Features First Person

Gaslight Anthem Lands No. 3 Spot On Billboard Hot 200


If you’ve been following You Sing I Write at all over the past four years then you know of my love for New Jersey punk rockers the Gaslight Anthem. In fact, it’d be fair to say that my obsession runs deep.


In college I worked with drummer Benny Horowitz at Rutgers University’s award-winning newspaper The Daily Targum. It was during that time that I realized my dream career of becoming a music journalist. I knew he was in a rock band but I was too into my pop music and boy bands to pay any attention. Fast forward to an internship and later freelance work at Rolling Stone in 2008 when Gaslight Anthem were featured in the magazine as a breaking band.


I still remember that day so vividly. Looking at the photo of Gaslight Anthem and thinking, “That looks a lot like Benny. What does the caption say?” It read Benny Horowitz. When I went home I IM’d everyone on my buddy list from college to see if they knew anything about his band, a group that was compared to Bruce Springsteen.


No one knew of Benny’s blossoming rock star career. So, I went to my closest record store to investigate (Virgin Megastore RIP) and bought a copy of The ’59 Sound and Sink or Swim. I instantly fell in love with the music, the stories and imagery in the songs.



Benny being featured in Rolling Stone was HUGE. It meant that it was possible and attainable to follow your dreams and make things happen. I knew I wanted to be a music journalist from the first time I watched Almost Famous and the first concert I covered in college for that very same paper I worked with Benny at.


Sometimes all it takes is one success story close to home to make you realize you NEED to pursue your dream. Seeing Benny succeed was a confirmation. If he can do it, so can I. What do I have to lose?


After numerous failed interview attempts I finally interviewed Benny on the phone this year, just days after I attended the taping of their music video for “45” in Asbury Park. As luck would have it, my recorder didn’t work. But for some reason it didn’t matter. It was as if we just needed to have a conversation one on one to learn each other’s back story. I told him exactly what I just wrote (in fewer words), and he revealed that the day he joined Gaslight Anthem he told himself it’d be the last band he would play in. If it didn’t work out he’d just have to settle for that boring 9-5 job and live in the suburbs.


“I think that’s why you hear that desperation on Sink or Swim,” he told me.


He and some of the other band members felt that the album might be the last album they ever made so they gave it their all. It’s funny how sometimes in your darkest hour something grandeur can be created.



Benny has gone on to become a member of my favorite band and even directed their latest video for “Handwritten.” Frontman Brian Fallon reflected on this in a recent interview, saying, “It was a cool experience to be directed by your friend who you’ve known for 6-7 years. You’re watching him blossom into another facet of his personality.”


That’s exactly how I feel seeing Benny rock all the big stages on a nightly basis.


So now you know where my obsession of Gaslight Anthem comes from. It’s something even bigger than their music. It’s knowing that it’s possible for dreams to come true firsthand.


The boys continue their ongoing success having landed No. 3 on Billboard’s Hot 200 chart this week for their latest album Handwritten which is the chart’s highest debut with 40,000 sold. I have a feeling this is just the beginning for them.


Blast From the Past: Meeting Patrick Swayze

Nearly three years ago, while writing for my college paper — Rutgers University’s Daily Targum — I was assigned to cover a heart disease event at one of the local hospitals. None other than Dirty Dancing star Patrick Swayze would be making an appearance and talking about the disease, as it hit close to home for him having both his father and grandmother die from heart disease.

In addition to the assignment of attending the event, I was also asked to write a preview to bring awareness to the campus and surrounding communities. After speaking with one of the organizers I found out the event was sold-out; not a huge surprise given the notoriety of Swayze. I knew I had to start the article with something extremely catchy, but intros were always my weakness. While brainstorming with some roommates it hit me — possibly the most famous line from Dirty Dancing was in the final scene when Swayze goes up to Baby’s parents and says, “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.” So, why not turn that around to heart disease since he’s been a major advocate for promoting education of the disease? Alas, that’s where — still to this day — my favorite intro comes in: Patrick Swayze doesn’t put heart disease in the corner.

The day’s event was a huge success with well over 600 people attending. I was struck with how down to earth and comical Swayze was throughout the day — even grabbing one of the announcers to dance with him. At one point the press was ushered over to him for a quick Q&A.; I remember being so incredibly nervous introducing myself and shaking his hand (I’m talking to Patrick Swayze!!??) but he was so humble and politely asked how I was while answering all of my questions honestly and sincerely.

