The Long Island music scene is incredibly fertile and diverse. It is rare to have an event that brings everyone together in one place, from the hardcore kids out east to the classic rock loving dads from Glen Cove, to celebrate music, art, and unity. Great South Bay Music Festival achieved this in strides with their incredibly colorful lineup of popular acts ranging from Sublime with Rome to Electric Hot Tuna. Located directly on the water of the south shore of the island at Shorefront Park in Patchogue, NY from July 12-15, the festival grounds is the optimal place to see live music on a hot Long Island summer day.
Unlike other festivals around the nation which focus in on one single genre of music, Great South Bay is a family-oriented festival that mixes up the genre of music played each day to give everyone a chance to enjoy themselves. Music lovers who attended each day went through a journey of seeing hardcore/punk bands on Thursday night to ska/reggae groups on Friday night to jam bands on Saturday night with blues/classic rock acts capping off the weekend on Sunday night.
The overall vibe of the festival was incredibly relaxed, despite how many people attended, and festival goers had the option to sit back on the grass in their lawn chairs and blankets or head up front to stand in the pit if they wanted to get closer to the music. Because of how drastically the music changed from night to night, the crowd tended to change with it, creating a different feel for each day of the festival.
Jim Faith, the man responsible for putting the event together, started Great South Bay Music Festival to create a Long Island music festival which would keep the spirit of music alive, positively change people’s lives, and create a space safe for people of all races and ethnicities to come together and celebrate different kinds of music. His goal is to inspire people to listen to new music as well turn younger folks onto legendary artists they might not have heard. The festival is not designed to be an over the top production, but rather a place to bring people together and get to the heart and soul of the community- which it certainly achieved.
Thursday, July 12:
The first night of music kicked off with a bang with an assortment of punk and hardcore groups who played to an energetic crowd of generally younger fans. When Get Up Kids took the main stage at 6:10 pm, the crowd was antsy and ready to go. The 90’s rock/emo band got the crowd going with an injection of high energy punk-esque songs which kept up the entire set and established the first big mosh pit in front of the stage of the night, but certainly not the last.
Thrice followed at 7:30 to the excitement of many attendants, and picked up exactly where Get Up Kids left off. The veteran alternative rock band’s heavy riffs incited headbanging, fist pumps and mosh pits in the crowd close to the stage, while those who were hanging back danced to themselves. Thrice was a treat to many festival goers as they had recently released new music and came back from a three-year hiatus, so it was many fans first time seeing them since they returned. An incredibly polished, hard rocking band, their set was played with such precision it sounded as though it was recorded in a studio.
A half hour after Thrice finished their set, the headliners of the night, The Front Bottoms, took the stage and treated the crowd to an energetic hour and ten minute set of twists and turns. Playing with the “Legendary Uptown Horns,” the set featured an animated setlist of melodic arrangements. The band sounded like a mix of Mumford and Sons and Streetlight Manifesto, and produced incredibly positive and vibrant music. By the end of the set there were people jumping, crowd surfers bouncing, and heads banging: a magnificent end to the first night of the festival, which would set the stage for the next three nights.
Friday, July 13:
Friday night was all about the ska and reggae scenes, and featured an impressive assortment of some of the nation’s top touring acts for the genre. The crowd began to fill up after 6 pm as they made their way over to the festival grounds after work, and included a very diverse crowd of fans old and young.
Less Than Jake started their set right on time at 6:30 and jumped right into a fast-paced, rocking ska song to the crowd’s delight. The band seemed to be in a great mood as they played a set of many of their hits from their most recent albums to older crowd favorites, and played around heavily with crowd participation. In between songs they made jokes, brought people up on stage to dance, and even had a beer chug off with people from the crowd who they brought on stage. They had the crowd in the palm of their hands as they encouraged sing-a-longs, jumping in unison, and moshing. While they were very playful they were also an incredibly tight band who clearly had been playing together for a long time.
The Dirty Heads followed at 8 pm as the smell of marijuana filled the air in anticipation. The Dirty Heads are a great, chill summer band, and the beach is the ideal place to catch one of their sets. The band played a very diverse setlist from hip-hop beats and rapping to slow, bouncing reggae tunes which saw the massive crowd swaying in harmony like the waves of the sea behind them. Everyone sang along when they played their hits, and Rome even came out to perform a song he’d recorded with them for one of their earlier albums, to the crowd’s delight.
