovi writes her own original music, she sticks to the classics when she’s out and about. “If you don’t keep them dancing, then they’ll start throwing crap at ya,” she said, laughing. “I always say I play originals but just not mine. They’re all originals – I just didn’t write them!”

The songstress has been performing since she was 18 years old. “That’s like 117 years in dog years,” she laughed. Music runs in the Bongiovi family, as evidenced by the success and acclaim of her cousin, John Bongiovi, lead singer of rock band Bon Jovi.

“I am older than him so he gets all of his talent from me,” she joked. “He’s my first cousin. I’m very proud of him; I imagine he’s very proud of me.”

And rightly so. The vocal instructor-by-day, rock star-by-night proudly holds the reins of an inspiring, non-profit organization: Heartstrings, a musical program for local, economically disadvantaged and at-risk individuals. The organization provides musical initiatives for adults and children in need. The primary purpose of Bongiovi’s project is to bring aid and healing to community members through the power of music.

“Somehow or other I decided that I was just going to form a nonprofit. That is truly my passion,” she said. Just over a year and a half old, the organization already has roots in four different facilities.

When asked if she could see the effect music had on the lives of Heartstrings’ recipients, Bongiovi didn’t hesitate. “Oh my gosh. I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t.

“I look at the difference it’s made in my life. It’s my go-to. To this day when there’s something passionate or something that I’m affected by, I immediately go pick up my guitar and start writing. I can’t stop myself. That’s how I vent – or I’ll clean like a maniac,” she said.

Bongiovi sees music as a coping mechanism, a way to manage anxiety and emerge from tragedy. “I teach that to my students as a way in which to let them heal. It’s to write. Write down the scary stuff.

“At the end of the day, whatever way I use music, whether it’s to mentor somebody, to mentor myself, to get on stage and rock a room or to sit quietly and write a song, it’s always been something that has helped me and gotten me through.”

Despite her busy schedule, Bongiovi is sure to make the Island a priority on her summer tour. “I always do LBI. This is like home to me; I used to come down here in the summer and vacation,” she said. “We would only get two weeks, but it was, like, the best two weeks of my memories.”

For more information about The Jody Joseph Band, visit jodyjoseph.net/. To learn more about Bongiovi’s nonprofit Heartstrings, visit heartstringsmusicnj.com.

— Sarah Hodgson

 

Set List Snippet:

“Heartbreaker,” Pat Benatar

“Rhiannon,” Fleetwood Mac

“Have You Ever Seen the Rain,” Creedence Clearwater Revival

“Feelin’ Alright,” Joe Cocker

“Sweet Child O’ Mine,” Guns N’ Roses

“What’s Up,” 4 Non Blondes

“Badfish,” Sublime

“American Girl,” Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

“Rock and Roll,” Led Zeppelin

“Mercy,” Duffy

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