Woodbridge Summer Concert Series
Updated: Jul 25, 2021
It's Official! Summer Concert Freebies has proclaimed Woodbridge Township as the Free Summer Concert Capital of the Garden State.
Woodbridge Has The Right Stuff
Woodbridge, with its convenient central location where several major highways all lead right into town, is the only municipality in the state which features FREE live music FIVE days a week.
The Woodbridge Summer Concert series kicks off on Monday, June 21st night and will run through Septeptember 5th. To view the township’s concert calendars and info, go to woodbridgeartsnj.org
The five-night card used to feature three venues - Woodbridge High School, quaint Parker Press Park and Tanzman Park. While all three venues are expected to return one day, spacious Woodbridge High School is now used for all venues since the pandemic hit.
Woodbridge High School meets all of the social distancing requirements … and then some.
The very large field behind the high school has 9 foot boxes drawn on the ground, 6 feet apart in every direction with the first row 30 feet from the front of the stage. Each box is for people who are together so masks are not required inside your box but encouraged when roaming for restrooms, food trucks or merch table.
There’s two men who make all of this happen - talent scout and promotor Bill Brandenburg and Woodbridge mayor John McCormac. Both are ‘make it happen’ guys who have been making it happen in Woodbridge since 2008.
Three of the five nights are booked and managed by lifelong Iselin resident Bill Brandenburg.
Back in 2008 Bill saw an article in the local paper that said Woodbridge was working on expanding the performing arts in the Township, including plans to develop an Arts Center.
Being a self described “hard core concert goer” music blogger and lover of the arts, he reached out with an interest in getting involved and helping in any way he could.
He was invited to the next Arts Committee meeting and at that meeting Music on Main Street was born. a modest indoor ticketed five concert series.
At that point, Brandenburg’s life as a Woodbridge talent scout/concert promoter took off as the Wednesday series continued to grow and it continues to reach new heights, to the point where world-class acts have graced the stage.
Since this will be the 12th season of Woodbridge Wednesdays, it’s safe to say that idea became a huge success. So much so that over time the three other nights were added which is how Woodbridge became the free concert capital of The Garden State
Woodbridge Wednesdays is Brandenburg’s baby.
For the Wednesday series Brandenburg literally scours music from all the over the world looking for high quality acts he knows his audience of “like minded people” will love.
He does the research, negotiates the details, hires the sound engineer and books the acts. A make it happen guy.
When you show up for a Wednesday show, you may hear folk or Latin music or it may be rock, country, blues or jazz, but whatever it is, the audience has grown to be confident that it will be good.
“We try to always book the best bands we can with our budget, keeping in mind musical and cultural diversity, including making a point of booking lots of female acts’' said Brandenburg. “We strive for high quality talent with no musical boundaries to appeal to the real music enthusiasts.’'
Brandenburg’s list of Wednesday’s artists is staggering.
He’s had Grammy winners (La Santa Cecilia, Catherine Russell...) , Grammy-nominated artists (Heritage Blues Quartet), winners of jazz, blues and Irish Music Awards as well as artists who went from playing Woodbridge to five months later playing at Michelle Obama’s Inauguration party for Barack in 2012 (Delta Rae) and other prestigious events.
All told, Brandenburg has booked over 150 artists for his coveted Wednesday program, including countless up-and-comers who more than lived up to that label.
“Our budget dictates that we find some great new emerging artists before they become too famous which leaves us enough budget to book a few higher profile, and more expensive, acts,’’ said Brandenburg.
In comes Richard Thompson - Guitarist
Brandenburg’s biggest coup to date was nailing down the incomparable Richard Thompson, a world renowned songwriter/guitarist who has been making glorious music since the 1960s.
Last summer, Thompson accompanied friend and headliner Zara Phillips for a show. With so many cancellations due to covid, including one received during Zara and Richards soundcheck, Brandenburg took advantage of a ‘what the heck’ moment and asked one of his all-time favorites if he was available to fill in that vacant spot.
“All he could say is no,’' said Brandenburg.
But the answer was yes and history was made on July 25, 2000 as Thompson, who has played on the world’s most famous and biggest venues, took the stage at WHS.
The fearless Brandenburg didn’t stop there. He straight out asked Thompson if he would like to headline another show this coming summer.
Thompson is opening Woodbridge Wednesday’s on June 23rd. This time Phillips is his opening act.
Along with Richard Thompson the 2021 series will feature other highly regarded acts including iconic British blues rockers Savoy Brown, award winning Celtic rockers Screaming Orphans and American idol finalist Crystal Bowersox. Other shows will feature Raul Malo, who won the 1995 Grammy for best country duo or group with The Mavericks and Nella who won the 2019 Latin Grammy for Best New Artist.
That moniker is very loose as it covers country, bluegrass and southern rock tribute bands.
This year’s shows will feature Pirate Flag (Kenny Chesney tribute) and the Zac Brown Tribute Band from the world of country, Live at the Fillmore (Allman Brothers Tribute) from the southern rock world as well as Deadgrass, the music of the Greatful Dead, bluegrass style.
Tribute bands have become so popular over the years and at Woodbridge, Brandenburg only books the best of the best.
This year’s card will feature authentic tributes to artists such as the Eagles, the Beatles, David Bowie and Bruce Springsteen and many more.
Woodbridge also features an Oldies Monday card and a Local Band Thursday card.
Brandenburg says all of this happens because Mayor McCormac says “make it happen’’. While Brandenburg does most of the booking for three of the nights, it’s not a one-man operation.
His musical collaborator Al Schaefer manages the web site, works the e-mails and does some of the booking while Brian Molnar and his staff at the Recreation Dept handle processing contracts, getting the checks out, hotel reservations etc.
Brian also manages the other two nights of concerts, the local Band Thursdays and The Monday Oldies. There are also volunteers who sell merch, handle hospitality and some of the behind the scenes details and don’t forget local sponsors who help make it all doable.
Sound is also a first-class act at Woodbridge where Joe Halajian (affectionately called Joe Who) draws rave reviews from the artists on Wednesday and Sunday nights while Dan Seeth handles Monday and Tuesday and local George Markulin handles the chores on Thursdays.
All shows begin at 7:30 with the exception of Sunday night, which gets underway at 7. Bring folding chairs.
See you there!
Aerial Shot - Bill Boyington
Concert Flyer - Bill Brandenburg