October 8, 2014 The East End Music & Arts Festival shines bright in Westhampton Beach, NY 9-19-14 w/ Tonic & Robert Randolph
The East End of Long Island, NY has forever been a popular summer destination for resident of the Tri-State area for years. Filled with shopping, beaches, and beautiful open landscapes, the one thing missing has been a music festival. Answering the call in 2014 is the establishment uniphi good, which presented The East End Music & Arts Festival held in The Hamptons the weekend of September 19th and 20th. Set to be a two day event of music, art, and cultural fun for the family, proceeds from the festival went to benefit local food pantries and community organizations. With the summer in the rear view mirror, on a crisp Friday night, local resident gathered at The Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center to indulge in musical performances by Hurrah! A Bolt of Light!, Brie Capone, Paul McDonald, Toby Lightman, Tonic, and Robert Randolph.
Adding to the ambiance of the evening prior to the performance, guests were invited to browse a special art exhibit with limited edition artwork created and signed by Beatles legend Ringo Starr. With plenty of interesting pieces of work on display and classic Beatles tunes playing in the background, it was a great setting as everyone prepared for the musical performances scheduled. Making their way into the historic WBPAC, everyone found their seats with the first band up being NYC-based Hurrah! A Bolt of Light! Made up of vocalist/guitarist Wil Farr, bassist Doug Drewes, guitarist Dave Freedman, pianist Jacob Pleakis, and drummer Kenny Shaw; the band formed in 2010. Playing in and around the NYC area, they have developed a silky Pop Rock sound which now sees them embarking on national touring dates in support of their self-titled 2014 album. Coming out, stripped down to acoustic instruments, they put on a delightful set of music showing Farr’s strong singing voice and the band’s instrumental skills through songs like “Bones.” Fans of refined well-composed catchy alternative music should check out this band on the rise.
Next to the stage was female vocalist Brie Capone of NYC’s The Humble Grapes. Originally from Asheville, NC, Capone is an inspiring musician with influences ranging from Rock-N-Roll, to Blues, and R&B. Walking out with just herself and an acoustic guitar, Capone took the audience for a surprise when she began to belt out soulful rich tones. Wearing her emotions on her sleeve, the vocalist made the most of her showcase and also has a bright future as a solo artist as well as leading her band The Humble Grapes. Their debut 5-track EP is available now.
With no pauses in between acts, with exception for a brief introduction, American Idol alumni Paul McDonald was up next. A part of music for over a decade, McDonald has released two EP’s and a full-length album apart of The Grand Magnolias. Now seasoned at the craft of songwriting and in life experiences, McDonald is looking to take things to the next level with a chest-full of new songs ready to unleash onto the world which could possibly be his best music to date. Giving off a warm aura, McDonald came out with a lively set of music that not only was powerful but sincerely from the heart. Listening to his enthusiastic delivery and seeing the expressions on his face, it was easy to see this is a musician bursting with aspiration to make it to the top. Connecting with the audience even deeper, McDonald lightly joked around and even climbed over theater chairs to an unsuspected audience to close out his set. McDonald is an excellent Alternative Rock artist the world needs to hear and it will be exciting to hear his new material soon.
Given a moment to collect their breath, minutes later New Jersey singer-songwriter Toby Lightman was ready to go. Making her major label debut back in 2004 with Little Things, the album produced two charted singles with “Devils And Angels” and Mary J Bilge cover “Real Love.” Having shared bills with the likes of Rob Thomas, Jewel, Gavin DeGraw, Prince, and more; Lightman has garnished justified attention. Now a veteran musician, she has released three more albums, two EPs, and is set to release her fourth album, Every Kind of People, October 27th. Coming out with her acoustic guitar, Lightman was soft spoken and then she began singing, lighting up the room with some unbelievable bluesy vocals. Her sophisticated approach brought each word to life through songs like “Front Row.” Fortunately for Long Island, Lightman will be back October 9th with a supporting slot for Howie Day, so do not miss her.
Already treated to an array of inspiring talent, it was time for one of the two headlining acts starting off with Grammy nominated Rock band Tonic. Having taken the world by storm with their multi-platinum debut Lemon Parade record back in 1996, Tonic has sustained themselves as a force in Alternative Rock with Sugar (1999), Head on Straight (2000), and their return Tonic (2010). With a knack for writing unforgettably touching tunes with a edge, Tonic continue to tour in 2014 and are preparing to release new material as well. Having performed at The Paramount in Huntington a few months earlier with a full on electric set, tonight would be slightly different as vocalist/guitarist Emerson Hart, guitarist Jeff Russo, and bassist Dan Lavery would partake in a performance unlike one they had done before. Switching things up a bit, the band played a mix of songs seldom heard live in tingling stripped down format. Songs like “Lemon Parade” sounded magnificent as Hart sang as vividly as ever and Russo and Lavery translated the music perfectly. Always known for a delightful on-stage personality, Hart joked around having everyone smiling. The set concluded with, of course, their signature song “If You Could Only See,” having everyone cheering loudly. Tonic is a treasure of Alternative Rock and dedicated fans are itching for new material. In the meantime, Hart’s sophomore solo album Beauty in Disrepair was released earlier in 2014.
Closing out the evening of music and good vibrations was another Grammy nominated artist by the name of Robert Randolph. Coming from New Jersey, Randolph is funky pedal steel guitarist that everyone needs to know. On the scene now since 2001, Randolph and the Family Band have released four studio albums and two live albums including the most recent being 2013’s Lickety Splits. In fact, his stage persona and energy has been recognized by Rolling Stone Magazine as one of the Top 100 greatest guitarists of all time back in 2010. Introduced by uniphi good Founder & CEO Annie Balliro, Randolph came out rocking and rolling his steel pedal guitar immediately, having people up on their feet dancing. Like a true Blues artist, he improvised flawlessly and interjected the story of his journey to The Hamptons and all the traffic he hit on the way. He even invited Farr, Capone, McDonald, and Lightman to come out and stand in the spotlight with their unique voices one more time while he provided the music, making for a glorious experience. Continuing along with an irresistible rhythm, Randolph amazed the room so much that no one wanted to say good night. Walking off for a brief moment only to return for an encore, he wailed through more groovy music which saw him leaning his steel pedal guitar down bending notes and sending shivers down spines. Randolph joyfully invited everyone to come up onto the stage to dance along. Many attendees took the invitation and ran up to the stage in excitement, ending the evening with a full on dance party no one will soon forget.
The End End Music & Arts Festival opening night was a major success. The selection of artists to grace the bill could not have been better, and judging by the positive response, this inaugural showcase should only mean a bigger one in 2015 and beyond. It is about time The East End had its own music festival, and thanks to uniphi good and all those involved, it looks like Long Island’s cultural shift is continuing to turn.