Alex Skolnick, lead guitarist for thrash metal veterans TESTAMENT, will shred the stage with SHITKILL, IN MUSTH and SAINT AVARICE to celebrate the first birthday of UnBlock The Rock (UBTR), a grassroots organization dedicated to breaking down political barriers through the power of heavy metal. The first initiative of UBTR is to bring Cuban heavy metal band ESCAPE, featured in the documentary “They Will Be Heard”, to the U.S. to tour with their headbanging neighbors.
“Metal is empowering, and bands want to share their music with the whole world,” said Skolnick who will perform TESTAMENT‘s rock anthem “Souls Of Black” with members from participating bands on March 2. “ESCAPE is a great band. Why shouldn’t they perform in front of an American audience?”
Skolnick has been working with UBTR since April 2011. His interest in helping the band came from his own work as a mentor and music producer for the Iraqi heavy metal band ACRASSICAUDA, the subject of the critically acclaimed documentary “Heavy Metal In Baghdad”. The film followed ACRASSICAUDA and their struggles to perform their music in a war torn nation. The band has since relocated to the United States.
Monica Hampton, producer of “Heavy Metal in Baghdad” and “Fahrenheit 911”, is also at the helm of UBTR, and has been guiding the development of the organization. Originally an effort to bring ESCAPE to New York to perform, it was Hampton who broadened the organization to include metal bands from all over the world. “It was incredible to see ACRASSICAUDA successfully tour across America last summer; they grew as musicians and as people,” she said. “We need more artists from around the world to tour the U.S. and share their music with us, UBTR will make that happen.”
Skolnick and Hampton have worked with UBTR on several projects, including “UnBlock The Cocktail”, a recent “Top Chef”-style cocktail competition and fundraiser in Manhattan, for which Skolnick and Hampton were judges. The winning cocktail, 53 Cadillac, was created by “Izzi“, Boca Grande’s own bartender, it will be available as a drink special for the first time the night of the birthday show.
UBTR was born from the documentary “They Will be Heard”, the first feature-length film on Cuban heavy metal. Director Tracey Noelle Luz followed ESCAPE in Cuba for nine months, immersing herself in the Cuban metal culture. Luz and Jennifer Hernandez, the original keyboard player of ESCAPE who currently resides in New Jersey, launched UBTR in February of 2011.
“Like most world-changing movements, UBTR was born in the kitchen with two women,” Luz said. “Working with only some vision and a little bit of fight, the UBTR family has only expanded, proving that what brings us together is stronger than what separates us. ESCAPE will be performing in New York soon enough.”
Because of immigration policies between the two countries, the visa process to bring musicians from Cuba to the U.S. is expensive and time consuming.
The event will take place on Friday, March 2 from 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Boca Grande, located at 564 Washington Blvd, in Jersey City’s ultra-hip Newport waterfront. Tickets are available for those 21 and older at the door. $10 includes admission to the party of year and, of course, cake. A percentage of proceeds from the event go to UBTR in efforts to bring ESCAPE to the U.S. to perform.