Kate Gardner of the band Green Light Go seems way bigger on stage than she does when she’s right next to you. She sounds it, too. When the pixie-ish 21-year-old sat down at my booth during a break in a gig at Finnegan’s Pub on Route 130 in East Windsor, I, at a mere 5’ 3”, towered over her. I could not believe that this tiny thing was the husky-voiced lead singer for the opening band of the evening.

You might not expect the angsty folk rock sound of Green Light Go from the daughter of an environmental scientist who works for the DEP. However, growing up in East Windsor with parents who listened to Jimmy Page, Genesis, and Peter Gabriel whetted an appetite for an edgy vibe. Gardner also found a taste for the mellower feel of Joni Mitchell, and later, Ani Difranco and Sarah McLaughlin. Two years of voice and violin study at Mercer College introduced her to classical music — Schubert and Vaughn Williams — and fostered an eager appreciation for jazz and blues. As she completes her music degree at Monmouth, we can only assume that an even wider variety of influences will be added to the list.

Throw in a healthy dose of hardcore rock, courtesy of drummer Ryan Fisher and electric guitarist (and Kate’s fiancee) Ken Vaughan, with a little bit more folk from acoustic guitarist Sean Meurle, and we get the pumped-up-yet-poetic Green Light Go. Think 10,000 Maniacs with a Jaegermeister aftertaste. And Kate’s electric violin.

On this summer night at Finnegan’s, it is plain to see that Green Light Go has already earned a loyal following since it first formed in January of this year. The audience consists of mostly older clientele, here to watch the Pilly-Cincinnati game while shooting the breeze over the beer and free popcorn. However, the band’s regular concertgoers, college-aged peers of the band, are contagiously enthusiastic. Those new to the band who aren’t singing along are at least applauding between pool shots. This evening is a comparatively quiet one for Green Light Go.

The band has had an impressive journey in the short time since January. Having performed its first gig at Trenton’s 449 Room just two months after its first rehearsal, the band gained traction and a supportive fan base. Winning the semifinal competition at the Stone Pony’s “The Break 2006” earned them a spot in the lineup at the Bamboozle when it came to East Rutherford. By that time, it was barely May.

The band now performs regularly, often with help from concert promoter Capital City Concerts (CCC). Founded by Kevin Swider and Kerry Roche in spring of 2003, CCC produces 550 shows a year, working with more than 20 clubs and bars in the tri-state area, including Trenton’s Conduit, Asbury Park’s Wonder Bar, and the Trocadero Theater in Philadelphia. Finnegan’s, however, has become the promoter’s main venue, welcoming and promoting local bands since CCC’s inception. The show this evening runs smoothly, as CCC runs the sound, handles press and promotions, and helps with the transitions between bands, providing structure to what is usually a long, cumbersome, and fairly annoying process.

As instruments, amps, and microphones are shuttled out the door, Gardner talks about the future for Green Light Go. The first project? A full-length record, already in the works. Three tracks already down, the band is saving up to record the rest. They would like to see all 12 tracks completed by the end of the year. Some finished tunes (which really do sound finished, unlike those of many MySpace bands) are available on the band’s MySpace page, www.myspace.com/greenlightgonj. I especially like “Separate Ways.” In addition to the record, according to Gardner, the band would like “to be signed!” If their brief history is any indication, they’ll probably have a label by Columbus Day.

Green Light Go,NJ 609-448-8012. www.myspace.com/greenlightgonj; www.capitalcityconcerts.com.

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