Driving through Montclair's Bloomfield Avenue, I see Patagonia, Lululemon, and Vineyard Vines outfits, but as I turn the corner onto Park Avenue, I enter a completely different world. In front of me is a rainbow of colored hair, sharp jewelry, crust punk, goth and hip-hop-style clothing.
Empty beer cans and shooters litter the sidewalk while vape smoke rises through the air, and a group of five is huddled around a phone, freestyling to what sounds like a Soundcloud rap-type beat. I know I'm in the right place: Underground Developmental 30.
Founded by Kurt Donavon, Underground Developmental is a series of recurring concerts in Montclair that brings the underground music and art scene to the heart of Northern New Jersey.
While New York City, Atlantic City and Philadelphia host many underground events showcasing lesser-known and new artists, there's always been a vacuum for these types of events in the North Jersey area.
Underground Developmental lives up to its name as it demonstrates a commitment to developing artists, musicians and creatives. While major label artists have an entire team backing them for promotions, events, showcases and more, smaller and independent artists often don't get this luxury.
Getting booked for shows is one of the hardest things to do as an artist, and Donavon said he understands this as an artist himself. Underground Developmental replaces a pay-to-play system with an hour-long open mic, which is on a first-come, first-serve basis. This allows a fair environment for all artists to play, regardless of their financial situation.
Donavon and Underground Developmental's top priorities include, of course, music and artistry, but the event also focuses on creating a community for both artists and attendees.
One of the primary words that Donavon uses to describe Underground Developmental is "family" because that is his end goal. A group of like-minded people who are there to support one another and grow no matter who they are. The blueprint comes from a previous show that Donavon hosted, "Come as You Are," which invited people to be their true selves.
Underground Developmental's next show is slated for October 25 at The Meatlocker in Montclair.