Updated, August 30
Beach Road Weekend — three days of music at Veterans Memorial Park in Vineyard Haven — wrapped up on Sunday with a closing set from soul artist Leon Bridges.
There was a broad range of music from the likes of indie-folk musicians Mumford and Sons to punk rock legends like Patti Smith.
The weather was a major concern going into the weekend, as rain was in the forecast for Friday, and lightning for much of the day Saturday.
Adam Epstein, event promoter and Innovation Arts & Entertainment CEO, said that Friday was the most stressful day in his entire career because of the lightning. He said that they would have had to evacuate concertgoers if lightning struck within eight miles. But Epstein said that he was feeling relieved but also exhilarated that everything came together.
“The entire staff works very, very hard to deliver something special and exceptional on a level that has never been done here,” Epstein said. “And we showed what can be done when you work with a great partnership together with a town, with public safety, with Islanders and seasonal people, and guests from all over the world. It’s a beautiful thing …
“The value of seeing these families and friends gathered together, to listen to live music in a park, is exceptionally positive for this Island and this town,” Epstein said.
The promoter estimated that 11,000 people came out for Saturday’s festival, likely the most heavily attended afternoon of the three-day festival.
Still, police reported few issues arose during the event.
Tisbury Police Chief Chris Habekost told The Times on Monday the total number of people at the festival seemed similar to last year.
“Overall, the crowd management and policing of the event went well, with few issues,” he said. “One individual was placed into protective custody due to alcohol intoxication, and there were several noise complaints related to music volume, and a few other complaints related to truck traffic, loading equipment into the event grounds before the festival.”
There was a minor accident the day after Beach Road, on Monday afternoon during the breakdown of the festival’s setup.
Worker Jose Borrero sustained a toe injury after the fork of a forklift, carrying a pallet, was accidentally brought down on his foot. Borrero was seen resting in a chair, and was administered IcyHot by a coworker.
In good spirits while talking to the Times, Borrero highlighted a souvenir from his run-in: his detached toenail.
Day 1: ‘Ready for any weather’
Despite the gray and rainy skies on Friday, the crowds came out for day one of Beach Road Weekend. Festivalgoers brought their ponchos and rain boots.
Soul and country music singer Maggie Rose kicked off Friday’s lineup with a 12 pm performance.
After her set, The Times quickly caught up with Rose backstage.
“The cool thing about the audience was that they’re Island people, and they’re ready for any weather,” Rose said. “It was energizing to see people still out there, regardless of what Mother Nature had in store for us.”
Rose is already familiar with the Vineyard, and used to frequently visit during her childhood.
“I think the whole culture here is really cool,” she said. “The testament is people being pretty low-maintenance about the conditions today, and coming out.”
Other performers, such as Kevin Morby and the Head and the Heart, mentioned it was their first time on the Island.
“But I hope it’s not my last,” said the Head and the Heart’s Kenny Hensley.
After performances all afternoon from Kevin Morby, John Hiatt, Caamp, and the Head and the Heart, the largest crowds showed up for the final two acts.
The audience cheered as Patti Smith and her band arrived onstage, opening with a rousing rendition of the iconic “People Have the Power.”
“Mother Nature has been kind,” Smith said. “She’s given us rain for the trees … and she’s given us a little respite … if you’re good to Mother Nature, she’ll be good to you.”
Smith played fan favorites such as “Gloria,” “Dancing Barefoot,” and “Because the Night.” The crowd was also treated to a cover of Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush.”
After Smith left the stage, there was a 10-minute break before headliner Bon Iver.
Bon Iver was on for an hour and a half, playing songs from all five of its albums.
The crowd was especially enthusiastic to sing along to the popular tracks “Skinny Love,” “Hey, Ma,” and “Holocene.”
The festival ended at 7 pm sharp, with performances from local acts taking place afterward on a smaller stage.
Day 2: ‘A beautiful thing’
Saturday at Beach Road Weekend, concertgoers ditched their ponchos and sweatshirts for sunblock and handheld fans. It was hot and humid, and all fears of lightning in the forecast dissipated as the sun came out early in the afternoon.
Headliners Mumford & Sons brought their high-energy brand of folk rock with hits like “Awake My Soul” and “Little Lion Man” to get the crowd going as the day turned to night. They closed out Saturday evening with “I Will Wait,” a romping ballad with Mumford’s iconic banjo twang.
Other highlights of the day included a bit of a homecoming for Dispatch, and frontman Chadwick Stokes. Stokes recalled working as a camp counselor at Camp Jabberwocky (“It’s a wonderful place. Check it out.”) and about his first time playing Dispatch hit “Flying Horses” in Vineyard Haven in the ’90s.
