July 19, 2016 Great South Bay Music Festival Full Of Magic On Day 1 Patchogue, NY 7-14-16
Normally, it would be a challenge to find a chill tent, Belgian waffles on a stick, Pirates, live music, and iced tea on tap, all in one place. Not during the Great South Bay Music Festival at Shorefront Park in Patchogue, New York. Expanded to four nights in 2016, opening night, Thursday July 14th, saw a lineup that included Third Eye Blind, Minus the Bear, and Manchester Orchestra kick things off in high gear and with an Indie Rock twist.
Each passing year, the festival has grown, expanding the artist roster to include the best and brightest national and local talent, as well as a food court of eclectic options, a diverse artisan market, and family friendly vibe that welcomes festival goers of all ages, located right on the gorgeous Great South Bay. Memorable performances from the past include Martin Sexton, the Doobie Brothers, Galactic, Marc Broussard, Soundswell, Taking Back Sunday, and Blues Traveler. With such a rich history, 2016 marks the festival’s tenth anniversary of bringing a mix of Contemporary and Classic Rock, Jazz, Folk, Zydeco, Jam-bands, Country, and all types of music, under the Long Island sun.
The lazy summer heat and relaxed fans created a laid back feel as the first small, steady stream of people entered through the gates, leisurely checking out the enormous array of food selections, greeting friends, and making their way to one of the two stages in use for the day. The Clamshell Bandshell boasted a hearty lineup of local favorites including Pocketphuzz, Elliot & the Ghost, Midnight Mob, and Mayve. The Dream Stage, or main stage, packed the powerhouse bands for the day, and with enough space between them using expertly staggered start times, the sound bleed was minimal. Ominous clouds started vying for position over one side of the park, and as heads looked skyward, chatter turned to hopes that the rain would hold off, at least for awhile.
Brooklyn, New York based Indie Singer Songwriter Kevin Devine wasted no time grabbing the attention of the growing crowd. Comfortable with his lead-off slot, Devine and The Goddamn Band hit the small stage ready to rock. Slight of build, Devine shared, “I’m having the time of my life,” and hoped that the crowd was enjoying things just as much as he was. Fans of Manchester Orchestra, the band who would hit the stage some two and a half hours later, might recognize Devine from his stint touring with the band back in 2009 and 2010. Some were familiar with Bad Books, a project that Devine and members of Manchester Orchestra created in 2010 along with Drummer Benjamin Homola. For this show, Manchester Orchestra’s bassist Andy Prince, also a member of The Goddamn Band, played double duty with both bands as well as Drummer Tim Very, who filled in with Devine’s band after only one rehearsal.
The high energy set included Devine’s hits “Little Bulldozer,” “Redbird,” and “Bubblegum.” Thoroughly engaged with the audience, Devine shared snippets of wisdom, like asking if the crowd watched Mad Men and wondering out loud if talking about television shows on stage is indeed the best thing to do at a festival. As his set went on, the darkening clouds enveloped the sky, preparing to violently purge rain for about fifteen minutes before the sky brightened again. Thankfully, the stage crew had tarped the large pieces of equipment with plastic just moments before Devine had appeared on stage.
Minus the Bear, who formed in Seattle, Washington in 2001 and have since won a place in the hearts of Indie Rock and Prog Rock fans everywhere, were up next. Before Devine’s set, flannel-clad Lead Singer Jake Snider could be seen leaving the gate at the side of the stage and simply walking through the crowd unnoticed before heading back in the opposite side gate. This simple act epitomizes the band. They are understated off stage. Minus the Bear does not appear on TMZ with drama or in the tabloids with issues. Even when one of the original members, Drummer Erin Tate, and the band parted ways in 2015, there were no internet headlines or feuds.
But when they are performing, Minus the Bear is a force to be reckoned with. The minute the band walked on the stage, tuning their instruments and prepping for their set, the crowd went nuts, yelling out song titles and telling the band members that they loved them. When a young member of the crew was kneeling by Cory Murchy’s amp, affixing the set list with shaking hands, the bassist put him at ease, saying warmly, “Thanks, dude.” A cohesive unit that extensively tour and have earned a large fan base in the New York area, Minus the Bear is comprised of Snider on vocals and guitar, Dave Knudson on guitar, Murchy on bass, and Alex Rose on keyboards and vocals. Live, they play off each other with the ease of having created and toured together prolifically.
