Make Way for the Music

This marks the third year that local musicians will join those who travel from places such as New England, Florida, and California to promote and share their talents
The Montauk Project will offer three performances at the Montauk Music Festival next weekend, ending with a sunset show outdoors at the Lighthouse. Carrie Ann Salvi

   The Montauk Music Festival, a free live-music showcase, is expected to bring thousands of fans to town from next Thursday through Sunday, May 20. They will be able to choose from 200 performances from 100 bands, sprinkled through 30 Montauk venues both indoors and out.
    This marks the third year that local musicians will join those who travel from places such as New England, Florida, and California to promote and share their talents. Genres include alternative, rock, folk, pop, reggae, blues, jazz, bluegrass, hip-hop, country, and metal. The artists were selected either from live performances or submissions on the Web sites or
 The music director and co-organizer was Lawrence Cooley, who will also perform with his band.
    The musicians receive no pay for their performances. Kenny Giustino, co-organizer, said he has not profited from the event either, which is made possible by motel and restaurant sponsors, who appreciate the business on a preseason weekend.
    “It’s nice to get paid,” said John Kneeland, the lead singer, songwriter, and guitar and trumpet player for the Realm, “but that’s not why I play music. I love playing in front of a lot of people.” Organizers asked the Realm to play at Gurney’s Inn after hearing them at the Montauket over the winter. The band has never played the festival or Gurney’s, said Mr. Kneeland, but is happy to help local businesses and looks forward to playing in front of new audiences. “We don’t get a shot just on our name,” he said, “but when people hear us, they love it.”  The reggae, ska, surf rock band is almost booked solid for the summer, with repeat gigs at M.J. Dowling’s in North Sea, La Superica in Sag Harbor, Sloppy Tuna in Montauk, and the Chequit Inn on Shelter Island.
    The Montauk Project, an up-and-coming band with a recording studio in Montauk and lifelong local members who have played together since their teens, will also join the festival for the first time. The band plays original music only, written collaboratively, which Mark Schiavoni, the lead singer, described as a modern twist on classic rock.
    The Project will play three shows, two at the Montauket and one out at the Lighthouse. “It’s going to be fun to play outside,” Mr. Schiavoni said, despite the acoustic challenges. In preparation for the festival, as well as a performance at the Stephen Talkhouse tomorrow night, the band has written five new songs, he said. Tomorrow’s show is planned around their new “Montauk Project,” an extended play (more than a single, but too short to qualify as an album) that is due for release this week.
    “I feel there is a lot more music lately,” Mr. Schiavoni said. “Everyone loves that there is music going on, the genre doesn’t matter.” He said it would be great if Jim Turner, who has been playing locally and abroad for over 20 years, and who taught him and another member of the band how to play the guitar, were to be a special guest of the Project, perhaps with his harmonica. “I think Jim Turner is cool,” he said.
    John Havlicek, lead singer, keyboard player, and songwriter for the Blue Collar Band, will perform “as many of my songs as we can get away with.” He said many places that book the band favor familiar music, so they have been putting their stamp on some covers. Blue Collar is looking forward to the festival, he said, although “It’s always a lot of work.”
    In addition to longstanding local favorites such as Alfredo Merat, who has toured internationally since the age of 17, diverse acts heading into town include Swamp Cabbage, a “raspy singin’ combo of fatback blues and trailer park funk” from the Deep South who will perform twice at the Coast, and the Prophets, a hard-core underground hip-hop group from upstate, who will play at the Point. Other venues include restaurants, motels, and outdoor areas such as the Memory Motel, Navy Beach, Gosman’s, and the village green.    Mr. Giustino, who “was around back in the day, when Jimmy Buffet and the Rolling Stones would hang in the village,” wants to bring that vital musical culture back, and is happily supporting a workshop for musicians to be held at Gurney’s on Friday, May 18. Experts in the music industry will offer help and answer questions about engineering, mixing, promotion, booking, entertainment law, sound recording, and copyrighting.     
On the same day, Introduction to Folk Music, an after-school workshop for elementary-school children, will take place at the Montauk Playhouse, designed to stimulate interest in instruments. The kids will get their hands on banjos, small percussion, a mandolin, and more, ending with a music session.    There will be a $35 charge for the kick-off party next Thursday night at 8 p.m. at Gurney’s, including a three-hour open bar, appetizers, seven bands, and special guests including Jonathan Fritz, Joe Delia and Thieves, Mick Har­greaves, Dylan Jenet Collins, Betty, Kawehi, Lawrence Cooley, Otis, and Oogee Wawa.
    Rooms are still available in Montauk, according to Robert White, the owner of Harman’s Briney Breezes, who said that the festival is “good for the businesses.” He is offering special two-day festival pricing, he said, on recently renovated efficiency rooms.
    The festival’s Facebook group, filled last week with posts about an East Hampton Town Board hearing regarding entertainment law, is starting to buzz again with announcements and videos posted by musicians. The Web site,, has downloadable schedules listed by date, band, or venue.