Things were really rockin’ on Cookman Avenue in Asbury Park, N.J., as the annual Light of Day benefit-concert series presented its Sweet Little Sixteen Kickoff Party on Jan. 14 at a new venue dubbed House of Independents.
Truth be told, LOD’s WinterFest 2016 kicked off Jan. 8. More importantly, there’s nothing “little” anymore about Light of Day — and that’s a good thing. What began years ago as a single concert in Asbury Park by founder and music-industry veteran Bob Benjamin to raise funds to fight Parkinson’s disease has grown into a worldwide effort to defeat various mobility disorders. LOD’s core activities are a series of shows — featuring local and national acts — held over multiple days in January and staged in Asbury Park and other locations that are within a doable driving distance from the city by the sea.
In marking its 16th year, Light of Day borrowed the title of a 1958 Chuck Berry tune for the heading of the WinterFest 2016 events, and at the Sweet Little Sixteen Kickoff Party, the show’s acts were expected to perform a favorite Berry song. In addition to her own alt-country-leaning material, actress-musician Jill Hennessy led her formidable band through an enjoyable rendition of Berry’s “Maybellene” that was filtered through the feel and groove of Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line.”
In keeping with their scary-good early Beatles sound, The Weeklings — featuring New Jersey-bred favorite Glen Burtnik on bass and vocals — played a chunk of “Roll Over Beethoven” in Fab Four fashion. The Weeklings also performed tight, melodic originals and covers of Beatles tunes both obscure and well-known, among them impressive takes on such latter-day material as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “I Am the Walrus.”
Headliner Willie Nile played a Berry song (“Johnny B. Goode”) and, like Dramarama right before him, paid tribute to the late David Bowie. Nile’s powerful rendition of “Heroes” also seemed fitting for the occasion, being that he has been heavily involved in Light of Day’s efforts for several years. He also praised Bowie for his fruitful collaborations with Iggy Pop and Lou Reed, and for an encore, Nile played “Sweet Jane,” the Reed-penned song by The Velvet Underground.
Remaining Light of Day shows, all taking place in Asbury Park venues, include the following (lineups subject to change):
Saturday, January 16
• 7 p.m. at The Saint: LOD Rock with Billy Hector and others
Sunday, January 17
— By Chris M. Junior
(With additional reporting by George Henn)
Photo of Jill Hennessy by Chris M. Junior