Riding Montauk’s Music Wave

Nancy Atlas and her band holding court at the Surf Lodge with Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and Joe Delia on keyboard
Nancy Atlas and her band holding court at the Surf Lodge with Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and Joe Delia on keyboard. Credit: Ellen Dioguardi

There was no deep investigative reporting required to come up with the hypothesis that live music is seeing something of a heyday in Montauk. While this may just be the crest of a wave Montauk has been riding for years, it appears to be a pretty heavy swell. My husband David and I have been along for the ride since just before Memorial Day and the odometer on our car can attest to the miles we’ve logged.

With local venues seeing the benefit of having live music and the support of a force such as the Montauk Chamber of Commerce and its director, Laraine Creegan, it begins to make sense that Montauk is a hotbed of live music. The Chamber’s “Concerts on the Green” have helped keep the live music vibe humming along. Minimally supported by a grant from East Hampton Town, the rest of the money is raised by the musicians themselves, who volunteer each year to do a “Concert for the Concerts,” which is now in its fifth year. As Nancy Atlas commented during her bands recent performance on the Green, “Laraine promoted live music in Montauk before it was hip.”

While there is talk about the “excessive noise” issue due to entertainment at clubs and restaurants, a quick Google search on “noise ordinance law, East Hampton” produced an article written in July of 1997 that could have been written this week. Apparently problems with loud music late at night for the residents of Montauk are about as long-lived as the popularity of live music itself. Asked about the issues with noise complaints, Atlas and Casey agree with Gene’s comment that “there is a way of presenting live music without causing concern for neighbors;” he believes that “better musicians keep it spirited without it being too loud,” with Atlas adding that “a good, professional band will keep an audience with or without blasting it out on 11.”

The “thump, thump, thump” of a DJ interrupting the sleep of guests at nearby hotels and private homes seems to have very little to do with the live performances delighting tourists and locals alike. It’s clear that the local residents are proud of their musical stars. Arriving at Ben & Jerry’s for some ice cream after hearing Winston Irie at Swallow East over Memorial Day weekend, we were greeted by Nancy Atlas’s newest CD playing over the sound system. When “East End Run,” Nancy’s ode to “leaving it all behind. Ripping off the tie, punching out on the clock and what awaits you as you head Eastbound on the LIE” came on, heads began to bob and bodies swayed. It was chilly for a Sunday evening in May, and a good number of those in the shop didn’t have the telltale signs of being “from away;” they were local and loving it. With songs like “East End Run” and Joe Delia’s “Under the Montauk Moon” wafting across Fort Pond on any given Wednesday its hard to believe anyone in Montauk would want to be shutting their windows.

When you look around Montauk, it’s easy to see how any artist could feel inspired. Atlas puts it well when she offers that “the raw nature of Montauk calls deeply to the inner artist and creating at it’s truest moment is all about reaching a universal truth and Montauk, that raw beauty of Montauk, has a that universal truth about it.”

The lure of the East End in general for artists of every type has been going on for centuries. The local presence of acclaimed actors, singers, painters and writers not only provides for top caliber entertainment at local venues but it also seems to raise the level of our homegrown artists. Atlas considers the inspiration around her and comments, “at the end of the day you have to deliver the goods and because the area, all of the East End, has always been a place full of artists of a high caliber you get local bands and local musicians who are inspired to rise to their highest level also.”

If you want to see some musicians reaching for that highest level I strongly suggest you head on out to Montauk for live music—it’s truly The End.

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