There are no blankets now on the lawn in front of Verona’s Town Hall, no bandshell trailer by the World War II monument. But in a few shorts weeks, there will be. On July 6, the grass and the makeshift stage will be packed for a performance by Rick Larrimore‘s Rod Stewart tribute band.
It is a scene that will be repeated all across the metro area this summer, and many of these concerts will have the same source: a Verona-based business known as LaGuardia Entertainment. Sixteen years ago, in its first summer putting on concerts for local governments, LaGuardia had just two towns and one county on its roster. This year, it will run 200 concerts for more than 50 towns and counties. The first concert for the 2011 season was May 7, and the music won’t stop until September 10.
“Due to economic conditions, towns feel people need this more than ever,” says John Alati, a Verona resident who is one of the principals at LaGuardia. “People can’t go away. Instead they buy food from a vendor at the event or from a neighboring business, come to concert in their town, and help the local economy.” Most of the concerts, including Verona’s, are supported in large part by private sponsors, easing the cost on strapped governments.
Verona has been a venue for LaGuardia shows for about a decade, hosting five shows that run in July and August. This year’s schedule includes three concerts in the center of town that are open to anyone who wants to listen, and two concerts just for Verona residents that will take place at the Verona Pool. In addition to the Rick Larrimore Rod Stewart tribute band on July 6, there will be The Brooklyn Reunion Show on July 13, featuring The Classics, The Passions and The Mystics–including the original lead singer of each do-wop group. On July 20, Joe and Doreen Arminio, who just opened a yoga studio in Verona, will be on stage with a new act featuring Broadway songs. The pool concerts will be by a Beach Boys tribute group and a new act with a local connection. Alotta Colada is an island music group that includes the Arminios, Verona building inspector Tom Jacobsen and Verona Town Council member Bob Manley. (Essex County will bring 3 Po’ Tenors to Kip’s Castle on July 20.)
“The key to the success of all this is that you need the full support of government officials,” says Alati. “In Verona, it has been 100%.”
Alati says that while many towns still like oldies groups for their concerts, there’s a growing interest in tribute bands. Last summer, Verona hosted Bobby & The Jets, an Elton John tribute band fronted by Verona native Bobby Lynch. This year, LaGuardia is bringing in Hotel California, an Eagles tribute band, for performances in Parsippany, Woodbridge and Berkeley Township. Many of the groups perform more than once on the LaGuardia circuit: Larrimore will take his act to five towns; the Bronx Wanderers, a Frankie Valli tribute band, will be in 10 towns. The DuPrees and the Infernos, who have performed several times in Verona in the past, won’t be back this year, but they will do a combined 30 shows in other towns. For the full schedule of all LaGuardia shows, click here.
When the last drum stick is put down in September, LaGuardia will take a rest–but not for long. Come January, they have to be ready with a showcase for governments and sponsors to show off the acts for summer 2012.