As Light Of Day Foundation heads into their second decade on January 13, 2011, hardcore popularity has never been higher. With sold out shows in the states, Canada and European countries, it seems to be an unstoppable force. However, it didn’t start out that way and the originators had no real plans for the foundation to expand to such proportions, but they continue to grow larger and better every year. The old saying, “Mighty oaks from small acorns grow” is appropriate in the case of Light Of Day for several reasons: the musician list continues to expand, with new up-and-coming locals such as Corey Wagar and historic punk names like Bebe Buell, who will be joining the old guard of Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nile and Jesse Malin.
But the most important reason is the money and awareness that they’ve raised in the name of Parkinson’s disease as well as Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS) and progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP). Without that important goal this would be just another concert on the coast. The Light Of Day folks are some of the industry’s hardest working people on the planet and that includes journalists, musicians, industry management and promoters. Concerts East Co-President and Light Of Day director and Co-founder Tony Pallagrosi took a moment to speak to me by phone about the beginnings, the progress and the end result of this labor of love.
Did anyone from LOD ever think that a small annual birthday party in Red Bank would grow into an event that included shows in 13 countries?
Of Course! (Laughs) Yeah, right. Well no, of course not. Initially it was just a birthday party and maybe two or three weeks before the party our friend Rich Russo, future board member Jean Mikle and myself decided that we were going to turn it into a benefit. But really it was accidental. And that first year, I don’t think Bob (Benjamin) knew about it till he showed up that night for the party.
Where did the name Light Of Day originate?
Light Of Day came from the Bruce Springsteen song “Light Of Day” that was the theme song for the Joan Jett/Michael J. Fox movie of the same name. Bob called me one day and suggested that we appropriate the name. I thought it was a great idea, Bruce said okay and the rest as they say is history.
I know you don’t have a huge staff, so how do you put an event of this magnitude together and make it work year after year?
Well the Canadian and European shows are handled by organizations and volunteers in those countries; promoters and club owners and such. We essentially provide them with the talent and they manage the logistics for the event. It would be impossible for us to manage everything we manage here in the states. Because we supply the acts we are much more tied into it than other foundations are to people putting benefits on in their name. Joe D’Urso does a monumental amount of work coordinating musicians and the logistics of the tour, setting up venues and groups that will host the shows and trying to set up a workable itinerary.
Canada is a bit easier. In Toronto we have Sam Grosso and his Cadillac Lounge. In Niagara Falls, we have Dave Rotella and Mike Minervini. This year we just added Hamilton, Ontario. So we have as much input as we need to have but if it weren’t for these host organizations it would be very difficult to do. Here in the states we handle everything. We handle the bookings and venues, ticketing, security, dealing with Madison Marquette, the marketing, sponsorship, merchandise, the silent auction items, artist hospitality and lodging, dealing with Ticketmaster. Joe, Bob and I have set the groundwork for booking the artists and all of the board has input for new performers on a yearly basis.
Sometime I wonder how we do it. It can be very time-consuming and there’s a lot of back and forth as far as decisions, and kind of like the Rolling Stones we can be painfully democratic. We all pretty much just wait till everybody’s heading in the same direction. (Laughs) All of the other dedicated board members, Jean Mikle, Joe Grushecky, Mike DeGeorge, Ron and Sheryl Streich, Rob Dye, Dawne Allynne, Gary Schiavone, Jannie Saxon, Ken Reichel and Eiran Wolfman have important roles that they keep at all year-long as well as at the events. We all step up and help out in different ways at different times. It’s like a good baseball team. And of course none of it happens without all of the musicians and the generous support of our friend, Bruce Springsteen. It’s a great extended family and I love everybody involved.
We’ve all seen and read about some of the famous musical names associated with LOD, but which actors have been on board with you in the past as well as this year?
Well obviously Vinnie Pastore who played Big Pussy on The Sopranos as well as parts in Goodfellas and Carlito’s Way. He’s been involved for a number of years. This year he actually came to Canada with us. Michael J. Fox appeared on the show in 2003 I believe. Dave Price from CBS channel 2 has been on as well. There are a few that might be coming this year that we haven’t been able to announce yet until we’re sure. But the thing we want to stress is that we are truly a grassroots organization.
The Paramount Theatre show for next weekend is sold out, but aren’t there still tickets available that cover all of the other venues that are available?
All of the other shows are still available on an individual basis. The three Stone Pony shows on Friday Night, Saturday afternoon and night, the Wonderbar Saturday afternoon show and the multiple showings of the Light Of Day biography film, Just Around The Corner. Theoretically, we’ve sold enough combo packages to fill the singer songwriter showcases, but there very well may be seats available come show time.
Speaking of that film, how does Just Around The Corner pertain to LOD?
Well, it’s a biography of Bob Benjamin in the sense that it deals with Bob and the creation of Light Of Day. I haven’t seen it yet but I’ve heard that it details what motivated Bob to create the event and how it happened from his perspective. There are interviews with many musicians and people associated with the event too. It sounds like a great look at the inside story of what makes this festival tick.
Do you ever think that some day Light Of Day could attain the status of a Live Aid or Farm Aid?
You never know. First of all, to do that you’d probably have to move it out of Asbury Park and I don’t know if anyone wants to do that. To achieve that status you need to have that type of large hosting venue, which we don’t have. You can certainly go with a larger venue like Convention Hall, but Farm Aid and Live Aid are in stadiums. So to answer that question, yes, it would be possible, but we certainly don’t want to move it out of Asbury Park at this time. But can Light Of Day grow? Can we start generating the kind of income that events like Live Aid bring in? Yeah, that’s a definite possibility. I mean our survival depends on sustainable growth. If you stay at the same level for too long you end up effectively going backwards.
How do you think Light Of Day has affected public awareness when it comes to Parkinson’s disease?
I think it’s been very effective in creating awareness of the disease and what it does to families and to the individuals afflicted with Parkinson’s. In order for someone with Parkinson’s to maintain a lifestyle of independence, home care can become an extremely important component. One of the changed things about social lifestyles in the United States is that the family unit is a different animal now than it was 50 or 60 years ago so ongoing care is a major issue. It puts an intense strain on incomes and family members.
What would be the main thought that you would want people to leave with after this Light Of Day weekend?
We want people to know that while the weekend is a musical celebration, there’s a very important reason for doing this. There’s a real reason the bands are doing it, why I’m doing it and Bob’s doing it. I want them to come away with knowing they are helping defeat horribly debilitating diseases. Certainly it’s great to see certain people onstage, but that’s not why we’re there. We’re there to raise money and awareness and hopefully find a cure for Parkinson’s and other degenerative neuromuscular diseases in our lifetime.
We’ve taken on ALS and PSP—that is the disease that my mother suffered from. We donate to organizations like The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, The Joan Dancy and PALS, CurePSP (www.curepsp.org) These diseases inflict heartache and pain in many ways. The more people understand why they’re buying the tickets and why it’s important to keep showing up, the better the odds for winning this fight.
For further information on Light Of Day shows, times, tickets and performers, head over to www.lightofday.org