The music took the spotlight and banter was kept to a minimum to bring the fans a clever mix of both newer and classic songs. “Drilling,” “Into the Mirror,” “The Fix,” and “Diamond Lightning” started off the formidable set, with appearances by “Dr. L’ling,” “Invisible” and “My Time.” Snider, powerful on guitar and manning the mic, took center stage. Flanked on his left was the perpetually moving Murchy on bass, complete with blue rimmed sunglasses who effortlessly had the crowd clapping at his request. On the other side of Snider stood the stately Knudson, deftly using the guitar as an extension of himself, covering lots of ground as he lost himself in the music. Rose, positioned toward the back behind the keyboards, sang with passion and smiled often, enjoying the moments. The applause was deafening for the slower tempo “Pachuca Sunrise,” “Absinthe Party in the Fly Honey Warehouse” and “Knights,” fan favorites that were requested via shouts from among the crowd, finishing off their set.
With enough time for food court runs and excursions around the park between acts, the steadily growing crowd in front of the Dream Stage was picking up the after work crowd in time for Manchester Orchestra’s set at 7:40 PM. Formed in Atlanta, Georgia in 2004, the group is a tight knit five piece band made up of Lead Singer and Songwriter plus Rhythm Guitarist Andy Hull, Chris Freeman on keyboards, Robert McDowell on guitar, and gracing the stage for the second time that evening, Drummer Tim Very and Bassist Andy Prince, this time clad in a Motörhead t-shirt. Prince continued to tear up the stage with non-stop energy and delighting the fans again with his showmanship, flare, and red Converse All Stars.
Hull led the charge on songs that brought lots of shouts like “Pride,” “Top Notch,” and “Shake It Out.” McDowell kept pace next to Prince, guitar in gear and ready to entertain. “Pale Black Eye,” “Pensacola,” and “Every Stone” were met with enthusiasm, as well as Freeman’s frenetic playing behind the keyboards, often moving behind his station. Tim Very on drums seemed no worse for wear after a substation set with Devine and put his all into “Everything to Nothing” and “Simple Math.” Their twelve song set left the crowd satisfied and ready for the headliner of the night, set to go on in a mere 30 minutes.
The largest crowd of the evening waited an extra fifteen minutes for San Francisco, California’s Third Eye Blind to take over the Dream Stage, most likely the reason for their set to be cut from 13 to 12 songs. Billows of white smoke flowed over the security guards in front of the stage and over the heads of the eagerly awaiting fans. When Lead Singer and Rhythm Guitarist Stephan Jenkins addressed the audience, he told them that at a Third Eye Blind show, there are no audience members, only participants, and he was right. Throngs of people sang along to every word of most of the twelve song set, especially to the hits “Never Let You Go,” “Graduate,” “Jumper,” and “Semi-Charmed Life.”
The sweaty Jenkins, who captured the hearts of many female fans in the ’90s, has not lost a step as he advised, “All we have is right here and right now. Let’s get some joy going.” With that uplifting quote in mind, the band was tight, with both original and newer musicians supporting, namely Brand Hargreaves on drums, Dublin’s own Kryz Reid on lead guitar, Alex Kopp on keyboards, and Alex LeCavalier on bass. Jenkins stayed at the front of the stage and was the most visible of the musicians, especially given the stage smoke and lights. Literally and figuratively fronting the band, he told the appreciative fans, “In a couple of weeks, we’re gonna put out a new EP. That means if you’ll have us, we’ll come back here anytime you want.”
Rocking on, “Something in You,” “Losing a Whole Year,” and “Say It” all had fans swaying, cell phones in hand to record the magic while a cover of Beyonce’s “Mine” was an instant hit. During their last song, Jenkins proclaimed, “People are going like this to us (moving his hands), like they’re gonna turn the lights up on us, so one more time,” he said, pointing his finger in the air, signifying the number one. “All of us, together as one, especially tonight, sing with me…I want something else to get me through this life, baby…”
When the lights did come up, the echoes of the music reverberated in the ears of happy fans, as well as the smoke remnants as they headed to the parking lots, across the water-drizzled field and past the vendors closing up shop for the night. The best part of Thursday night at Great South Bay was knowing that there were three more days to enjoy!