The Light of Day Winterfest 2018 takes over Asbury Park to raise funds for the fight against Parkinson's and related diseases.
Joe Grushecky had enough.
The Pittsburgh rocker did not like what he saw when then candidate Donald Trump mocked Serge Kovaleski, a reporter who has a physical disability, in a 2015 campaign appearance.
Joe Grushecky, shown performing with Bruce Springsteen at the Light of Day Festival at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park in 2014. (Photo: FILE PHOTO)
“I’ve worked with special needs people my whole entire life,” Grushecky said. “I had a special needs uncle, one of my friends I grew up with, he had very severe special needs brother and sister, and when (Trump) mocked that writer, that was far as (his candidacy) should have went, as far as I was concerned.
“Anybody who can vote for a person like that is mind boggling, and you can quote me on that.”
Grushecky, who performs this weekend in the Light of Day Winterfest in Asbury Park, took his anger to song. The stirring anti-Trump single, “That’s What Makes Us Great,” featuring Bruce Springsteen, was the lead single from Grushecky’s latest album, “More Yesterdays Than Tomorrows.’
The song, released in April of 2017, took on the Trump administration over its anti-immigration policies. They key line is “Love conquers hate.”
“I didn’t like (Trump) from the beginning but that’s what got me on the warpath,” Grushecky said.
Grushecky and Springsteen have collaborated on multiple songs in the past, and Springsteen won a Grammy for a live performance of their co-written track, “Code of Silence,” in 2005.
It didn’t take much persuading to get the Boss on wax for “That’s What Makes Us Great.”
“Not at all,” Grushecky said. “I played it for him one time and that was it. He was on board.”
Grushecky and the Houserockers have been doing their part to spread the love after the hatred of the Pittsburgh synagogue massacre that killed 11 Jewish worshipers in October.
The band has played in three benefit concerts for the victims, raising more than $100,000, Grushecky said.
“It really devastated everybody. It’s probably our darkest day,” Grushecky said. “It just tore the city apart.”
Grushecky has a gift of getting to the heart of the matter. “More Yesterdays Than Tomorrow” is a searing treatise of the burdens of the modern world, the riddle of aging and the hope and promises, broken and otherwise, of the American Dream.
The album’s “Burn Us Down” is a scorching stance against the fire of tyranny, and “Hell to Pay” is a Bo Diddley beat on steroids with something to say. The title track, a mid-tempo rocker, reflects on the magic of each new day.
“The Voice” finds the light of hope, thanks to a cool '70s R&B-meets-California rock vibe.
“It’s like a '70s soul song,” Grushecky said. “I was trying to channel Al Green vocally, it had that lilt to it. It was a pretty melody — definitely a different vibe than we usually do.”
Grushecky credits his son, Johnny Grushecky, with giving the album a creative spark as a producer.
“My son turned the whole record around once he became the producer of it,” Grushecky said.
Bruce Springsteen joins Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers at the 2015 Light of Day in Asbury Park. (Photo: Mark R. Sullivan)
Johnny, who plays with Grushecky as a member of the Houserockers, will be taking the Stone Pony stage on Friday, Jan. 18, with his band Milly as part of the Light of Day.
The show also features the Ventures and the announcement of this year’s Asbury Angels: musicians and scene supporters who have passed away and who will be recognized with plaques on the boardwalk in the upcoming year.
Grushecky will be watching. Milly recently released their debut album, “Place in My Mind.”
“I tell you, it’s a really terrific pop record. It’s (blanking) killer,” said Grushecky of the album. “Jim Wirt (Incubus, Fiona Apple) produced it. It’s a big time record.”
Grushecky and the Houserockers are set for the Light of Day’s “Bob Birthday Bash” show on Saturday, Jan. 19, at the Paramount Theatre in Asbury Park. The show is the signature event of the Light of Day Winterfest, which runs in multiple venues in Asbury Park through Monday, Jan. 21.
