Written by Bridget Steckis
Every music loving Suffolk resident knows that the Great South Bay Music Festival is our time to shine each summer. We don’t get to host the Governors Ball, the closest Warped Tour ever got was Jones Beach and calling Nassau Coliseum convenient to get to, when you live in Wading River, is pretty much bologna. But if one thing is clear, it’s that our fine state of New York is a divinely fertile nesting ground for music and arts of all sorts. When you live in eastern Suffolk, traveling “up the island” is always a necessary headache in order to reach said fertile nesting ground.
But then there was Jim Faith – who created the heart of the Great South Bay Music Festival nestled down on the bay in Patchogue, NY. And don’t be fooled superstitious concert goers, for this festival now in its 13th year, was absolutely the most dynamic yet – (however please note, there will be “No Frisbee throwing in front of the Main Stage area” says the festival’s website).
Each night hosted a specific genre that allowed the festival to uphold its tradition of eclectic sound. From our hometown heroes Taking Back Sunday, to rock/reggae sweethearts Slightly Stoopid, festival heavy hitters Lotus and certified musical legends America – it is safe to say this diverse festival had something for pretty much everyone.
For those looking to dive into our local music scene, this place was abuzz from the moment the music kicked off. On multiple smaller stages scattered throughout the grounds, all four days had some super compelling lesser known artists that deserve their slot on your Spotify playlist.
As opening day got underway, Thursday saw a lazy stream of fest-goers making their way into the venue due to earlier wet conditions. Ultimately though to the joy of the attendees, the sky cleared up for the night other than a few stubborn clouds.
Whatever We Are made their Great South Bay debut performing many great originals and having tremendous chemistry the main stage, performing through strong winds and grey skies. Ex-My Chemical Romance backup guitarist, Frank Iero, performed a great setlist with his band, Future Violents. They set the energy level high and helped the crowd ignore the weather and wind that took out one of the ‘Great South Bay banners’ on the Coors Light Stage. Long time fans were ecstatic to see Glassjaw, local post-hardcore band from Hempstead. Their loyal following did them proud, showing allegiance to songs well over a decade old. Not performing often these days, The Great South Bay Music Festival couldn’t have been happier to host this performance for a crowd that welcomed them back to the stage. Lead singer Daryl Palumbo and crew rocked onlookers for an hour with a hard and heavy performance.
When Long Island favorites Taking Back Sunday came out, they were greeted by a cheer that only your home state could conjure. Over the course of their hour and fifteen-minute slot singer, Adam Lazzara (ham that he is) swung his mic and inserted the band’s personal anecdotes between songs. Essentially their entire performance was a hybrid of mosh-pit and sing-along. It was clear that their fans hadn’t forgotten, even the most obscure lyrics from their beloved album, Tell All Your Friends, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. There’s something really special about local acts playing to the fans who lifted them up to the level of success they enjoy today, and Taking Back Sunday’s performance was no exception.
As Friday commenced the crowd embraced the beginning of the weekend’s forecasted heat wave, which brought temperatures up into the 90’s. But to the surprise of many, at the gate of the festival each person was offered complementary water courtesy of Long Island Cares. This seemingly small gesture really highlighted the overall neighborhood feel the gathering aims for.
Although the weather was hot, with free water in hand, the crowd entered psyched and ready to celebrate a summer night with insane music. The mood of the crowd went perfectly with the day’s theme which is traditionally reggae/hip-hop fusion. Over at the main stage, local reggae darlings Oogee Wawa were busy captivating an audience that proved they were ready to party. With a tour schedule that boasts playing 200 gigs a year since 2013, these fellas know how to hype a crowd. Their infectious energy was the absolute perfect kickoff to the night.
Meanwhile over at the Clamshell Bandshell, standout independent act and hip-hop artist Dudley Music took the stage. Right away the lyricism was impressive – his thoughts were clear, meaningful and well delivered. Accompanied by a full band including guitar, drums and bass – Dudley’s musicianship blew onlookers away as he switched between multiple instruments, including keyboard and saxophone. His musical arrangements were creative, cohesive and well thought out. The deeper into his set, the larger the crowd got, until there were a couple hundred people grooving and hollering for more. Ending his set, he weaved “This is How We Do It” by Montell Jordan into his own original track and captured the audience by engaging them in a sing-along that left more than a few wanting more. Dudley, without question, won over some new fans and exposed the crowd to a style they may not have experienced before.
Once it was time for Sublime with Rome, the steadily increasing crowd began to squeeze up towards the stage. That night old school Sublime fans were out! As the words “she was living in a single room with three other individuals…” played (a classic Sublime soundbite taken from the film Beyond the Valley of the Dolls), the crowd suddenly erupted with cheers. This tune, considered a cornerstone Sublime song by fans, was played along with an impressive set of tracks from back when the band still had original lead singer Bradley Nowell. For the most part they played throwback Sublime songs, only peppering in their newer additions here and there. The crowd showed Eric Wilson, the only original Sublime member left, showed massive amount of love as he was exiting the stage.
By the time Slightly Stoopid’s set was up, a overwhelming crowd had amassed. Their passionate fans went out of their minds as the members wandered to their places, thick clouds of synthetic smoke drifted in the background. Opening with the dynamic instrumental, “Dabbington,” their horn section of trombone and saxophone immediately made waves. Per usual, throughout the performance lead vocals were shared by frontmen Miles Doughty and Kyle McDonald, who also crisscrossed back and forth between bass and guitar. While playing some of their super early surf-punk songs in order to let fans “get the wiggles out,” a proud mosh-pit formed in the center of the crowd to the mild chagrin of security. The band fed so well off of everyone’s energy during the entirety of the performance, Slightly Stoopid made it very clear that they appreciated the love New York had to show these Cali natives.
