Published in The Coaster, Asbury Park NJ, January 17 2019

To hear the man tell it, “Longevity is a benchmark of greatness” — and given that the speaker is Tony Pallagrosi, the words are no mere fridge-magnet platitude. After all, this is the veteran music scene mover ‘n shaker whose unimpeachable cred extends from his days as one of the cats in the band (The Shots, The Asbury Jukes), to host of some much-missed Shore nightspots (The FastLane, Xanadu), to co-founder of major concert venues and promotion entities (Starland Ballroom, Concerts East), to manager of The Weeklings — and quite possibly all the way to “the other side,” thanks to Asbury Angels, the musical memorial initiative that he chairs.

Pallagrosi, however, isn’t referring to himself, or to any of those aforementioned feathers in his cap, but to the endeavor that may ultimately stand as his most lasting legacy: Light of Day, the music-driven fundraising vehicle that’s  illuminated some of the darkest winter days and nights in this City of Summers for well nigh two decades.

Co-founded by Pallagrosi with music promo/ management pro Bob Benjamin as an awareness resource for Parkinson’s Disease research — and inspired by Benjamin’s own diagnosis with the disorder — the annual slate of star-studded happenings grew out of a 40th birthday party for Bob at the Stone Pony; taking its name from the Springsteen soundtrack song “Just Around the Corner to the Light of Day” on its way to becoming a sprawling affair that’s spanned several continents, major North American cities and additional satellite events throughout the calendar year.

Of course, along the way Light of Day became indelibly identified with the stamp of Benjamin’s long-time friend Bruce Springsteen — not just via the organization’s name, but in the very real presence of The Boss as an onstage participant and de facto ringmaster for the majority of those all-star Bob’s Birthday concerts. As an undeniable draw (and a focal point for some tantalizing will-he-or-won’t-he buzz each year), the Bard of the boardwalk has generously shared the stage with a core cast of frequent-flyer performers (including Joe Grushecky, Willie Nile, and Steve Forbert), as well as drop-in guest stars that have ranged from Southside Johnny, Darlene Love and Gary US Bonds, to Light of Day movie star (plus high-profile person with Parkinson’s) Michael J. Fox, and  The Sopranos’ Vincent Pastore.

While the nonprofit Light of Day Foundation is a year-round entity upon which the sun never sets, the heart and soul of the positively charged enterprise remains LOD Winterfest, the mid-January jamboree of activity that commandeers the stages, storefronts and saloons of Asbury Park during the post-holiday “off season” interlude when most other Shore towns are deep into a long winter’s nap. Having offered up a couple of preliminary pace-setter events on January 13 (see the feature on Bob Burger in last week’s Coaster), the circus comes to town in full force for a long weekend that begins tonight, January 17, with a choice of tuneful entertainments that includes a “Hall of Fame Jam” featuring veteran Bruce drummer Vini Lopez (Langosta Lounge), a special edition of Sandy Mack’s Wonder Jam at the Wonder Bar, and an official kickoff concert at downtown’s House of Independents that spotlights such next-gen talents as Williams Honor and Anthony “Remember Jones” D’Amato.

“No other town this small has such a vibrant music scene,” says Pallagrosi. “And at the end of the day, I want everyone involved.”

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8/15: Four Seasoned Pros Hit the Town

J. Robert Spencer, Michael Longoria, Daniel Reichard and Christian Hoff are The Midtown Men — and the four seasoned veterans of Broadway’s JERSEY BOYS are working their way back to Jersey for a concert at Asbury Park’s Paramount Theatre this Saturday, August 18. 

“Sherry.” “Candy Girl.” “Walk Like a Man.” “Dawn.” “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

We know ’em as canonical catalogue classics from Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, the Garden State streetcorner-serenade city slickers (and Belleville’s answer to The Beach Boys?) about whom native Jerseyans can tend to be as proprietary as pork roll, pizza and pumping gas (not).

For a whole millennial generation of Broadway babies, however, these awesome poptunes — instantly ID’d through their clanking, thumping beat and the sci-fi falsetto beamed in from somewhere east of the final frontier — are the stuff that drives Jersey Boys, the jukebox juggernaut that became the hit of the 2005 season — and granted its original New York cast (including John Lloyd Young, the Tony winner who recently announced his return to the role of Frankie) the Vallidity of the real thing.

A few years back, four “seasoned” vets from that Broadway cast — including Christian Hoff (a 2006 Tony winner as Tommy DeVito), Daniel Reichard (who played the group’s songwriting mastermind Bob Gaudio), J. Robert Spencer (who portrayed Nick Massi) and Michael Longoria (who took over as Frankie Valli after originating the show’s part of young Joe Pesci) — got together for a touring project that would find them expanding on their 1960s pop bona fides, by tackling a bonanza of Billboard-toppers from the pre-Woodstock era.

