Rock N Pop Down Pat

The Smithereens The Smithereens

Celebrating 35 years together, New Jersey’s Pat DiNizio and the Smithereens play Millville’s Levoy Theatre Friday.

Not everybody has Southside Johnny, the Hooters, Marshall Crenshaw, The Grip Weeds, Garland Jeffreys and other rock stars play at their birthday party, but that’s (just part of) the line up of Pat DiNizio’s 60th Birthday Bash.

The sold-out October event in the Smithereens’ founder and frontman’s native Scotch Plains, NJ—where DiNizio still resides—is a testament to the well-deserved respect the one-time concert promoter, press release writer, band manager, radio host and “garbage man” has earned during his 35 years with the band whose perfected pop hits include “Blood and Roses,” “Behind the Wall of Sleep,” “Girl Like You” and “Only a Memory.”

We do the same show whether we’re opening up for Tom Petty and playing to 35,000 or playing for 35 people. It’s the same show.

The Smithereens, who come to Millville’s Levoy Theater on Friday, September 18, continue to perform as much as possible.

In recent years, the band has done tribute shows (and records) to the Beatles and the Who, along with their regular concerts. The night before flying out of the Garden State bound for a gig in Arizona, DiNizio says he still recalls the days when the band lived on a bus for most of the year.

“Most of the dates these days are fly dates,” says DiNizio. “At one point, we were living on a bus for 300 days a year—for about 10 years. It used to take me months just to get over the motion. You’d still feel the bus rocking even though you were home.”

The Smithereens did get back on the bus a few years ago while on tour with Tom Petty for a couple of weeks—playing large arenas and stadiums—but, for the most part, theaters and more intimate venues such as the Levoy are where the Smithereens perform these days.

“It’s good that there are places like that to play,” says DiNizio. “We do the same show whether we’re opening up for Tom Petty and playing to 35,000 or playing for 35 people. It’s the same show.

"It’s usually a three-hour set and we try to put in as much material as possible. You want to give people value for their money and give them more than what they paid for. The fact of it is, you’ve seen artists that you’ve loved throughout your life and you see them now and perhaps you’re let down a little bit; they’re not really enthusiastic about what they’re doing anymore. So we believe that we have to be twice as good as bands half our age. That’s just the way that it is. So the expectations are higher and we really work hard to do things the right way.”

DiNizio says to expect something extra special at the Levoy concert.

“Our keyboard player is on hiatus from his regular gig with John Mayer, so I think he’s going to be joining us in Millville,” he says. “So we can go deep into the catalog.”

Following a stint at the former XM Satellite Radio as host of the “Unsigned Bands” show, DiNizio—with the Smithereens—put together several projects that exposed his musical roots and influences, including a pair of Beatles tribute albums (Meet the Smithereens and B-Sides The Beatles); The Smithereens Play Tommy, an homage to the classic rock opera by the Who, and a solo Buddy Holly tribute album in 2009.

The most personal project for DiNizio, however, would have to be his recent solo show, “Confessions of a Rock Star.”

Originally an act in Las Vegas, DiNizio brought his one-man show to Asbury Park for an extended run earlier this year.

“It’s a different sort of show,” says DiNizio. “A lot of it has to do with telling stories, anecdotal things, like what it was like to be four years old and seeing Elvis’ third movie King Creole on the Boardwalk in Wildwood in the summer of 1959 and demanding that my dad buy me a guitar immediately after.”

“Confessions” recalls different eras in rock history—and recent American history—and how they affected DiNizio. Such as when he first heard the Beatles.
“It was all over after that,” he says. “For everyone. I mean in 1964, it changed everything. Within a week after the Beatles [came to America] there were rock bands on every corner in every town in America.”

Along with the Beatles, Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley—and monster movies—DiNizio’s early influences include a variety of sounds, from “surf” instrumentals, Chubby Checker and the Dovells—and whatever Jerry “The Geator” Blavat played on WFIL when the weather was right and reception was good up in northern New Jersey—to the Doors, Black Sabbath and the bands on the early days of MTV.

“Confessions of a Rock Star” will be coming to New Brunswick in January 2016, and DiNizio has thought about taking it on a tour of universities and college campuses at some point.

“It’s sort of edu-tainment,” he says, “with a humorous bent to it. It’s about my life and all the luck that I’ve had and just the notion of doing what you love to do for a living for an audience that appreciates what you do and supports your efforts. It’s a miracle, you know?”

The Smithereens
Friday, September 18, 2015 - 8 p.m. (Doors: 7:30 p.m.) $25-$35, Opening Act: Plantation
Levoy Theatre, 126-130 N. High St., Millville, 856-327-6400.

SNJ Today is a Southern New Jersey news and information source based in Millville, New Jersey that is dedicated to providing current stories related specifically to South Jersey.