Jack Silbert is one of the area’s truest fans of indie and of the Hoboken/Jersey City music scene, in general. He has seen it all, right up close, from venues going up (then closing), to the local music scene blossoming then reverting back to a fraction of itself. He has been a student of the alternative music since his middle school years, honing his fan appreciation right up to the current days.
In the summer of 2016 he battled over a deadly illness. But in a complication during the surgery on his abdomen, an infection started and spread to both of this legs, causing blood clots leading to Gangrene (A type of tissue death caused by not enough blood supply). This ultimately resulted in the amputation of both of his legs below the knees.
The sudden and life-threatening infection changed his life irrevocably from a physical and to the emotional. Silbert had to endure the horrible pain of his life turning upside-down and witnessing first hand, becoming a shell of himself, due to the shock of how his new life was to be.
But through it all, and in hindsight, he sees the positive through his fortunes (or mis-fortunes).
He heralds the positive of finding new friends who helped him through this life crisis. He found out how deeply a community can help in such dire situations, financially and mentally.
But most important of all, he found out more about his will and self-confidence to survive and make the Best of a rotten situation. The ‘half-empty’ philosophy, had become a ‘half-full’ view on life. And he credits his support system, but music was always there, helping to glue the pieces back together.
As he put it: he was a ‘broken person’ as he put it, and music helped much along the way.
This interview is just a tip of what Jack (or what a person could become). It surely doesn’t do justice fully. But getting to know a person like Jack is always a good thing to be a part of.
“I always used to say, I’d rather go to a bad music show, than a bad comedy show.”
“I would say in recent years, my philosophy is adapting a little bit… I go to see an awful lot of bands, and I kinda know, a couple songs in…this [the band] is speaking to me, or not speaking to me. And the ones [bands] that are not so good are a little disappointing. I appreciate the good one, that much more…there’s that special something. [That thing] that is hard to define, what it is.”
It’s still important to me to own physical product.
“When I go and see a band, I want to support them – physically have a part of them with me – even if it’s in digital form.”
“I listen to more punk leaning type [music]. I have never liked being in a mosh type of situations. I flee to the edges [quickly]. I do enjoy indie-pop / indie-rock. When I was younger I was bit more into experimental kind of music… I still dabble in that…but not too much.”
“You know when there’s a line in a song..like a swell of strings in a song [The Pogues]…’Fairy Tale Of New York’ brings tears to my eyes. It’s just music..[and I wonder] what’s happening to me?”
“If the band is nice [in addition to them being great musicians], I feel more compelled to follow them. And as a fan, if they treat me as a person, not only a ticket sold at the door..it’s important to me.” One example has been Cinema Cinema, a Brooklyn band, he’s followed since seeing them at Maxwell’s (Hoboken, now closed). “But they had an awesome heavy sound and the guys were very nice.”
Early Interests In Music
“We were a family who listened to the radio, in the car. There weren’t too many albums at home, but definitely was listening to the radio, and maintained an average level of music listening.
“The First album I bought was Queen ‘News Of the World’ and I would say when I got into middle-school / high-school my interest in music grew more and more. I discovered college radio, at that point. Princeton Station WPRB became important to me.”
“I always had a scrap of paper with me next to the radio, to write down the name of the band I’d heard.”
“[At this point} I was more aware of College rock / alternative rock.”
“Then in college..I became a college DeeJay. And that was huge for me.”
“I was pretty much shamed into learning more about ‘independent music [in college]. I remember there was a staff meeting, and the music director said ‘A lot of you were playing the music you were listening to in high-school…but [college radio] wasn’t what it was all about’.”
“And I thought he was talking directly to me.”
From then “I stepped up the effort to discover more independent music. It’s fascinating still…even the best independent [record] labels have some sort of a recognizable sound. But when you can trust the name of the producer that you see on the back of the record, or trust the label…I’ll give it a chance.”
“After college, it was a bit more difficult to keep up with the independent music scene…for the world wasn’t [at the time] an independent world. By then though, the Internet grew more and more..which helped.”
Disability. Community. Music.
“I found myself in the fall of 2016, sort of a broken person. Physically, emotionally, intellectually…”
“There wasn’t too much to me. I had to put back the pieces.”
“Music was a huge part of that.”
“I would say that the first thing was that, in the early weeks of the hospitalization, somebody said that I was ‘out of it’, and someone was singing ‘Springsteen’ lyrics to me [when I was laying in bed at the hospital].”
