Nile Rodgers planning 3-day music festival this August

CARRIE MILLER PHOTO | The crowd dances along to last August’s concert at Martha Clara Vineyards.

Nile Rodgers, the Grammy Award-winning producer and recording artist who participated in last year’s “All for the East End” concert at Martha Clara in Riverhead, is planning another music festival at that location this August, separate from AFTEE. 

Dennis McDermott, owner of The Riverhead Project restaurant in downtown Riverhead and a member of the AFTEE board, discussed the proposal at Thursday’s Riverhead Town Board work session, along with Molly O’Connor and Juan Micieli-Martinez of Martha Clara.

“We’re not AFTEE,” Mr. McDermott said. “We’re sort of, ‘son of AFTEE.”

He said AFTEE has decided not to do a concert this year, and is planning another type of fundraiser.

Mr. McDermott said Mr. Rodgers — who won two 2014 Grammys for Best Record and Best Pop/Duo Group performance for his role in “Get Lucky” — was so impressed with Riverhead last year that he is proposing a music festival here to benefit local charities through his “We Are Family Foundation,” which is named after the Sister Sledge hit he produced in 1978. 

“Nile Rodgers Productions, which put on the concert last year at Martha Clara, were so taken by Riverhead and by how well the town received them and allowed them to do things within the parameters, that they want to continue every single year, with or without AFTEE,” Mr. McDermott said.

The Nile Rodgers Foundation is a very community oriented group, he said, and they “didn’t want to lose the momentum from the success of what happened last year.”

The proposed “We Are Family Foundation Festival” is scheduled to kick off with a street festival in downtown Riverhead on Friday, Aug. 8, followed by a two-day music festival on the weekend of Aug. 9 and 10 at Martha Clara, Mr. McDermott said. The weekend events will feature three concerts each day, which children’s music in the morning, music aimed at teens in the afternoon, and music aimed at adults at night, Mr. McDermott said.

“Can I get my ‘approved’ stamp out?” Supervisor Sean Walter asked when Mr. McDermott mentioned that this year’s festival would have a downtown component.

The proposed downtown festival would be held on Main Street and along the riverfront, although it would not take up parking spaces in the riverfront lot. The special event permit for the downtown festival will be submitted by the Business Improvement District.

Mr. McDermott said they envision having a band on a barge in the river, surrounded by floating fire pots in the water.

The proposed festival is expected to draw about 9,500 people per day for the two weekend concerts.

The AFTEE concert at Martha Clara last year was just one day, a Monday, and drew about 4,500 people. The lead acts in that concert were Avicii and Mr. Rodgers’ group, Chic. It raised about $50,000 for various East End charities, Mr. McDermott said. An advisory group has been put together to determine how to distribute that money, Mr. McDermott said.

It has yet to be determined who will perform and what charities will benefit from the proposed festival, Mr. McDermott said.

Councilman John Dunleavy said he thought they did a good job last year and said of the proposed concert,  “I have no problem with it.”

“It sounds great,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said, although she added that there were complaints last year from residents on Herricks Lane.

Mr. McDermott said they plan to turn the stage the opposite direction so the sound doesn’t go toward homes.

“There seems to be a consensus to move forward,” Mr. Walter said. No one voiced opposition, among board members.

Dennis McDermott speaks with members of the Riverhead Town Board Thursday morning.
Dennis McDermott speaks with members of the Riverhead Town Board Thursday morning.