The appearance by Rome in the Dirty Heads’ set was only a taste of what was to come, as Sublime with Rome followed in the headlining spot. The band got the crowd going right away with a few classic Sublime songs, each featuring an echo of the crowd singing along. The band was able to emulate the sound of the original Sublime lineup with ease, while at the same time staying fresh with many of their new songs. Some of their new songs sounded like something from a vintage Sublime album, while others strayed genres a bit and became much heavier. Overall the night was exactly what the crowd came for as they left smiling and hazy.
Saturday, July 14:
Saturday’s show featured an array of artists from the jam scene, ranging from cover bands to some of the top touring acts of the scene. JGB Featuring Melvin Seals brought heat with a set of Jerry Garcia music that would make Jerry proud. Seals still has the chops he had while playing with Jerry, and put together a band of world class musicians to keep the spirit alive. The set mirrored that of a ‘90s JGB show with original Garcia tracks and some of his favorite covers played with emotion and soul. Each member of the band came to play, and every note played was treated with dignity and respect, whether it was a fast-paced rocker or classic ballad.
Papadosio followed and began their set with a jam on middle-eastern chord progressions, which piqued the interest of the crowd. Their hour long set featured mild twisting space-funk, dangerous peaks, and breezy, floating jams which exploded like the waves on the nearby jetty. Although the band normally plays indoor shows or late night time slots, having them play in the afternoon was a treat because despite the lack of light show, the crowd was able to see that the band was dancing on stage and as into the set as the audience, which only pushed the music further.
With the crowd loose and ready to jam, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong took the stage at 7:30 and impressed the crowd with a show that they played like it was their last. The upbeat funk-rockers explored different areas of jam music from ‘70’s disco-esque grooves to dark, gritty jams. The entire crowd grooved along as the non-stop set kept everyone dancing and on their toes for what they would play next. At the end of their set the crowd didn’t seem to want them to leave, as they didn’t want to either, and gave the band an ovation which was heard a town over.
The half hour time slot in between bands gave festival goers a chance to sit down and collect themselves before they were thrown back into the madness with a dynamic set by jam band giants Umphreys McGee. Umphreys McGee quickly dove into a high-energy rocker, each note played with sharp precision. For the first time that evening, it was dark enough for a band to incorporate a light show, and it did not disappoint as the lights added another layer to the improvisational machine on stage. The band shined effortlessly through difficult progressions and raging peaks with an incredibly fun set of music. The band left the stage before their time slot ended only to come back and deliver a rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” that sounded like a crisp studio recording of the song until they put their own spin on the jam which amused and exhilarated the attentive audience.
Sunday, July 15:
The final day of the festival seemed to attract the largest crowd, as well as the oldest crowd. From Thursday to Sunday the average age of the crowd seemed to jump nearly a decade, with the old boys coming in and finishing things off right. The Devon Allman Project featured impressive guitar work and blues jamming by sons of the original Allman Brothers Band, Devon Allman (Greg Allman’s son) and Duane Betts (Dickey Bett’s son). Looking the carry on the family musical tradition, the band did not disappoint and put a fresh spin on bluesy, rocking tunes. Some might have thought that the band was only there because of the last names of the performers, but had their names been John Doe the band would have been incredibly impressive with their set of high quality musicianship.
Little Feat came next to the crowd’s excitement, and the classic rock legends played a set full of fun and hits. The large band of musicians played with incredible gusto, and communicated with each other musically on stage as if they were speaking a language the crowd instinctively knew. Their soulful singing and silky jams showed that they are a band worth continuing to see as they segued from song to song with their eyes closed.
After a short break, Electric Hot Tuna took the stage to an ovation unmatched by any other of the weekend. Practically ignoring the applause, they dove into a sneaky, haunting blues jam featuring impressive guitar licks and full band modulations with ease. Each song featured a notable jam of its own right, and the versatile rockers changed genres on the turn of a dime with each song. The sound was ideal as the bass was up in the mix, which is exactly what you want when Jack Casady is on stage.
After Electric Hot Tuna’s set, the crowd was antsy to hear the final headliner of the night, Allman Brothers Band guitar player and founder Dickey Betts take the stage with Dickey Betts Band, however they were forced to wait an additional half hour due to sound issues. The crowd was overjoyed when the band finally took the stage and jumped right into the Allman Brothers material Betts wrote. Betts was a bit rusty throughout the set, but still reached many highs on well-known Allman Brothers Band solos, and the crowd was happy to hear the music they grew up with.
Overall the festival was a great success, with attendants raving about the music they had just seen as they made their way to the parking lot on the final night. With sunlight and a cool ocean breezes, you couldn’t ask for a better weekend as people from all walks of life joined together to celebrate love and music.