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The story behind the 'Shine a Light Music Festival'

Dean and Britta -- Dean Wareham and Britta

Dean and Britta -- Dean Wareham and Britta Phillips -- play the 2012 Shine a Light Music Festival at Mulcahy's on July 21, 2012. (Credit: Handout)

Some things are just meant to be.

Saturday night, The Shine a Light Music Festival will pair up-and-comers The War on Drugs with the great Dean and Britta at Mulcahy's as a fundraiser. To make things even more special, guitarist Sean Eden is expected to join Dean and Britta onstage for a rare Luna reunion.

How did this happen?

The short answer is Tommy Brull.

Tommy was an avid music fan from Rockville Centre, as well as a writer and an editor when he died in 1999 in a Christmas Eve accident on the Williamsburg Bridge. He was 23.

Last year, his brother Martin Brull, a physical therapist from Rockville Centre, started the festival as a way to remind people about Tommy. “It gets people to talk about my brother,” Martin said. “We started a foundation for Tommy, but I wanted to do an event that was true to how my brother was . . . This is true to who he was.”

Martin said last year's festival, which featured Deer Tick, was inspired by the deaths of Michael Mulhall, Paige Malone, and Jamie Malone – three friends from Floral Park who died in an accident on the Meadowbrook Parkway in 2010 on their way to work as counselors at Camp Anchor in Lido Beach.

“It hit home a lot when it happened,” Martin said, adding that he and Tommy both worked at the camp growing up and that the Tommy Brull Foundation donates money to the camp each year. “I felt really bad for them and wanted to do something nice for them. We dedicate this show to them.”

That's the reason he wanted to hold the festival at Mulcahy's on Long Island. “If you do this show in Brooklyn or Manhattan, it would be easier, but it would just be another show,” he said. “If you do it here, it makes it stand out. It makes it kind of cool.”

Martin said he had approached Dean and Britta – members of two of his and Tommy's favorite bands, Luna and Galaxie 500 – about playing the first festival and were turned down.

This year, something intervened.

On New Year's Day, Martin and his brother, Jack, were looking to buy a guitar on Craigslist. They found one in Manhattan that they liked that was being sold by a guy named Dean and decided to follow up on it.

When the Brulls went to the studio to check out the guitar, they found that Dean was actually Dean Wareham of Dean and Britta.

Martin said he and his brother were trying to play it cool, but when Wareham handed him the guitar to play, Martin started playing “Tiger Lily,” one of Wareham's best-known songs.
“That's when I realized he was now thinking one of three things,” Martin says. “One, we knew who he was and we were there to kill him. Two, I liked his music, but didn't know that he wrote it. Three, that we were fans.”

Luckily, Wareham was thinking No. 3 and soon he had invited the Brulls over to his apartment to meet his wife, Britta Phillips, and talk. Martin told them about Tommy and about how they had seem so many Luna shows together and how he would love to have them play the Shine a Light Music Festival.

Eventually, the duo agreed.

“It's so cool,” Martin said. “They were Tommy's favorite band.”

Martin said he was recently going through some of Tommy's things and started looking through his wallet. Inside, he found a ticket stub – to a Luna concert.

The Shine a Light Music Festival takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday at Mulcahy's, 3232 Railroad Ave., Wantagh. Tickets are $35-$40 through Ticketfly with proceeds going to the Tommy Brull Foundation.

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