Hellgate open mic 9/23/15

These are the nights I will remember when I can barely remember anymore.

9/23/15. Great night @ Hellgate on the park in Astoria, Queens. My open mic had another night of talented artists, of varying styles, individually fantastic. As usual, we had some unexpected difficulty, and some great spontaneity intertwine with the fabulous performances. All in all, another night that I was glad to be a part of. This mic is getting bigger and better, and I am just glad that I can be there to share it with you.

Next one is tomorrow night, and I can’t wait! Hope to see some new faces out there, as well as those that I am comforted in knowing :). Check out some clips:

Justin Howard (me):

Kyle Rogers

Ben Absurdo

Billy Conahan


Pete, Julia and the gang, this is a completely spontaneous version of this song. It was a fun, fantastic cluster-fuck, and we were all who-knows-where by the end. Pure open mic magic.

Andy Sydor

Rich Lovina

Another great time in the books. Thank you to my lovely life-mate Evelyn for all of her help. She is the greatest. And thank you to Paddy, Andy and the rest of the guys @ Hellgate for giving us a place to express ourselves. Until next time.

Light and Harmony

-Owls for Olive (Justin)


My new Open Mic @ Hellgate on the Park! Clips from 9/16

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9/9 marked my triumphant return to the Open mic scene in Astoria, Queens. Sadly/happily, there was no video recording equipment that night, and so those memories must remain in our brains/hearts. It was an exceptional kick-off, at a new home not far from my last open mic (around the block in fact). The new place is better, bigger, and has a very warm atmosphere. It also has a dope-ass backyard for people to chill and drink and smoke. With fall here, it’s perfect. There has been so much great art shown, and there is going to be much more in the future. Our performers are some of the most talented individuals I have come across. I am so grateful to have such a place, and to be surrounded by such people.

9/16/15, we did indeed have recording equipment, and captured some really amazing performances. Varying styles were displayed, each one tremendous in its own right. God damn these artists are good.

To get it started, Erich Rastetter (my fellow Owl) and I played some originals, some covers, and I decided to share with you our cover of Neil Young’s Harvest moon. I hope you enjoy it.

Next, a hilarious joke by Joanie, who would occasionally step up and tell one throughout the evening. Believe it or not, this is the tamer of the jokes she told. “Yo babe, how much you charge for a lay?”. I CANNOT stop laughing right now.

Wow, this was full of energy. As I am writing this, I am feeling the entire room and how everyone got into it. Here is Zach Fineblum, with me initially and then most of the crowd by the end, with Don’t Let Me Down, by The Beatles. Fantastic job by Zach, and great spontaneity!

Billy Conahan came up next, a.k.a. Chilly Bonahan a.k.a. Millie Monogram (sorry Billy lol). Schooling us proper on that hip hip. Gotta love him.

The bluesman, as I enjoy referring to him as, Matt Loguidice followed Billy. Every time I see this guy my jaw drops. His riffs are so tight, his voice so soulful. Watch this man set fires.

Marissa Dwyer, a singer/songwriter whose writing comes from a place of raw and emotional truth. You can feel it on her voice as you take in the lyrics. Pete O’Neill provided great backing bass, and gave the song a huge presence with his wonderful backing vocals.

A smooth transition right into a solo Pete O’Neill, giving us an original bass arrangement. Check out the harmonies he is creating, and the intricate design of these melodies. They are truly impressive, and dance in and out of your ears in a most enjoyable way. Really good stuff.

Lastly, my favorite closer EVER, Andy Sydor. He’s better than Mariano Rivera. Here he is calmly and powerfully sending us off into the night. His voice gets inside you, the honesty in it. The sound of those nylons strings, just perfectly matching. He is my folk hero. Who’s Bob Dylan?

What a night! We are back in two days on the 23rd, so I hope to see more people out there, both on and off stage. Thank you to the audience, Igor, Andy #2 (bartender) and Hellgate on the park’s owner, Paddy.

Oh and here is Zach Fineblum and I being whales. Just because.

Light and Harmony

-Owls for Olive (Justin)

Clips from the Open Mic @ Astoria Beer and Brew 6/24/15



I have not been blogging much as of late, but I wanted to share this night of performance with you. It was just that incredible. On this historical evening, we had six, yes, SIX hysterically funny comedians. The rest of the night was an eclectic mix of some of the most talented musicians around Astoria, and in fact well beyond…check out these fantastic acts…I love you all and hope to be graced with your light again soon!