Willie Nile, Jesse Malin, Low Cut Connie, Steve Forbert and the Renditions, James Maddock, Joe D’Urso & Stone Caravan, and John Eddie and His Dirty Ol Band will play full band sets. Dean Friedman and Ben Arnold will play acoustically at the “Bash,” which traditionally ends with a rendition of “Happy Birthday” for Bob Benjamin, Grushecky’s manager who turned 60 on Nov. 3.
The Light of Day started out as a birthday party for Benjamin in 1998, who had just found out that he had Parkinson’s. It’s grown into a globe-spanning cause that’s raised more than $5 million in the fight against Parkinson’s, PSP and ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
Springsteen appearances have been pivotal to the cause. He’s appeared, unannounced, at 11 of 18 Light of Days, usually with Grushecky.
Grushecky also will play at the Light of Day’s “Songwriter by the Sea Boardwalk Crawl” at 6 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, at Tim McLoone’s Supper Club.
“I’ve been coming to Asbury Park since I was a kid,” Grushecky said. “I’ve always loved the music there, the ocean and the whole Jersey Shore.”
Chris Jordan: email@example.com. Twitter: @chrisfhjordan
LIGHT OF DAY SCHEDULE
Friday, Jan. 18
LOD “OPEN MIC” Hosted by Rob Dye, Wonder Bar, Fri., 21 and up, 6 p.m.
LOD “ASBURY ANGELS INDUCTION”, The Ventures, The Weeklings, Black Flamingoes, Billy Walton Band, Milly, Bobby Mahoney & The Seventh Son, Stone Pony, All Ages, 6:30 p.m. $28 to $33.
LOD “NIGHT OF COVERS” Billy’s Fault, Kevin Mulvaney & Friends, Joe D’Urso & Stone Caravan, HP and the Hot Takeout, Silverball Museum, 8 p.m.
LOD “ACOUSTIC CAROUSEL WITH PETER SCHERER”, Langosta Lounge, 21 and up, 8 p.m. Free.
LOD “FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE”, Dramarama, The Grip Weeds, The Easy Outs, House of Independents, All Ages, 8 p.m. $20 advance/$25 at the door.
LOD “ROCK HEAVY”, Kenny K and the Way, Steve Conte NYC, Colossal Street Jam , The Saint, Fri.,18 and up, 8 p.m. $18 in advance/$20 at the door.
LOD “SLIPPERY WHEN WET,” The Ultimate Bon Jovi Tribute Band, McLoone’s Supper Club, All Ages, Dinner 6 p.m./Show 8 p.m.
LOD “SOUND BOOTH”, Jackson Pines, Sam Sims Band, The Burns Asbury Hotel, 9 p.m. Free.
LOD Asbury Yacht Club, Little Vicious, Molly Rhythm, Erotic Novels, Rachel Ana Dobken, 10 p.m. Free.
Marc Ribler's "Red White & Brit tribute to The Who"performs for the crowd. The Light of Day Winterfest Kick Off show gets underway at the House of Independents featuring Remember Jones, Marc Ribler's "Red White & Brit tribute to The Who", Williams Honor, and Johnny Pisano's Rock & Roll Pizzeria. Asbury Park, NJ Thursday, January 17, 2019 (Photo: Doug Hood )
Saturday, Jan. 19
LOD “DOWNTOWN ASBURY UNDERGROUND,” curated by Pat Schiavino and Asbury Underground in more than 20 downtown venues. Noon to 7 p.m. Free.
JEFFREY GAINES with special guests Miss Emily, Kiyomi with Lisa Bianco on guitar, McLoone’s Supper Club, All Ages. Noon. $15 to $25.
LOD “WOMEN OF SONG” Mary McCrink, Taylor Tote, Strumberry Pie, Jo Wymer, The Wag, Pam McCoy, Martin Howth (Audra), Jennifer Santamaria, The Saint, Noon.
