I stood in a line stretching ’way down the block to get into the phantasmagoric Cutting Room, where one of the Light of Day Winterfest shows kicked off. Polling some 30 of the people in line—Swedes, Belgians, Italians, Brits, Jersey boys and girls and New Yorkers of all stripes (including the usually underrepresented Staten Island)—the driving force seemed pretty evenly split over the draw: the Light of Day Foundation to fund Parkinson’s Disease research, and headliner Willie Nile. Either way, it’s always a good sign when folks come the world over.
Powerhouse rocker Nile has played Light of Day events for about ten of its 17 years, and seen the movement grow. Last night’s event, a precursor to a week of jam-packed concerts in Asbury Park, New Jersey, rocked the Cutting Room from 7 PM to after 1 AM, with guests like the Beatles-centric band the Weeklings (whose dynamite bassist, former Styx vocalist Glen Burtnik, kept walking into the sold-out crowd), Jeffrey Gaines, Chuck Prophet, Light of Day mainstay Joe D’Urso and Stone Caravan (knocking it out of the park with the moving solo “Hold On”), rockabilly kings Hollis Brown, the Sensational Soul Cruisers (a ’60s throwback that reminded everyone how good traditional soul/R&B can be), and of course the irrepressible Willie Nile, supported by his band, including the high-jumping Johnny Pisano on bass.
Nile gave us some songs from his new CD, World War Willie, and brought up James Maddock to help out on Nile’s anthemic “One Guitar.”
Highlights of the evening also included brief but moving addresses by LoD founder, Birthday Boy Bob Benjamin and Alan Jackowitz, who also has PD. When a woman in the crowd yelled, “I love you!” particularly loudly when he took the stage, Benjamin joked, “You don’t know me!” before reminding the audience how Light of Day has grown, thanks to its hard working musicians and organizers. Jackowitz, who had flown into frigid NYC from Florida for the event, thanked all involved and joked about how, as a Parkinson’s patient, he “speaks softly and carries a big stick,” showing off his handsome cane.
Many of the attendees are headed to Asbury Park for the week’s blowout, where Nile and other world-class rockers will perform at venues large and small, all in Light of Day benefits. It’s a recommended trip, both for the music and the humanitarian cause.
To donate, click here: Light of Day Foundation
Remember, Parkinson’s is a 24/7/365 illness, and donations are welcome any day of the year.
Willie Nile photo by Lou Montesano