GRADFEST Rocks Tierney's to Raise Money for MHS Project Graduation This Saturday, Feb. 29th

THE AMPS ARE SET ON 11. Once again, Montclair moms and 
dads will strap on their guitars and grab their picks and sticks to play a show to raise money for their kids in the town’s public schools.

Gradfest, a rocking band night benefit, is set for 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 29th at Tierney’s and will feature five great local performers/bands, making music to raise money for Montclair High School’s Project Graduation, which sends new graduates out of town on a cavalcade of buses to a secret destination, for a night of fun and safe post-commencement partying.

Many of the parent performers still play live and record music for a living or on the side. But they also come together to donate their talents when a good cause—like Project Graduation—comes calling. 

Zara Phillips is a singer, songwriter, author, filmmaker, adoptee rights advocate, and recovery specialist who has recently been touring and singing with British singer/songwriter/guitar legend Richard Thompson. She has had three children pass through the Montclair public schools. From her earliest days performing as a backup singer with Boomtown Rat Sir Bob Geldoff, to her time more recently as a guitar-toting Montclair mom, dueting with DMC of RUN DMC (also an adoptee), the cross current themes of identity, loss and healing have run through all her creative work, including the album she’s busy recording now. She played her first band night fundraiser for Bradford in 2013, when her daughter was in elementary school there, and is happy to return to Tierney’s for another as her youngest daughter graduates from MHS this year.

Matthew Davis, who will be playing some songs of his own and doing covers with one of the other bands, has been playing music since he was a teenager. His band The Vestrymen released a pair of albums back in the heyday of “college rock” in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. He continues to write and play original material in both The Thousand Pities as well as the folk-rock sextet The Campfire Flies, whose glistening debut, Sparks Like Little Stars, released last year, features jangling guitars and gorgeous harmonies and garnered the band many new fans. Davis is also a school fundraiser journeyman, having played shows for Watchung School and Buzz Aldrin Middle School, as well as previous PG shows. Davis’s oldest daughter graduated and is a sophomore in college. His twin sons are sophomores at MHS.

A Sock Monster set is a sonic tour that blasts you from covers of ‘60s and ‘70s rock classics from the Kinks and Badfinger through the era of smart power pop and punk (Squeeze, Buzzcocks, Replacements) right up to the alt era of now. With their twin guitar attack, mighty drumming and three singers harmonizing, they infuse old faves and newer shoulda-been hits with a mighty crunch. The four local dads include JP Uva on guitar, who has boy/girl twins in 10th grade at MHS, as well as Jim Kvoriak, whose two daughters passed through the school a few years ago. They’ve played eight school fundraisers, starting with the first Bradfest in 2010, and even been auctioned off twice to raise money for their kids’ schools.

The Hey Honeys are a tight pop-soul band playing bold originals and powerhouse covers by Amy Winehouse, Aretha Franklin, Lizzo and more. The band features vocalist Aviva Patz, who has two daughters at MHS, including a senior; bass player Greg Carson, who has one MHS senior and one graduate; guitarist Angela Babin, a native New Yorker whose partner has a senior and a freshman at MHS; and drummer Aaron “AB” Belinfanti, whose son is in elementary school. The Hey Honeys have been playing together (with a few personnel changes) since 2010. Their CD, Throwing Quarters Into Fountains, is available on iTunes. Patz’s previous band, Client No. 9, played at one of the first school band night fundraisers, Rocking for Rand School back in 2009. 

Between them, the members of the Lily Vakili Band have seven kids who have gone through or are currently attending MHS. Lead singer/guitarist Lily Vakili’s kids have all passed through the school, and her daughter Claire is a class of 2020 senior; lead guitarist Ben St. Jacques has a current freshman; backup singer Cecile William’s daughter is a freshman; and harmonica player Joel Dorow’s two kids also passed through earlier. Between them that’s a lot of teenage eye rolling to have to contend with and maybe that’s why they pack such a mean, growling wallop onstage. They released their first album Oh Alright, in 2018, but it’s the video of last year’s single,
“She Wants What,” that best showcases the raw, electric kaboom of hard rock, punk and blues comes together in their sound.

Gradfest is set for Saturday, Feb. 29th at Tierneys, 136 Valley Road in Montclair. The show starts at 7 p.m. Comedian Eileen Kelly, an MHS mom of boy/girl sophomore twins, will MC the show. Advance tickets are available until the day of the show for $20 at, or at the door upstairs at Tierney’s the night of the show, for $25. All proceeds will benefit Montclair High School Project Graduation. For more information, visit

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