Ilegal Music Series Takes Over Surf Lodge Thursdays

Oak&Ash perform at the Ilegal Music Series on May 28. They'll be back on September 3.
Oak&Ash perform at the Ilegal Music Series on May 28. They'll be back on September 3. Photo credit: 11c & Company

The Surf Lodge has become a go-to destination for live music. Each summer, the venue plays host to a number of free concerts, highlighted by weekend performances by well-known and emerging artists, which in the past has included the likes of Willie Nelson and Tove Lo. This year, The Surf Lodge is extending its free concerts to Thursday nights through a partnership with Ilegal Mezcal for an installment called the Ilegal Music Series.

Ilegal Mezcal is a liquor brand named after owner John Rexer’s past illegal methods of smuggling mezcal into Guatemala. While many people consider mezcal analogous to tequila—both liquors originate from the agave plant—the mezcal offered by Ilegal is “much more artisanal, more comparable to a whiskey,” says Ilegal’s creative director Kaylan Rexer.

Now a fully legal and established company, Ilegal Mezcal does much more than manufacture an artisanal liquor; they back a namesake concert series, the Ilegal Music series, which has roots in five venues across New York City, Los Angeles and Guatemala. The project began early on in John Rexer’s pursuits to open a mezcal bar in New York. Once a Long Island local himself, “he believed that the live music scene in New York for emerging artists was dying,” Kaylan Rexer explains.

Passionate about giving upcoming artists in New York a place to explore their sound, Rexer hoped to create a space to converge the city’s music scene with his mezcal. “He only wanted two things for his bar,” Kaylan Rexer continues, “mezcal and live music.” Each of the bar’s first seven days open featured a live performance by an upcoming musician. It was just a matter of time before the bar turned into the Ilegal Music Series.

This summer is the debut of the Ilegal Music Series on the East End. Through a partnership with The Surf Lodge, the Ilegal Music Series hopes to create a space for emerging and talented musicians in a well-established music scene on Long Island. “[The Surf Lodge’s] music series is huge,” Rexer says. “They have amazing acts, but they’re a lot bigger. It’s an amazing place to play with the sun setting behind the artists, so we pitched the idea to help fill Thursday nights with more emerging artists. They loved the idea and we love the setting.”

The series kicked off on Thursday, May 22, with Mac DeMarco and will run through the end of August with performances by We Are Scientists, City of the Sun and more.

In addition to new bands and an entirely new night of music at The Surf Lodge, the Ilegal Music Series hopes to bring a new atmosphere to the venue. “It’s going to be less crazy than the weekends—stripped down so it feels acoustic and a chill environment,” Rexer says. A past performance from this summer even concluded with the band performing around a bonfire. “You will interact with the artist more than you might ordinarily.”

Though the scene will be more acoustic, Thursday nights at The Surf Lodge will still be a party. There will be a lot of Ilegal Mezcal, Rexer assures. Plans for the summer include a pop-up Mezcal bar with Tiki-style drinks and a Montauk Brewery beer and shot special.

For more information on the Ilegal Music Series and for a full concert schedule, visit For a schedule of The Surf Lodge’s full summer concert series, visit The Surf Lodge is located at 183 Edgemere Street in Montauk.

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