Nile Rodgers envisions annual concerts in Riverhead

05/30/2014 12:29 PM |
Nile Rodgers at Town Board work session on Thursday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Nile Rodgers at Town Board work session on Thursday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Music legend Nile Rodgers made a visit to Riverhead Town Hall Thursday to iron out details of the upcoming “We Are Family Festival” at Martha Clara Vineyards on Aug. 8 and 10.

And it’s something he hopes to be doing for years to come, apparently.

“I know that we can do something incredible here that is on par with the Sundance Film Festival,” said Mr. Rodgers, who envisions the music festival being an annual event to help local charities.

The Town Board, which discussed the event with Mr Rodgers at its work session Thursday, is expected to vote on a resolution to approve the August event at its formal meeting Tuesday, and board members appear to support the event.

“We had such a great time last year,” said Peter Herman, the co-executive director of Niles Rodgers Productions. “Everyone was just so cooperative and welcoming. And I think it gave Niles and I the feeling that this is home. This is something that’s a community effort and not just us coming in and doing this one time and going away.”

When Mr. Herman told the board that they are hoping to plan the event for not only this year, but also next year, Mr. Rodgers added, “and the year after that, and the year after that.”

“I think it puts Riverhead on the map for good things,” Supervisor Sean Walter said.

Mr. Rodgers, whose group Chic had a number of hits in the 1970s and 1980s and who has been a successful producer of many other well known hits for other artists, was involved in last year’s “All for the East End” concert at Martha Clara, which raised about $70,000 for a variety of East End charities and nonprofit organizations.

This year, AFTEE will be a beneficiary of the concert, but it won’t be organizing it, as it did last year — news that had surprised AFTEE organizers when it came out. That job will be handled by the Nile Rodgers Foundation, which also will raise money for local charities in what’s being called the “We Are Family Festival,” named after the non-profit “We Are Family Foundation” run by Mr. Rodgers, who also produced the song “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge.

Unlike last year’s concert, which was a one-day event held on a Monday, this will be a two-day event held on a Saturday and Sunday.

There will not be a downtown concert on Aug. 8, the Friday before the event, as originally planned, Mr. Herman said. He hopes to have a downtown event on the Friday before a music festival in 2015, and says it takes about a year to set up these type of events.

Last year’s performers included Chic, Adam Lambert and Avicci. The event drew about 5,000 people, according to Mr. Herman.

The promoters have yet to announce what performers will be playing this year, or what charities will benefit, although Councilman George Gabrielsen suggested that some local recreation programs are in need of money.

This year’s event also is proposing to have two stages with performers at the same time, so that when one act finishes, there will still be music playing, Mr. Herman said.

Mr. Rodgers said he was impressed by how smoothly last year’s festival went.

“We do this every day of our lives and I’ve seen the most chaotic situations, but this town handled it so well last year, it’s just amazing to me.”

He said initially, he wasn’t sure he wanted to do the festival again this year, because the past year has been one of the most successful of his life and he’s been getting a lot of offers from other places.

Mr. Rodgers won three Grammy Awards earlier this year for his work with Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams.

“But I wanted to come back here because it just felt right,” he said.

Mr. Walter said he only heard one complaint about last year’s concert, and that was from a Southold Town resident, while Councilman John Dunleavy said he didn’t hear any complaints.

Mr. Gabrielsen, who lives in Jamesport, said he heard complaints from residents on Bay Run Lane, a small road that is right next to Martha Clara.

Mr. Herman said they want to work with anyone with complaints to try and alleviate their problems.