Now in its fifth full season, the concert series is presented by The Hudson Riverfront Performing Arts Center (HRPAC), a group that is raising funds to build an arts center on the Weehawken waterfront. While the "center" isn't an actual building yet, HRPAC moves closer to realizing that dream each year.
The annual summer series in Lincoln Harbor Park showcases renowned musicians in many different genres including rock, jazz, Blues, and more.
Kicking off the season this year is none other than the Jersey-born Smithereens, who for more than two decades have inspired generations of fans with their guitar-driven rock and top 40 radio hits like "Blood and Roses, "A Girl like You," and "Behind the Wall of Sleep."
In addition to the well-known favorites, the Smithereens will play songs from their latest album, a live album that was recorded this winter at the Court Tavern in New Brunswick, one of the many bars they played at early in their career.
The band has remained loyal to each other, which in the world of music is not only unlikely, but seemingly impossible with musicians having to find other ways to survive in a culture that prefers the flavor of the moment over true musical talent.
The Smithereens, including musicians Jim Babjak, Dennis Diken, Pat DiNizio, and Severo Jornacion, are like a fine wine to their fans - and only get better with age.
Recently, DiNizio (vocals and guitar), took time out of schedule to discuss the new album, fans, and the upcoming concert in Weehawken on Wednesday, June 25.
According to DiNizio, two of the new songs on the album should sound familiar to longtime fans of the band.
"I feel that the two newest songs that appear on the newest CD are as good as anything we've ever done and as good as anything that I've ever written," said DiNizio. "And [they are] true to the sound of the band, but the band is essentially the same. We've worked hard at not changing the sound of the band."
He added, "Like all of our fans and us, we're not kids anymore. At a certain point in life, [bands] tend to soften the sound, but I think it is important to our audience to not let them down. So when they close their eyes, we sound the same as we did in 1986."
Listening to the live album is a true testament to that spirit, as their hit songs sound just as fresh as one might remember them.
One of their newest songs, "Any Other Way," has a catchy rhythm much like the popular "Blood and Roses." DiNizio's hypnotic voice and earnest story of heartbreak move the listener. The music isn't flashy or bogged down with too many effects; rather, the simple yet polished sound draws one in and makes one remember the pleasure of hearing music that makes you feel something from your gut.
"In a world that changes at a breakneck speed, we remain the same," said DiNizio. "It is like coming back to your hometown in 20 years and finding it the same. There is a comfort to that. The people that come to our shows are happy that we sound the same."
He added, "This woman who came to one of our shows said, 'Thank you for making me feel like a 17-year-old again.' So if that is what we are put here to do, we are happy to do it."
DiNizio says that he is mostly visually oriented. He said he tends to draw inspiration from movies rather than listening to other musicians.
He said that there are certain things that he will do to stay creatively fresh.
"There is one good channel, the Turner Movie Channel," said DiNizio, who has a preference for classic films. "You weep when you are watching it because the world [pictured] was a better world. You are seeing an America that was - that isn't anymore. There were real people behind these movies, who had fought wars and knew what it was like to sacrifice. I am an old soul. I had an appreciation for life at a young age. Life on this planet is short. I read books. I take a walk. I don't get inspiration from listening to other musicians; I'm visually oriented."
DiNizio, who also has recorded solo albums, says that fans can expect the whole shebang at the upcoming concert in Weehawken.
"It will be comprised of a little bit of everything," he said. "Certainly the radio hits, certain B-tracks that weren't necessarily radio hits, Beatles tributes, new songs, acoustic sets. Basically you will see a retrospective of the band played with a whole lot of passion and a whole lot of love."
The Smithereens will play at 7 p.m. this Wednesday in Lincoln Harbor Park, and it is only one of the six free concerts this summer. See sidebar for the schedule.
Other performers include: The Dizzy Gillespie All Stars, featuring world renowned Jazz musicians including Claudio Roditi, Cyrus Chestnut, and John Lee; The Grammy-award winning Spanish Harlem Orchestra, featuring director Oscar Hernandez; The James Cotton Blues Band featuring Grammy-winner "Superharp" Cotton; Tango on the Hudson, who will bring locals a taste of tango music and dancing; and The Wailin' Jennys, who are known statewide to millions from the radio show "A Prairie Home Companion."
Guests are invited to bring friends, family, and food and are encouraged to make a night of it.
All of the concerts will run approximately for 90 minutes.
The free series was made possible by the generous support of the following groups and organizations: Mayor Turner and the township of Weehawken, the board of trustees of HRPAC, the County of Hudson, the State of New Jersey, Hartz Mountain Industries, the Hudson Reporter, K. Hovnanian Homes, Lennar Corporation, PSE&G, Roseland Property Company, Sheraton Suites on the Hudson, and UBS.
Lincoln Harbor Park is centrally located in Hudson County and is next to public transportation, including the Hudson River ferries and NJ Transit buses.
All concerts start at 7 p.m. Limited seating available, so bring a lawn chair or a blanket. For rain dates or more information, call (201) 716-4540 or visit: www.hrpac.org.
All concerts start at 7 p.m. and will be held on Wednesdays in Lincoln Harbor Park.
June 25 - The Smithereens
July 16 - The Dizzy Gillespie All Stars
July 30 - The Spanish Harlem Orchestra
Aug. 6 - The James Cotton Blues Band
Aug. 20 - Tango on the Hudson
Aug. 27 - The Wailin' Jennys