When Adam Epstein and Innovation Arts and Entertainment first began the M.V. Concert Series in 2016, the goal was to attract great performers into intimate settings, and show folks how special smaller Vineyard venues could be.
Those goals remain at the center of the Vineyard Campout — another brainchild of the event promoter that offers affordable accommodations on the Island and some great live music. “This goes in the same vein of showing folks they could have a really good time with small crowds and really feel that interaction with the talent that you don’t get from a 3,000-seat theater or a 5,000-person general admission club in Boston,” Epstein said.
The Vineyard Campout is just as the name suggests — a campout where folks from on and off the Island can go and stay at the Martha’s Vineyard Family Campground. But the twist here is that campground tickets are part of a package that includes admission to some heavy-duty acts at the Loft in Oak Bluffs.
Epstein also puts on Beach Road Weekend each year, and although he said that festival is a good opportunity to put Martha’s Vineyard on the map for performers and music lovers, the Vineyard Campout offers quite a different experience.
According to Epstein, the campout started as a vision of bringing one band into residency over a weekend in September. The more Epstein and his team got to thinking about it, they realized they could pull off consecutive weekends of performances, where one band plays each weekend for a few weekends in a row. “We could do two or three shows on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, then the next weekend it’s a different band or a different collection of bands,” Epstein said. “It’s all in the shoulder season, it’s great weather, it’s a great time to be on the Island where it’s a little less crowded, but there are still some accommodations.”
For this campout, American funk jam band Pigeons Playing Ping Pong will be headlining the show, and two other great bands will open for them. Epstein has built a strong relationship with the folks at the M.V. Family Campground over the years. They provided accommodations for this year’s Beach Road Weekend festival — visitors could buy a package that included a weekend at the campground plus two festival tickets. Those packages were the first to sell out, indicating how popular the campground is.
Epstein said the campground is an affordable and fun way to visit and experience the Vineyard. He added that going and staying at the campground rounds out the visit for folks who want to get over to the Island and see Pigeons and other artists without having to spend too much on a place to stay. “When you are bringing a jam band over, working with campgrounds is a natural match. The audiences really want to enjoy and appreciate the music and the beauty of the Vineyard, and are a little less concerned about their accommodations,” Epstein explained.
With just a few sets in each concert, the campout is minimalist. It allows people to enjoy their time on the Island, and see smaller, intimate performances, Epstein added. There’s also a shuttle running between the campground and the Loft, so folks don’t have to worry about transportation.
Each show permits admission for about 400 people per night, creating what Epstein describes as an easygoing and fun experience where newer bands can experiment onstage and get their name out there as well. “Tickets are for sale, we have packages with the campground, and there are individual night tickets as well,” Epstein said. He voiced his appreciation for the likes of Pigeons, Maggie Rose, and Eggy, adding that longtime Island musician Judd Fuller is Rose’s guitarist, so there are some strong local connections to the support band on the lineup. “Maggie has been lighting it up all over the country for festivals and shows. She’s got a great country jam band sound,” Epstein said. “This whole thing is about bringing that kind of ‘freedom of you and me’ spirit that used to be here in the 1970s, where anything could happen, and live music was everywhere.”
The Vineyard Campout starts on Friday, Sept. 9, with Maggie Rose opening up for Pigeons, then Eggy opens for Pigeons on Saturday, Sept. 10. All shows start at 8 pm at the Loft and are 21 or older. Visit vineyardcampout.com to buy tickets, buy lodging packages, or to view this year’s lineup.