A large crowd is expected to fill Roselle Catholic High School’s gymnasium in late April, nearly two months since RC played a basketball game in The Lions’ Den.
The only big shot in the RC gym will emanate from the stage, not Coach Hagan Court, on April 27, when Mike DelGuidice and Big Shot – celebrating the music of Billy Joel – return to The Lions’ Den for a fundraiser concert.
Billy Joel won’t be at Roselle Catholic at the end of April, but the next best (and closest) thing to Billy Joel will be.
So says one of Billy Joel’s biggest fans.
“Watching Mike DelGuidice and Big Shot is the best Billy experience short of being in the front row at Madison Square Garden and it costs a whole lot less,” said Scotch Plains resident Eric Fellen, who’ll see his 101st Billy Joel concert later this month. “Though while there, if you close your eyes, you might say it sound better than being at Billy,” Fellen said. “But don’t tell Billy I said that.”
Fellen was in The Lions’ Den when DelGuidice and Big Shot delivered a championship-caliber performance in front of more than 500 enthusiastic fans in a packed gymnasium that generated the type of enthusiasm and electricity associated with significant high school sporting events.
“One thing really stands out in my mind from Big Shot’s last show at Roselle two years ago: somehow the sound engineer made that gym sound better than The Garden,” said Fellen, who attended his initial Joel concert 35 years ago at Madison Square Garden. “Before going to that show I had low expectations of what it would sound like in a gymnasium. However, I was totally blown away. I don’t know how he did it, but I just had a blast.”
Proceeds from the fundraiser concert will benefit the Roselle Catholic High School girls’ basketball team and the Write on Sports camp at Roselle Catholic, a two-week, tuition-free summer camp for middle school students who are encouraged to improve their writing by writing about sports.
The RC girls’ basketball team, led by seniors Jenissa Encarnacion and Taniya Hanner, posted a 15-10 record in 2018-19.
Hanner, who’ll continue her career at the University of Albany, reached the 1,000-point milestone in January and concluded her RC career with 1,209 points, third most in program history. She joined Tori Pozsonyi (‘14), Melissa Tobie (’11), Allison Skrec (’10) and Schrene Isidora (’99) on the RC girls’ basketball 1,000-point banner.
RC coach Joe Skrec, in his 23rd season at the helm, notched his 400th victory in last month’s Union County Tournament quarterfinals. The Lions have won six UCT titles, including five since 2009.
Coach Skrec has seen and heard a few Billy Joel concerts, but not nearly as many as Billy Joel super fan Eric Fellen. In addition to 100 Billy Joel concerts, Fellen has attended about 40 Big Shot shows since 2006. Big Shot’s roster includes other members of Billy Joel’s band, including guitarist Tommy Byrnes and drummer Chuck Burgi, who played The Lions’ Den in 2017.
The super Joel fan, a service strategist in financial technology, can usually be picked out of a crowd by the pinstriped baseball jersey he usually sports and the New Jersey license plate – which reads JOEL FN – he always wears around his neck and both Billy Joel and Big Shot shows.
These days, Fellen and thousands of Billy Joel fans see DelGuidice on stage – playing guitar, providing backup vocals and singing “Nessun Dorma” before Joel begins “Scenes From an Italian Restaurant” – every time the Piano Man plays at MSG or anywhere else. Joel tabbed DelGuidice to join his band in 2013.
“When Mike joined Billy’s band I was excited for him, but I was concerned that he would lose sight of his roots and fans that supported him along the way,” said Fellen, who played soccer and ran track while growing up in Manalapan in Monmouth County.
“But he didn’t. Mike’s still the humble and average guy who still loves to play Billy’s music and has a great time interacting with fans.
“I first became a fan of Mike and Big Shot in 2005 … When I see them perform they’re having a good time as they were teenage friends just jamming in a basement.”
Fans can catch the return of DelGuidice and Big Shot to The Lions’ Den on April 27. Tickets, priced at $40 and $350 for a table of 10, include beverages and light refreshments. Leanne Weiss and Derek Allen, who comprise, up-and-coming country music duo October Rose, who sang at the RC girls basketball squad’s team dinner last May, will be the opening act.
Doors open at 6 p.m., with Big Shot scheduled to take the stage at 7:30 p.m. Tickets, , which increased in price April 1, are available at www.rosellecatholic.org/bigshot.
OCTOBER ROSE RETURNING TO ASSIST
October Rose is returning to Roselle Catholic to again assist the RC girls’ basketball program.
The county music acoustic duo – Leanne Weiss and Derek Allan – will serve as the opening act of the April 27 fundraiser concert, headlined by Mike DelGuidice and Big Shot, celebrating the music of Billy Joel – in The Lions’ Den.
October Rose will be on the RC campus for the first time since last May, when Weiss and Allan sang several songs at the annual girls’ basketball team’s season-ending dinner in the cafeteria.
In what’s turned into a tradition, and a highlight, at the Lions’ spaghetti dinner, RC girls basketball alumnus Jacqueline Biddulph (RC ’05) re-wrote the lyrics of a popular sing to commemorate the Lions’ season.
Last spring, Biddulph picked the popular song “Meant to Be” record by Bebe Rexha featuring country music duo Florida Georgia Line.
“Meant to Be” peaked at No. 2 on the “Billboard Hot 100” and reached number one on the “Hot Country Songs” chart.
Weiss and Allan traveled to Pine Street and Raritan Road last May 7 and performed a six-song set, including two versions of “Meant to Be,” one with the original lyrics and one personalized for the RC girls basketball team’s season. By the end of Biddulph’s RC version of “Meant to Be,” all in attendance were clapping or singing along with October Rose.
“We loved that we were able to make the basketball team’s night special with a surprise performance that included a song that was special to the team,” Weiss said. “Bringing people together and making people feel something is what our music is all about.”
Following its very well-received performance, October Rose posed for a photo with the girls’ basketballteam and congratulated the Lions on their successful season.
October Rose (www.octoberrosemusic.com) also delivered a strong performance of their debut single, “Heartbreak Song.”
The duo recently released its debut EP, “All In,” which features six songs, including the motivational title track.
With their unmistakable chemistry and a contagious, rock-infused sound, OctoberRose is looking at a bright future.
A rising country duo, October Rose has opened for numerous Top 40 country music acts, including Jimmie Allen and Sara Evans.
“By coming to the show early on April 27th, guests will get a mix of some of our favorite Top 40 country songs and our originals that include our radio single, ‘Hearbreak Song’ which was played all over the country and ‘Bonfire,’ our music video, which has over 100,000 views on YouTube,” Allan said.
“We specialize in high energy country with an emphasis on vocal harmonies.”
You can follow Weiss and Allan, North Jersey residents, via twitter at octoberrosectry. Weiss, who played basketball as a youth, sang the National Anthem at the Prudential Center in Newark prior to Seton Hall’s basketball game vs. Louisville in December. For more information or tickets to the Roselle Catholic fundraiser concert, which benefits RC girls basketball and the Write on Sports camp at Roselle Catholic, contact coach Joe Skrec at [email protected].
“Coach Skrec and his family have been so kind to us and have constantly supported our music,” October Rose said.
“We are grateful to have met them and performed at Roselle Catholic.”