Steven Van Zandt will have his own music series at the Count Basie Theatre in January — as well as, eventually, his own nightclub.
“There’s gonna be a Little Steven’s Underground Garage Club, as part of the complex,” said Van Zandt at the Red Bank theater on Monday, at a press conference at which, among other things, it was announced that the theater is approximately halfway to the $20 million it needs to raise for its ambitious expansion. Its vision calls for it to transform itself into an arts and education complex, taking up a full city block.
“I’m not sure what size yet (the club will be),” said Van Zandt, adding that its capacity could be in the 1,500-2,000 range.
The club won’t be built for several more years. More immediately, the Basie will launch, on Jan. 13, a series of four concerts titled “Little Steven’s Underground Garage at the Basie, presented by Citi.” For these shows, which will help raise money for the expansion, the theater will be transformed into a nightclub-like setting.
“We’re still figuring it out a little bit,” said Van Zandt. “There could be multiple stages, because we’re gonna have multiple bands. We might have three stages, with the bands set up, and kind of like a dance floor in the middle.”
The lineups for these shows are not yet finalized, but are expected to be announced soon.
Van Zandt said the bookings would be “typical things that we do,” referring to his syndicated “Underground Garage” radio show and his Underground Garagechannel on SiriusXM satellite radio. “There’ll be some young bands, some classic, legendary bands. Some girls, some guys. We mix it up in the (syndicated show’s) format, and on our Sirius channel. The same kind of thing.”
Van Zandt was asked if his Disciples of Soul band, which recently performed in London, would ever play the Basie.
“Maybe,” he said. “We are finally revisiting that (band). I just did my first (DOS) show in 30 years or so, in London, and I’m making first (DOS) album in 30 years, also, right now. So, maybe.”
Also in development is a television show, to be filmed at the Basie. “That’s something we’ve been working on for a long time,” said Van Zandt.
“It’s kind of like ‘Americand Bandstand,’ but an ‘Underground Garage’ version,” added Van Zandt’s wife Maureen, who is, like him, on the Basie’s board of trustees.
It might, in other words, be a little like “Disc-o-Teen,” the TV show that the late John Zacherle taped for a few years in Newark in the mid-’60s. Steven Van Zandt’s band of the time, The Source, performed on “Disc-o-Teen,” and Maureen Van Zandt danced on it.
Steven Van Zandt described the TVshow as “Underground Garage a-Go Go” and said, “basically, it’s kids dancing to rock ‘n’ roll, which no one’s seen in many, many decades. It’ll be go-go girls, it’ll be kids dancing, it will be three different bands. Fast-paced. Young host. … Some video, some comedian will be doing one-liners. It’s a mixture of ‘Shindig,’ ‘Hullabaloo,’ ‘(American) Bandstand’ and ‘Laugh-In’ — a little bit of fast-paced one-liners, non sequiturs.”
Steven Van Zandt said the TV show would initially be taped in the Basie theater, then move to the Basie nightclub, once it gets built. He does not yet know where it will be shown.
He said that since joining the board of trustees more than a year ago, he has been inspired by the enthusiasm of the students in the Basie’s Rockit! music education program.
“It’s very exciting for me, having grown up in Middletown. This was my theater. … This was where I used to come to the movies. So that’s nice. But more importantly, it’s the vision of sort of this one-stop shopping, in a way, for kids to come and get education in all the arts, hopefully … we’re hoping that almost all of the arts will be included. And then have the venues in the same complex, where they eventually will perform. Which is unusual and, I think, unique, and I think a really good template and a good model for the rest of the country. I think we’ll eventually copy this sort of idea: Have everything very convenient and centrally located, so that people can experience all the stages of their lives, in one place.”
Others in attendance at the press conference included New Jersey Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno; Basiechairman Tom Widener and CEO/president Adam Philipson; disk jockeys Rich Russo and Ken Dashow; and Ralph Andretta, head of U.S. branded cards for Citi, which is sponsoring the concert series.