The sixth annual Sag Harbor Music Festival celebrates America's many distinct cultures
Spotlight: Sag Harbor Music Festival | September 23, 2016 | By Emily J. Weitz
Lost Bayou Ramblers will perform on Sunday at this year’s festival | Photo courtesy of Sag Harbor Music Festival
In a country that seems so divided, the Sag Harbor American Music Festival is a reminder that the American identity is as varied as its music. The sounds of New Orleans swing beside the sounds of Kentucky; music borne in churches sounds beside music borne in mosh pits. And it’s all American.
Joan Osborne, who achieved superstardom with her single “One of Us” in 1995, headlines the festival this year with a performance that’s sure to make the walls of the Old Whalers Church vibrate. And for her, American music is both her foundation and her inspiration. Osborne grew up in Kentucky, and the records she collected and rare performances she saw helped to shape her.
“Buying Ike and Tina Turner, Howlin Wolf, Etta James,” said Osborne, “I learned to sing by emulating some of the great singers like Mavis Staples and Billie Holiday, learning as much as I could from these great heroic figures in American music.”
One of her first live music experiences was in high school, when she stole away to see bluegrass legend Bill Monroe in downtown Louisville.
“I had to pull a lot of strings to get there,” she recalled. “It was an adventure.”
What she found striking was the cross-section of people that were at the show. At a time when Kentucky was anything but integrated, music pulled them all together.
“Bill Monroe was a pioneer of American music,” said Osborne. “And people from all over town, from all walks of life – black and white and old and young – all came to see the show and were appreciating what he was doing.”
What Osborne learned from these early musical influences escorted her into a career that’s as eclectic as American music itself. She recently wrapped up a tour with a personal hero, Mavis Staples, who, with the Staples Singers, helped to shine a light on gospel music. She played with the Funk Brothers, who took jazz and R and B and helped to create the Motown sound. In 2003, Osborne played with the Dead in their first incarnation after Jerry Garcia died in the mid-90s.
“The Dead came from bluegrass and blues and that kind of folk music, and that was their launching pad into more psychedelic stuff, influenced by free jazz to take the improvisational qualities,” said Osborne. “They were so influential.”
It’s her grounding in American music that’s allowed Osborne to speak the same musical language as so many others, and it’s what makes her the perfect choice to headline the music festival.
“Music is something that can transcend boundaries,” she said.
Joan Osborne is headlining this year’s Festival with a performance on Friday night | Photo courtesy of Sag Harbor Music Festival
Kelly Dodds, co-founder of the Sag Harbor American Music Festival, has sought to use music, and Sag Harbor, as a common ground since the festival’s inception six years ago. As she enters into crunch time before the festival, she feels the community pulsing with anticipation.
Photo courtesy of Sag Harbor Music Festival
“There’s so much happening,” said Dodds. “It’s humbling and overwhelming and exciting.”
Along with Joan Osborne’s big name, there’s some other big news in the festival. What started out as one day of free music in the village has blossomed into a four-day festival, kicking off Thursday night at Bay Street Theater with a special performance by the Thursday Night Live Jazz Band (of Bay Burger fame) and the unique opportunity to view some of Joe Lauro’s historic music footage. Friday night, Osborne takes the stage at the Old Whalers Church.
“I love performing in churches,” said Osborne, “and have done so all over the world. You feel the energy of what’s happened in that room before you. It’s the perfect place to have a concert.”
Lost Bayou Ramblers | Photo courtesy of Sag Harbor Music Festival
Saturday will showcase many of the best local talent the East End has to offer in free concerts around every corner and in every gallery. Dodds and Eder will erect an outdoor tent and dance floor to encourage a full-fledged dance party with Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks on Saturday night.
“It’s hard not to dance when you listen to them play,” said Dodds, “but this is a dedicated dance floor, and it will be a totally different energy than in the past.”
And Sunday is a brand new addition: another day of free music for the whole family. From 12 to 3 in Marine Park, the spirit and joy of New Orleans’ JazzFest will be alive and kickin’ with two great bands. First, The Hoo Doo Loungers, a local New Orleans-inspired big band, will bring their horns and rhythms to the green.
“New Orleans has a very specific regional sound that hasn’t been diluted by national things,” said Joe Lauro, who plays strings, electric bass, and vocals with the Hoo Doo Loungers. “There’s no other place in America with such a pronounced sound. It’s the rhythm, the use of the bass drum, the drum beats…”
Hoo Doo Loungers will be playing on Sunday in Marine Park | Photo courtesy of Sag Harbor Music Festival
But New Orleans is just one city in Louisiana, albeit a mighty one. The Bayou has a feeling all its own, and that comes through in its music. Harvest festivals are incomplete without a musical soundtrack, and the Lost Bayou Ramblers of Lafayette, Louisiana, were raised on that kind of musical connection.
