Winterfest 2014: Meet local legend Gene Casey

Photo by Daniel Gonzalez

Photo by Daniel Gonzalez

Gene Casey, a mainstay on the North Fork music scene, is in his 25th year fronting his band, The Lone Sharks. As a North Fork local since the late 1980s, Gene and his band have played at a large variety of bars and venues from Manhattan to Montauk and have produced five CDs of original songs.

And he’ll be playing Friday night as part of the Winterfest 2014 kickoff at The Suffolk Theater in downtown Riverhead. (Buy tickets).

In recent years Gene’s songs have been featured on TV shows such as “Justified” and “Sons of Anarchy” while also making way into the film industry in movies such as “The Tall Man” and “Killing Season.”

Gene moved to Sag Harbor from NYC in 1988 and maintains a year-round busy performance schedule supported by a die-hard fan base. While the lineup has gone through several changes over the years, Gene and his Lone Sharks remain intent on creating fun shows for their fans, allowing them to dance and party to the rootsiest music around.

Gene Casey will also perform at Winterfest on Feb. 15 at the Hotel Indigo ballroom in Riverhead and March 8 at Jamesport Vineyards.

What’s your favorite thing about playing on the North Fork? Either on stage or just playing as in having fun in general?

Well, having bought a house on the North Fork, it is nice to finish a show and get home at a reasonable hour, in my own bed, for sure! The winery gigs are fun, usually outdoors and to an audience who might not see us elsewhere. We’ve been happy to play yearly in Greenport’s Mitchell Park to very receptive audiences and The Suffolk Theater is quite beautiful. There seems to be a genuine appreciation for the music on the Fork and it’s very satisfying.

Tell us about your first ever gig on (or visit to) the North Fork.

When we started up the band I was living in Sag Harbor, and back then traveling to the North Fork seemed like a huge undertaking! It seemed barren and almost desolate, at least as far as night club entertainment. We played a bar called “The Quiet Man” which is now the Grateful Deli, in Southold, and whatever the room on Bay and Main in Greenport was named then. Little by little the trip to the North Fork became routine and we developed a loyal following.

Are there any North Fork locations or attributes that inspire your music?

Funny, I was speaking to a radio person from Europe about how unusual it struck him that a person from Long Island would have an affinity for country music. And I look out my window and I see farms, barns, cows, so there you go! I really appreciate that this is NOT the Hamptons, and not (yet) over-developed. It is good for the soul, I am
sure.

What do you think about Winterfest expanding genres by changing from “Jazz on the Vine” to “Live on the Vine”?

If it means more a wider of variety of music and an expanded audience, great. If it means less good jazz music, not so good. Of course there are infinite variations on what we can call “jazz” and certainly our brand of rhythm & blues, or rock & roll comes directly out of the swing tradition.

Do you like winters on Long Island?

I never, ever complain about the weather, first of all. The only drawback is a lot of the stores and restaurants are not open year-round, and during the summer we are too busy to actually visit them. I think the holidays are really nice up here.

What can people expect to hear at your shows?

Well, four seasoned pros enjoying themselves, I hope! Our music is somewhere in the middle of what is sometimes called “jump blues”  and what was sometimes referred to “rockabilly,” guitar-based twangy R&B. The songs we write ourselves are firmly in that tradition and we are featuring more and more of them as of late.

How do North Fork audiences differ from other areas you play?

As I mentioned, there is a genuine enthusiasm for live music up here and a lack of pretense or any type of snobbery. We tend to play to a wider age range as well. But, truthfully, all audiences tend to respond to our music equally once they warm up.

What do you think the North Fork needs? 

It would be nice to have a venue up here that had a real dance floor — that is a complaint many have. And, my life would greatly improve if the North Ferry ran a later boat year-round. When I play on Shelter Island I invariable have to take a ferry south to Sag Harbor, drive late at night through the Hamptons and around the horn in Riverhead and make my way home to an area I could look at while I was performing two hours earlier!