When crowds converged on a Catskills, NY farm 43 years ago there was an electric buzz that pulsed around them that didn’t exist back where ever they called home. Pressed together, they withstood torrential downpours and the mud that followed, but there was also skinny dipping, shared ideas on culture with like-minded thinkers, and the communal experience of hearing some of rock and roll’s greatest acts to ever grace the stage.
The 400,000 concertgoers of Woodstock perhaps couldn’t foresee the impact that the August 15-18, 1969 event would have, but they travelled for miles, hitchhiking across the country and walking once NY highways became jammed, and withstood other discomforts in order to join in on three days of history that promised peace and love, and ended up for many being free once organizers gave up on fences and ticket sales.
It changed the course of what music aficionados expect in a festival, and spurred the creation of thousands across the country.
This Aug. 18 you won’t have to fork over money for a high-priced concert ticket or travel very far to see some of the greatest indie rock acts around and be a part of something big.
While Pier A Park isn’t the muddy field of Woodstock lore, it does have its own power to transfix a crowd. Situated on the scenic Hudson River waterfront in Hoboken, it will be transformed into a vibrant sea of sights and sounds at hMAG’s third annual Lackawanna Music Fest, Hoboken’s largest free outdoor concert.
Expecting 10,000 Concert Goers
This will be hMAG’s third music festival, this year renamed the Lackawanna Music Fest.
“We wanted to have a fun name that related to the town and area,” said hMAG Co-Founder Kevin Cale. “Our magazine is still going to be a big part of the festival, yet wanted to give the festival it’s own identity and brand.”
Last year’s event drew an approximate 7,000 concertgoers, however, with the event’s past success and new additions like bigger bands and beer, a crowd of at least 10,000 is expected.
This year’s music fest will feature a biergarten and there will also be around 60 vendors serving a wide array of foods and deserts.
“There was nothing like this in Hoboken before,” said hMAG Co-Founder Simon Dabkowski. “Sounds cliche, sounds cheesy, but we’re really not trying to shadow any other music festival.”
Matt Pinfield Hosting
Matt Pinfield, a music and TV personality well known for being a MTV and VH1 video deejay , will host the Lackawanna Music Fest. He said he was looking forward to emceeing the event.
“I love that area, I love Hoboken! I’ve been seeing music since college there, Maxwell’s, clubs, … so I’ll be excited to be here,” said Pinfield.
Pinfield said it will be a great way to discover new music.
“It’s a great line up. I’m excited about seeing the artists myself that day,” said Pinfield. “It’s a great way to end the summer. It’s the perfect way.”
Tokyo Police Club will headline this year’s Lackawanna Music Fest.
The band is composed of Greg Alsop (drums), Josh Hook (guitar), David Monks (vocals, bass) and Graham Wright (keys/percussion). This Ontario, Canada indie rock band is known for their albums “Champ” and “Elephant Shell,” even appearing on the Late Show with David Letterman.
Last year their video for “Wait Up (Boots of Danger)” was nominated as best indie video of the year by MuchMusic, and they released “10 Days. 10 Covers. 10 Years.,” a project where they recorded and released cover songs going in order from 2001 through 2010.
“We’re looking forward to playing Lackawanna Music Fest and hoping that hMAG’s followers will be a great crowd to connect with,” the band released in a statement.
Cale said that the annual festival not only draws a Hoboken crowd, but brings in people who typically would never set foot into Jersey, but are brought in by music, and might even leave seeing how “amazing” the town is.
“Weather permitting, we are expecting a huge Brooklyn following to show-up,” said Dabkowski, referring to the crowd they expect Tokyo Police Club to draw. “The goal of our magazine and the music fest has always been to bring people to Hoboken.”
Showcasing Up-and-Coming Acts
Other emerging bands from the tri-state area are scheduled to play.
Vacationer, which recently released its debut album “Gone,” will be performing. Kenny Vasoli (lead singer/bassist) is also a member of the Starting Line. The band’s YouTube channel has more than 133,104 video hits.
Brooklyn’s Body Language is sure to rock the crowd with its electric dance party beats, which have already earned a following of more than 28,241 YouTube hits on their official video for “You Can.”
Shinobi Ninja, a Brooklyn-based group that with a 90s aesthetic combines hip-hop and alternative rock, recently completed two national tours and is scheduled to play at the music fest as well. It’s YouTube channel has more than 569,866 views.
Dabkowski said that many bands contacted hMAG asking to perform after hearing about last year’s success. Other local acts will also make appearances as the music fest.
“Trust me, these bands are not to be missed,” said Cale.
“Hoboken has an immense music history and organizing our annual music fest on Pier A is one way to celebrate that and provide Hoboken with live entertainment which they’re accustomed to seeing in arenas and clubs in the city,” said Dabkowski.
Dabkowski said that founders of hMAG created the festival three years ago in order to celebrate that past and add to its future. Cale said that they hoped to reintroduce Hoboken as a great place for bands to play and expose the metropolitan area to the waterfront community while doing so.
It was important for it to be free so that it was accessible to everyone, said Dabkowski. He said Pier A Park was chosen not just because of the space it affords, but because “…there is nothing like it anywhere,” with its sweeping views of the Hudson River and New York City.
While the co-founders are fans of Open Space Alliance for North Brooklyn’s Williamsburg waterfront concerts and other area music festivals, they created Hoboken’s with the hopes of it having its own followers and flavor.
“We’d be flattered if we’re to be compared to any of the long running festivals happening around the country, however, we’d like Lackawanna Music Fest to stand on it’s own,” said Dabkowski.
Cale added that they wanted the fest to be it’s own “unique experience.”
“Who knows? [You] might see fire twirlers and circus freaks running around,” said Cale.
Since starting the festival, each one has grown tremendously as far as audience size, bands, and advertisers go, said Dabkowski.
Cale said that one of his memories from last year was learning that their main sponsor, GBX Shoes, had their car towed.
“Welcome to Hoboken,” he said.
Another moment that sticks out was having to get School of Seven Bells out of the back room at Cooper’s Union, a nearby bar.
“My personal favorite moment last year was seeing School of Seven Bells take the stage and rock out,” said Dabkowski. “[hMAG Co-Founder] Joe [Mindak], Kevin, and I looked at each other and finally realized that this was actually happening.”
Other bands on last year’s lineup included The Walkmen, The Kickdrums, Wormburner, and Kangaroo Jones, as well as local acts like 7Mornings, Christina Alessi, Hello Radio, and The Blair Reinhard Band. Visit www.hmag.com/musicfest to view some of last year’s footage.
Cale said that hMAG only received positive feedback from last year’s show, and that so far its seems that everyone is excited to see what memories this year’s produces.
Future Music Fests
Cale said that in five years time, he would like the Lackawanna Music Fest to grow into a two day event, bringing in more than 30,000 people.
Dabkowski said that in the future they would like to add more activities, like elaborate light show displays, fireworks, and interactive music zones.
“The sky is the limit,” he said.
As far as future headliners, Dabkowski said that they’d rather not name any of their favorite bands in case of jinxing themselves, however the goal is to keep the list of performers eclectic.
The Power of a Live Show
This year’s Lackawanna Music Fest will not attempt to follow the footsteps of Woodstock or any other outdoor concert series, but rather help further establish itself as not only one that brings out Hoboken residents with the promise of good tunes, but everyone along the Hudson River looking for a top-notch free concert.
Be one of the 10,000 or more to experience city skyline views, the beat of drums, the thrill of guitars, and the sizzle that is sure to be in the air with other rock enthusiasts this August.
Photos courtesy of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, Tricia Tirella, Ryan Muir.