Below I’ll include my full write-up of the event as well as Barbara Walters most recent interview with Swayze. For those of you out of the loop, Swayze is currently battling with pancreatic cancer. Walters interview last week was his first public interview since being diagnosed with cancer over a year ago. An extremely moving interview, it’s really remarkable to see his positive outlook on life and his conviction to beat the odds and survive until they find a cure.

February 27, 2006

Patrick Swayze Promotes Heart Awareness
By Annie Reuter

Patrick Swayze doesn’t just want you to have the time of your life; he wants to make sure it lasts.

On Saturday at the third annual Day of Dance for Heart Health at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Swayze — star of Dirty Dancing — was on hand to inform women about protecting themselves against heart disease.

“I know so many women take care of their families and not themselves,” Swayze said. “To me, if we start this concept of taking care of ourselves we might take care of the planet. If we don’t, we’ll never break the vicious cycle [of heart disease].”

For many who attended the event, heart disease struck close to home. Swayze was no exception. He said his father died from heart disease at a very young age, leaving much of the responsibility of taking care of the family on him. His grandmother also died from heart disease.

“When it’s so curable, why should women die?” Swayze asked. “It’s so easily fixable.”

More than 600 people swarmed the Arline & Henry Schwartzman Courtyard of RWJ Saturday afternoon in an effort to learn about heart disease and prevention.

Marianne Balay, assistant vice president of Medical Affairs at RWJ, opened the event with a welcome address and a speech titled “Love your Heart” — addressing various symptoms women may feel and disregard, not realizing they can be attributed to heart disease. Heart disease kills more women than all cancer combined, Balay said.

“There is more to women’s health than just the anatomy that makes us different from men,” Balay said. “We don’t want women’s heart disease to be confused, dismissed or disregarded. We’re doing this to win the war.”

Other speakers addressed the crowd, such as Dr. Archana Patel, who spoke of symptoms of heart disease and ways to prevent it by maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Jeff Levine was also on hand to talk about his appearance on the NBC reality show, “The Biggest Loser.”

Weighing more than 400 pounds at the time, Levine submitted a video to appear on the show. By exercising four to six hours a day and controlling his diet, he lost a total of 183 pounds since being on the show. “I consider myself an obesity survivor,” Levine said.

The program also included a demonstration by Bryan Fischberg from RWJ Emergency Medical Services on how to use an Automatic External Defibrillator to save someone having a heart attack.

When Swayze did arrive, he was greeted with an enthusiastic standing ovation as music from the movie Dirty Dancing played over the speakers. Swayze told the crowd he was bad with speeches, but said he felt if you talk from the heart, people hear you.

“It’s amazing to me that heart disease is the number one killer [of women],” Swayze said. He talked about ways women should take care of themselves and go to the hospital if a symptom appears.

“If we take care of ourselves, we might take care of our brothers,” Swayze said.

Watch the opening segment of Barbara Walter’s interview with Patrick Swayze below. For the remaining clips of the interview, go to YouTube.


Concert Reviews

Switchfoot Rocks Rutgers

The energy was high all night – from opening band Luna Halo joking with the crowd when introducing themselves as Switchfoot to Switchfoot’s encore performance, hardly a seat in the house was inhabited, as many were dancing and jumping along in the aisles.

I’ve seen Switchfoot several times over the past few years and every time they’re better than the last. The music, the atmosphere, the unexpected. Frontman Jon Foreman always is a crowd pleaser and the band never disappoints.

The opening chords of “Meant to Live” began shortly after 9 p.m. at the Rutgers Athletic Center, drawing screams from the crowd as the band quickly segued into their first song of the night, “Oh! Gravity,” of their latest album of the same name. The energy was intense and stayed like that until the end of their nearly 90-minute set.

Switchfoot performed 14 songs throughout the night, many of their old, classic, fan-favorites such as Jon’s solo acoustic encore performances of “Only Hope” and “Dare You To Move” as well as a new song, “This Is Home,” which will be featured in the upcoming movie The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. When Jon announced the new song screams were heard throughout the RAC, as to which point he joked, “You haven’t even heard it yet, you can’t scream!” The song started out with a solid keyboard feature from Jerome Fontamillas before Jon began singing. Despite having only begun playing the song recently on tour, many fans already knew all the words and could be heard singing along while swaying their cell phones in the air, slowing the night down for a while.

Highlights of the night included edgy guitar-based song, “Dirty Second Hands” and slower number, “On Fire.” Towards the end of “Dirty Second Hands” Jon stole the cymbal from drummer Chad Butler and ferociously hit it with a drumstick, spinning in circles for the remainder of the song. Jon then started off “On Fire” on harmonica before walking into the crowd, climbing up the bleachers, all while singing and taking pictures with fans before finishing the song.

