North Fork Rock & Folk Festival: Cutchogue, NY, July 30 - 31, 2011
Peconic Bay Winery
Cutchogue, New York
July 30-31, 2011
The second annual North Fork Rock & Folk Festival was held in the fields at the Peconic Bay Winery in Cutchogue, NY on Saturday. The lineup featured Long Island-based local acts as well as national artists with ties to both Nassau and Suffolk counties. Sponsored by Suffolk County National Bank, Bridgehampton National Bank, Tanger Outlets, Blue Point Brewing Company, Hamptons.com and other civic-minded local businesses and corporations, a portion of the NOFO Rock & Folk Fest's proceeds went to support youth music instruction through the East End Arts Council.
Saturday's festival participants leaned more toward the folk end of the spectrum. Headlined by Commander Cody, John Sebastian (formerly of the Lovin' Spoonful), Elvin Bishop and Texas guitarist Lance Lopez, Saturday's line-up and showmanship was top-notch. It was on Sunday, however, that the festival truly rocked, rolled and had the audience feeding off the high energy performances, even though the schedule ran about an hour-and-a-half later than originally scheduled.
Local heroes The Lone Sharks set the bar with a high-energy rockabilly-fueled set of originals that lived up to their motto of Maximum Rhythm 'n' Twang Since 1988. They delivered a tight set of tunes so hot that it's a wonder the grass field on which the stage was set didn't spontaneously combust.
John Eddie & His Super Band then hit the stage in the early afternoon. The Richmond, VA-born, Nashville, TN-based singer-songwriter's strong set was highlighted by "Happy New Year" (a request made by a festival attendee) and "Fuckin' Forty" which Kid Rock has recorded. Prior to playing the song, Eddie announced that because the crowd was comprised of a large number of young audience members "and the song contains some dirty words" we should all "sing along to a slightly altered, politically-correct chorus of 'I'm truckin' forty.'" Although "Jungle Boy" was conspicuously absent from his performance, Eddie's rockin,' funny and high-energy set was enthusiastically greeted.
Next up was Gordon Gano and the Ryans, featuring members of the Violent Femmes (Gano) and the Bogmen (Brendan and Billy Ryan). The band performed most of their Under The Sun CD (Yep Roc, 2009) and sounded exactly as expecteda melding of the Violent Femme's alt-pop, folk, country-rock and the Bogmen's pop, rock, jazz, reggae, and soul mélange. Their set ended with the audience up on their feet and bopping around the winery grounds to Gano and company's stunning take on the Violent Femmes' biggest hit, the modern rock anthem "Blister In the Sun."
In their premiere performance, Corky Laing and The Memory Thieves blew the proverbial doors off the place. Fronted by former Southold, NY, Town Supervisor, Josh Horton (who also was one of the festival's organizers), The Memory Thieves were both heavy and melodic, a nod to the hard rock that Laing had made with Mountain and West, Bruce & Laing in the late '60s and early '70s, while still sounding contemporary. Featuring Horton on guitar/lead vocals, Bonnie Parker on bass and vocals, guitarist Matt Reed, Denny Colt on guitar/keyboards/vocals and drummer Laing as both band leader and master of ceremonies, the band played a series of well-chosen covers and a set of blistering originals from their as yet unreleased debut CD.
The sped-up version of Barry McGuire's "Eve Of Destruction," masterfully sung by Parker, was better, harder and much faster than the original. The forty-five year old protest-song sounded both fresh and topical. Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" was presented in a slow, almost dirge-like arrangement that eventually built into a fast hard-rocking blast of passion and energy that owed as much to Social Distortion (who recorded the song on their self-titled 1990 Epic Records release) as it did to Cash. In addition, Laing didn't disappoint his older fans the Memory Thieves' note-for-note renditions of "Nantucket Sleighride" (dedicated to his Mountain bandmates) and "Mississippi Queen" left the enthusiastic audience clamoring for more. Although the festival's closing act, Foghat, had top-billing, the Memory Thieves had the hearts and souls of the local concert-goers.
After a short intermission, Foghat followed with a muscular set of boogie-woogie blues rock punctuated by a blues-drenched version of the soul classic "Take Me To The River." Led by the lone remaining member of their classic lineup, powerhouse drummer Roger Earl (who has lived in nearby East Setauket since the early '80s), the bandwhich also featured bassist Craig MacGregor, the incomparable Charlie Huhn on guitar and vocals and Bryan Bassett on guitarshook, juked and shimmied their way through their smash hits "Fool For the City" and "Slow Ride," as well as many others.
While the music was the main draw, the family-friendly festival was chock-full of activities for young and old alikedonkey rides, mist-filled cooling stations and psychic readings. A gaggle of vendor boutiques featuring clothing of all sorts, tie-dyed creations, and arts and crafts were also on hand. And finally, what is a festival without food? The NOFO Rock & Folk Fest's food vendors supplied the crowd with all sorts of treatsice cream, Blue Point Beer, Peconic Bay wines, crab cakes, sausage and peppers, french fries, sodas, hotdogs, hamburgers, etcsomething for every palate.
Other standout artists who plied their trade on the event's stages included: Nancy Atlas, The John DiVello Band, Brady Rymer & the Little Band That Could, TAOST, and Miles to Dayton, as well as various winery and festival staff members. The well-organized festival benefited from a peaceful setting, fantastic weather, a talented line-up, and a laid-back, relaxed and courteous crowd.
All Photos: Christine Connallon