Live music is a competition for attention on all fronts. Artists pour their hearts out for an audience, begging to confess themselves to any willing ear. Venues try to gather as large a crowd as they possibly can, doing everything from deals on cheap liquor to themed party nights to accomplish their goal. Then there’s the audience members, the loyal hometown fans, who come by regardless of who’s playing or how much the drinks are. Amidst all of this fanfare it’s surprisingly easy to forget to listen even though you’re there to see the music. The true beauty of live music strikes when all participants truly decide to listen to each other through the music. Tap into what makes us similar see each other’s true selves laid bare. Last Friday, I witnessed a performance where this was truly the case — a band called MJT in Snugs Harbor.
I made a stop with some friends into Snugs Harbor, a dive bar located in downtown New Paltz, and encountered a band that had my full attention from the first note. Their style was incredible; their performance, their immaculate showmanship, and most importantly, their ability to keep a crowd on their feet for an entire set.
It seemed everyone who strolled in was immediately captivated. The soulful song choices and absolutely stunning transitions, broken up with some great original material, made for one of the best live sets I’ve seen here to date. I should also note that the Friday I came in was World College Radio Day, where I had the privilege as WFNP’s co-music director to host a live, recorded performance that allowed a handful of student bands to add professional recordings to their portfolio. Maybe It was my motivation as a representative of WFNP combined with the electric performance but I knew I had to talk to them and at least get their info to keep in contact with them later. What resulted at the end of that long night was a conversation with MJT that made me hopeful for the future of New Paltz music as a genuine music scene with a bigger scope than the small town wrapped around our quaint college.
“We’ve heard a lot about this place from friends who went to colleges here about this scene saying we “had to get to New Paltz””David Godfrey, Guitarist and Vocalist of MJT.
To give a little context, MJT is a band of three brothers; David, Matt, and Jordan Godfrey. Their sound takes influence from soul and jazz artists like Herbie Hancock and Weather Report, but incorporate a level of stage presence and emotional vulnerability that heirs on one-in-a-million. David, the guitar player, unexpectedly has a great range and singing voice paired with some pretty immaculate guitar playing. Jo’s drumming perfectly brings up the energy, with fills that show off his chops and for just a split second, completely change the feel of familiar tunes and keeps you on your feet. Matt is the keys player but also does so much more for the track; filling out the bass end on the lower octaves, which is normally something I don’t like as much in live performance. Matt definitely won me over with his incredible playing and bass part mimicry that really fills the space of an electric base while adding flair that can only be played on a keyboard or organ.
The talk we had was really something special. It’s always fascinating to see an outsiders perspective of our small, yet incredibly active music scene. “On Long Island there’s a lot of gigs, bars or other venues, where people aren’t always so willing to give you their ears y’know what I mean,” says David, reflecting on the electric energy of the crowd the night of their Snugs gig. “It’s always nice to come to a place where whoever rolls in there is there to listen, have a good time, and get involved in the performance, which is beautiful.” They even talked about the balance between covers and originals with the band, which even changes in New Paltz. “We feel more comfortable playing more originals and even more deep cuts here because we feel like the crowd here wants that, even in a late night bar gig and everybody wants to be in it.” It’s great to know that we’re viewed as a place where creativity is accepted and kick-ass live music is always playing.
Their performance seemed to really resonate with the crowd, from bouncers to long-time townies, and to new people like me who have only recently found themselves in this strange town. Everyone had something to say after the show to thank the band, and geeked out around their friends and peers about the show. In an ideal performance, to quote David himself: “It’s a sharing of energy y’know? You give a lot of yourself and the audience gives a lot of themselves, and if everyone’s conscious and willing to do so, it’s a beautiful experience.” The take away I got from that night, aside from MJT being an incredible band, is that the crowd and listeners are just as important to the “performance” as the musicians themselves. Some of my favorite parts of the night were seeing the reactions my friends and the good times they were having. This is something that not only musicians can use to their advantage to engage a crowd, but also something show goers and any participants of music. Being aware of that “sharing of energy” connects you to a band more and all those around you, and giving back to performers when they’re pouring their hearts out let’s them know you’re engaged too, which works in a sort of positive feedback loop until you tap into the real meaning of live performance. Dancing around each other and feeling the same vibrations, while expressing yourself to your friends and performers, is the closest thing to magic I can think of, and is something everyone needs to experience more often.
MJT will be back November 11th. Make sure to catch them! They are also working on a new album since about 2018 which is according to them a “revamp and collection of everything we’ve been doing”. The first single of this project will be out by January, and MJT assured me they will be back touring in New Paltz next year to promote the new release. I’m absolutely stoked to see more from this band in the future.