Not everyone has his or her life celebrated publicly at one of the most revered music venues in all of New Jersey – a venue that people come to visit from around the world. Then again, not everyone is “Mr. Lou” DeMartino, a true rock-n-roll soul if ever there was one. This is a man whose passion for music animated every part of his body, every part of his face, and every part of his voice. He was excited to be there whether it was a basement rehearsal that required him to cram a dozen songs he’d just received on disc or a big bandshell stage a week after the cram session. He boosted the spirits of the musicians around him when rain kept the turnout low and he carried my heavy speaker system in and out of my house when I wasn’t yet medically cleared to lift anything just weeks after kidney transplant surgery.
Yes, Lou’s rock-n-roll life sparked and reflected the spirits of thousands of music fans and musicians on both sides of the Atlantic and all the way north into Canada. And yesterday, hundreds of grateful friends and kindred spirits joined Lou’s longtime friend and bandleader Joe D’Urso in an amazingly heartfelt afternoon of tributes at the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ.
With the help of several dedicated friends, Joe put together a lineup of performers and speakers who had a special connection with Lou. My friends and family in the Jungle Gym Jam were honored to be among the performers. We sang “My Superpower,” one of four songs that Lou recorded with us in the studio during his time with us. This song will be released as a single in January in advance of a full album release in May that will include all four of Lou’s contributions. Seeing so many of Lou’s fans of all ages sing the main hook along with us and the lyrics “Kindness Is My Superpower!” was an uplift that helped me feel connected with all that Lou and I did together in our band in such a short time.
The love in that room was so strong that my 4-year-old daughter Holly, who had developed a fondness for Mr. Lou (often indicated with a shy smile when he’d come over to practice), picked right up on it and talked about Lou being in heaven and being her best friend ever. She rocked out high on my shoulders to Jon Caspi and the First Gun’s high energy punk rock offerings; she even rejected the earplugs I gave her. I’ll always remember the “Ring of Fire” dance that Holly and I improvised when their band covered Johnny Cash.
The heartfelt acoustic musical tributes came pouring in all day long from many of the Jersey Shore’s finest singer/songwriters. When Williams Honor took the stage, she said, “Daddy, can you put this music on my iPad?” Holly also stole the show when Amy, Casey, Holly and I took to the stage to perform “My Superpower.”
That love for Mr. Lou from across the ocean came in the form of a picture video of Lou’s last trip to Italy with Joe D’Urso and Stone Caravan set to one of the band’s album tracks. It was displayed on the two large screen TV’s on the stage, introduced with lots of humor and heart by Vincent Pastore of The Sopranos’ fame.
Even the Sunday pasta lunch that was served was loaded with thoughtfulness of Lou’s life. As Joe D’Urso said, “Lou loved his pasta.” The big family style servings were cooked fresh in Rockland County on Sunday morning and driven down to Asbury Park and served steaming hot and delicious. We made new friends at our table over lunch and talked about our special mutual friend Lou.
The memorial concert was not just an important emotional event for so many friends and fans, but also a benefit to help Lou’s family cover his memorial expenses. Not only were fans generous in their contributions at the door, but the event itself had some financial hurdles to clear from the start and great friends to help accomplish that. The Dan Sullivan Foundation, the Light of Day Foundation and Asbury Angels teamed up to rent out The Stone Pony for the afternoon, Jason Dermer and his company Asbury Audio furnished the sound, the drums and the amplifiers (which all sounded amazing) and Posa-Posa restaurant in Nanuet, NY provided the benefit a great price break on the food.
Lou certainly left me wanting more of his friendship and his kindness, more of his musicality and his passion. I get sad when I think I can’t get that from the man himself anymore. But I’m uplifted when I’m reminded how many other people were drawn to him for the same things and are inspired by all that. I’m grateful to be part of a community that knows together what LLU means.