The Grand Opening of the Carteret Performing Arts and Events Center is this Saturday night and who better to perform than the greatest rock 'n' roll band to come out of Carteret? Of course, I'm talking about New Jersey Hall of Fame members The Smithereens — Jim Babjak, Mike Mesaros, and Dennis Diken.

With the 2017 passing of Pat DiNizio, the surviving members decided to persevere and carry on their shared musical legacy, using guest vocalists including Robin Wilson of the Gin Blossoms and Marshall Crenshaw.

Both will be performing Saturday night, Dec. 4.

attachment-The Smithereens L-R Jim Babjak, Dennis Diken, Marshall Crenshaw, Mike Mesaros
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In 2019, The Smithereens were honored by the Grammy Museum/Newark and featured in the New Jersey Legends exhibit, and days later, were inducted into the New Jersey Hall of Fame in the Performing Arts category.

And coming in January 2022, The Smithereens celebrate their 42nd anniversary as a band.

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How does it feel to be coming home in such a big way?

"Feels good," Diken told me when he and Babjak called into my show, "we've heard from a lot of our old friends that are coming to the show. It's going to be a big deal."

Diken continued:

"Anyone who's been to Carteret, you know it's a small town and that's where we grew up loving rock n roll, loving the radio, loving music, learning to play our instruments and riding our bikes directly to the block where the Performing Arts Center is now standing, there used to be a candy store called Little Kleins and we used to go there to buy our Mad Magazines and Payday bars."

For Babjak, it was hard rolls and the accordion lessons:

"Right down the block, Mike (Mesaros) and I had the same accordion teacher and across the street used to be a bakery called 'Stollers Bakery,' where we used to go after church every Sunday to get the hard rolls and the butter, I miss that! I miss the hard rolls!"

You're going to miss Pat Dinizio but I imagine you'll be thinking about him. How would he have felt about this show?

"It would have been a special night for him as well," Diken said.

You can't really replace Pat with just one lead singer so you're bringing two. Marshall Crenshaw and Robin Wilson. This marks the first time both will be splitting vocal duties with the band for an entire show.

What's the difference in what each one brings to the stage?

"Marshall's a little taller," Diken jokingly said." Both are really gifted performers,but they're very different from each other."

Diken continues.

"When Pat passed away we decided to continue we didn't have it in our heads to try and find a singer who was going to try to imitate Pat or try to affect his vocal style. What we found in both Robin and Marshall, is two individuals who really interpret the music and make the songs their own. tHey're two different styles of singing but they both really work. They both put their heart and soul into what we're doing."

Babjak added, "And they both love the band so that's a huge plus."

I know you guys are huge Beatles fans, having recreated "Meet The Beatles," have you seen "Get Back" and what are your thoughts?

"I really enjoyed it," Babjak said. "I'm going to watch it again. I'm fascinated by all that stuff and as you know Den, we grew up on buying the bootlegs of all those takes and now we actually see them doing it. It's incredible!"

Diken added, "It's absolutely remarkable that this footage exists and gives s such a window into their world at that time. It really does turn around the narrative that it was all bad news during the making of that record. It clearly wasn't."

Just like they got back, you're getting back to Carteret, what did you love most from those days of growing up in Carteret?

"The thing I always think about," Diken said, "is that we were really lucky to have a really wonderful graduating class that we went through school with throughout the years. We were fortunate that we had a group of kids that were creative, fun-loving, curious, bright, witty, and we all fed off of each other's energy. I think about that all the time" We made a lot of good friends and some of those friendships last until this day". Whenever we see them, we just pick up from where we left off. We were lucky to have each other."

Babjak puts it into perspective.

"It's a hard-working, blue-collar town when we were growing up. My parents worked in factories. When they first came to this country and we took that work ethic that we grew up with, the mentality of working hard, and that transcends into our playing live. We put out a 100% every time we get out on stage. We don't dog it or go through the motions. It's as if it's our last show or our first show ever. We put everything into it. So that's Carteret for you."

See the Smithereens Saturday night at the Carteret Performing Arts Center, for tickets click here.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Steve Trevelise. Any opinions expressed are Steve's own. Steve Trevelise is on New Jersey 101.5 Monday-Thursday from 7-11 p.m.. Follow him on Twitter @realstevetrev.

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