by Dave Warner
The BarRoom Neon Project kicks off every Friday night at 8 pm with a little intro and then a lot of music. The idea was for Joe Famulare (guitar, vocals), and his wife Christine, (bass, vocals, flute, harmonica), to do some virtual concerts, to have fun, and to involve the talents of local musicians from groups like the Terminal Reign, Pointless Forest/Wandering Folk, and others from the Central New York area.
Collectively those individuals have performed in bars and clubs, outdoor festivals, and events in the Gloversville/Johnstown area, Albany, Syracuse, New York City, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
Joe’s family has deep roots in Little Falls, and he and his wife now live in what used to be his great-grandfather’s home on Southern Ave., across from the harbor. His parents once owned a pizza place called Two Capece’s. “We lived above the bar the first year, but then we moved here into great-grandpa’s house.”
Christine and Joe dated when they were in eighth and ninth grade. “We dated for a few months, but then remained friends for a long time. One day, out of the blue, I called her up and said I needed to talk to her and it was kind of a fairy tale story. We got back together again and were married a year later and celebrate our 27th anniversary this October,” he stated.
Joe said that his wife’s family has been in Little Falls as long as his family has and that she’s a Leskobar. “My family came over from the old country and they ended up in St Johnsville and then moved up here. Southsiders – and my Uncle still lives over there and he’s 85,” said Christine.
Both Joe and Christine went to school for music, and she is classically trained. “I play bass, harmonica, flute, I sing and play the saxophone. I tried piano, but I’m not good at it,” she said. “I like the business end of music as well, that’s always been my thing.”
Joe said that back in the 90s he had a band called Terminal Reign, which was a metal band. “We got signed to a small label out of California. It was just a little independent label. We used to be on the metal shows and do local shows here at the high school or the YMCA because the kids couldn’t come into the clubs and bars.”
“Our CD’s were getting popular in 92 and 93, and I decided I needed a change and we became folk musicians. Just Christine and I and a couple of other guitar players for a little bit and we’ve been playing together since 1994,” he said. At that time, the group was called Wandering Folk.
Joe said that he really loved the acoustic sound and even some country music. “I love everything from Metallica, to Barry Manilow, to Frank Sinatra and Mozart. We just started writing songs together. I started taking her poems and putting them to music.”
For many years they hosted the Coffee House at the Episcopal Church and would bring in local and regional bands. “We do that at Holy Trinity now, any time we have a Coffee House, we set it up just like a cafe with candles, tablecloths, lights, and popcorn,” Joe said.
The pair has also played at Canal Celebration for many years and was one of the first local groups to play and even hosted a folk festival one year. “What Chris and I have wanted to do is take our original music that we’ve been writing for years and start adding more instruments to it,” he said.
So, at the end of last year, they changed the name from Wandering Folk to the BarRoom Neon Project. “We fell in love with the name, and anybody that plays with us or sits in for one night, a few months or a year, becomes part of the project,” said Joe. They also livestream all of their events to Facebook.
Rory O’Bryan started playing with the group a few weeks ago. “We’re not looking for it to be perfect, we make mistakes, we’re finding that the Internet is not always perfect either.”
They are working on involving everything from local restaurants to local poets in the project and liken their efforts to the creation of an old variety show from the 60s or 70s. “We even have a glassblower that’s going to be joining us in September and October,” Joe stated.
Joe says that Christine is the business mind of the group and that he is more of the coming up with ‘the crazy ideas end’ of the project. “The fun part of this is that the project is going to go wherever it goes. We don’t know where it’s going to go, but our main objective is to get our music out to a bigger audience and to get Little Falls recognized.”
He said their goal is to take all the musicians that they know, all the places that they eat, all their friends and keep things right here in Little Falls. “Right now we’re just hoping to get some of the local people that we know as our guests,” Joe stated.
The couple said that there seems to be an appetite for this type of content, not only from people who live here but from those that have moved away and want to stay connected. “You see them chime in, people who have moved away. Just putting up the four short little episodes that we did from That Little Place on Main really impacted people.
You can find out more by visiting barroomneonproject.com or by calling 315-823-1882.