A Music Explosion in Montauk

The Montauk Music Festival has grown to draw many visitors to the hamlet on the weekend before summer’s unofficial start
Swamp Cabbage, a duo featuring Walter Parks and Jagoda, will perform three times at the Montauk Music Festival. Jon Waits

The sixth annual Montauk Music Festival, featuring artists old and new, homegrown and hailing from as far as Texas, begins tonight with an opening party at Gurney’s Inn. From tonight until the festival’s conclusion on Sunday, Montauk will rock to more than 300 performances by some 80 acts at over 30 venues.

The festival has grown to draw many visitors to the hamlet on the weekend before summer’s unofficial start, providing its hotels, restaurants, and merchants a measurable economic boost. It promises a diversity of sounds and styles, from veteran touring artists to hopeful up-and-comers.

This year’s performers include longtime South Fork musicians like Jim Turner, the Montauk Project, Scott E. Hopson, and Jettykoon, alongside renowned artists such as Randy Jackson of the band Zebra and the Florida duo Swamp Cabbage, fronted by Walter Parks, a guitarist and vocalist who was a longtime sideman to Richie Havens. The complete schedule is at the festival’s website, montaukmusicfestival.com.

Performances are free, with the exception of tonight’s opening party. The $30 admission includes four hours of open bar, food, and live music starting at 8. Concerts on the downtown green on Saturday and Sunday, fund-raisers for charities supported by the Montauk Friends of Erin, will feature food and beverages for sale.

“It’s all about original music,” said Kenny Giustino, the festival’s founder. A longtime music fan, Mr. Giustino, who is also founder and publisher of The Montauk Sun, promoted and booked talent prior to establishing the festival. Local business owners had long discussed such a festival, he said, “but it didn’t go anywhere. Somebody approached me and said my name came up a lot in those discussions because I knew a lot of musicians. I thought it would be a great thing to do.”

Historically, the weekend prior to Memorial Day was a slow one, he said, citing hotel occupancy of around 20 percent. Mr. Giustino said that the donation of hotel rooms for the performers who travel to Montauk for the festival has imparted both geographical diversity in the lineup and, in turn, greater credibility as a significant musical event for players and listeners alike. “We have gotten to the point where the hotels are having a hard time sparing their rooms because they’re booked,” he said. “It’s all worked out, it’s a good formula — we had over 3,000 bands submit to be in it this year.”

Returning to the festival after a year away, Swamp Cabbage will be “lab-testing our new concept,” Mr. Parks said of his band, which will make its first festival appearance as a guitar-and-drums duo. With Havens, who died in 2013, Mr. Parks regularly performed at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett.

In Swamp Cabbage, jazz, blues, Southern rock, and soul are melded in a uniquely American sound that Mr. Parks, a native of northeast Florida, says has found an audience for on the South Fork. “I grew up in a beach area, and Montauk reminds me of home, where the music came from,” he said. “My good friends in New York City and New England kind of process music from the shoulders up. Southerners tend to process music from the hips down. I get the feeling people are more like that in the Hamptons — maybe because it’s the sort of a place people go to unwind. It seems like the folks cut loose a little bit more.”

Mr. Giustino agreed. “The local residents really love it,” he said of the festival.