Originally dubbed The Boys in Concert, the allstar act hit a serious snag in its momentum, when a legal challenge by the producers of Boys forced a name change before more than an initial handful of gigs were booked. Since rebranded as The Midtown Men, the guys retook to the road last year, and recorded a platter of Sixties Hits that finds them looking beyond Jersey to the exotic lands of Motown (Marvin Gaye’s “Ain’t That Peculiar”), SoCal (The Mamas and the Paps’ “California Dreamin”) and the UK (The Zombies’ “Time of the Season”). This Saturday, August 18, the Men for All Seasons are joined by their seven-piece band for an Off Broadway/ On Boardwalk concert at Asbury Park’s Paramount Theatre.

Produced by Sammy Boyd, the 8pm event will dedicate portions of proceeds to the (recently relo’d to Asbury) Big Brothers Big Sisters of Monmouth & Middlesex Counties — and, as per the specs of the settlement, it will NOT be a performance of, or in any way connected to, the smash musical that gave these four singing actors their big break.

UpperWETside talked to Hoff — a busy character actor, narrator and vocal artist who actually got HIS first big break as the young voice of the Hanna Barbera toon Richie Rich! — in the middle of a tour schedule that will take the Midtowners from Green Bay to Asbury to Missouri, with big-time New York TV ops along the way. Let’s hang on…

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ARCHIVE: Coming Back for Oates

(First published on Red Bank oRBit March 8, 2009)

303852234_964cd68f71_zIn “Brian the Bachelor,” a show that regularly places on most fans’ lists of favorite Family Guy episodes, Lois is seen in a flashback to her days as a plaster-casting rock groupie, crafting a backstage souvenir of her meet-’n-greet with a willing Daryl Hall. When Hall’s mustachioed musical partner John Oates enters the dressing room unexpectedly, Lois assures the shorter member of pop’s champion-selling duo that she’ll come back for him momentarily.

After Oates exits, she smiles slyly and whispers to Hall, “I’m not coming back for Oates!”

This is a needlessly negative, entirely inappropriate way to begin our appreciation of the Oat-man — and if you need to know, the moment can be found at around 6:55 in this linked clip.

Poor misunderstood Oates. Mocked from here to The Simpsons, where he formed part of a supergroup with fellow second bananas Garfunkel and Messina. Fully a head shorter than the golden-maned, top-billed Hall, who’s spared no opportunity to remind interviewers of how he is the acknowledged “leader” of the long-running act (in between continuing to rail against the way-dead Kurt Cobain for ruining music).

But John Oates is no Andrew Ridgely or even Alan Colmes. John Oates has been described as the “finisher,” the “details guy” of the duo, to Hall’s “starter” or “big picture” person. He’s stepped out front to take the lead on a number of songs, our favorite being “Africa” (they had us with that sax quote from “Soul Makossa”). There was also the admittedly rather jerky rendition of “Jingle Bell Rock,” and“Possession Obsession,” the one time he got to do a slick video for one of his songs (although Hall still tries to pull a head-games powerplay move, as he wrests the sugar dispenser from Oates at about 3:00).

The 70s porn ’stache may have fallen to the Wilkinson sword, but the act persists uninterrupted for over 40 years — and Friday night, Hall and Oates take it to the stage of Asbury’s Paramount Theatre for a special stop in their “Up Close and Personal Tour.” And for Oates — who bought into a condo project in the city in 2007  — it’s a chance at home field advantage.

ARCHIVE: A Sneak Preview in Circuit City


Red Bank area native, movie actor and filmmaker Peter Dobson directing his project EXIT 102, which climaxes a daylong REELS & WHEELS event at various venues in Asbury Park.

By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit November 21, 2008)

He was Elvis, briefly and memorably, in Forrest Gump, and Joe DiMaggio in the TV movie Norma Jean and Marilyn. His many film projects include meaty roles in Last Exit to BrooklynThe Frighteners and Drowning Mona — and his many short-lived TV series include Johnny BagoLenny, Head Over Heels and, most memorably, Cover Me.

He’s 44-year old actor-writer-producer-director Peter Dobson — son of the Red Bank orbit, veteran of the Monmouth College stage, and a hi-profile prodigal who’s making a Shore homecoming in a big way this weekend.

Saturday marks a big day for the Madison Marquette company, developers of the Asbury Park oceanfront. As their its little Boardwalk website proclaims, “For the first time in decades, all retail pavilions on the Asbury Park Boardwalk are open.” The collection of newly minted and/or relocated businesses includes “three new gourmet restaurants” — among ‘em Langosta Lounge, the latest project from the estimable Marilyn Schlossbach.

