Saturday January 14th marked the end of Brittney Dixon’s run as General Manager of The Court Tavern, the 35-year-old music venue that has so often been the nerve center for New Jersey’s music and arts scene. A few things to clear up: Dixon was not fired and The Court Tavern did not fail. She stepped down on her own terms and while The Court Tavern is temporarily closed, it will eventually reopen. Whether or not it continues as a live music venue or – as rumored – a private, for-rent event space remains to be seen.
YDKJ reached out to a number of musicians throughout the scene to reflect upon Brittney’s tenure, guiding The Court Tavern from its untimely closure in the summer of 2015 to its rebirth as an exclusive local music venue.
The Court Tavern was one of the first “real” shows that I played as Kate Dressed Up. Brittney was willing to book me with almost no track record or fan base to speak of. By all accounts, Brittney took her role in the local music industry very seriously and did a lot to help local artists as much as she could, myself included. I am very grateful to have gotten the chance to work with her. –Katie Miller, Kate Dressed Up
It is beyond appreciated what Brittney does! I would have never known that this amazing community of musicians and artists even existed if it wasn’t for her. I always said that you could walk in Court Tavern with a Peacock on your head and no one would judge you. I will never forget the times when I heard some of these musicians for the first time. I truly felt it a privilege to be in the presence of the creativity, talent, and friendships surrounding her. Some of the friends I have made because of her have shaped my life forever. And Brittney is a beast on stage! When she growls, you howl! Thank you for your commitment and your passion, Britt. Thank you for giving local artists a voice. Love You! Xoxoxo!!! –Jeanette Ferri, solo artist
“It’s pretty hard to imagine who The Vaughns would be without Brittney Dixon. She’s supported us from day one, and even got us our first New Brunswick show. What’s most amazing though, is that we are just one of the MANY bands Brittney has helped along the way. Through her hard work and passion she’s created a community of musicians who support one another. We are so lucky to have someone like her in our music scene.” -Anna, Ryan, Dave, and Tom aka The Vaughns
When I was in high school, the Court Tavern seemed like a myth or a legend. It was this historic venue that some great bands played at that I, as a teenager, wasn’t allowed into. The fact that I’ve gone on to be a small piece of its long and storied history is pretty insane.
It’s sad to think that there aren’t going to be any venues for live original music in New Brunswick anymore. Even though I love the local basement scene, I’m also a firm believer in the idea that it’s important for traditional venues and DIY spaces to coexist. When a band plays in a venue instead of a basement, they’re being exposed to a different crowd and an entirely different live music experience.
Brittney has done a lot for the development and growth of my bands, and the Court has been the place where it’s happened. -Jeff Linden, Jeff Linden & The Black Spot Society
I just want to thank Brittney for putting on great shows and by doing that introducing me to different bands in the scene. And of course becoming friends with many of the musicians in those bands. Thanks! –Thad Bunkiewicz, Jenny & the Felines
The Court Tavern is a treasure chest in New Brunswick. It’s been an incredible honor to run sound and play on stage. Over the last year I’ve dedicated myself to the local music scene alongside Brittney. Her relentless work ethic brought so many incredibly talented musicians to the stage and it made coming to work feel more like hanging out with close friends.
Audio is my greatest passion and the past year tested my skills with ensuring quality sound for the musician and the show goer. Some of the challenging shows included micing up a drum table of Tupperware, battling guitars that are entirely too loud, and 9 person Ska bands but I’d never trade a minute of it. I have too much fun enduring every wacky scenario. I‘m looking forward to the future and I’m excited for whatever is next. Thank you Brittney and thank you everyone who has made me feel at home over the last year. -Matthew Menafro, Sound Technician, The Court Tavern
Let’s put it this way. Even if I didn’t end up working at The Court Tavern, it’s probably safe to assume I was on par to have spent more time at The Court than I did at home in 2016. That speaks to the kind of environment Brittney created and provided. She created a “come as you are” atmosphere and I felt welcome from the start. I’ll always be grateful for the hard work Brittney puts into the scene. -Nikki Karawacki, Batting a Thousand
Just when we thought the New Jersey music scene was slowly nose-diving into true indifference, there was The Court Tavern and its resilient, inspired curator, the inimitable Brittney Dixon. Brittney taught me and my band Chevonne and The Fuzz that there are still people of all genders, races, and walks of life in Jersey who want to come together, listen to sick local bands, and dance their rage out until morning without barely checking a text or an Instagram tag.
