Light of Day USA – HISTORY
In 2000, Bob Benjamin and Tony Pallagrosi of Concerts East, Inc. organized the first official Light of Day concert, which took place at the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park on Nov. 3 – Benjamin’s birthday. Headlining were Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, the Pittsburgh-based band managed by Benjamin. The show featured an appearance by Bruce Springsteen, who joined the Houserockers for a late-night set that ended well after 2 a.m. The shows, named after a Springsteen song (and the title of a movie starring Fox and Joan Jett), have raised funds for the ongoing fights against Parkinson’s disease, PSP, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and related diseases.
In 2001 and 2002, the show moved to the now-demolished Tradewinds in Sea Bright, and returned to the Stone Pony in 2003, becoming a two-day event. It was a three-day event in 2004. Dozens of artists, including Gary U.S. Bonds, Garland Jeffreys, John Eddie, La Bamba and the Hubcaps, Marah, Soozie Tyrell, Highway 9, Boccigalupe and the Badboys, Dan Bern, Willie Nile, Pete Yorn, Robert Earl Keen, Southside Johnny and Jesse Malin have performed at Light of Day. In 2003, actor Michael J. Fox, who also suffers from Parkinson’s Disease, joined Grushecky, Springsteen and Benjamin on stage for a performance of the show’s theme song.
A CD featuring covers of Springsteen songs by various artists was released in 2003 on Benjamin’s own Schoolhouse Records label. The CD and a European version, also released in 2003, have sold over 30,000 units worldwide and raised an additional $150,000 for Parkinson’s research and for the Kristen Ann Carr Fund. All told, the Light of Day ventures have raised over $2 million dollars since 1998.
In 2005, the Light of Day series expanded significantly, featuring one show at the Stone Pony and two shows at a new venue, the Starland Ballroom in Sayreville, NJ. That year also saw Light of Day produce its first show outside of New Jersey with a show at the House of Blues on the famed Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. The inaugural West Coast show featured appearances by Lucinda Williams, Jakob Dylan, Dave Alvin and Peter Himmleman. The first international event was also held in Rome in December 2005.
In 2006, all three Light of Day shows, including an opening night acoustic “Writers in the Raw” event, were held at Starland Ballroom. Light of Day was moved to early December in 2006 for the first time, to give founder Bob Benjamin more time to recover from DBS surgery for Parkinson’s. The international shows grew into a second show in Rome and inaugural dates in London and Barcelona.
Light of Day 8 featured two days of concerts at the Starland Ballroom on Nov. 1 and 2, 2007. The first night featured an acoustic format while the second night hosted rock performances by artists, including Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, Gary U.S. Bonds and Joe D’Urso and Stone Caravan. A week of shows in Europe and two performances in Canada rounded out the year’s events.
In 2008, Light of Day 9 began with a rare intimate acoustic performance by multiplatinum Grammy-winning artist John Rzeznik (Goo Goo Dolls) at Asbury Park’s Paramount Theater. John’s stirring set was preceded by rocking sets from D’Urso, Willie Nile, Jesse Malin and Joe Grushecky. There were also acoustic sets throughout the night. That was followed by a marathon concert at the Stone Pony with over 20 performers during the day/night show.
Light of Day’s 10th Anniversary was celebrated with shows in Asbury Park in January 2010. The Martin Luther King Day Weekend long bash at the Stone Pony opened on Friday night, January 15th. Performers at the Pony included Boccigalupe and The Boys, JoBonanno and the Godsons of Soul, River City Extension and the Tangiers Blues Band (featuring Danny Clinch). On Saturday January 16th, the party moved three blocks north and across the street to the Paramount Theatre on the Boardwalk. Ed Kowalczyk, the lead singer for Live, performed a rare solo acoustic set. Other performers on bill included Joe D’Urso, Willie Nile, Jesse Malin and Joe Grushecky. Bruce Springsteen once again was unannounced but in -house. He joined in with Nile and Malin before ending the marathon by sitting in with Grushecky and his band for a one-hour- plus spot.
Held in January 2011, Light of Day 11 followed the same format as the previous year but with shows added at the Wonder Bar and the Stone Pony. The Saturday night show featured many of the same performers, and Alejandro Escovedo, an Austin, Texas- based roots rock legend, was the special guest on the Paramount bill. Perennial unannounced guest Bruce Springsteen reprised guest spots with Malin and Nile and also joined Escovedo for an acoustic duet. Grushecky and the Houserockers closed the night, and Springsteen joined them for a lengthy set that ended with all the night’s perfomers, plus the whole Paramount audience, joining in a sing-a-long of Springsteen’s “Thunder Road.”
Blues legend David Bromberg headlined the 2012 show which also featured sets by Garland Jeffreys, Joe D’Urso & Stone Caravan, Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, Southside Johnny and the Poor Fools, Willie Nile with Bruce Springsteen sitting in for cameo performances with Jeffreys and Nile and finally joining Grushecky and the Houserockers for an over two-hour set. The night ended with a rollicking “Twist and Shout” anchored by the E Street Band’s Max Weinberg on drums.
The 2013 Light of Day concerts featured a headlining appearance by Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductee and rock and roll pioneer Darlene Love, who performed an hour-long set of her girl-group classics. In addition, concerts were held at multiple Asbury Park venues, including the Stone Pony, Wonder Bar, Langosta Lounge, McLoone’s Supper Club, Asbury Grille, Asbury Lanes, Dauphin Grille, Watermark and Toast. The nearly weeklong run of events was declared “Light of Day Week” by the Asbury Park City Council for the second consecutive year.