LOD “ASBURY BLUES”, Joe Bonanno, Mary McKrink, Wonderful Winos, Norman Seldin, Sharon Lasher Trio, RBN3, Pappa John Bug, Wonder Bar, 21 and up, $12 in advance/$15 at the door, noon.
LOD “BOB’S BIRTHDAY BASH”, Willie Nile & Band, Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers, Dean Friedman, Jesse Malin, Low Cut Connie, Steve Forbert & The Renditions, James Maddock & Band, Joe D'Urso and Stone Caravan, Ben Arnold, and John Eddie & HIs Dirty Ol Band, Paramount Theater, 6 p.m. All Ages, Sold out.
THE WEIGHT BAND, featuring songs from The Band’s catalog, plus original tracks that complement The Band’s legacy; Illegally Blind; The Unknowns, Stone Pony, 7 p.m., $25 in advance/$32 at the door.
LOD “FULL TILT BOOGIE BASH”, Popa Chubby, Billy Hector Band, Christine Martucci, Wonder Bar, 21 and up, 7 p.m.
LOD A NIGHT OF FUNK & SOUL WITH QUINCY MUMFORD AND THE REASON WHY, with Colossal Street Jam, House of Independents, 7:30 pm., $18 advance; $20 at the door.
LOD “ROCK HEAVY”, The Morgan Freemasons feat. Lou Montesano, The Vansaders, Geena and Dragster, Wetbrain, the Board Lordz, The Saint, 8 and up, 7:30 p.m. $8.
LOD “LANGOSTA LIVE”, Levy & The Oaks, Lowlight, Langosta Lounge, 21 and up, Free, 9 p.m.
LOD Nalani & Sarina, American Trappist, Avery Mandeville and the Man Devils, 9 p.m. Asbury Yacht Club, Free,
LOD “SOUND BOOTH”, Virago, Pam Flores, Hideaway, Asbury Hotel, Free, 9 p.m.
Sunday, Jan. 20
LOD “KID’S ROCK”, Indigo Mane, Vendetta Rose, Ham by the Pound, Marel Hidalgo, Avery Rose, Radioactive, Jake Sfraga, School of Rock, The Nobodies, Julia Fleming, Dress Code 50, Double A, Rock’n Music Academy, Evan Rotella, Rockit Stone Pony, All Ages, Noon. $15.
LOD “MUSICIANS ON A MISSION”, Dan Amato & The Sentimental Gentlemen, High Season, The Well Wish, The Extensions, Sonic Blume, The Saint, 18 and up, Noon. $10.
LOD “SONGWRITERS BY THE SEA BOARDWALK CRAWL”, Miss Emily, Peter Elkas, Arlon Bennett, Hans Ludviggson, Taylor Tote, Roberta Finocchiaro, David Vargo, Luke Dowler Watermark, All Ages, noon. $15.
LOD “SONGWRITERS BY THE SEA BOARDWALK CRAWL” Bruce Tunkel, Lisa Bouchelle, Pat Guadagno, Sams Sims/Kyle Ward, Frank Lombardi, Steve Delopoulos, Deirdre Forrest, Colton Kayser, Langosta Lounge, All Ages, 3 p.m. $15.
LOD “SONGWRITERS BY THE SEA BOARDWALK CRAWL”,Danielia Cotton, Guy Davis, Anthony D’Amato, Joe D’Urso, Emily Grove, Joe Grushecky, Anthony Krizan (Spin Doctors), Quincy Mumford, Willie Nile, Joe Rapolla, and more, McLoone’s Supper Club, 6 p.m. $25.
LOD ASBURY MUSIC HALL Dez & the Swagmatics, Shady Street Show Band, Asbury Hotel, Free, 2 p.m. Free
LOD “LAST NOTE”, Predator Dub Assassins and the F.L.O.W. and Friends, The Saint, 18 and up, 7:30 p.m. $8.
Monday, JAN 21
LOD “GOODBYE BRUNCH,” McLoone’s Supper Club, All Ages, 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Vist www.lightofday.org for more information.