Relay: Pop Culture Shock In East Hampton
The Music to Know festival coming to the East End this August, featuring some of the bigger names in indie rock out there as well as less-easily-pigeonholed acts like the alternative country-folk singer and songwriter M. Ward, would seem to promise to place the patch of land a hundred miles east of New York City on the hipster map, so to speak, if only for a few days.
The occasion marks, among other things, the first time the headliner, New York City-based Vampire Weekend, plays together in several months, the group having reportedly been on hiatus since concluding a tour in support of its most recent album, “Contra.”
That ours might become a relevant scene, however briefly, for the alternative-indie set more accustomed to seeing many of these bands play for $15 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, than shelling out nearly $200 for a two-day affair in rural, not-a-stop-on-the-L-train East Hampton would be quite the accomplishment for the show’s promoters.
Indeed, notwithstanding the logistical nightmare the concert — expected to bring some 9,500 people to a closed-off runway of the East Hampton Airport — might prove itself to be, bringing acts that choose their appearances carefully to a place not exactly known for its indie rock fan base is noteworthy. Vampire Weekend has reportedly turned down offers to play at two massive, well-established music festivals this year: Lollapalooza in Chicago and Glastonbury in London, where they surely would have been met by legions of devoted fans.
Perhaps it is not intuitive that the Hamptons — which possess a rich artistic and literary community, thanks to their proximity to New York, and are replete, in the summer anyway, with more than a few bigs of the film and fashion worlds — would be desperate for an injection of contemporary pop culture. But they most certainly are.
Most of the reporting on this issue has addressed local concerns about crowds, noise, and cleanup. Missing is a recognition of the important moment this is for the youth that come of age in a place many outsiders barely realize has year-round residents, youth who sometimes feel themselves to be off the grid when it comes to developing alternative culture.
In fact, growing up on the East End, it is sometimes tough not to view oneself as if stuck in a musical morass, with few of the voices of one’s own generation within reach. We cannot say that a few festivals or concerts will change this perception; winters in East Hampton will be trying for adolescents hungry for fresh ideas and desperate to see more of the world, for the foreseeable future. This festival’s promoters, though, deserve credit for aggressively seeking out some of the brightest new sounds in contemporary culture for what promises to be a unique experience.
This all to say that if we have never lacked physical beauty here, and we are proud of the writers and artists who have long called the East End home, perhaps this summer we are somewhat more hip, as well.
Matthew Taylor is a reporter at The Star.