“They’re from Cajun country,” said Lauro,” from four or five generations of musicians. They learned from their grandfathers and fathers.”
The band, which features an accordion and fiddle along with drums, guitar, and bass, will play after the Hoo Doo Loungers to round out an afternoon of Louisiana sound, and they’re proud to represent their region in a festival devoted to American music.
Photo courtesy of Sag Harbor Music Festival
“Cajun music has had a substantial piece of the American music pie since the beginning,” said fiddle player and lead singer Louis Michot. “Louisiana Mayhem was one of the first songs played in outer space on a recorder by Neil Armstrong. Cajun music is American music.”
Lauro, as a musician and a musical aficionado, appreciates what Dodds and her team have created over the past six years.
“All these things are done for the love of music,” he said. “This is a grassroots, beautiful event.”
Sag Harbor American Music Festival
Announces Schedule of Free Music Performances
Venues throughout Sag Harbor Village on Saturday & Sunday, October 1 & 2
Sag Harbor, NY –Celebrating 6 years, The Sag Harbor American Music Festival (Sept. 29-Oct. 2) has just released the complete schedule of FREE music performances taking place in Sag Harbor Village on Saturday, October 1 & Sunday, October 2.
Saturday events will last approximately one hour each and will feature musicians in a variety of venues such as public spaces, restaurants, store fronts & galleries:
11:00 AM Escola de Samba Boom (30-piece Percussion Ensemble) at Long Wharf
sponsored by: WLNG
11:30 AM Mambo Loco at the Off-Main Stage
sponsored by: Sotheby’s International Realty
12:00 PM Birdthrower (singer/songwriter) at Suffolk County National Bank
sponsored by Saybrook Capital
12:30 PM MamaLee Rose (R&B) at the Marine Park Stage; sponsored by
Fishers Home Furnishings
12:30 PM Seaside Strummers (Ukulele Americana sing along) at the Civil War Monument
sponsored by: Estate Farm & Home Care
1:00 PM Pierson Performing Arts (Great American Songbook) at The Whaling Museum
sponsored by JCP Landscaping & Maryann Lucas Artworks
1:30 PM Morris Goldberg Four Peace (SAFRO Jazz) at the Off-Main Stage
sponsored by: The GMS Group & Bridgehampton National Bank
9:00 PM (doors open at 8:30)
Gene Casey & The Lone Sharks Dance Party will rock under the Big Tent at Dodds & Eder Home. Special opening act: Alex Kramer of 5 Mile String Band. GA Tickets $25 at sagharbormusic.org or at the door.
The “Off-Main” Stage is outdoors, next to the American Hotel. Details about all concerts, tickets and venues and performers can be found at sagharbormusic.org
IN CASE OF RAIN:
“Off-Main” and Marine Park Stage performances will be at Dodds & Eder Big Tent; Complete Unknowns, OCDC, Seaside Strummers & Birdthrower will be at Whaling Museum; All others will be inside at their listed location.
The Sag Harbor American Music Festival (SHAMF) is proud to present the following headline artists and added Thursday & Sunday events, celebrating six successful seasons:
Thursday, September 29, Legends of American Music hosted by Joe Lauro @ Bay Street Theater. Doors open at 6:30pm with The Jam Session Special Edition & cash bar – Tickets $15 in advance at SagHarborMusic.org or $20 at the door
Friday, September 30, Joan Osborne Acoustic Trio featuring Jack Petruzzelli and Andrew Carrillo at the Old Whalers Church at 8pm. Joan Osborne has rightfully earned a reputation as one of the great voices of her generation — both a commanding, passionate performer and a frank, emotionally evocative songwriter.
Saturday, October 1, the Festival will feature FREE performances all day in various locations of Sag Harbor Village.
9PM Gene Casey & The Lone Sharks Dance Party will rock under the Big Tent at Dodds & Eder Home. Special opening act: Alex Kramer of 5 Mile String Band.
Sunday, October 2, 12-3pm FREE performance at Marine Park Stage – The Lost Bayou Ramblers with the Hoo Doo Loungers. Bring the kids, a beach chair/blanket and a picnic!
General admission tickets for Joan Osborne, $35 and Gene Casey & the Lone Sharks, $25. Tickets and additional information available at SagHarborMusic.org.
Launched in 2011, SHAMF celebrates the unique community of Sag Harbor through a weekend of live performances of Jazz, Blues, Folk, R&B, Americana and more. SHAMF is a non-profit organization and is supported largely by local businesses including Main Stage Sponsor- Jackson Dodds & Company, Inc.; Presenting Sponsors- Fishers Home Furnishings, Sag Harbor Express, Sag Harbor Inn, Sotheby’s International Realty & WEHM.