Everyone who has passed through the warm, weathered basement of the Court during Brittney’s tenure as mistress of ceremonies has known what it feels like to see a legitimately awesome night of live music filled with new, homegrown talent.
Although the Court is closing–and although we will mourn the gathering of every single person on the amazing venue and tech staff, plus the cool-ass folks in Brittney’s squad and the ever-loyal fans in the crowd–the new scene is by no means dead. We will find another place to congregate and celebrate each other. We must express our gratitude for what we were lucky to experience together at The Court Tavern; next, we have to push each other to rock on even harder and open new doors where an old (and much loved) one closes. –Chevonne Ricci, Chevonne & the Fuzz
When Britney took over management of The Court Tavern, it saved the legal music scene in New Brunswick. Remember that had she not stepped up to take it over, it literally would not be operating anymore. Its an important establishment because it’s the only real music venue in New Brunswick that you can go to specifically to see a show, and not have to worry about the cops showing up. It’s the only place for music that officially had both a stage and an address. –Stephen Hoydis, Centennials
From 2013 to now I’ve witnessed the Fire Family start small and expand so much all because of Brittney s love for music. It’s such a tight-knit community and the Court will not be the same without her. –Will Brier, The Hostage Crisis
Brittney has been such a huge part of the development of Fun While You Wait, and my own personal growth as a solo performer. Some of our best memories as a band have been thanks to Brittney – from our first shows with her at the Scarlet Pub, to the many we’ve played with her at the Court Tavern. The Sessions open mic hosted the most wonderful bunch of musicians, every Wednesday, where I’ve met some amazing people that I now consider like family. It’s inspiring to work with somebody who so genuinely cares about this scene and the people in it. Brittney, good luck with whatever you do next; whatever it is, we all know you’ll crush it! –Devon Moore, Fun While You Wait
On fire, down to the wire,
Mother wolf protecting her tribe
Brittney – a leader, friend, mother
She held things together under nearly impossible conditions at times.
She cultivated a unique space that allowed the misfits, the visionaries, the aliens to become more perfect versions of themselves in an uncertain time. She gave many of us a first chance. She created a space where so many felt comfortable to experiment and play creatively which is so important for a group of lunatic artists. Her utter respect for local music and community is to be commended, in a time where most people just wanted to make it on the backs of anyone else they could trample. This is not the way of the family she has created. She brought back the vibe of late 60’s and 70’s NYC art communities in rock when everyone was playing with everyone else – things were more collaborative.
So many stumbled upon Brittney just when they needed her most. She never turned you away in times of trouble, and you always left feeling better than when you walked in. She has saved so many people and I’m not sure if she even knows. Directly or indirectly – by being there or by working herself near to exhaustion to create the space where we all found our better selves – miracles happened.
We all owe her more than a thank you for sacrificing her own personal life and time to create a space we could enjoy, forge friendships, and find our people. Don’t let her steely veneer fool you. Her heart beats with more passion and bleeds more easily than most. Her emotions run deep and she will protect those around her with her life. She is feral, she is vicious, and she is the type of life blood that this scene needs to reinvigorate it. –Nikkolina the Terrible, The Production
Brittney Dixon, who forever will be known as the Woman Who Saved the Court Tavern, not only rescued the historic Hub City nightclub but also developed inventive programming and many stacked weekends to increase interest in the city and the state’s rich and fertile music scene. Dixon is without question a cornerstone on which many within the scene have come to rely, and her love for the scene is contagious. –Bob Makin, Makin Waves
Brittney is a dying breed of promotors who is truly booking shows for the love of music. She puts her whole heart into it, watches every band, sings along and makes you feel like you part of the family. We will miss working with her and wish her all the best in whatever she does and wherever she goes.
