Jeff Raspe of 90.5 kicked things off by welcoming people to the show and then let the musicians take over. Arlan Feiles & the Lone Howdies started the night with "Little Drummer Boy" before handing over the keys to the stage to Anthony Fiumano and one of the night's best highlights - a rocking version of "Run Run Rudolph" in which Anthony showed he could rock with the best of them! It was fun watching Anthony rock out since many of his originals are more mellow story-based songs than Chuck Berry rockers.
"It was like when Dylan went electric!" said Scott Stamper of Anthony's performance. "And now watch Allie Moss blow the crowd away." Scott's obvious a fan of Allie's, but he was right she was awesome and has a beautiful voice.
Other highlights of the night included Val Emmich providing an amazingly deep soul searching take on "Christmas (Baby, Please Come Home)" - a song that is the perfect "wear your heart on your sleeve" type of song he excels at singing.
Rob Tanico (Mr. Reality / Highway 9) took a rare stab at lead vocals on a slow, grooving version of "Please Come Home for Christmas." This might have been the first time I've ever seen Rob on lead vocals outside some alchol-fused nights at the Celtic Cottage where anything goes.
Kerri McNulty of Divine Sign did a fun version of "Santa Baby" with Arlan Feiles accompanying her on keyboards.
Rick Barry managed to take his acclaimed song "Courage For a Rainy Day" to new heights as he silenced the crowd and managed to use the Christmas time for further introspection about a war that seemingly will never end. Tthe longer the war goes on the more meaningful the song has become and hearing it at a holiday show led many to think more about the soldiers celebrating the holidays in a fox hole rather than at home. Breaking the seriousness, Rick had April Smith join him for "Baby, It's Cold Outside" which featured April's soft and sexy vocals. I'd have liked to hear Rick do a line or two holding a martini and pretending to be Dean Martin, but that's just me. Their take was very good on a song I had heard butchered the night before.
April stayed on stage for a wonderful version of her Asbury Music Award winning song of the year "Bright White Jackets" and then gave way for Jeffrey Gaines. After one of his originals, Gaines launched into a beautiful version of "Silent Night" which was simply stunning.
After Gaines finished the Lone Howdies took over for one of their originals. The band which included such artists as Kerri McNulty (Divine Sign) and Greg D has a full, rich sound and truly is a tight sounding orchestra these days. With the horn section going, they turn Arlan's new songs into something that reminds me of The Beatles during Abbey Road days - just fun, rollicking tunes.
Most of the performers all returned to the stage for the night's closing number "Happy Xmas (War Is Over) by John Lennon. Artists on stage included Rick Barry, April Smith, Allie Moss, Anthony Fiumano, Val Emmich and Rob Tanico. It was a very appropriate way to end a tremendous night of local music. It's one of my all time favorite Christmas songs... it'll be nice to hear it played the day the war finally ends.
Photos from the show are available online at http://www.upstagemagazine.com/photos/photos.php?directory=NotPopXmas2006
Gary Wien has been covering the arts since 2001 and has had work published with Jersey Arts, Elmore Magazine, Princeton Magazine, Backstreets and other publications. He is a three-time winner of the Asbury Music Award for Top Music Journalist and the author of Beyond the Palace (the first book on the history of rock and roll in Asbury Park) and Are You Listening? The Top 100 Albums of 2001-2010 by New Jersey Artists. In addition, he runs New Jersey Stage and the online radio station The Penguin Rocks. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.