John Easdale of the band Dramarama was working in the Wayne record store Looney Tunez in the early ’80s, when Rob Norris of the Hoboken-based group The Bongos came by to drop off some copies of an early Bongos single. That record, Easdale said Saturday night at the Outpost in the Burbs in Montclair — where he shared the stage with another Bongos member, Richard Barone — inspired him to start recording on his own.
You often hear talk about how indie musicians feel like they’re part of a community. But you rarely see it illustrated as vividly as it was at this show, a benefit for the Light of Day organization, which raises money for Parkinson’s disease research (this year’s 11-day fest began Friday in Philadelphia and continues through next weekend, mostly in Asbury Park). The mutual admiration and musical kinship was evident from beginning to end.
Singer-songwriters Chrissi Poland and Loretta Hagen opened with a satisfying set of their own, alternating through six songs (three each). The headliners were Barone, Easdale (appearing with Dramarama guitarist Peter Wood), Willie Nile, Jill Hennessy and Joe D’Urso, with support from pianist Seth Saltzman (primarily backing D’Urso) and Willie Nile Band member Johnny Pisano (who helped out with some backing vocals and percussion).
Guitarist and vocalist Nick Celeste, who has worked with both Barone and Dramarama in the past, sat between Barone and Easdale and backed them both. His presence was felt particularly strongly when he sang with Barone on songs such as “I Belong to Me” and “River to River”; the two have a magical vocal blend that really helps Barone’s songs ascend to another level.
Other highlights included a fervent, impromptu duet by Easdale and Hennessy on the Dramarama song “Anything, Anything (I’ll Give You)”; Nile’s rousing anthem “One Guitar” as well as his wry ballad “I Can’t Do Crazy (Anymore)”; D’Urso surprise cover of Harry Chapin’s “Cats in the Cradle” and his inspirational closing number, “Hold On,” sung and played by him and Saltzman without amplification.
Barone added lead guitar to Hennessy’s songs; they were playing together for the first time, but seemed to have already established a deep bond.
The encore was a joyful group version of The Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night” (see video below).
This was the second Light of Day show at the Outpost. Last year’s show, featuring Nile, D’Urso, Garland Jeffreys, James Maddock and Steve Conte, had a similar vibe.
As Light of Day board member D’Urso reminded attendees late in the evening, the charity, founded by Bob Benjamin of Highland Park, has raised $3.5 million for Parkinson’s disease research in its 16 years.
Most of the performers will be at other Light of Day events this week, in Asbury Park and New York; visit lightofday.org for the complete rundown.
And Barone has a notable non-Light of Day show coming up this week, too: A tribute to Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground, Thursday at the Cutting Room in New York, with Garland Jeffreys, Lenny Kaye, Bebe Buell, Jenni Muldaur and others; visit thecuttingroomnyc.com.
Here is Saturday’s “A Hard Day’s Night” encore:
Here is D’Urso’s unamplified “Hold On”:
And here is Hennessy performing Bruce Springsteen’s “No Surrender” at the show:
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