It’s hard to tell the crowd favorite, as everyone surrounding me was singing along to each song word for word. The audience was diverse, made up of college students as well as parents with young children and other New Jersey natives. While some songs featured in their set didn’t stray too much from their album, others brought new life on stage, such as “Gone” which was prefaced with a cover of Beyoncé’s “Crazy In Love” to which Jon told the crowd, “I can safely say this is the only Beyoncé cover we’re going to do all night.” After a few bars of the song, Switchfoot went into “Gone,” where Jon’s singing took a pause to an almost rap-like number as he spoke the words to most of the song, jumping on and off the drum kit a few times.

After jumping into the crowd to grab a sign from a fan, titled “We Are One Tonight” Jon placed it next to a nearby speaker before playing the song, joking, “This is incase I forget the lyrics.” Soon after, a fan ran up and tossed him a mug, which right after catching he put some water into and then drank from. Jon later told the crowd, “The reason we decided to be an independent band is because of all you guys singing along.”

The Switchfoot fan base is an extremely dedicated group and after every show the band takes time out to sign autographs and talk with fans. After Saturday’s show the guys could be found hanging out next to the stage with fans while Jon played a 15 minute set of songs from his recently released EP’s as well as some older Switchfoot songs such as “Amy’s Song.”

Luna Halo opened the night and was, by far, the best supporting band I’ve ever come across in concert. Based in Nashville, the band has a strong rock sound and frontman Nathan Barlowe has a stage presence like none other I’ve seen. Playing nearly a 40-minute set, Luna Halo’s performance had everyone standing up and clapping along, not always an easy feat for an opening band. His facial expressions and stage antics while playing guitar was entertaining in itself, at one point he was rolling around onstage while playing guitar. The music was solid with strong, but not overpowering, guitar and drum accompaniment, never concealing Barlowe’s vocals.

Despite the audience not being too familiar with some of their songs, Luna Halo had the audience singing along to their cover of A-Ha’s “Take On Me” while lead singer Nathan joked with the crowd dancing along to their performance, saying, “I feel like Bon Jovi tonight. It’s great!”

Be sure to check Wendy Hu’s Flickr page for more photos of the show. For more information on Switchfoot check out their website and to listen to Luna Halo check out their MySpace.


Breast Cancer Benefit Concert

Statistics show that 1 in 7 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer some time in their lives, said speaker Anna West Ott, a breast cancer survivor, at Sunday’s breast cancer benefit concert. That’s incredible to even imagine. At this point, everyone either knows someone directly who has struggled with breast cancer or a has heard of a friend or co-worker who knows someone who has.

Sunday’s concert at Rutgers University was where many gathered, despite inclement weather, for a good cause – donating money to Sharsheret – an organization that links young Jewish women in their fight against breast cancer. Performers of the evening included Ms. Shira, a retro hip hop/burlesque singer, ShockWave, the Rutgers all-female a capella group, and the Sarah Aroeste Band, a Ladino Rock band which showcases Judeo-Spanish music, both traditional Ladino folk songs with contemporary influences.

All three performances were incredibly entertaining and so different from each other. The entire night all in attendance were kept energized, whether it was snapping along during Ms. Shira’s set or dancing to some Ladino songs at the end of the night.

The first performer of the night, Ms. Shira, performed 8 songs from her album, Come to Class. Despite not having a live band and instead performing with background music, her set was very engaging as she interacted well with the audience – having them snap along to one of her songs and listen to her narration of each song throughout her performance. She explained her album as encompassing the core dynamics of love, from first meeting someone in “Get Close” to finally getting over a breakup and being on the rebound. One song, “Mischievous Lover,” showcased an entirely different love dynamic and those in attendance could see the change in persona from the way she sang the song. In a way, it felt like I was watching a show because you could see the change in character in each new song she sang, each song showcasing a different aspect and feeling of falling in or out of love. Overall, Ms. Shira has very strong vocals accompanying the music with each song. While some songs have a more soulful feel, others have catchy hip-hop beats that accentuate her voice and style of singing extremely well. To get more of a taste of Ms. Shira check out her MySpace here.

