Bowie covers help make Light of Day ‘Kickoff Party’ a special night

Dramarama, performing at House of Independents in Asbury Park, Thursday night.

Dramarama, performing at House of Independents in Asbury Park, Thursday night.

Thursday’s Light of Day concert at House of Independents in Asbury Park was billed as a “Sweet Little Sixteen Kickoff Party” — the 16th annual Light of Day Festival began on Jan. 8, but most of the events will take place this weekend. And in honor of Chuck Berry’s “Sweet Little Sixteen,” acts were asked to include a Berry cover in their set. And so Willie Nile Band played “Johnny B. Goode” — for the first time, Nile said. And The Weeklings, who play a lot of Beatles covers, opted for a medley of Berry’s “Roll Over Beethoven” (which The Beatles famously recorded) and their own Berry-esque “Don’t Know, Don’t Care.” And Jill Hennessy sang a nice, twangy version of “Maybellene.”

But circumstances dictated that there should be some other covers in this show as well. And so Dramarama paid tribute to the late David Bowie with an epic medley of “Five Years” — the scene-setting opening track from Bowie’s classic album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars — and Elliott Smith’s “Half Right” (see video below). And Nile, whose set included many of his own powerful anthems, such as “One Guitar” (with James Maddock and Joe D’Urso helping out with backing vocals), “Heaven Help the Lonely” and “House of a Thousand Guitars,” added one more with an intense version of Bowie’s “Heroes.”

“Here’s another song we’ve never played before,” said Nile before “Heroes,” “but we had to play it tonight … (Bowie) taught us a lot of great things and gave us a lot of great songs.”

There were many other notable covers in the course of the evening, too. Longtime New Yorker Nile, who lives six blocks from where Bowie lived (though he didn’t know it until fans began leaving flowers and other tributes outside Bowie’s home, he said), sang songs by quintessential New York rockers Lou Reed (“Sweet Jane”) and Jim Carroll (“People Who Died”). And The Weeklings, who specialize in early Beatles obscurities and originals in the same tight, punchy mode, stretched out, quite satisfyingly, with “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “I Am the Walrus.”

But the Bowie covers are what stick with me most. I assume this will be a theme through the entire weekend, in fact, with various bands learning Bowie songs and offering them up as tributes.

For information on other Light of Day shows, which raise money for Parkinson’s disease research, visit

Here is a video of Dramarama performing their medley of “Half Right” and “Five Years.” “Five Years” begins at the 3:45 mark.

And here is Nile performing “Heroes.”

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