Three Days of ‘Glamping,’ Love, and Music

Fred Fellowes is bringing musicians such as Patti Smith, Best Coast and of Montreal, as well as a unique blend of spoken word, art, ideas, and woodsy fun to Escape to New York in Southampton next month. David Black, Jennifer Landes, Katie Bell Moore, Sam Pearce, Kate Raudenbush, and Steven Sebring Photos

    For those paying attention, this summer will bring not one, but two new rock festivals to the South Fork. Music to Know, more familiarly known as MTK, scheduled for Aug. 13 and 14 at the East Hampton Airport, has received the bulk of the attention in East Hampton, but another festival, Escape to New York, or E2NY, is planned a weekend earlier and a few miles west at the Shinnecock Reservation in Southampton.
    With its own manifesto, however, the E2NY organizers clearly don’t think of their event as just a festival. “We’re trying to get it across that this is best thought of as a party,” said Fred Fellowes, the organizer of a series of events in England called the Secret Garden Party, who is trying to create a similar experience here.
     Checking on the progress on site recently at the reservation, he said, “I think everyone here accepts that a festival is a gig in a field with an official bar,” which is just a stand-up concession and “one big stage and that’s what you’re dealing with.” He said the English and European models of such events, of which there are many in the summer months, are a bit different and his even more so.
    “We do hold a theory that there is a hell of a lot more to do with 5,000 people when you gather them together than serve them beer and have them stand in front of a stage to watch something.” Instead, he would like the expected crowd of 5,000 to 7,000 people to interact. “What makes a great party or a weekend is the people you meet and the things you do. That’s what we’re trying to get people to do,” he said.
    Of course there will be bands. Those advertised include Patti Smith, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Best Coast, of Montreal, the Psychedelic Furs (yes, those Psychedelic Furs), Mates of State, Chairlift, and many others over three days. There will be some other less formalized acoustic performances and D.J.-fueled dancing at other locations as well.
    The Shinnecock Powwow grounds are a pretty straightforward set of two rectangles, but Mr. Fellowes and his American partner Dave Lory plan to use as much of the site as possible, including the surrounding woods, for further engagement with the event. “You’ve got the main stage and behind it a kind of wonder world in the woods, a backwoods bar with crazy art pieces to interact and play around with.”
    There will be a “Think Camp” with “lectures and presentations by crazy academics like a gonzo TED,” he said, referring to a famous series of annual conferences of big and unusual ideas that takes place in various locations. When academics are not blowing people’s minds with their visions, other spoken word or music presentations will be on the stage.
    There will be a dance tent with a boxing ring for dance-off contests with friends or new acquaintances. Games and art will also be a focus with art installations all over the site, including in the trees and in woodsy nooks and more formal spaces.
    A weekend pass to the three-day event costs $275, with or without free camping. One-day passes are $100. Glampers can secure a luxury tent for the weekend with space for four to six people for $2,250. Weekend parking passes range from $50 to $65.
    For food, Mr. Fellowes and Mr. Lory are working with Silkstone, a relative newcomer from New York City that has been making a name for itself with sustainable food in its restaurant Fat Radish and with its events catering. The company will bring out New York City restaurants such as Brinkley’s for barbecue, Luke’s Lobster for crab and lobster rolls, and Pulqueria for a variety of tacos. Fat Radish has a pop-up location at Ruschmeyer’s this summer and will also serve as the official restaurant of the festival’s boutique campground.
    What is boutique camping, also called “glamping” by Mr. Fellowes? In this parallel world of escapism, the Elks’ Lodge in Southampton will serve as the boutique campground and will feature, at the very high end, platform tents typically found on East African safaris with “two proper standup beds, a bedside table, a lock box, rugs, and a place to hang clothes,” he said.
    The organizers will also import tepees from England, an irony that is not lost on Mr. Fellowes. They will be set on the ground with a mat and rugs. “The idea is you and four or five of your mates can get one of those and camp up together like a sleepover as a kid with a posh restaurant at your doorstep.” There will be trailers at the site with bathrooms and showers.
    A limited number of free no-frills camping spots at Gabreski Airport in Westhampton are available on a first-come-first-served basis through the event’s Web site, escape2ny.com.
    The different modes of camping are indicative of the broad demographic he intends to attract. “We’re making the festival experience possible for a wide range of people, some who would love to come to something like this but wouldn’t want to camp in their own tent and walk to the porta-potties in the middle of the night.”
    That same crowd will likely avail themselves of some of the festival site’s “lifestyle vendors,” including massage and facial services, boutique surfware, and a photo booth with requisite fancy costumes to don. Other clothes and shoe vendors will also be present, much in the way they will at MTK, but the E2NY partnerships have not been announced with as much fanfare as those of the East Hampton festival, which will feature clothing pop-up shops by Madewell and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. MTK will also emphasize fine drinks and dining options.
    Is there room enough for two where once there were none? Last month, Karen Jones, who, along with her husband, Chris Jones, is among the producers of MTK, said she thought so and wished the other festival well. “There is often a good cross-fertilization of ideas between the U.K. and U.S. and I think our festivals are examples of very well-organized events that are commonplace over there, enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people throughout the summer.”
    “I think we are collectively both trying to present the elements of music, art and food — and fashion in our case — in a positive way, albeit somewhat different ends of the spectrum. It goes beyond a concert, but really an experience for all of the senses.” She suggested going to both.
    One significant difference between the festivals is their locations. MTK is at an airport controlled by East Hampton Town and the Federal Aviation Association. E2NY will take place in a sovereign nation. The tribe will have some presence at the event, but it will be subdued. “They will absolutely have a role,” Mr. Fellowes said. They will have a cultural center on one side of the site’s drum stage.
    “But it was something they wanted to tread carefully with. By no means do they want a festival or party representing them in any way, quite rightly. On the flip side, we want to come and do what we want to do, not something else.” Still, he said it was important to let people know that when they enter the reservation, they have stepped onto de facto foreign soil. “You’re no longer in America at the moment.”
    Mr. Fellowes was introduced to a member of the tribe in Miami five years ago, long before he had any intention of launching such an event in the United States. “At that point the English festival was still in its nascent stage. I have been doing it for nine years, but only actually started making money three years ago.” He felt it was still too early.
    “Two years ago, I sat down and started rethinking the idea, and thought yeah, this could well be a goer.” He jumped on a plane and came to the reservation to look at it and present the idea to the tribal trustees. “It was an opportunity,” he said, “not part of some world domination plan.” The reservation’s geographic and legal position made it particularly attractive for a new festival being organized in a foreign country.
    People will travel to and from the site by shuttles from the campgrounds and Stony Brook Southampton’s parking. All traffic will be routed through the college’s access road and cars will be made to park or show credentials to continue on to the site.
    Escape to New York will run from Aug. 5 through Aug. 7.
    According to Mr. Lory, “We both separately have been doing this for quite some time. It takes a while to get the hang of it, but we’ve pretty much come across every screw-up, idiot, and lunatic you possibly can in doing these sort of events.” As a result, he said he was confident they had a good, workable plan. “It’s not our first rodeo.”