Tony Pallagrosi is pictured onstage at January’s big Light of Day concert in Asbury Park. The promoter, musician, fundraiser, club manager, mover and shaker joins Concerts East partner Jerry Bakal for an informal talk on THE JERSEY SHORE MUSIC SCENE: PAST, PRESENT & FUTURE, Saturday at NovelTeas in Red Bank. (Photos by Mike Black)
By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit March 26, 2010)
He’s the man in the picture — seldom if ever in the spotlight or at center stage, but always there in the group shot, at the all-star curtain call, the presentation of the ceremonial check. You’ll find him on the cover of the second album by the Jukes, or sharing the frame with public figures that most mere mortals would never get within 200 yards of. If you knew nothing else about Tony Pallagrosi, you’d take him to be a mysterious character on a par with Waldo, or perhaps a very ingenious gate crasher.
Try “mover and shaker.” Go-To Guru. A maharishi of make-it-so; equipped with All-Access, Level 5, golden-ticket Lifetime Backstage Pass, personally stamped and validated by Saint Peter, Heimdall, and the CSM.
Not bad for a cat from Point Beach who played trumpet behind Southside Johnny back in the day; a guy who generations of performers can recall from his gigs as manager of the old Fastlane (later Hitsville) and the long-defunct Club Xanadu in Asbury. With his longtime business partner Jerry Bakal, Pallagrosi purchased the former Hunka Bunka in Sayreville in 2003, transforming the old barn into the Starland Ballroom and creating an attraction that at one time boasted rights to being the fourth most moneymaking concert club on the planet. For nearly 20 years, the partners have operated as Concerts East, one of the region’s biggest purveyors of live entertainment (with an accent on Le Rock) and the name behind such events as the Warped Tour, as well as major bookings at the Count Basie and the State Theatre. You’ll even find the promoters involved with smaller shows (like a recent appearance by the Blasters at The Saint), where you can still find Pallagrosi the diehard music fan digging on the vibe he’s wrought.
Since selling the Starland to AEG in 2007, however, Tony’s time has been increasingly taken up by a cause with which he’s been involved from the earliest stages — the Light of Day Foundation and its annual benefit concerts dedicated toParkinson’s Disease research. Pallagrosi teamed with fellow promoter/ LOD founderBob Benjamin and musical linchpin Joe Grushecky to build a branded event that’s attracted friends like Bruce Springsteen and Michael J. Fox — an event that’s grown from a loose jam session at Red Bank’s Downtown Cafe, to a series of shows that spans two continents and two calendar years.
This Saturday evening finds Jerry and Tony appearing at NovelTeas Authors Aromas & Gifts, Kim Widener’s recently inaugurated book salon/ tea room/ gift boutique on the Left Bank of Red Bank. And before we go any further, everybody in the regional music biz can relax; the guys haven’t written a kiss-’n-tell memoir that names names — in fact, they don’t have a book to promote at all. They’ll be there at 7pm to present a talk under the title The Jersey Shore Music Scene: Past, Present & Future. As the name only hints at, it’s an ultimate-insider’s look at the bands, the bars, the business, the beef, the ballyhoo — and the barometer of ever-evolving tastes and tech.
It’s also a full-tilt fundraiser for the guest speakers’ favorite causes — Light of Day, and the Joan Dancy & PALS Foundation for ALS patients in our community, of which Bakal is a trustee. And, the presentation will culminate in an interactive Q&A session moderated by Jerry Zaro, director of the NJ Office of Economic Growth.
Until such time as the Concerts East partners have an actual best-seller to plug on the Today show, theirs is a story that can only be heard by literal word of mouth — so Red Bank oRBit rang up Tony P for a preview of Saturday’s topical talk, and our little exclusive is waiting for you, just around the corner.