The Jersey Hall of Famer discusses the historic show and how COVID-19 has affected the Jersey Shore
Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes return to the stage Saturday night (July 11) for their biggest concert since the COVID-19 pandemic, and perform a drive-in concert at Monmouth Racetrack in Oceanport, NJ, not far from their long home on Jersey Beach .
Led by John Lyon, “Grandfather to Jersey Shore Sound,” Southside Johnny and Asbury Jukes will perform in front of more than 1,000 cars holding up to four passengers each for what is billed as one of the largest drive-in concerts in the United States yet . The concert is presented by Count Basie Center for the Arts in Red Bank and is being expanded to include an entire stage with four large screens for improved viewing and sound delivered from a PA system as well as FM signal for vehicles.
Tickets went on sale on June 5 and sold out within hours of the hometown show, which benefits the New Jersey Pandemic Relief Fund.
Lyon emerged from the 1
bulletin board recently caught up with Lyon to discuss Saturday’s show and find out how he keeps up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
You’ve been back in your hometown of Ocean Grove now for a little over a decade. Do you ever miss California or Nashville?
I fell in love with California playing Coach House in San Juan Capistrano and saw the electric blue sky every night and said to my wife, “Let’s move here. Let’s see how it goes.” And we did that for about three years, and then she said, “I miss the seasons.” So now I’m back in New Jersey and she’s in Marin (California) where they don’t have seasons either. We are still friends and are still married, but we are separated right now. After living in Jersey for a while, I got tired and Garry Tallent, Bruce’s bass player, moved to Nashville and told me I would love that. And I did, it’s a great place to record and perform but at that time I played all the time on the east coast and in Europe and the commute killed me. So after five years I moved back.
How do you prepare for the run-in exhibition?
I’m just trying to get my head around it. We play on a gigantic 1,000 car parking lot. And when I first saw the party, I was a little frightened. It was a little scary and I thought, “Oh my God.” But we’ll just go up and do what we do and try to enjoy it and have fun. I have a big audience. They should have fun. We’re not one of those emo bands, we’re there because we like to play. And it will actually be a little different and we do not know what will happen. And I love that. I love the adventure of it.
Has anyone offered you any advice on how to produce this type of show?
No, too many of these shows have happened before. It’s a challenge and I love a challenge because I trust my band, I trust our material, I trust myself and I trust the audience. They will find out a way to express themselves.
How does it feel to be a precedent?
I don’t think much about it, but my manager, Harvey Leeds, works at Live Nation and says they are monitoring this very closely to try to find out what works and what doesn’t. And we are guinea pigs for this show. And that’s fine with me if that’s how it has to be done so that people create music and people can hear music. People cannot stay in their houses for the rest of our lives. It just won’t happen.
Have you spent much time on the competition track before? Is it a special place for you?
Do you ask me if I am a degenerate player going to the racetrack? Yes. I haven’t been walking for a while, but I used to go with my dad and mom, they loved to go to the track and they would take me and they would let me bet on horses. And you know, they would drink their gin and tonics and eat the sausage sandwiches. And I really loved it. I think the track is a good place and it’s only a few miles from the sea. It’s the real Jersey Shore, not like the TV series. I live in Ocean Grove, which has a great environmental feel. Everyone is out on the street every day. Of course, we all talk to each other through distance. If someone has a birthday they put chairs on the street, have a cake and sing a birthday. That’s what Jersey Shore is really all about.
How does Ocean Grove keep up during the pandemic?
We are a real tourist town and we pull in all the Bennies, that’s what we call the city’s visitors. We joke about them, but we’re excited to see them. We have so many stores that are open now and restaurants and we need them because we need the revenue. I don’t mean that, but the people I know who own businesses do. There are so many people without work right now. I always think of the musicians and crews that serve musicians, you know, how much they hurt, but it’s waiters, waitresses, people who own flower shops and movie theaters. There are many people who really hurt, but I also think it is necessary to stay home.
Do you take any precautions they say you should take?
Of course. I risk because of my age (71). I think it’s good to wear the mask and social distance. But people have to come out. I think we will eventually have concerts again that feel like they also used. There will be separate areas for fans and the band would play on stage – I don’t think there will be run-in theaters in the long run, but who knows?
Do you believe in yourself that makes history?
No, I just want to play. That’s it, I just want to play for our fans. I might take it for granted, because I know it will be a monumental business. Fortunately, there is a good crew of people who know what they are doing and will make sure the sound and visual are good. Thankfully all I have to do is try to remember the words to my songs. And if I can do that, I’m ahead of the game.