The Repressions

Ben Absurdo

Zach Fineblum

Evan Jones

Kyle Rogers

Tyler CLifford


Sam The Destroyer

Carolyne Gallo

Sam Rasiotis

Andy Sydor

Narinder Singh

Jordan Rothstein

Billy Conahan, who for some reason was not given a thumbnail by Youtube :/


Omar Scruggs

I have to say, it was one of the best evenings we’ve had as far as the talent that came through. I am humbled to be in the presence of such great. I want to thank Astoria Beer and Brew as always, for giving us this place to express our art. I also want to thank the wonderfully beautiful and talented Evelyn Choua, love and light of my life for helping with the camera work, and baking such delicious cupcakes for all to enjoy, that without which we may never be tardy.

Light and Harmony

-Owls for Olive

Open Mic @ Astoria Beer and Brew 4/29/15


This is my second posting for today, so I will keep it short and to the point ūüôā

Last week’s open mic kept our streak of fantastic artistry going strong. I love to be able to constantly see new and exciting talent weaving into our web and to see recurring artists grow and expand. It feels incredible to be a part of something so grand. Here are some clips from the night:

I started the night, here is a clip of me performing Melt With You by Modern English:

After me, The Mountain Men Steven and John with a great folk-ey original:

Next up, never repressed, The Repressions, Barbara Dragun and Ben Absurdo:

Immediate shift into philosoraptor Ben Absurdo for his solo act:

Bluesman Matt Loguidice and a soulfull original:

After Matt, we had Andy Sydor doing a cover of Country Roads, which EVERYONE got into:

One of Canada’s finest, Leah Oster was the last to grace our stage. What a voice:

Another unforgettable evening at the fantastic Astoria Beer and Brew. As always, much love to a great friend, Rodrigo Urbieta, for allowing us this space in space.

Light and Harmony

-Owls for Olive

Performance clips from the Astoria Beer and Brew Open Mic 4/21/15 (and my return to blogging)

The last few months were a bit rough for me. At the end of February, I developed an infection in my small intestines/colon that left me with severe cramps any time I ate. I was decently debilitated, and had to cancel shows for the next month. I was still hosting the mic, but just couldn’t handle sorting through/putting up some clips. We had some AMAZING performances from so many great artists during that time, and though I don’t have clips of them I will keep their performances in my musician’s soul.

That being said, I am back at it. Two weeks late but I’m getting there. We had a great night this past Tuesday, it’s getting warmer out and people’s art is wanting to make its way into the ether. It was Andrew’s birthday, and my wonderful girlfriend, Evelyn, baked him some vegan cupcakes (since Andrew is a vegan), which were delicious and enjoyed by all. These shows are incredible and FREE. If you don’t want to come out to to perform because you don’t or do and aren’t ready to just yet, you should definitely come to check out our talent. Here are¬†some clips from these wonderful performers:

Matt Loguidice, my favorite blues man, and one of the truest. His playing seems to come with ease, and from a place of real honesty.

Ben Absurdo Schooling you on telling girls to smile, and all-out smashing your face with his Acoustic Punk Philosophy.

Marissa Dwyer, with her voice hauntingly beautiful, really giving you her soul. Listen, and you’ll feel it.

Billy Conahan¬†closing out our night, giving us that high-energy and waking up the neighbors. This dude is unbelievable, trust you’ll hear his name for a long time.

I am glad to be back into the swing of things Рplaying shows, getting out there and involved. We had another great night last night. Clips of those performances will be up within the next few days. I want to thank Rodrigo Urbieta, the propeietor of the wonderful Astoria Beer and Brew, and everyone who comes out to perform, listen, and show support for live music. You keep me going.

Light and Harmony

-Owls for Olive

Performance clips from Astoria Beer and Brew Open Mic 2/18/15

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As with my last post, I have been really short on time this past week. The night at Beer and Brew was incredible. We had a huge amount of talent in such a small room. We had two comedians who were hilarious. Check out all the clips:

Matt Loguidice started the night off with a guitar he custom-rigged to bring us the blues in a way that only he can. His style brought us all back to another time in music history:

Up next was Brandon Glascow whose name I cannot, for the life of me, pronounce without the thickest Scottish accent. His voice carries a rasp and a certain assurance that everything will be ok. Women were fanning away at hidden tears at this song:

“500 Miles” got the¬†Andy Sydor folk treatment as he¬†introduced many of us to a 60’s gem. There must be a way to get Andy to sing us all to sleep. His voice is so comforting and loving you can’t help but be taken by it:

Brad Belanger ripped into the crowd next, bringing high energy and world of laughs Рfor us and himself. He was so funny he had himself laughing, which made us laugh even harder.

