HELMETTA, NJ - Mother Nature rained on Next to Norm's parade in July and the clouds threatened the band's performance on Friday, August 11, but the drops stayed away as the Central Jersey based group rocked the Maple Street pavilion with an eclectic mix of tunes that included "Back in the USSR," "Bad Moon Rising," "Come and Get Your Love," "Handle with Care," "Crazy Little Thing Called Love," "Into the Mystic" and much more. With strong vocals and a toe-taping beat, the five member band put on a lively and entertaining concert on a breezy summer evening that spanned the decades and payed homage to performers like Cold Play, Van Morrison, John Mellencamp and Queen.
The show was the final installment in Helmetta's summer outdoor concert series and the band was making a return performance. Next to Norm also performed at the pavilion last summer. The band, which includes Greg Lynch, Tony Rohal, Diane Franz, Eddie Olexson and Erich Thalheimer, has roots in the area. Lynch is a Helmetta native with his parents and brothers still living in the borough. Olexson and Franz hail from Spotswood while Rohal is from Old Bridge and Thalheimer is from South Amboy.
The current lineup of Next to Norm has only been together for about three years. However, all of the band's musicians have deep roots in rock, playing for over 30 years with various bands. Lynch and Olexson used to be head bangers back in the day.
"Me and Eddie used to play in a band like 25 to 30 years ago," Lynch said with a chuckle after the Maple Street Pavilion show. "We were in a hair band. We lost contact for a long time and we actually got together through Facebook."
Original members of Lynch and Olexson's band had moved on, but the pair was able to connect with Rohal and Franz. Thalheimer is the newest member and handles most of the lead vocals though Lynch did get to show off both his drum and vocal prowess on Steppenwolf's "Born to be Wild."
When asked about his roots in the boro, Lynch had fond memories of growing up on Lake Avenue.
"I remember when this used to be a warehouse," Lynch said of the Maple Street Pavilion. "Me and my buddy used to play here."
Lynch recounted how he and his pal used to build forts and find unique and fun ways to play as youngsters.
"Growing up in Helmetta was great," Lynch said with a grin. "You don't really appreciate it at the time."
After their successful performance, Next to Norm is ready to play more venues. They would love to hit the stage of local clubs, festivals and events. The group is in the process of putting together a public relations package and hoping to book more gigs in the near future.
For more information on Next to Norm, visit the band's Facebook page.