The second act to perform for the night was Rutgers’ own all-female a cappella group, ShockWave. I’ve seen varoius a capella groups perform over the years, but these ladies really blew me away. And by the crowd reaction, I wasn’t the only one floored by the amazing talent this group of students had. From beat boxing to high falsetto singing, these girls didn’t miss one note. They wowed the crowd with covers of Madonna’s “Papa Don’t Preach,” Nelly Furtado’s “Say It Right,” and most fitting for the night, Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor.” Check them out at

Last performance of the night was headlining act, Ladino Rock band, the Sarah Aroeste Band. I never heard Ladino music before and was pleasantly surprised at what I heard. Sarah explained that Ladino is Judeo-Spanish music which is made up of a blend of Spanish, Hebrew and some other languages within each song. Despite the music being in another language, Sarah explained the story behind each song, many of which were written over 500 years ago. Just by listening to her narrative behind each song and listening to the beats and flow of the music I could understand what the song was saying which is amazing. But then again, isn’t that what music should always do to its listener?

“It’s amazing to me that the same topics written about back then are still written about today,” Aroeste said. “Ladino rocks and a lot of people think its dying out, but we’re here to tell you its not,” she continued.

Members of the band played more traditional instruments, including the Flemenco guitar and the oud. Playing 11 songs for a little over an hour, the Sarah Aroeste Band brought new music and culture to Rutgers Sunday night, all in support for an important cause. I talked with Monica Rozenfeld, organizer of the benefit concert, about her inspiration behind putting together the event and I’ll post that interview below.

Why did you decide to take on the task of hosting the benefit concert?
Throughout my last couple years of college, I really wanted to do some sort of volunteer project that I would feel really good about. But as we all know, we have many reasons why we can’t get to it — classes, parties, gym, etc. — and so it just never happened. But when I graduated in May, I made a pact with myself to do the things I’ve always wanted to do. And so I spent two months traveling and when I got back it just felt like the right time to undertake a project that I could have fun with but also feel that I’ve finally given back. I had two goals in mind, 1. to get girls more involved in charity and volunteerism and 2. to raise money for a charity I cared about. And so after some brainstorming, a breast cancer benefit concert was a great way to get girls to come out and support a great cause. And while they’re already there, to offer them future volunteer opportunities whether with breast cancer organizations or other organizations that were tabling at the event.

What was the process involved in getting funding for the event?
Since this was an individual project and I’m not a part of any specific organization, I didn’t have any money to play with. So I really had to get the funding for this event from scratch. We received all the funding through individual donors through the help of Lee Livingston, the president of the Jewish Federation of Middlesex County. After he read the proposal I wrote up, he became very supportive of what I was trying to accomplish and then reached out to funders who all made this possible.

How did you choose the three performers and why do you feel
it was important to have these performers?
I chose these performers based on the audience I was mainly hoping to attract, which is female students. I felt the performers each had a unique musical style to bring to the event and the three of them together made for a great mix for the night. Each of their styles portrayed strong, sexy and talented women and our hopes were that they would relate to the audience and show them that it can be fun to get involved. Sarah Aroeste, who was our headlining performer, is really big on her Ladino heritage and we felt she was a great spokeswoman, so to speak, on taking pride in Jewish heritage and involvement which represented two of the organizations co-sponsoring the event — Rutgers Jewish Experience {] and Hillel.

How much money was raised?
We raised just over $700 for the night. Considering the snowy/rainy weather that day, this was a huge success for us. We are expecting to get further donations from people who couldn’t make it out.

How do you feel about the concert now that it’s all over?
I feel relieved. I feel really great that it got pulled off. The entire experience was just amazing. The organization we raised money for, Sharsheret, was just thrilled with the turn out and that’s what makes us really happy. I met the most generous people from this experience. From the guy at a bar who saw the flyer and said he couldn’t make it but gave us a $20 donation, to all the strangers who saw my vision and chose to help support me in it, to the woman who called me when she said she heard about the event and would like to donate hand-crafted jewelery for the cause. This concert opened me up to this new world where people care. I’ve made some amazing friends through the process that will be my friends beyond this project. This experience, as frustrating as it might have been at times, gives me motivation to step even further from my box and see what else I can do.

I will add that whatever the reason people came out for the concert, they all should feel really good about themselves. Even if it was for the band, or because I made them, or because they had nothing better to do, they each did something great by supporting the event and I hope they went away with the feeling that they too did something for charity. I have to add a special thanks to all the volunteers and friends who came out and helped! Everyone just showed how amazing they are and it’s all to help strangers with this disease that we might not ever understand why it happens to anyone, but it does, and we each some how helped.

If anyone is interested in donating to breast cancer organizations, go to and

To learn more about the projects/organizations Monica is involved in, contact her at