When Jim Faith launched the Great South Bay Music Festival 10 years ago, he wanted to bring the vibe of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival to Patchogue.
“That was the vision I had,” says Faith, who will celebrate the event’s 10th anniversary with a four-day lineup in Shorefront Park from July 14 to 17, with two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Graham Nash headlining the final night. “I knew I had something, and I knew I could make it work.”
Faith’s vision put the Great South Bay Music Festival at the forefront of a resurgence of local music festivals and its growth comes in what industry experts say is the fastest-growing segment of the concert business. And this summer will provide plenty of examples, as festivals of all stripes are springing up or expanding across the area.
Coachella organizer Goldenvoice will unveil a new East Coast festival called Panorama at Randalls Island from July 22 to 24, with Arcade Fire, Kendrick Lamar and a reunited LCD Soundsystem headlining.
The festivals that made splashy debuts last year are set to return after huge successes. The Billboard Hot 100 Festival will once again take over Nikon at Jones Beach Theater on Aug. 20 and 21 with headliners Ariana Grande and Calvin Harris, after setting a one-day attendance record at the venue as well as a weekend attendance record, achievements that could be surpassed this year. Nile Rodgers will bring his FOLD Festival back to Martha Clara Vineyards in Riverhead from Aug. 12 to 14, after its star-studded debut last year. This year, the festival will run for three days and feature Rodgers’ band Chic alongside headliners DNCE (featuring Joe Jonas), Earth, Wind & Fire and Bette Midler. And Gregg Allman’s Laid Back Festival will return to Nikon at Jones Beach Theater on July 23, and it has expanded to other cities as well.
“We had so much fun last year, that it seemed like we should try this in other towns,” Allman said in a statement. “The idea was to put the Laid Back vibe on more than just the music. It had to be about food and drink too, and the people just loved it. So we’re coming back and taking it on the road!”
Faith says more and more people are looking for the festival vibe as much as the music, with fans who enjoyed themselves in previous years returning with their friends.
“We all have our own styles,” he says. “We’re a different kind of festival — maybe more like the way that they used to be. . . . We’re a place where you can sit on the lawn and listen or have a beer in front of the stage.”
At the recent National Concert Day event, Goo Goo Dolls singer John Rzeznik told Newsday why the concert business continues to thrive while other parts of the music business struggle.
“Live music is still an amazing thing that can’t be re-created on a computer,” said Rzeznik, whose band hits Nikon at Jones Beach Theater on Aug. 12 with Collective Soul and Tribe Society. “There’s no way because it’s such an immersive experience. There’s thousands of people in one place focused on one thing for a couple of hours. They’re actually physically touching one another. You can smell it and feel it and see it. All your senses are being activated, stimulated by what’s going on.”
Goo Goo Dolls guitarist Robby Takac said that the band gets as much out of the experience as the fans.
“We can’t be in someone’s living room listening to the record with them,” he said. “When you’re standing there and looking someone in the eyes and they’re singing back words that came out of your brain? That’s a crazy moment — for both people. That’s the amazing thing about live music.”