Morristown dads make professional debut ‘Onstage’

Posted by on Jan 27, 2017 in News

Morristown dads make professional debut ‘Onstage’

Morristown dads make professional debut ‘Onstage’

Morristown dads make professional debut ‘Onstage’

Michael Izzo , @MIzzoDR 4:34 p.m. ET Jan. 27, 2017
This is the 13th in a series of profiles highlighting the finalists of Morristown Onstage, to be held March 1 at the Mayo Performing Arts Center.

MORRISTOWN – Four dads recently formed a rock band, and their first gig is a big one, performing in front of a packed house at the Mayo Performing Arts Center for Morristown Onstage.

Morristown residents Rob Staats, 42, Joe Rivera, 46, Jude Andrade, 43, and Chris Vander Groef, 43, recently formed the band 31 South and will play one of their favorite songs, “Black” by Pearl Jam.

The band is named after the office space that Vander Groef rents along South Street, where the group also practices.

“We had no idea what to call ourselves,” Vander Groef said. “Someone suggested Bad Hombres but someone else didn’t like it. Eventually we went with the address where we practiced.”
Vander Groef started the band because after 10 years of playing guitar by himself, he wanted to jam with some other people. After realizing a few fathers of his kids’ friends also had guitars, he invited them to play with him.

“We were not a serious band, but we started practicing a few times and learned some songs,” Vander Groef said. “Then a friend suggested we audition for Morristown Onstage.”

The group decided to audition to step out of their comfort zone and check off another item on the bucket list, performing live as rock band.

“Honestly we never expected to get in. We never had any intention of doing anything like this,” Vander Groef said. “The audition was our first live performance and we never even thought of playing in front of 1,600 people.”

Their musical experience ranges from more than two decades of practice to casual “on and off” playing for a few years, but they practiced the song until they got it down. And they’re continuing to practice leading up to the show, improving each time.

Vander Groef said he hopes 31 South can perform at least one open mic before the show on March 1.

“Morristown Onstage has almost been a distraction for us,” Vander Groef said. “Because since we became finalists we’ve been so focused on getting that song right that we haven’t gotten to practice any other songs.”

Vander Groef hopes his kids will never forget the experience of seeing him play on stage.

“Just that fact that we’re here is winning,” Staats said. “We’re four average Joe’s having a blast.”

Rivera agrees.

“We already won,” he said. “We made it and we are performing better than we did in December. That is a victory.”

If they do win though, they have differing, yet similar, plans for how to celebrate. Vander Groef and Andrade want to take a trip to Las Vegas, while Rivera and Staats want to have an after party with an open bar to celebrate with the friends and family who supported them.

Following the show, the group envisions varying levels of success for themselves.

Andrade hopes 31 South will learn at least one more song to go along with the one they learned for Morristown Onstage. Vander Groef says he is thinking about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

They’ll also make plenty of time for their wives and collective 11 kids among the four of them.

“I have three boys that are slowly killing me,” Rivera said, “But I wouldn’t change a thing.”

Staff Writer Michael Izzo: 973-428-6636; mizzo@GannettNJ.com

Morristown Onstage

What: A show featuring the best amateur talent from Morristown, Morris Twp. and Morris Plains, presented by and benefiting the Morris Educational Foundation.

When: Wednesday, March 1

Where: Mayo Performing Arts Center, 100 South St. in Morristown.

Tickets: On sale starting Feb. 1. Prices range from $25 to $75. For information, call MPAC at 973-539-8008 or visit www.mayoarts.org.

Morris Educational FoundationMorristown Medical Center