This past Friday, the annual Light of Day Canada Benefit rolled into the Meridian Centre with a star-studded lineup. The performers included headliners Blue Rodeo, Joe Grushecky and The Houserockers, Joe D’Urso and Stone Caravan, Miss Emily, Jason Heath and The Greedy Souls, and Bobby Mahoney and the Seventh Son.
The benefit was hosted by TV and movie personality Vincent Pastore, and Giant FM radio host Brian Salmon, who came on stage to introduce acts, and inform audience members about this year’s Light of Day contributors and progress.
“I got involved with [Light of Day] Asbury Park by coming up to Canada, with Sammy in Toronto, and Mike, Dave, and Gordon [in Niagara], and I started doing these benefits, and we became close so I love coming up here,” said Pastore. “They also have me down in Asbury now and we’re doing a show in Mamaroneck next Sunday, so it’s starting to expand to different areas all over the country and the world.”
The Light of Day Canada Foundation works with the Parkinson’s Society to collect donations and funds for Parkinson’s research and care. The organization began in 2007 with two small shows, one in Niagara Falls and one in Toronto. The success of the shows along with the enthusiasm and support of the communities helped expand the show to larger venues as well as reach different areas. This year, including Friday’s concert at the Meridian Centre, the Light of Day Benefit will touch down at the Cadillac Lounge in Toronto, and the BluMartini Lounge in Kingston. However, Blue Rodeo will only be headlining the St. Catharines show.
The Light of Day (LOD) organization began as a birthday party and fund raiser held in 1998 to celebrate the 40th birthday of artist manager and music industry veteran Bob Benjamin, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1996. The organization continued to grow in size over the years, putting on multiple concerts to raise funds, and eventually reaching the outstanding size it has today.
Sammy Grosso, owner of The Cadillac Lounge, host venue for this year’s LOD Toronto Benefit, said, “The event has grown and grown and we’re heading into our 16th year with it. It’s grown from being at a small club, the Stone Pony, to now being at the huge Paramount Theatre in New Jersey. It’s also grown from being just a single concert to a whole week of events, in a number of different locations.”
Almost everyone involved with Light of Day has been a part of the organization and the yearly benefit in the past, each having personal stories of how their lives have been affected by Parkinson’s.
“I’ve been involved for six years now,” said Pastore. “My mother, Natalie, died from Parkinson’s disease, so when I heard about this organization I wanted to get involved. I feel she’s smiling up in heaven and she knows that we’ll fight this fatal disease.”
Each of the acts put on an incredibly energetic show, considering each set list was only three or four songs to make room for headliners Blue Rodeo. A majority of the acts originated from the New York and New Jersey area, with a few from other areas of the U.S. and Miss Emily, hailing from Kingston.
The benefit came close to selling out.
“I think that’s because of Blue Rodeo,” said Pastore. “I think Dave and Mike and all the promoters were smart by getting a main Canadian act to headline. A lot of the time we bring up the guys from New York and Jersey and we do well, but marketing wise, to use a Canadian act that’s as popular as Blue Rodeo will get people to see the show.”
When it was time for Blue Rodeo to finally hit the stage the crowd went wild. The band played a full set, complete with a three-song encore.
It was a fun show, with the band asking those in the floor seats to get up and join them at the bottom of the stage, while encouraging the audience to sing along to their more popular songs.
Overall, the benefit was a huge success, raising approximately $80,000 to fund Parkinson’s research and care.
“It’s great because we’re fighting Parkinson’s through rock and roll. One of the nicest things is when you come up and you hear the bands, they’re all great and so committed, so we’re not giving audiences a bad show; it’s rock and roll,” remarked Pastore.
All of the money raised from the benefit concerts and other events go directly to the Light of Day Foundation (New Jersey), Parkinson’s Canada (Northern and Central Ontario), the Michael J. Fox Foundation, and the Hotel Dieu Shaver: Steve Ludzik Parkinson’s Clinic.
Assistant Arts & Life Editor