Dispatch also provided a land acknowledgement before their set, recognizing that they were on the land of the Wampanoag.
Other bands taking the stage on Saturday included Gary Clark Jr. and his bluesy guitar work; St. Paul and the Broken Bones and their signature soul sound, and the high energy of Sammy Rae & the Friends.
The third and final day of Beach Road Weekend offered an eclectic mix of indie, soul, funk, and rock music, with fair weather and no rain in the forecast.
The crowd slowly built over the course of the day in anticipation for the evening’s headliner, soul artist Leon Bridges.
Cape Cod band Crooked Coast kicked off day three at 12 with a high-energy set, followed by the effervescent funk of Gregory Porter and his full band.
Canadian indie pop band Alvvays (pronounced “always”) performed a dreamy set with songs full of synths and beautiful, haunting vocals from lead singer Molly Rankin. Rankin said it’s their first time visiting Martha’s Vineyard, and that they heard “Curb Your Enthusiasm” star Larry David would be in attendance.
“Show yourself, Larry,” Rankin said. (David did not show himself). Performances included “In the Undertow,” “Archie, Marry Me,” and “Dreams Tonite.”
When asked which band they were most looking forward to seeing today, several Island locals, like Kelly DeBettencourt and Anthony Esposito, said without hesitation “Dinosaur Jr.” The iconic Massachusetts rock band has been playing together since 1984. They played a grungy rock set for a crowd of fans.
Russian-born American singer-songwriter and pianist Regina Spektor took the stage next, drawing a crowd of fans that knew every word to her quirky and at times humorous songs. She was the sole performer, playing a Steinway grand piano.
Spektor greeted the crowd warmly. “I just got hit with a really delicious cloud of fried fish. This is the place,” she said of the festival.
The “Us” songstress dedicated a song, “Après Moi,” to the peaceful resolution of the war in Ukraine.
Japanese Breakfast, led by frontwoman Michelle Zauner, performed an avant-garde set marked by a beflowered gong, which Zauner played in their opening number, “Paprika.” The band featured a violin, a saxophone, the gong, and lots of synthesizers.
Zauner shared a personal anecdote. “This is my first time on Martha’s Vineyard, and it’s absolutely lovely. Even though I’ve never been here, it’s very special to me because my now-husband was on a boat here when I proposed to him,” said Zauner, who married bandmate Peter Bradley in 2014. The singer-songwriter and musician is also the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir, “Crying in H Mart.” Their performance included songs “Be Sweet,” “Everybody Wants to Love You,” and “Road Head.”
Todd Michael (“Leon”) Bridges took the stage at sunset in all white, accompanied by backup singers and a multipiece band to perform for a completely packed festival grounds.
“Martha’s Vineyard, it’s so awesome to share my art with you tonight,” said Bridges, who said that he was honored to be celebrating community and soul music on the Island. He took a moment in his set to speak to the audience, commenting on the courage it takes to be an artist and to share one’s innermost feelings and thoughts. For Bridges, it’s more than just the instruments and melodies; artistry is about being “strong enough to put strengths and weaknesses into songs,” he said.
He played crowd favorites “Coming Home,” “Texas Sun,” “Beyond,” and the evening’s closer, a stripped-down guitar version of “River.”
Local artist Willy Mason took the locals stage to close out a weekend of iconic artists and feel-good music.
Ahead of the weekend, the festival grounds were busy and bustling. Upwards of 200 workers came from around the country, some of them local, to assemble the festival grounds, with vendor structures, porta-potties, three stages, lighting and sound systems, a backstage artist lounge area, and a catering tent that provided three meals a day for working festival crew.
Soundchecks took place at the festival grounds on Wednesday and Thursday, ahead of the weekend.
“It all comes up quick, and it all comes down even quicker. We’re building a small city,” said Joe Chambers, who provided public relations for the event.
Before the weekend, Chambers said that decibel readings were being recorded from various locations nearby — both baseline sound levels and festival-volume sound levels — in an effort to protect the surrounding area from sound traveling from the mainstages.
Following last year’s noise complaints from some residents, Chambers and Epstein said that they are taking additional measures this year.
Chambers said that they changed the festival’s speaker distribution to try and control traveling sound. Instead of switching back and forth between the two mainstages like they did last year, this year crew will evenly distribute performance sound to all speakers from either stage, which Chambers hopes will create “a more balanced sound across all speakers” and throughout the festival grounds. Most speakers are positioned at the stages in a way that will spread the sound out around the entire field.
Eunki Seonwoo, Daniel Greenman, and Sam Houghton contributed to this report.