Patrons of the second annual Stars and Stripes Festival at Flatbread Company were treated to what will certainly be remembered as one of the best shows of the Vineyard summer.
The event, the brainchild of Derek Davies and Lizzy Plapinger of Neon Gold Records, sold more than 400 tickets and raised more than $40,000 for the YMCA of Martha’s Vineyard.
Two high school musicians opened, courtesy of the Alexandra Gagnon Teen Center, a part of the Y. Nate D’Angelo played his original song “With Him Tonight” and Katherine Reid covered Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Both performances were fantastic, and the young artists showed great poise and presence on stage. Keep an eye out for performances from these two for years to come.
The show rolled right into the rock of Seamonsters, who are a very clean-cut yet classic idea of a rock-riffing garage group and by the end of their act a few people were swaying with enthused head banging, but there wasn’t yet any dancing. The onus for this is on neither the audience nor the band.
There is a widespread initial inhibition that keeps people from dancing at the start of a show. As the night goes on, the music and a little liquor lubricate the dancing bones, getting the crowd to let go, and the arc of this show would be no different.
St. Lucia’s music filled the dancing area, but while people were more animated, after two songs their feet were still firmly on the floor. St. Lucia’s third song, “We Got It Wrong,” starts off with a tone-setting bass drum that’s joined by some dub-esque amp shaking, courtesy of the keyboard. By the time the lead vocals joined the jam, a group of four local ladies had started really dancing, and with that ice-breaking the movement started to spread.
Alex Winston and her backing band got the crowd further into it. She has a magnetic stage presence and danced all about the stage, leading much of the audience to follow suit. When she asked the audience to raise their hands up, they were compelled to comply, and Ms. Winston used the raised hands for some crowd surfing.
After Ms. Winston’s charisma had eroded the remaining dance inhibitions, the stage was set for Grouplove. With as much chemistry as their name implies, Grouplove has been experiencing a meteoric rise, and seeing them perform leaves no question as to why. The lyrics are as interesting as their compositions are intricate. Their sound is thematic and feels new.
It’s hard to say who the lead of the band is, as every member pulls their weight. Christian Zucconi brought front-man enthusiasm, but beautiful, wedding-dress clad vocalist Hannah Hooper was every bit as alluring. Guitarist Andrew Wessen, a long-haired surfer, gives the group its backbone of chill. The bearded Sean Gadd plays bass and provides a surprisingly good singing voice. Ryan Rabin lays down the drums that the group grooves to. He’s given free reign to lay down heavy drums on “Colours,” one of the group’s anthems, to awesome effect. Mr. Rabin also produced the group’s first full length CD, “Never Trust A Happy Song” in its entirety.
After Grouplove ran offstage, the crowd clapped and clamored for their return. As ready for an encore as the crowd was eager for it, Grouplove rocked the night to a close with rousing chart toppers “Tongue Tied” and “Colours.”
Amazingly for such high-profile acts, all of these performers donated their services, with Neon Gold chipping in some of the travel costs.
At the end of the night, an exultant Lizzy Plapinger summed up what everyone was thinking. “The show went tremendously well,” she said. “People behind the scenes worked very hard and were so energetic. It was a great night, pretty spectacular. I want to thank the Y and thank Flatbread. There really should be a music venue here on the Island.”