Steve Cutaia, Executive Director of Montclair's Outpost in the Burbs, likes to refer to his venerable venue as a "three-legged dog."
"We're a non-profit outreach organization dedicated to building community through music, community service and cultural programs," he said.
While this Essex County institution has provided a soup kitchen for those in need, been involved with Habitat For Humanity and organized hikes and rafting trips, music fans know the Outpost as one of New Jersey's best, most intimate music venues. Cutaia reflected on the history of the Outpost recently, as he looks forward to celebrating its 25th year.
"When I began the place in 1987, the concept was to build community amongst the people here," said Cutaia, who grew up in Montclair.
But if live concerts were an offshoot of Cutaia's grand vision and good works, music fans are richer because of this wonderful accident. Artists from J.D. Souther to Lisa Hannigan and Steve Earle, plus many others, have graced the Outpost stage.
But, despite the quality artists appearing, even the Outpost is being affected by America's financial woes.
"As great as our shows have been lately, there's no questions that our occasional hard times have reflected what's happening to the country's economy," said Cutaia. "People don't have quite as much disposable income in their pockets as they have in the past, so it's been a bit rough recently. Even J.D., who's written hit songs for The Eagles, didn't quite sell the place out. Plus, the agents for these artists still ask for a price commensurate with what these folks get paid elsewhere. Financially things were a bit tough in 2011."
Still, this child of the '60s, prefers to talk about some of Outpost's great shows, instead of dwelling on the recent recession.
"Anna Nalick is one of my favorite singer/songwriters," said Cutaia. "She writes acutely about the stuff that actually happens to her. Not just make-believe things. She was great here. As have been (folk-rock duo) The Kennedys, Souther and Richie Havens. But maybe the most memorable artist we've ever had was Steve Earle. An amazing night."
Cutaia, chuckles and makes an almost audible shake-of-the-head, when reliving the Earle show in 2009.
"Aside from being a great songwriter, Steve crept into Pollstar's top 40 grossing acts that year. Still, somehow, we got him to perform. It didn't matter that our air conditioning was broken and the hall was hot; people packed the place. In fact, fans were climbing in through the windows to get in. That's when you realize what a great job it is promoting the artists you love."
As he looks ahead to 2012 and remarked, "I think our official anniversary is in June sometime," Cutaia said he has a wish list of musicians he'd like to have at Outpost In The Burbs . . . .someday.
"We're having Ellis Paul in January and (rockabilly singer) Robert Gordon in February. Great people. But there's this young singer/songwriter, named Lissie, that I'm crazy about. She's absolutely gigantic overseas, but she's barely known here. She's a rocking singer/songwriter, with a throaty voice and she's like no one else. I don't know if I can book her here. But I certainly would like to. That would be so cool," he said.
So, the Executive Director of Outpost in the Burbs has spoken. And generally, 2012 promises to be a wonderfully eclectic year for him. But Lissie? If you're reading this? How about getting in touch? And make this most worthy, Montclair man happy. And his greatest musical dream come true.
INFO: For concert information, or to volunteer, go to www.outpostintheburbs.org