Benefit concerts for YMCA & affordable housing

Longtime friends Lizzy Plapinger and Derek Davies met at the Chilmark Community Center's camp. Since, they've formed a record label that is organizing the upcoming Stars & Stripes Fest. — Photo by Mark Kotsopoulos

Adding to an exciting summer lineup for live music fans — one that includes the first Martha’s Vineyard Jazz Festival in August — are two other inaugural music events. On Saturday, the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard will benefit from the Stars and Stripes Fest, featuring various imported bands, and next Tuesday, a combination of one local and one national act will launch a new joint fundraising effort by Island organizations dedicated to affordable housing.

Raising the Roof

To raise awareness of the roles played by the Island Housing Trust and Habitat for Humanity, and to fundraise for some of their individual and cooperative efforts, the two organizations recruited local musician Willy Mason and the established country musicians, father and daughter Pete and Mackenzie Wasner, for a show at the Old Whaling Church called Raising the Roof — a Concert for Housing.

The Wasners of Nashville will be headlining the show. Pete is best known for his collaborations with country star Vince Gill. He has also written songs recorded by Chrystal Gayle, Garth Brooks, Bonnie Raitt, and others, and performed or recorded with a number of stars including Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, Amy Grant, and John Prine. Pete’s 16-year-old daughter Mackenzie is an emerging artist in the field of traditional country music. Her sweet, strong vocals can be heard in a commercial on MVY. The spot features Vince Gill promoting the concert by his close friend and co-writer.

Island Housing Trust board member Richard Leonard and friend of the Wasners says, “After learning of Mackenzie’s developing career from Pete, we gladly accepted their offer of a benefit performance to support workforce housing on the Vineyard.”

Willy Mason, the son of musicians Jemima James and Michael Mason, grew up on the Vineyard. After playing with a number of local bands, Mr. Mason was discovered and signed to an independent record label. The singer/songwriter has since recorded on Virgin UK among other labels and toured all over the U.S. and Europe with the likes of Death Cab for Cutie, Ben Kweller, and Radiohead. Last year he opened for Norah Jones at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.

Despite his success, Mr. Mason has always returned to the Vineyard, where he continues to perform, though infrequently, as part of group shows and for benefits. Mr. Mason was happy to donate his time and talent to a cause that he strongly supports. He and his family lived in Island Co-Housing when he was growing up and he is currently trying to arrange for year-round housing for his father. Says Mr. Mason, “Everybody knows that housing is an issue on the Island. I feel that this is something that we should all be thinking about and pitching in on however we can.”

Habitat for Humanity board member Greg Orcutt explains the goal of working together with Habitat, “Affordable housing has changed a lot over the last few years. There is no longer the Island Affordable Housing Fund [the fundraising arm of Island Housing Trust]. We’re hoping to clarify what affordable housing is on Island.”

Island Housing Trust absorbs the land value so that low- or moderate-income Islanders are able to afford home ownership in an area where property value is prohibitively expensive. Habitat, with donated materials, volunteer labor, and monetary donations, is able to provide affordable homes for lower-income families. The two organizations often work together.

Stars and Stripes Fest

Saturday’s Stars and Stripes Fest, to be held at Nectar’s, will include four bands — alternative hip-hop artists Chiddy Bang, electronic duo the Knocks, electro-pop brother act French Horn Rebellion, and folk pop duo Savoir Adore. The festival has been pulled together by two former Island summer kids who originally met and bonded at the Chilmark Community Center’s summer camp. Lizzy Plapinger and Derek Davies were campers and then camp counselors here while growing up. Says Ms. Plapinger, “It’s always been a dream of mine to have a festival on Martha’s Vineyard.”

The two friends discovered a shared interest in music and they kept in touch after returning to their respective winter homes. Ms. Plapinger is from London, Mr. Davies from Washington D.C. During their college years, though in separate cities, the two started working out a plan to fulfill a mutual dream of founding a record label. Three years ago, after both had a number of internships in the music industry under their belts, they launched Neon Gold Records, and just recently they signed a joint venture deal with Columbia Records. They have signed a number of emerging artists, many of whom are beginning to attract a good deal of attention. One of their artists, Ellie Goulding, played at the Royal Wedding.

Though only one of the Stars and Stripes Fest groups is on the Neon Gold label, Ms. Plapinger says, “They’re all bands that we have relationships with. It’s a nice mix of a variety of acts.”

Ms. Plapinger finds it appropriate that their inaugural Vineyard show will be benefiting the Y, since she and Mr. Davies met as teens through another organization dedicated to youth. The two business partners were taken on a tour of the facilities last week and Ms. Plapinger was especially impressed with the Alexandra Gagnon Teen Center with its state-of-the-art recording studio. She was able to work with the kids and listen to some young musicians perform.

Benefit Concert: Stars and Stripes Fest, 9 pm, Saturday, July 2, Nectar’s, airport. 21+. Benefits YMCA of M.V. $35; $30 advance.

Benefit Concert: Raising the Roof, 7:30–9:30 pm, Tuesday, July 5, Old Whaling Church, Edgartown. Benefits Habitat for Humanity & Island Affordable Housing Trust. $50; $100.