My name is Mike. I live in Lancsater County. I used to live in Hawaii. i like Burritos, Guitars and Stuff.
I write words to vent. To get things off of my chest, to deal, to understand and if possible to connect with people. Some days, it's easy for type up a journal entry about music, or something silly. Today, my words are very hard to write. I don't take them lightly.
That's how I'll remember Jersey Mike
Last night, I was standing in the Abbey Bar, while the radio station I work for held their 4th annual Toys For Tots benefit. It was hard not to be beaming with pride, even though personally, I did very little to assist in it’s success. The two people who make this show a local tradition are Glenn Hamilton from The River, and Jersey Mike from The Abbey Bar. When I am at these shows, I know if both of these men are smiling, then it’s a good day.
Those two men were glowing in accomplishment last night. In Mike’s words, “The Bar Is Rocked”.
Mike’s approach to entertainment in Harrisburg was radical. I remember a time when entertainment at ABC / The Abbey Bar consisted the typical fare of local cover song music. Which I have no issue with. I support any venue that supports live music. What Mike did, was made ABC a concert venue.
Mike and I shared a passion for music, that lifted my heart when we could get together to talk about it. He was insanely busy with moving and shaking at a level that few ascend to. The moments when we could talk “tunes” were few and far between. He had come on my show one night and brought with him an armful of CD’s that he wanted to be heard by the folks who listen to Open Mike Night. That show with Mike ran it’s two hour course, but it felt like it went by in 15 minutes.
I have to say all of this in the past tense, because this morning as I type this, Mike Van Jura aka Jersey Mike has already left us in this life. He passed away. Leaving many friends, an unequaled legacy and a beautiful family.
What made Mike great for music, was how great music was to him. He was the guy who would hear a great album and want anyone and everyone to hear it. That grew to where he finally had a springboard for the artists who made these songs to perform on a stage where he could prove that miraculous musical find to everyone. I knew Mike and I were kindred musical spirits when I found that he was an even bigger fan of The Low Anthem as I was. He told me once, that having them play in the Gallery, was such a dynamic musical experience that if someone got up to walk across the floor, that the change jingling in their pocket would disrupt the performance.
Mike knew how to get the word out for his events and how to bring people together. He hosted “Tweetups” for the Harrisburg Twitter community. His celebrity did not lay in a performance, or style. It was a result of the events he created. You couldn’t say that Harrisburg was a dead town with no “scene”. Jersey Mike proved the naysayers wrong. There was a scene, he showed you where to find it. He loved music, he loved bringing it to us. He carried with him the cred of cool but no hipster pretentiousness. He could have easily been the untouchable enigmatic entertainment mogul. Instead, he became part of the group of people who he aspired to reach. He was one of us who call Harrisburg home, that knew that it’s glory days lay ahead of us, and not behind.
He was outspoken and unafraid. He loved Harrisburg, but hated how it was being run. So he handed in the paperwork to run for the vacant seat on Harrisburg City Council last week.
Harrisburg has lost an advocate, a friend and a cool older brother (but was younger than me) who had a great ear for music.
Last night we talked about having another broadcast where we behave like the music geeks that we are, and enlighten people’s eardrums to sounds that we will cherish for a lifetime. Mike and I won’t be able to do that. Mike was an original. He knew how to build a successful business. But he’d also give unknowns and up and comers a chance.
He allowed my band into the Abbey Bar to perform in public for the first time. He also booked us for the Kipona festival last summer at Riverfront park. I was and continue to be honored that my music was worthy of his attention and advocacy.
My heart is heavy for his family, especially is beautiful children.