Rent Party will present its 100th show this weekend


Rent Party’s 100th show takes place March 10 at The Woodland in Maplewood.

Rent Party isn’t making a big deal about it. But the benefit concert series, which started in October 2009 with a show at the South Orange Elks Lodge, will present its 100th show, March 10 at The Woodland in Maplewood. 

The Vaughns, Allied Chemical and The Vansaders are on the bill. This show, like all in the Rent Party series, will raise money to fight hunger in the local community.

Rent Party, which moved to The Woodland in 2014, mainly presents local bands, about once a month. But it does book national acts, too. Some of the most prominent artists to perform at Rent Party include The Feelies (two 40th anniversary shows, last year), Wanda Jackson, Willie Nile, Jesse Malin, Marshall Crenshaw, Garland Jeffreys, Freedy Johnston and James Maddock. At the Wanda Jackson show, Joan Jett attended, and while Jett didn’t perform, she did, literally, pass around the Rent Party’s traditional charity bucket between sets.

The Feelies will perform again, on April 28, and a show by The Blasters is planned for September.

I talked to Rent Party founder Chris Dickson this week about the series’ first eight years

Q: Are you doing anything special, Friday night, to commemorate the occasion?

A: No. It’s going to be kind of a business-as-usual show. You know, when we circled the date on our calendar, we had some pretty big ideas, and we had some folks that we wanted to have along for the night. And then, you know, bands are available, or not available, and at the end of the day, we figured we’d just go with a business-as-usual approach. We have three bands that are all first timers (at Rent Party), and we’re real excited about having them.

As I said to somebody, this is just a milestone in the road. It’s not the end of the road. 

Q: When you look back over the 100 shows, how have things evolved? What really stands out for you?

A: Probably the first thing was, the decision we made early on to focus on original music, versus cover bands. Not that there’s anything wrong with cover bands — I played in one myself for a lot of years — but I think if you heard “Mustang Sally” every month, it would have been a short-lived series.

And then I think the move, two and and a half years ago, to The Woodland, which is a much bigger space, is probably the second biggest thing we’ve done.

Q: Besides The Feelies’ show in April, is there anything coming up that I can mention?

A: You know what, I guess I’ll use this as an opportunity … we’re really happy to announce that we booked The Blasters for September, so they’ll be the first band at the start of our ninth season, Sept. 22.

Q: Cool! When do tickets go on sale for that? 

A: We’ll probably put that show on sale on June.

Since we’ve started, we’ve tried to do two or three nationally known acts each year. In the beginning, it was kind of to bring some different people into our tent, make them aware of what we were doing with our mission to fight hunger locally. Now, it’s just an opportunity to bring some different folks in.

Q: Are there any shows, or moments, that really stand out for you, over the years?

A: Personal favorites, looking back … the first time we had Willie Nile. He was really the first nationally known act that we had. So that was special. That was our first season. One of my favorite times ever was Garland Jeffreys, the first time he came to our place with a full band show. The soundcheck was one of the greatest shows I’ve ever seen. And then, we’ve had so many good nights of great local, original music, it’s really hard to pick one, but as I tell people, the shows and the bands are like my kids. I love ’em all, but I love ’em for different reasons.

We’ve had so many great nights of live music, and hopefully, we have 100 more in us.

Q: Is it possible to quantify what you’ve done for hunger relief?

A: Currently we support three food pantries financially, to the tune of about $20,000 a year. We also have a garden that raises fresh produce for those pantries, and we have a BackPack Pals program in the schools of Maplewood/South Orange, that supports about 100 kids each week, during the school year. 

The Vaughns, Allied Chemical and The Vansaders will perform at the 100th Rent Party show at The Woodland in Maplewood, March 10 at 8 p.m. Visit

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