“A friend in town, had set up a Kindle (like device) and put it next to me…but at that time my cognitive powers were not there yet.”
“Irwin Chusid (DJ @ WFMU & Friend) brought me a wifi enabled radio to the hospital.. which could pick up any station in the world. He recommended one in France and one from Australia…but we quickly set WFMU in there right away.”
“And listening to music, there…I could feel myself being replenished and life filling me up again.”
“My fingers and brain were working better…I would get on WFMU message board [known as Hoboken Jack]…and I would say ‘I’m listening’ and the DeeJays would say ‘Hoboken Jack’s listening’.”
“The community aspect, really kinda like…[made me feel] as though I was part of something bigger, and not just a slab of meat on a hospital bed.”
“As I got passed being sorry for myself, and stopped concentrating on all the things I would no long be able to do…[and] when I started thinking about all the thing I would be ABLE to do, or at least WANTED to do…like going to shows became incentive to me [and I started to heal a bit]”
“When I met with the prosthetics guy, he asked what my goals were…walk, movies, and music shows. I don’t need to go climb mount Everest, nor go snorkeling…if I can get to Monty Hall, or the Bowery Ball Room…”
“Since the end of 2011, I’d been working at home as a freelancer, and it’s easy to spend lots of time by yourself. And until this illness…I [finally] saw that there was lots of love and support out there…from my friends and family, but also from the local music community.”
“They held a benefit for me at Monty Hall [before my prosthetics] and went in a wheelchair. An ambulance crew had to carry me down my building…it was weird to be out in the public. But the friends put this thing together, and so many people came to attend and…”
“I have so much gratitude in me, that I want to do nice things to people the rest of my days.”
“I’ll never be able to repay the kindness that was shown [to me by them].”
“There has been 3 different musical benefits [for me]…a GoFundMe effort was there too….it was just so humbling…members of The Pogues who I love in high-school…The Smithereens, who I loved in high-school…the drummer Dennis was so cool and a solid dude…Laura Cantrell, former WFMU DeeJay…”
“You know I couldn’t look a the list for a long time, and my emotions were very much on the surface, and it was very bizarre but really wonderful.”
2019 and Everywhere.
“I’m cautiously and optimistic about the roll of White Eagle Hall. As Todd Abramson (formerly of Maxwell’s) stays involved in booking..the more shows that can happen in Hudson county, instead of going to Brooklyn – especially with the L Train going down – will be huge.”
“From recent sold out shows, there’s definitely a market in Jersey..not only drawing from the local, but from other people in New Jersey – who don’t want to cross over to New York.”
“I’m hopeful also for FM, to play a role in [curating] quality bands that aren’t quite ready for Monty Hall…stepping stone for the ‘major leagues…it’s a matter of growing one’s [band] audience…what size room can you fill, right?”
“That’s why wishing Dancing Tony all the best…to bring the best and the latest.”
“It’s great. It’s different and it fills that role of ‘not quite Monty Hall-role…like the band Big Bliss…a Brooklyn band that I wanted to see…then suddenly they were in Jersey City at PetShop playing.”
“Hope they have more bands playing at the main level (PetShop calls the first level ‘Upstairs’), because I’m a bit against stair…”
“Bring your ear plugs!”
Jack Silbert has been around the block, a couple of times or two. The Jersey City / Hoboken music scene has been his passion and in recently years, a support system. His life, from no fault of his own, had become very complicated and music was a big part of him coping and surviving – with the unpredictabilities and maybe, and from the unfairness of what life had thrown at him.
Although it’s always hard to try to look past the physical limitations everyday (for he sees the evidence in front of his eyes), it’s not to say that he is now felt the worst and is looking forward to better things.
One thing he’s looking forward to is the development of the music scene within Jersey City and Hoboken, and in Hudson County, in general.
“Young bands are one of the keys,” as he stated. “It is up to the growth and attraction of new and young bands into town that will help push the scene.”
And we agree with Jack. There are parts of the equation that can help the music scene, grow and prosper. Venues is a big part. But there has to be local ‘buzz’, on top of external acts visiting the area. And that can only happen if bands are attracted to Jersey City and/or Hoboken, settle, play, and gain noteriety.
We (and as well as Jack) hope that this will be the future.
Let’s cross our fingers.