Beach Road Weekend Music Festival on Martha’s Vineyard: Bands, Crowds

VINEYARD HAVEN — Members of the Mulhern family have long been fans of the Avett Brothers band, so the joint music-related Christmas gift was inspirational.

The Boston-area clan rented a Martha’s Vineyard summer vacation home for years, so they pushed back the August 2022 schedule to this week after young girl Erin Kaukas bought tickets for all seven members to be together for the three-day Beach Road Weekend music festival.

On Friday, they had set up their covered place early on the grass of Veterans Memorial Parkenjoying hours of music in the sun from bands such as Shovel and Rope, Mt. Joy and Khruangbin before the Avett Brothers marquee drew the biggest crowd to close out the first night of the festival.

Band members Bob Crawford, Scott Avett and Seth Avett sing as the band Avett Brothers perform Friday night at the Beach Road Weekend music festival in Vineyard Haven.

And you couldn’t beat the location, Kaukas said of the holiday giveaway: “My husband and I also came here on our minimoon. I love the vineyard.

The family were among an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 people who agreed enough with the two favorites to travel to the heart of Vineyard Haven on Friday for a nine-hour lineup of bands across two stages. With 10 bands scheduled to play each Saturday and Sunday to similar or larger crowds, producers said Beach Road Weekend is probably the biggest music festival ever on the island – ending with eight-time Grammy Award winner Beck on Saturday night and Wilco on Sunday.

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On Friday, most music fans sat in groups on blankets, towels, beach mats and low chairs in areas facing the two stages, listening, eating and chatting. Others stood in areas closer to the stages, cheering on the bands, while still others stood in the back to watch or talk, some moving between booths set up around the park. Dancing, including with children, was frequent and a game of cornhole was set up in one area.

On Friday, crowds at Beach Road Weekend were at their highest for the Avett Brothers headliners, filling the lawn in front of the stage and both skyboxes.

Crews had spent more than a week, organizers said, setting up the alternate stages and associated technology, with sound that could be heard around the park (and, faintly, all the way to the port); several giant screens offering views of concerts from various locations; and even a lighthouse as the centerpiece of the infrastructure. On Fridays, there were food stalls ranging from burgers, gyros and burritos to Mad Martha’s ice cream; alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, including wine and gin tastings; Black Dog sponsor merchandise and other clothing options; promotions on sunglasses and more; as well as cooling areas and portable toilets.

Those with VIP tickets got shaded skyboxes or covered tables and lounges near the stages, while colorful canopies that fluttered like blue/green/purple butterflies on Friday were also set up to try to keep people in. comfortable. Many, however, tried to find shade against any fence that might temporarily block the sun, Hemp Hats was a pop-up shop doing booming business, and hydration stations were busy amid regular warnings of to drink a lot of water.

A program in the making for years

The very first Beach Road Weekend performed on the vineyard in 2019 with John Fogerty and Phil Lesh headlining, then the pandemic canceled expanded plans for 2020 and necessitated a smaller event (with Tedeschi Trucks and moe.) last summer . On Friday, the artists seemed as happy as the fans to be back at such a giant event (about the same size as the old Pops by the Sea concerts that filled Hyannis Village Green every August – except that three days in a row).

“I have been excited about the festival since I was hired there in 2019,” singer Aoife Donovan told the crowd. The Bully musicians arrived Friday morning on a ferry and were flying that night to Seattle, but guitarist/vocalist Alicia Bognanno said it was worth it. “I’m glad we got to do this because it’s FUN,” she told excited fans.

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Laura Lee and Mark Spear of Khruangbin perform at the Beach Road Weekend music festival on Friday.

Friday 2022’s opening day, which started an hour later than planned, was just part of an extended celebration created by festival founder Adam Epstein and his Arts and Entertainment Innovation.

A “Jaws” movie screening was a Thursday night pre-opener, late-night after-parties at The Loft in Oak Bluffs were scheduled, as well as pre-festival shows in Boston and elsewhere. Epstein, whose company held drive-in concerts in 2020 in Yarmouth before neighbors added more music to the old cinema site, is also chairman of the Friends group for the Martha’s Vineyard concert series which has brought in artists in Oak Bluffs all summer.

Can you get there from here?

However, making Beach Road Weekend involved difficult logistics, for Epstein’s company as well as fans, as the event added thousands of people to an already busy holiday island in August.

The Mulherns were at a house on the island, as was Isabel Prego from Boston, who brought two friends from Providence to stay at the family’s Vineyard home and see Caamp (Sunday) among other groups. After planning the festival for nearly a year, neither band had to travel far to get back to their weekend abodes.

Dartmouth residents Lisa and John Leaver said they lived near the Seastreak ferry from New Bedford. So they took advantage of this musical event to plan their first Vineyard vacation and were also staying nearby. They had heard about the festival as fans of WMVY radio, and John Leaver – who was wearing an Avett Brothers t-shirt – noted on Friday that the attraction was that so many of the weekend’s acts, including Lord Huron and Dawes, were the ones whose music he already has on his phone.

The lineup was also enough to attract fans of varying ages – from babies to grandparents – from much further afield as well, and was worth a little inconvenience. The morning shuttle to the Steamship Authority ferry from Woods Hole, for example, welcomed two groups of music lovers in their twenties who discovered they were all from the Burlington, Vermont area. , one group dragging a giant cooler and the other a cart with a small mountain of camping gear.

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Three other friends drove or flew in from the Washington, D.C. area after hearing about the festival from musicians they followed via email and social media, with Joan Susie noting that he it was the first multi-day music festival she had attended in 35 years. His friend Richard Stempniewicz had never been to such an event, but he said they had been planning the trip since “cold and dark” November.

“It was a fantasy world,” he said. Besides the music, “you want a beach, you want to be on the water and have a lobster roll”.

Colorful awnings provided shade on Friday as the first group of Beach Road Weekend spectators listened to live bands on two separate stages.

It was warm and sunny on Friday and the trio planned to take the ferry each day from where they were staying on the mainland for the long-planned music break to happen – and had spoken to people that morning about Indiana doing the same thing.

Beach Road Weekend also announced water taxis that could carry up to 2,000 people each night to Falmouth, where shuttles ran between hotels. Additional trips available on Hy-Line ferries took fans to Hyannis.

On the island, a fleet of Beach Road Weekend shuttles moved people between Vineyard locations, using the high school as a hub for all routes.

Music fans James and Kathryn Hebert had traveled east from Connecticut and made Beach Road Weekend a goal for a week-long vacation. The couple had been drawn to both the location of the island – which they hadn’t visited in over a decade and planned to see between acts and other days – as well as the music.

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James was particularly interested in his first chance to see Billy Strings in a live concert (Saturday night) – and at the same time seeing favorites like Lucinda Williams, Emmylou Harris and others at the same event.

The festival continues until Sunday evening and were also scheduled to play this weekend Guster, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Lettuce, Dalton & the Sheriffs, Crooked Coast, Brett Dennen, Jeremie Albino, Sammy Rae & The Friends and The War and Treaty.

The festival is expected to be back with other band lineups for at least the next two years. IAE has already reached an agreement with Tisbury town leaders to bring back Beach Road Weekend from August 24-27, 2023 and August 22-25, 2024, according to a past announcement. IAE has pledged to donate 5% of its net revenue to the Town of Tisbury to support community causes.

Contact Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll at [email protected] Follow on Twitter: @KathiSDCCT.

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