For a self-described “working musician with a day job,” Bob Burger has always seemed a bit devil-may-care about the impact on his workaday grind, from those many long weekends, out-of-town jaunts, and late nights spent in the company of folks who like to raise a glass and have themselves a rocking good time.
But as a special counsel in the Newark offices of the prestigious law firm McCarter & English, the Eatontown resident is all business; an award winning attorney with go-to specialties in the fields of intellectual property/ copyright law, NDAs, and software-related issues.
That same scrupulous attention to detail is evident in Burger’s myriad musical projects and live gigs, whether he’s performing in solo, duo, or combo contexts at any of a number of favorite watering holes up and down the Shore — or even jetting off across the pond with The Weeklings, that sublime salute to The Beatles co-founded by Burger with fellow paladin of the pop playbook (and original Beatlemania cast member) Glen Burtnik. And for validation, look no further than that time that Paul McCartney himself hit the dance floor to Bob’s rendition of “Back in the USSR” at a star-studded private party.
If anything, the bespectacled Burger has long stood as a “thinking man’s” version of the stereotypical Guy in the Corner with a Guitar; an impression based not so much on those signature specs (or on the fact that he was valedictorian of his class at Penn State), as it is on his very evident knowledge of and facility with a panorama of pop music styles — an encylopedic, but never dryly academic, mastery of the music that shook the world in the latter half of the last century.
“I do know a lot of songs,” says Burger in what might prove to be one of the understatements of the current millennium. “But you have to be really versatile to survive in the music business these days.”
That quality of versatility has been the special sauce that’s set apart such Burger projects as a full-length Fleetwood Mac tribute show, as well as a heartfelt homage to the One Hit Wonders that defined the 1970s — and it’s a big part of the reason that, when it came time for Max Weinberg to recruit a band for his crowd-pleasingly interactive Jukebox live shows, he called upon Burger and his Weekling mates Burtnik and John Merjave.
Max Weinberg’s Jukebox plays Schenectady, NY this Friday, January 11, as one of the affiliated events in Light of Day XIX Winterfest, the annual slate of benefit concerts for Parkinson’s Disease research that has burst the borders of its Jersey origins; expanding into satellite events at venues in NYC, Philadelphia and other North American cities, as well as several well-received whistlestops in Australia and Europe. On Saturday the 12th, The Weeklings reconvene for a set of Beatles deep cuts and inner grooves (as well as some celebrated Burtnik/ Burger-penned originals) in another Light of Day barnstormer, this time at the World Cafe in Philly.
Then on Sunday, January 13, Bob Burger switches fab gears once more, as he returns to Asbury Park to perform the music of Tom Petty in a special Light of Day “Cover Me” program at the Stone Pony.
Set to float its first note at 2:30 pm, the appetizer for the following weekend’s LOD festival at venues throughout Asbury (about which much more to come in this space next week) features a headline set by Best of the Eagles, as well as the Carl Gentry Band, Moroccan Sheepherders, the Clapton tribute Bell Bottom Blues, and a Shore encore for CSN Songs. Reprising his all-Petty set for the first time in nearly a year, Burger and band will take the stage at 5:30 to perform a 45 minute exploration of the late TP’s recorded legacy — with special guest Lisa Sherman channeling the spirit of Stevie Nicks, as she and Burger duet on the two Petty-Stevie collaborations, “Insider” and “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.”
“I’ve always related to the songs that Petty wrote,” says the singer-songwriter-producer who’s released four albums of his original music — adding that “it can be really challenging, playing three very different shows in three nights…last year we played six dates back to back, in five different cities with Max…but I enjoy all of the challenges.”
In his role as “Zeek Weekling,” Bob Burger rejoins the fab foursome for an additional out-of-town LOD event this coming Wednesday, January 16 — this one at the Cutting Room in NYC — and when Light of Day commandeers Asbury Park for the extended weekend of January 17-20, Burger hitches his horse to the Pony post once more, as The Weeklings play a Friday night multi-band bill that features an induction ceremony for the latest “class” of Asbury Angels (the musical memorial project chaired by LOD co-founder and Weeklings manager Tony Pallagrosi) — a card headlined by instrumental rock legends The Ventures.
You might think that the post-LOD interlude, coupled with the general doldrums of mid-January, would be license for the beyond-busy Burger to take it down a notch — but then of course you’d be wrong. Bob and “Rocky Weekling” Merjave follow up their January 18 full-band show with a duo gig at McLoone’s Pier House in Long Branch on the 19th — while Burger and his “Ever Changing Band” play another longtime friendly space, Red Bank’s Walt Street Pub, on January 25.
From there, the multi-tasking musicmaker closes out the month in familiar frantic fashion, as The Weeklings head to “Daryl’s House” in upstate New York on January 26 — then immediately back down to their home-turf stomping grounds, for a free Sunday afternoon concert at the Monmouth County Library in Manalapan on the 27th.
“This will be our sixth time at Daryl’s,” says Burger of the welcoming space established by the voice of Hall and Oates. “We kind of built the room…now we sell it out!”
“And as for the library, it’s a great gig that I’ve been doing for five years,” ha adds. “A fan e-mailed me to tell me ‘you’ve gotta play here’…I did the Tom Petty set last year, for the first time since he passed away, and the year before I did the 70s tribute.”
Although it hardly seems to be the case, the veteran performer insists that “I’m doing less little gigs than I used to…the fans complain, but I still like playing, and I’m not going to stop entirely.”
“The ‘Ever Changing Band’ has been a thing for some time now, and whenever I play as a band leader I use whoever is available for the occasion,” he explains. “It always makes things interesting…there’s always a different approach, a different way of looking at a song, depending on who’s with me that night.”
“But playing a lot of live shows can kind of suck all of the oxygen out of the room…I’ve got a bunch of songs I haven’t recorded, and I’d like to try and do a new album this year,” adds the songwriter whose solo sets incorporate “about 25 percent originals” — including stripped-down arrangements of such Weeklings tunes as “Breathing Underwater.”
“I tend to look at the original Weeklings songs as a separate thing from my own solo songs,” says the composer whose previous collaborations with Burtnik have included the co-writing of several songs for Glen’s tenure in the mega-band Styx. “We’ve done three Weeklings records, and we’re going to be doing another…but at some point, I need to focus on putting out some new material under my own name. “
“The process of creating it can be very tedious…but I’ve gotta make it perfect.”
“All in all, though, I’m in a pretty good position these days,” Burger concludes. “I’ve got a lot of freedom to do what I want…I just need to remember how important it is to get enough sleep!”
A full schedule and additional details on Light of Day XIX Winterfest can be found at lightofday.org. Check the January 17 edition of The Coaster for detailed listings and a featured interview with LOD co-founder Pallagrosi — and search this site for our archived Coaster interviews with Jukebox chief Max Weinberg, and The Weeklings’ Glen Burtnik.