The fourth annual Sag Harbor American Music Festival sounds off with a concert on its main stage at 8 p.m. on Friday, September 26, and continues to rock on through the weekend with free musical acts—including dozens of local and widely recognized performers—throughout Sag Harbor Village.
This year, the main stage’s main man is Christian McBride, a jazz virtuoso who Kelly C. Dodds, President and Co-Artistic Director of the festival, is very excited to have kicking thigs off on Friday night. A bassist, McBride studied at the Juilliard School and has performed and recorded with a plethora of jazz legends—including Freddie Hubbard, Herbie Hancock, Diana Krall, Roy Haynes, Chick Corea, Wynton Marsalis, Hank Jones, Joshua Redman, and Ray Brown—as well as with pop musicians including Sting, Paul McCartney, Celine Dion, Isaac Hayes, The Roots, Queen Latifah, Renee Fleming, Carly Simon, Bruce Hornsby and James Brown. Dodds is anticipating that both the audience and the performer will love the venue.
“All of the artists that have performed say it’s the best sound they’ve ever had,” Dodds says about the acoustics in the Old Whalers’ Church. “They always ask for recordings.”
Free performances start at 10 a.m. on Saturday, September 26, and continue throughout Sag Harbor until 9 p.m. Some of the venues are Dodds & Eder, Geekhampton, Grenning Gallery, Romany Kramoris Gallery, Muse in the Harbor, The Dockside, the Custom House lawn, the American Legion, Page at 63 Main, Harlow and Windmill Beach.
Local favorites will return from previous years and you’ll recognize some of the acts from other weekends on the East End—they include Gene Casey and the Lone Sharks, The Complete Unknowns, Caroline Doctorow & the Steamrollers, Inda Eaton, Sara Hartman, the HooDoo Loungers, Hopefully Forgiven and the Sag Harbor Community Band. There’s also the chance to see some newcomers.
“We bring out people who haven’t played here before,” Dodds says. “What we’re trying to do is to shine the light on what’s happening musically.”
Dodds adds that the festival is more than a musical showcase of jazz, folk, roots, pop and Americana artists—she says it’s like a “block party” in Sag Harbor because the stages are near restaurants and shops that guests can visit between acts. “Our goal is to be accessible to everyone,” Dodds says. Furthermore, all of the proceeds—after the musicians are paid—go to fund local school music programs, so attendees know they’re supporting a good cause while they enjoy the music and one another’s company. “A lot of local people come out who have been busy working all summer, so it’s kind of a reunion,” Dodds says. “The weather really amplifies it, but there’s still a strong turnout when the weather’s not great.”
Rain or shine, the shows will go on. There are backup venues indoors to ensure the musicians and attendees have a dry place to play and dance in the event of inclement weather.
Dodds has been collaborating and organizing the Sag Harbor American Music Festival since the very beginning and notes that community support is overwhelming. Sag Harbor , she says, is the perfect place for a uniquely American music festival because of its artistic community.
“I think we stand out on the East End as a creative arts and cultural destination.”
Admission to the kickoff concert with Christian McBride on Friday, Sept. 26, is $25; doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.The festival’s official after party begins at 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 27, at Bay Street Theater. Admission is $10. For more details visit sagharbormusic.org.