Tyler Clifford, our favorite foul-mouthed Canadian comedian turned out to be a great comedian as well as a really good storyteller. We were all mesmerized by his fantastic stories and his amazing accents:

What ever did happen to the bookstore? The Repressions wake you up to reality and make you want to go out there and support small businesses and art. Art not found on your phone. Barbara’s energy and voice really gets the crowd’s attention:

Ben Absurdo rips into our consciousness and reminds us that we don’t need to be part of the machine. His act always has the crowd’s attention to the point where he has everyone yelling along with him. Viva la revolucion!:

With a voice both loud and soft, Zach Fineblum plays us a more upbeat ditty and prompts us all to join him. And join him we did, complete with harmony: 

Last time he came around, Michael Perrelli played songs that left us laughing so hard we were practically in tears. This time he played a more serious set and really showed off his pipes. His voice is very powerful and can really push through those ranges:

We keep having a consistent level of talent, and the energy is always vibrant and positive. Simply love this place, and hope that you come by and check us out and become a part of it! Find me on Facebook for event details for this and others ūüôā

Light and Harmony

-Owls for Olive

Performance clips from Shillelagh Tavern Open Mic 2/17/15


We had wonderful performances by the following great talent this past week at Shills. A bit of a shorter list of performers due to New York’s evil attempt to bring us all back into the Ice Age.

The Repressions¬†played a song that is so catchy I found myself singing the chorus the next day. They’ve got a certain energy about them that makes you want to get up and move:

This week we were privileged enough to bear witness to a new song by Ben Absurdo:

A newcomer to both Shills and New York, Laura Keim‘s voice took us to a place from whence she came and it was moving. Her voice was robust and enchanting – you need to hear it for yourself:

Billy Conahan, the most cunning of linguists, had us bouncing from story to story, intricately weaved and mastered:

“Always Be Closing”¬†Andy Sydor¬†floated us on to our beddy-bye with his soothing voice and sweet presence. Let him take you away:

The night was great, as per usual, and packed with talent. Hope to see some more of your faces out there in the future!

Light and Harmony

-Owls for Olive

A night of 4 great performances @ The Shillelagh Tavern Open Mic 2/10/15


I know, I know. I’m slow ;). As per usual, finally putting up performance clips from last week’s open mic @ The Shillelagh Tavern.¬†We had four stellar performances, by some of my favorites. As is typical,¬†I have left¬†myself without time and so I must keep this post really short.

I played several songs to get things going:

Love Interruption – Jack White
Homeward Found – original
Thank You – Led Zeppelin
When the Mountains Cry – David Mansfield (featured in the film Songcatcher)

After me, offering a shift in paradigm as he often performs further down the list, was Rick Rocker. He brought an energetic, crowd-interactive original that really got the room going. Check it out, as well as his web site:


Second came K. Swizzle (or so it says on the sign up sheet), better known as Kyle Horn. A finger-style player with immense talent, he offered up a bit of a change that night and used a looper pedal on stage to produce an incredible improvised performance. That’s right, this is improv. Kyle Horn Guitar. Go there.

Next up, my broseph from a different Joseph (I know I’m douchey), Matt Loguidice, offering up a deeply soulful style of blues, with a song originally performed by Sonny Terry and Brownie Mcghee. I apologize for the people trying to talk over the song the entire time, for we cannot control boozed-up audience members. Check out his Facebook page for more.

Lasty, the man that is near and dear to our hearts, Andy Sydor. Here he is, with a great rendition of The Times They Are a Changin, by Bob Dylan:

A great night of performers, warming during some of the coldest weeks we’ve ever had. Thanks to everyone who came out, and thanks to Rusty and The Shillelagh Tavern for giving us their space to play with our art.

Love and Harmony

-Owls for Olive

Performance clips from the Astoria Beer and Brew Open Mic 2/4/15:


Another open mic, another unbelievable night. We continue our run of consistently amazing talent. Some folks new to the stage, some seasoned vets, so densely mixed. I wanted to share with you some of the wonderful art from that evening. I’ll try to keep the words short.

Before I list the performances, I must express my lament at the fact that my camera corrupted the one comedian act we had that evening. But TRUST ME, he was brilliantly funny. I wanted to take a special part out of this blog to mention Tyler Clifford, and to thank him for coming out. Please check him out on Facebook.

I played a few songs before getting the acts up:

Melt With You – Modern English
Can You Relate – original
Play Pretend – original
Love Interruption – Jack White

Our first performer of the evening included a duo new to the stage in The Repressions, comprised of Ben Absurdo and his sister Barbara. I am pretty sure she is married, and has dropped the Absurdo surname ;). Check out their great performance, of a newly written original:

We smoothly transitioned into¬†Ben’s¬†solo performance as graced us with one of his newly written and powerful pieces, Don’t Save Me:

After that, to the stage was Terry Edelman of Lost Kingdoms. Hear him performing an awesome original, and be sure to check out the Lost Kingdoms on Facebook.

Next up, bringing that energy we all know and love, we had Rick Rocker. Here he is doing a cover of Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls. Check out his Website for more.

After Rick, we had the Mountain Men, who were actually accompanied by him on this fantastic original. Check him out along with John and Stephen:

In between that and our next performance by the phenomenal Zach Fineblum, was the regrettably unavailable performance by Tyler Clifford, our night’s only comic. He delivered a beautiful and soft original – the squealing in the mic was all my fault, my apologies.

