Santa Claus comes to town but once per “kid year;” Cupid and the Easter Bunny are only as good as the next re-stock of the seasonal aisle, and the Great Pumpkin tends not to show up at all — but when you set your calendar to sync with Southside Johnny Lyon, you roll with the one who represents not one but two great holiday happenings.
No self-respecting year is blessed into being without a champagne benediction by Johnny, during any of the December 31 concerts that he and the Asbury Jukes have hosted for countless times at Red Bank’s Count Basie auditorium. It’s a tradition that should by all rights have allowed the Ocean Grove native to claim the mantle of “Mr. New Year’s Eve” from the long-gone Guy Lombardo and Dick Clark — but the shades-rocking musicologist with the sublime R&B pipes and the sardonic sense of humor has a warm-weather failsafe fallback, and this Saturday, the unofficial Toastmaster General of the Jersey Shore becomes Mr. Fourth of July (give or take a day or three), as he and the 2018 edition of the Jukes take their place once more on the Stone Pony SummerStage.
All of which confirms the fact that O.G.’s original-gangsta rocker and raconteur is all about the season of corn-on-the-cob and sparklers, every bit as much as the season of highballs and noisemakers. And whether it takes place on the Fourth — or, in this case, the Seventh — the Asbury Jukes soiree is a genuine destination attraction; a perfect cross between those Arthur Pryor Band concerts of a hundred years ago, and the sweatiest, most spontaneous session that ever pushed the envelope of an Asbury Park last-call.
It’s a happening that harkens back to those big beach concerts produced by the old WNEW-FM; to the “homecoming” shows that saw the onetime Stone Pony house band graduate to the Paramount and other larger regional venues — and to the era of those early albums on Epic, with their Boss-penned liner notes and their Miami Steve stewardship and their hall-of-fame guest stars and their sonic snapshots of a time when the spotlight shone briefly and bright upon the gritty bars and weathered boards of salty old Asbury town.
‘It’s just a celebration…and everybody is so UP going into it, that we don’t have to hit the stage with an airtight set list,” adds the bandleader, calling in before departing for California to “to help some folks who need cheering up…because I’m Mister Cheer, although my band might dispute that.”