To further call attention to the astonishingly busy scene on and around the boards, the developers have arranged this Saturday as Reels and Wheels day — a slate of happenings that includes a display of classic cars and bikes along Ocean Avenue, along with a workday’s worth of live music at some of the city’s most venerable venues.

At the center of it all is Exit 102, the film project from Dobson and co-producer Ran Ballard that’s scheduled for its first public sneak preview at 7pm, with a free screening at the Paramount Theatre. Billed as a “Trailer Premiere,” the 15-minute short version of what is still very much a work in progress can be more correctly sized up as a “teaser.” Dobson and company are putting the final touches on securing financing for completion of the feature, and plans are for the crew to resume filming at the onset of warmer weather in late spring of 2009.

Shot on location in and around Asbury Park last July — and set in the circa-1974 days of the Circuit, the Casino and a new club called the Stone Pony — Exit 102 features Dobson as a working-class joe who flashes back to his younger days as a young punk caught up in cool custom cars, cruising for chicks and an epic “battle between rock ‘n rollers and greasers.” Costas Mandylor, of the Saw films and TV’s Picket Fences, co-stars, along with Frank Vincent (best remembered as Phil Leotardo in The Sopranos).

Dobson and Mandylor will be on hand for a Q&A session following the screening, which will be preceded by a short set of tuneage featuring Status Green, whose singer Lou Montesano also figures prominently in the film’s cast. The Paramount event is free of charge, first-come first-served, and every-man-for-himself.

Visitors to the Paramount-Convention Hall complex will be treated to free sounds from Mike Butler (4pm) and Bob Polding (5:15pm) in the fully refurbished lobby now known as The Grand Arcade. Across the street, theWonder Bar hosts a menu of music that includes Gene Walk at 3:30pm,Maybe Pete at 4:15pm, Woodfish at 5:15pm and Matt O’Ree following the screening at 8pm. It’s 21 and up at the Wonder, with all ages invited everywhere else; full schedule available right here.

Wanna know more? Red Bank oRBit talked with Peter Dobson about his local background, his career and the project that he describes as “the best thing I ever did.” Read on for the full text.

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ARCHIVE: Jody in Disguise, with Classics

jodystevie-500x292By TOM CHESEK (First published on Red Bank oRBit May 28, 2009)

First, we dispense with the elephant in the living room. She’s Jon Bon Jovi’s cousin! And, not only that, she’s a cousin of the late great Mario Lanza! And both of those guys recorded songs named “Silent Night!”

That said, what Jody Joseph really is, to the core of faithful fans who follow her and her band from one local watering hole to the next, is The Hardest Working Woman in Shore Business — a performer who navigates that regional bar circuit with a dexterity that’s light years beyond superstars who merely romanticize “the road.”

A typical set by The Jody Joseph Band — formerly The Average Joes until it finally dawned on them just how above-average a band they were — mixes originals from the agile group of veteran players with an iPod’s worth of cover material that ranges from tailor-made to her talents (Led Zep, Melissa Etheridge) to some party-favor surprises (KC and the Sunshine Band, Chaka Khan), plus Stones, Dead, Queen, and everything this side of the karaoke machine.

If there is one color that really stands out in Jody Joseph’s Amazing Dreamcoat, that’d be Janis Joplin, the Texas tornado who so briefly and decisively tore across the musical landscape of the late 1960s, teaching that peace-and-love generation the meaning of the blues. If you had to name another, that’d be Stevie Nicks, the California curiosity-shop coquette whose elf-queen persona has cast an arcane and eldritch spell over the years — turning the wasteland of mainstream music into a lush forest (and scattering small woodland creatures before her formidable boots).

This Saturday night, May 30, Jody Joseph leaves the dart-league bar circuit behind for what’s almost certainly the most ambitious concert she’s ever done — her custom-crafted show One Legend, One Diva, One Woman, which takes the stage of the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park after months of planning and perfecting.

Presented in three “acts,” 1L1D1W spotlights Joseph as Joplin, as Nicks — and as herself, in a wrap-up that we’re willing to wager shows how the other two singers make their presences felt in her own original songs. The boys in the band (Steve AndersonJon RotmanBilly SiegelJon “Huey” Tatlow and B Jay Willis) will be there as well, and tickets for the 8pm show ($22 and $53) can be reserved online right here.

Red Bank oRBit rang up Jody Joseph at home, where she asked us to ask her what she was doing — making meatballs, it turns out (”it’s my Mom’s recipe, but I make them better than her”). Continue Reading to find out what Janis and Stevie have in common — and what Jody’s cousin had to say about her greatest fear.

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