Trenton has a hot underground music scene, and one of the best spots to catch live entertainment is The Mill Hill Basement, attached to a saloon of the same name. It is located in an historic area of the city and named after the first industrial site in Central New Jersey, a grist mill erected in 1679.
Upstairs The Mill Hill Saloon has a quiet bar and the restaurant fit for your grandma and her knitting circle, but if you go to the side exit and head downstairs, you find a different world.
Stickers from hundreds of bands cover the ceiling and walls, while blood, sweat, and beer stain the floor. Space is minimal, but that doesn’t stop people from packing into the tiny basement like sardines.
The dim lighting, produced mostly by christmas lights, creates an intimate atmosphere as band after band takes to the stage.
According to Anna Stange, a Mill Hill Basement patron of nine years, “They have the best beer list in Trenton.” She also told The VOICE that they have real music that supports the community’s local artists.
According to Dave Locane, the manager at Mill Hill, who has been employed here since 2002, “Every night is a great night to be here.”
Music from punk rock to hip hop, and metal to acoustic folk are common occurrences. Almost every night, there is something going on at the Millhill. Any band that loves to do what they do is welcome.
Bartender Olivia Smith says “We have the best pickle backs around.” A pickle back is a shot of whisky, followed immediately by a shot of pickle juice. Smith also says that the Mill Hill Basement is a welcoming place in a low key environment,
“People are quick to judge it because we are in Trenton, but it is a very safe environment”, Smith added.
The Mill Hill Basement also supports the Trenton Punk Rock Flea Market, a monthly event that provides space for local vendors, food trucks, and most importantly great music.
Saturday, April 11, was a typical night at the Basement. One of the most memorable performers of the night, a group named Full Clip rocked the mic’. The band is a trio made up of two men and one woman. Their stage names are: Craze, Shy Aggression and Anonymous and they have been performing together for a year. The Mill Hill Basement is where they got their start.
Amanda Bellish (aka Shy Aggression), also happens to be a medical student at Mercer. She says of her band: “These guys keep me musically educated”
When one attendee, Rich Quick, was asked what he enjoyed about Full Clip, he said “Real raw hiphop.”
The manager, Dave Locane says the bar is the main generator of revenue for the basement and the admission. Prices for admission range from $5 to $10 and goes to pay the band or performers.
Locane also mentioned the amount of people in the crowd differs depending on the performance lineup.
At the April 11 performance, from 9pm til 2am the crowd was engaged in the show and conversations mingling with other patrons.
A man who asked to be referred to as ‘Dinz’ from Toms River, NJ, a patron of The Mill Hill Basement for the past five years and a previous performer of the venue says “ The Mill Hill Basement is the best place to be when it comes to underground music in New Jersey.”