Over the past decade guitarist Steve Brown has made the Sand Bar in Brielle and the stages of other Monmouth County bars, restaurants and boardwalks his second home.
Though best known as the guitarist for Bergen County hard rockers Trixter, Brown had made a name for himself on the Jersey Shore rock scene as one of its most versatile musicians, performing acoustically, with full groups and as a one-man band.
“I just love the Jersey shore,” the Paramus native said by phone. “That’s where you want to be as a musician.”
On Friday, Brown and Dennis Zimmer, former singer for major cover band Big Orange Cone, play an acoustic set at the Sand Bar that will cover five decades of music. Brown and Zimmer’s eclectic set list includes everything from songs by Johnny Cash and Elvis to U2, A Flock of Seagulls and Guns N’ Roses.
Brown said playing a non-traditional mix of cover songs is a challenge for himself and enjoyable for the audience, which never knows what to expect next.
“I don’t like to do anything that a lot of other people do,” Brown said. “I try to differentiate myself from the pack. It’s always very cool when someone comes in and hears me doing [Johnny Cash’s] “Folsom Prison Blues” or an acoustic version of “Dance the Night Away” by Van Halen.
His take on the one-man-band is far from karaoke. Brown can be found in boardwalk venues in Monmouth and Ocean counties playing to his own backing drum and bass tracks recorded at his home studio.
In addition to his Jersey Shore gigs, Brown has been touring the country this year with Trixter, which in April released its first studio album in 20 years.
“New Audio Machine” is a diverse platter that features the essential elements of Trixter’s upbeat melodic rock with modern production. Standout tracks include album-opener “Drag Me Down,” which juxtaposes sing-a-long vocals with one of the heaviest riffs in the Trixter canon, the uplifting “Live for the Day,” and the hook-laden “Tattoos & Misery.”
Brown is the principal songwriter on “New Audio Machine,” which also includes writing contributions from former Styx guitarist Glen Burtnik and Skid Row guitarist Dave “Snake” Sabo and bassist Rachel Bolan.
“We’re proud of the album and the band has a new-found confidence,” Brown said. “It really resonates with people. The response around the world has been overwhelming.”
Trixter released two albums in the early Nineties and quickly found success, touring the world opening arena shows for such acts as The Scorpions and landing an MTV hit with their video for “Give it to Me Good.” The band’s promising career was derailed when the grunge movement rendered their brand of party-rock obsolete.
The band, rounded out by singer-guitarist Pete Loran, bassist P.J. Farley and drummer Mark Scott, regrouped in 2008, and Brown knew a new album would not be far behind.
“We all got along great and the shows were tremendous,” he said. “Coming up with new music and making the record was the next logical step.
“We made the record now because it felt right. It doesn’t sound forced. I think we made a record true to what Trixter is, everything we were then and everything we are now.”
Brown said his favorite compliments on “New Audio Machine” come from people who wrote off Trixter in the Nineties as a second-generation hair metal band looking to capitalize on the success of Bon Jovi and Motley Crue.
“We’ve had people say, ‘I never was a fan of Trixter but this album is great,’” Brown said. “That feels really good."
Trixter will perform with fellow melodic rockers Kix on Nov. 23 at the Bergen Performing Arts Center in Englewood. Brown said he is already busy booking the band’s 2013 tour dates. He said he’s sure he’ll be spending a good deal of time next year playing solo in Monmouth County as well.
“I love playing music for a living, whether it’s with Trixter or my solo shows,” Brown said. “If Trixter didn’t happen, I guarantee you I would still be a musician. Whether it’s playing for 20,000 people at a festival or 20 people in a restaurant, I love it all.”
IF YOU GO: Steve Brown and Dennis Zimmer, 9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28, Sand Bar, 201 Union Lane, Brielle. Call 732-528-7750 or visit www.sandbarrestaurant.com.
ALSO PERFORMING: With Kix, 8 p.m. Nov. 23, Bergen Performing Arts Center, 30 N. Van Brunt St., Englewood. Tickets are $19 to $99. Call (201) 227–1030 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.