Live Review: Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes @ The Birchmere — 6/15/19

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Southside Johnny sings (Photo by John Cavanaugh)

One of The Birchmere’s charms is that you can really see the relationships artists have with their fans. Most artists interact with the audience; some have relationships with their fans. When Southside Johnny & The Asbury Jukes played The Birchmere recently, the rhythm was plenty blue, and the rock had lots of roll, but it was the relationship between the band’s charismatic frontman and the audience that made night special.

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Live Review: The Smithereens @ State Theatre — 1/18/19

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The Smithereens perform at State Theatre on Jan. 18, 2019. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

Much has been written about the redemptive power of rock and roll; its ability to transport us to another place and time or to a cherished memory — as well as its power of community and the way a widely disparate audience can revel in a shared moment of unparalleled spontaneous joy. Those moments repeated themselves over and over at the State Theatre recently when The Smithereens featuring Robin Wilson dropped into town for their 19th performance at the historic Falls Church music venue.

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Interview: Jim Babjak of The Smithereens (@ State Theater, 1/18/19 )

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The Smithereens for the State Theatre show, left to right: Jim Babjak (guitar), Robin Wilson (lead vocals), Dennis Diken (drums), and Mark Mesaros (bass) (Photo courtesy Lappen Enterprises)

Power pop aficionados think of the ’70s and ’80s as the genre’s heyday — an era that included performers like Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds, years that saw the emergence of bands like Big Star and Cheap Trick, and a time that culminated with the Gin Blossoms and Matthew Sweet.

For many music lovers (myself included), The Smithereens captured all the salient characteristics of a classic power pop band: the jangly ringing Byrds-like guitars, the Beach Boys’ high harmonies, the Beatles melodic lyricism… and perhaps the crunching heaviness of Black Sabbath? But The Smithereens added an East-Coast, Jersey Shore roots-rock sensibility.

Mark Caicedo of Parklife DC recently chatted with Jim Babjak, guitarist of The Smithereens, in anticipation of the band’s show at the State Theatre in Falls Church, Virginia, on Jan. 18.

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