As the years float by, Great South Bay Music Festival has grown and morphed into the success it is today. One of the evolutions being the additional stages that are scattered throughout the grounds. Having these outlets are fantastic as it allows the festival to veer off theme each night, giving even more artists the opportunity to showcase their talents.
This year’s newest addition was the Busker Stage, bringing the festival grand total of four. As fest-goers leisurely strolled the area leafing through the vendor’s offerings, Andrew Fortier and Tricycle began to croon. They had a pragmatic, salt of the earth feel accompanied by a rich three part harmony that was nothing short of angelic. They were the nights best kept secret.
As the sun began to set, Spafford kicked off the jam band lineup over on the main stage. This group of musically talented men captivated the eager crowd and compelled their spirits to let loose, dance and enjoy. Even through the stifling heat – hands waved, feet were moving and by-george you better believe the hula hoops came out. The band’s sound had a lighthearted airiness about it that easily carried you right through their lengthy improvisations. It felt appropriate that a gorgeous breeze off the bay began sweeping over the crowd as their set concluded.
Next up was Dweezil Zappa, opening his set with a heavy and energetic tune. If the jam band night is nothing else, it is certainly relentlessly energetic. Zappa relinquished vocal responsibilities to multiple other band members as he jammed on lead guitar for the majority of the performance. Vocalist Cian Coey stood out as a powerhouse, ending their first number with a resounding high note, like it was straight off a Guns ‘N Roses track. The crowd went wild with appreciation. When Dweezil himself lent his vocal contributions, it was more like a spoken word piece being woven into music. His unique stylized delivery made the lyrics stand out, really giving the entire performance a commanding presence.
Darkness fell over the grounds as headliner, Lotus, made their way into the spotlight. As they began to play, glow sticks were abound with neon colors flying through the sky. The group’s offering were a bit hard to categorize. At first their dance friendly, funky 70’s vibe, created something that sounded like it should have been on the Superbad soundtrack. Blend that up with some kaleidoscopic synthesizer and then sprinkle in a diverse array of sound effects; that probably still wouldn’t fully describe the sound. At times it was difficult to even discern what instrument was creating each sound. It was truly a carnival for the ears – a colorful whirlwind of notes. Throughout this set of progressive jams the band had their dark and brooding moments; but each song ultimately concluded with a positive outburst of that dance friendly, funky sound.
As the music festival’s last day commenced it seemed somewhat appropriate that it also turned out to be the hottest day yet. As the flock of music fans sizzled on the grass everyone there brought their best spirits to finish out the weekend on a high note.
The Clamshell Bandshell got down to business right away with The End of America, a band from Philadelphia, PA, that brought some tight three-part-harmonies to the joys of a growing crowd. The outfit easily coaxed every passersby into listening, as it just felt natural to wander towards their sound. The vocalists (playing an acoustic and electric guitar and banjo respectively) gave a soulful, meaningful delivery of lyrics. They came across as a band that really had something to say, important messengers during times of trouble.
Over on the main stage Edgar Winter emerged as the sun still blazed in the sky. He began by playing “Free Ride,” which got people immediately invested in the classic tune. He also engaged the crowd by narrating small stories between each song that gave the entire performance a personal touch. One particular song, “Tobacco Road,” ended up turning into a 15-minute long anthem. Several minutes in he broke off into a call and response with his guitarist – Edgar creating the vocals followed by guitar mimicking his notes. This then flowed into an epic interlude of crazy improvised scatting which morphed into several instrumental covers of famous rock melodies such as Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” Towards the end of the set Edgar took a moment to make a heartfelt shoutout to his brother Johnny Winter who passed away back in 2014. The crowd paid homage to his brother’s memory with a barrage of claps and screams.
The music group WAR notably featured sweet soulful harmonica licks from the very first song. Some rich vocal harmonies over a funky beat accompanied by of course (as this became the brass hero of the festival) the saxophone. WAR played the opening notes of popular track “Spill The Wine” to the crowd’s delight. Everyone really came together enjoying the music that was so happy and energetic, it was like a Sunday night family party. Then drummer, Salvador Rodriguez, sang a version of their ballad “So.” Belting notes with the vocal clarity found in pop stars, Rodriguez left the crowd seriously spellbound. Finishing off with the classic “Why Cant We Be Friends,” Lonnie Jordan and his crew delivered a super high energy finale – everyone in attendance could tell the band was having the time of their lives.
The very last of the entire four day bonanza was America. They have officially been performing together for 50 years and they certainly took the stage with the poise and showmanship of those who have been in the game. Throughout their performance there were multiple guitar rips that made them worthy of the label “classic rock.” Mid-set they put their own spin on Beatles song (which is always a crowd pleaser) Eleanor Rigby. As their set was winding down, America continued playing as a lightning storm rolled in over the bay. They continued on for as long as they possibly could, but were ultimately forced to cut their last songs short for everyone’s safety. They never got to play Horse With No Name, their extremely popular and arguably most well known song.
All in all the feel of this year’s gathering captured exactly what Jim Faith had initially set out to do, bring our local neighborhoods together in peace and music. It felt much like a big block party or backyard barbecue. It was commonplace as a passerby to see people running into friends and exchanging excited hugs. There were giggling kids running around and groups of people hanging back in lawn chairs enjoying cold beers and each other’s company. The festival can be pretty much exactly what you decide to make of it. So whether it’s a relaxed chill session or an energetic experience at the front of the stage, The Great South Bay Music Festival has got you completely covered!