The B Street Band, which I guess they are the ultimate Bruce Springsteen tribute band, opened up the Italian Street Fair, you know, the Feast. I heard they played the inaugural ball for the right ring freak in Trenton, who is a Bruce Springsteen fan so maybe he’s not all bad. I was of course hesitant about them, because, well, they’re a tribute band. But they were actually great, even throwing in a Suspicious Minds.
They were also loud. When I got there they played a great version, absolutely spot-on rendition of Back Streets (go racing in the heat). I met a friend of mine, he is actually a priest from Nigeria, who listened with a very puzzled look on his face and noticed that I was singing along. I tried to explain to him that I grew up with this music. I mean, he’s Bruce.
Okay, I can’t say that they were better than Bruce, but you know, they were less predictable. They were indeed a Bruce juke box, playing sincere, note for note renditions and they pleased everyone.
I wrote about my visit to the Rice Ball factory here, which was a highlight of the Feast so far.
I was feeling a little emotional actually. The Feast is always great, and you know, it was pretty much like last year, great food, and great people, fun. It’s the highlight of a Jersey City summer. Last year though, a few weeks after the Feast, I had a life threatening health incident. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I almost didn’t make to the Feast this year. I almost didn’t make it to this year’s Feast. I don’t really dwell on that, or haven’t for several months, but you know, I was feeling strangely emotional about the fragility of my mortality. It was probably why I wasn’t very talkative with the friends I met there.
One of my favorite things to do is visit the beautiful Holy Rosary Church during the feast. I kept thinking about how that, how I almost didn’t make it this year and I sat there and listened to the muffled sounds of the feast during one of the B Street Band breaks. It was wonderful, actually, sort of inexplicable type of communing with egalitarian spirit of the festival, which is in the way the same spirit, or at least, what one hopes is the same spirit, of the creation, universe, etc. It ain’t no sin to be glad your alive goes the Bruce song, okay maybe that wasn’t playing at this moment, that would be too perfect.
I went outside, I ate. I meandered. I chit chatted. One of my best friends, Tony, is an Italian American born in Jersey City and where I grew up, Paramus, our next door neighbors and close family friends are you guessed it, Italian Americans from Jersey City. It’s easy to take this street festival for granted. On the surface, it really seems no different than any other street fair. Sausage, Zeppolee, Italian Flags. The difference may not be the fair but us, we’re here and this is home. We recognize the Jersey City style, its subtle distinctiveness. The other aspect is what I have always found, my life long experience with Italian Americans—they are welcoming. Everybody’s invited when they throw a party. The summer would not be the same if it wasn’t for The Feast. It would lack a very special elation.
The B Street Band performed an excellent Mary’s Place, Bruce’s elegiac anthem to love and loss inspired by the events of 9-11. It’s one of his greatest songs, certainly among the best of the last ten years. It is also the last great sax solo by Clarence, which the B-Street Sax player expertly rendered. Everyone was glad to hear it. Everyone was glad the neighborhood summer party was back. Hey, we all made it back.
Familiar faces around me
Laughter fills the air
Your loving grace surrounds me
Furniture's out on the front porch
Music's up loud
I dream of you in my arms
I lose myself in the crowd