Billy Conahan. That’s all I’m gonna say. That and Billyconahan.com.

Michael Pirelli was up next, giving us an unexpected and delightful blend of folk and comedy. You’ll notice my stone face through most of the song, but that isn’t from lack of funny. That’s just my A.D.D. brain listening intently to the shape of the sound. Listen and laugh for yourself:

Last, but most definitely not least, we had my man Andy Sydor. A great showing of What am I Doing Hangin’ Round? by The Monkees:

Another unforgettable evening. Crazy amounts of talent that I am humbled by. I love that I get to be a part of something so grand and special. Thank you to everyone who came out to perform or listen. And a huge thanks to Rodrigo @ Astoria Beer and Brew for allowing me to utilize his fine establishment as a vessel for our art.

Light and Harmony

-Owls for Olive

Second Open Mic @ Astoria Beer and Brew 1/21/15


Second round of blogging for the day, this one on last week’s AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING open mic @ Astoria Beer and Brew. Did I mention it was pretty good? Stellar performances by each act, and our first comedian, the wonderfully funny Mariana Grace. I apologize in advance for the lack of wordage, but this is my second blog of the day, and like many others, I’ve been on and off shoveling snow all day ūüôā

I am going to post my performance of All I Want by Kodaline this week. I hope you like it. I love Zach Fineblum’s “yeah man” at the end ūüôā

Matt Loguidice was up after, and switched back from last night’s performance to slide guitar. It really is something that I can feel, when he plays. There is emotion in his hands that translates right through the metal sound-holes in his resonator. Check out this boogie, Juniper Springs Jump, and give his Facebook page:

Following Matt’s performance we had Guy Daniels. Another emotional performer, something so integral to music. I really loved and connected with his originals. Check out his SoundCloud, and one of his originals:

Next up, my super chill friend Terry Edelman. Not the best start for him, as he immediately popped a string and had to borrow Guy’s guitar. This is the kind of environment I love and strive to foster at my open mics – that of sharing. There’s a real sense of family every time we get together – whether someone’s a newbie or a veteran. Terry¬†didn’t let the minor setback shake him which is a true testament to his showmanship, delivering a beautiful performance. Check out his band, Lost Kingdoms.

Zach Fineblum came up next, singing a song about an Astoria girl. I love this guy’s voice, perfectly seamless with his soft finger-picking. His performance was simply great. Be lulled:

After Zach, we had the second coming of Ben Absurdo. Love his style, so strong and original. Powerful stuff. Check out his song, Allen and the Gorilla, and MAKE SURE you stick around for the spoken word part:

Next was hip-hop act Kevin Varghese. He had a great comfort and flow on stage, and was extremely engaging. I really enjoyed his performance on this originally produced track. Check it:

In the number 8 slot, we bring you William Shishmanian. I was lucky enough to have shared the stage with him back on the 16th for a show, and was excited to see him walk in the door. He has a wonderful style, and really puts that Gretsch tone to use – it compliments his voice so well. Sadly, a camera issue (mine), and a phone storage issue (William’s), we only get a 2 minute clip of him. But make sure to get out to hear him, and check out his Facebook page.

After Will was Bill, actually Billy Conahan. Really down to earth guy and¬†an IMMENSE talent, both as a singer/songwriter and MC. You just can’t help but to be grabbed into his performances. Sooooooo good. Check his Facebook.

Immediately following was Mariana Garces, our premier comic. Really solid material that kept me laughing the whole time. She has a great ability for banter and improv, and there was strong evidence within her performance. She used the crowd, and her surroundings to create on-the-fly material that truly worked. Comfortable and hysterical, seemingly un-phaseable, I present to you Mariana Garces. She starts by talking to a guy in the crowd who was apparently in the midst of his own act in the corner:

Coming in late, and I am so glad they made it, was Therapy, consiting of Karen and Tim. Original songs written from a place of real emotion, you can tell they really vibe together. Check out their Facebook. Another performance I thoroughly enjoyed:

Lastly, brought to our stage was Andy Sydor. I really like Andy. He is a genuine person, and I am glad that I have gotten to know him, and share stages with him. I can’t say it enough, I just love his style. Here’s some Steve Goodman covered by Arlo Guthrie covered by Andy for you:

It was another great night, filled with talent. The fact that these shows are happening, for free, is amazing to me. This is the kind of talent that should be coveted. I am humbled to share the stage with these wonderful artists. I hope I can continue to do so, far into the future. Thank you Rodrigo, the owner of Astoria Beer and Brew, and Kevin for tending bar like a true champion. LOVE ALL OF YOU GUYS!

Light and Harmony

-Owls for Olive