With A Little Help From Our Friends:

Sid Bernstein's Benefit Rocks The Pony

By Maureen Shames

Mr. Kite would have been duly impressed!

A "British Invasion" themed Benefit for the Kamala Grammar School in
Phuket, Thailand raised funds, morale and ultimately the roof at the
legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park on March 20.

Topping the bill was Sid Bernstein, the famed Beatles promoter who
graciously presented this benefit to raise funds to rebuild a school
that was devastated by the Tsunami.

Rock bands included the Jersey shore's, "topper most of the popper most"
at a marathon event lasting more than seven hours.

Headliners included-- Tim McLoone, and Asbury Jukes Ed "Kingfish"
Manion, and Bobby Bandiera.

This tight-knit band played a highly energetic set heavily stacked with
the greatest music in the world, The Beatles! They were joined by Jim
Celestino, his son Ryan Celestino and Bruce Foster. A surprise
appearance from the charismatic Boccigalupe heightened the excitement.

They opened with "Hard Day's Night," and it was immediately clear that
these musicians were all polished and quite passionate. The members of
this band are locally very well-known for their high level of talent,
and each has their own specialty. McLoone played keyboards, Manion is a
known saxophonist who also plays with the Fab Faux and Bandiera plays a
spanking note-perfect guitar.

When these musicians roll up their sleeves to jam, a regular evening
becomes highly enchanted.

"But when I get home to you, I find the things that you do, will make me
feel al--right," sang Bandiera and the band. "You know I fe--el

This spirited performance genuinely uplifted us and the incredible
jamming caused a powerful surge of energy in the audience! We danced,
clapped and it was all such a thrill.

"Can't Buy Me Love" is another early Beatles great, but not just anybody
can pick up a beloved rock classic and prove that "I don't care too much
for money; money can't buy me love."

Bandiera did it well. He gave us all he had to give, and musically his
up-tempo tunes and slow ballads were so magical that the audience loved
him. His low-key personality coupled with passionate guitar strumming
were the perfect combination to turn on the audience.

This technical perfectionist joked loosely with the band, sometimes
smiled at us, or made faces. Bandiera visibly enjoyed teasing the other
musicians, and it was all in good fun.

Bandiera is known for playing solo as well as with the Asbury Jukes and
Southside Johnny. It is evident why Bruce Springsteen had Bandiera join
him and play at the Christmas Jam to benefit Asbury Park at Harry’s
Roadhouse in December. Bruce was right on when he recognized Bandiera
for being the most talented unsigned artist.

Each song seemed more exciting than the next from Bandiera and friends,
and those included, "Ticket to Ride," "I Should Have Known Better," "I
Call Your Name," "Yellow Submarine," and "I Want To Hold Your Hand."

Fans sang and screamed the words to each and every one of these Beatles

McLoone’s jams on the keyboards were intense, and he played with sheer
passion. His personality was laid-back and friendly. McLoone owns
McLoone's Riverside Dining in Sea Bright and is also the founder and
president of Holiday Express, a volunteer non-profit organization
dedicated to bringing music, gifts and holiday cheer to those less

This caring man sang several songs made famous by Elvis Presley
including, "Return To Sender" and "Little Sister."

This was my first time seeing Bandiera and it was a complete surprise
when he dedicated the late great Buddy Holly song, "True Love Ways" to
me. It was personally meaningful because I’ve always been a Holly fan
and it was such a warm gesture!

"Sometimes we'll sigh, sometimes we'll cry," sang Bandiera. "But you'll
know why, just you and I… know true love ways."

It was so unexpected, and his vocals matched the tenderness and beauty
of the lyrics. It added another measure of fun to an already memorable

"Peggy Sue" was played with some awesome energy, and it is rare and
special to hear this live. It got the audience hopping once again. Final
songs included, Roy Orbison's, "Running Scared," and Holly's, "Not Fade

It was my first time seeing, Boccigalupe, and he was a great musician.
The interplay among band members had a fun lighthearted quality because
it was evident they were close long time friends.

According to Boccigalupe's website, his name means "off center, a little
crazy, or kind of nuts." And guess who gave him this nickname that

The only boss I listen to.... Springsteen, and Little Steven Van Zandt
too, according to Boccigalupe’s web site.

The encore blew us away as the well-known Jody Joseph joined the band to
sing, "Me and Bobby McGee." This petite whirlwind of energy, known as
the "Suburban Janis Joplin," put her heart and soul into this Joplin
song and easily won over the audience.

Earlier in the evening, Joseph performed a set that involved mostly
original powerful tunes that were a mix of blues and rock. Her band,
"The Average Joes" kept up with the revved up hip singer, who even left
the stage to sing to people on the floor. It was a whimsical move.

Joseph is talented, and quite fittingly she received the accolade "Best
Female Artist" from longtime Jersey shore music critic Bob Makin of The
Courier in February.

Many fans knew Joseph is Jon Bon Jovi's cousin, but it might just be a
few rock and roll minutes away until Bon Jovi is introduced as Joseph's
cousin! Look for Joseph's new cd.

Her soulful performance earned a nod from Bernstein, a moment any artist
would enjoy.

In between each set, artists read a variety of poignant, sad and funny
letters that were written by local youngsters to send to their peers
overseas in Phuket. This letter writing campaign serves as a morale

Denis Couglan of Belmar played seven songs early in the evening,
including the classic song, "Please Come to Boston." Couglan said it was
a pleasure to play at the benefit and to have the chance to meet

Ronnie Wetstein of West Long Branch played a set featuring a handful of
Beatles songs, and a handful of originals inspired by the Fab Four.

A stand-out tune by Wetstein was the psychedelic "Trippin' All Over The
World" a song he was hired to write for the famous Ronnie Spector. It
was inspired to empower her to respond to past difficult relationship
problems, according to Wetstein.

Wetstein’s rendition of Beatles songs were fun, especially "No Reply,"
and "Norwegian Wood."

"This charity was a wonderful chance for all the Jersey shore musicians
to come together, right now and make a difference," Wetstein said. "When
I was invited to participate, it was clear that 'yes was the answer.'"

The atmosphere was Beatle-esque all night until the Pony closed. How
appropriate that Bernstein presented this "British Invasion" themed

After all... It was 40 years ago they say, Bernstein brought the Beatles
to America to play! His Phuket Grammar School benefit is worthwhile, and
if you read his book, "It's Sid Bernstein Calling..."

You will likely learn that helping those in need is part of the
Bernstein charm and style.