It’s always sad to hear that a venue is closing down. As a local band, it’s hard to find places to play that are supportive of original music and willing to take a chance on an unknown band or artist. The Court Tavern has become somewhat of a home away from home for our band. We have played countless shows at this venue and have it to thank for so much. It comes and goes and we hope that this is not the end for a room with such history in the New Jersey scene. –Michelle Belveduto, Control
Every week, I looked forward to getting out on Wednesday evening to attend, and on rare occasion play at The Sessions Open Mic night at the Court Tavern. There was something special about Wednesday evenings that’s difficult to classify. The environment was comfortable and supportive for artists who were looking to try out new material, jam with other musicians or even interpret a few covers. Anything went and everyone was welcome. New friendships were forged. It was not uncommon for group sing-alongs or cross-collaborations to occur, and in the process friends became family. Brittney cultivated that positive energy, through her kindness and her unconditional support of all of the artists involved. She’s a beautiful human being and I am honored to have had the opportunity to get to know her. It will be sad to see her leave but I wish her nothing but the best in her future pursuits, in music and in life. –Kimi Howe, Casino Sundae
I was a latecomer to the Court Tavern; I only started going a little over a year ago. My initial visits were prompted by a project I was doing for a class, but I quickly realized that the Court Tavern was more than just a performance venue. The Court Tavern, under Brittney Dixon’s guidance, was a supportive community that welcomed everyone who shared a passion for live music.
In the fall of 2015, I began going to the open mic nights that Brittney held on Wednesdays. I felt a bit out of place up there, playing folk music on the accordion in a historically significant punk rock bar, but Brittney and the other musicians gave me a very warm reception. I started going every single week, and with each open mic, I realized how open-minded, friendly, and supportive everyone there was. I credit Brittney entirely for fostering this type of environment. It quickly became a safe place for me to go and express myself, meet up with other musicians, and listen to an astonishing amount of phenomenal music.
Brittney’s commitment to the local music scene didn’t seem to have any boundaries. She would do everything possible to make sure everyone was comfortable and enjoyed themselves. She would cheer every performer on loudly, she would encourage collaboration, and she made sure everyone knew they were a part of a community. The other regulars at the Court Tavern and the musicians who would play there became part of a family, and Brittney was the matriarch, making sure everything was running smoothly, that everyone felt included, and that we all supported each other.
I’m going to miss the Court Tavern. I’m not sure other venues can recreate the sense of familial inclusiveness that Brittney did at the Court. Those nights playing music and hanging out with my friends meant a lot to me, and I’m saddened to see them go. Even so, I will always remember my time at that New Brunswick institution with a great fondness and affection.
Thank you, Brittney, for all you’ve done for the Court Tavern, the local New Jersey music scene, and for all of us who loved that bar and the community it housed. –George Lykogiannis, Floyds Row
The Court Tavern was a great place to hang out and watch people perform. Brittney has faith in us; she has done so much for us! I’m glad I took the opportunity to perform at the open mic night. Because of Brittney, I wouldn’t be so afraid of singing in front of everyone. In other words, she made me more confident. –Alessandra Yanussi
I’ve been performing live music for about 17 years. It’s not always fruitful, but money was never the reason I played. Next to my wife and daughter, music is what I live for. Being that I’ve been playing for a while I’ve gone through my fair share of line-ups, which required me to get creative from time to time. From Jersey Drive’s Acousta-punk duet at the Rail House’s “Soft Sounds and Creative Wonders” to the Court Tavern’s “Halfway to Halloween Cover Show” where Death by Fiction was born sporting leather pants and face paint, Brittney has given me an opportunity to let the music in my heart and soul be free. There’s no “thank you” big enough for what you’ve let me create. I am forever grateful, and I love you. –Ed Hussey, Death by Fiction
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