It’s a testament to music producer Nile Rodgers’ sway and influence that he was able to convince some of the biggest acts in music — including the two most recent Grammy Album of the Year winners — to play a concert at a Riverhead vineyard better known for hosting weddings than music festivals.
But one of the stars of the FOLD (Freak Out Let’s Dance) Festival at Martha Clara Vineyards drove home just how important Rodgers has been for many an artist’s career when he declared that he would do nearly anything for the Chic guitarist.
“It’s an honor to be on a song with you,” Pharrell Williams told Rodgers following a three-song set that included megahit “Get Lucky,” which was produced and cowritten by Rodgers. “Anything you need from me in the future, you don’t have to ask, you just tell.”
Williams, along with Beck, Keith Urban and Paloma Faith, were among the stars who Rodgers persuaded to perform on Tuesday at day one of the two-day festival. The artists expected to take the stage on Wednesday include Duran Duran, Chaka Khan and Q-Tip.
For many in attendance, Beck, who took home the “Album of the Year” Grammy in 2015 for Morning Phase, was the big draw of the night.
After a nearly hour-long break in between sets, after which Rodgers repeatedly had to call Beck out to the stage, the singer performed some of his biggest hits like “Devil’s Haircut,” “The New Pollution” and closing the show with “Where It’s At.”
“We came to see Beck,” said Aquebogue resident Bill Fish, who enjoyed a $37 discount on general admission tickets offered to Riverhead residents. “It’d be a sin if we didn’t come. We live a mile away.”
“I think Beck was the best,” said Daria McDonald of East Yaphank. “We can’t wait until next year.”
But it was the country crooner from down under that drew many of the women interviewed.
“Keith Urban” friends Kayla Healy and Maisy Claudio said in unison when asked why they came out to the festival.
“I go to school [at the University of Gerorgia] so I listen to country music a lot,” Claudio said. “My roommate is a hard core southerner so she was always listening to it. I just got hooked.”
Urban’s performance was certainly one of the most high-energy acts of the night. Singing the song “Somebody Like You” morphed into a nearly 10-minute jam session with Urban and Rodgers both playing electric guitar.
None of the acts got deep into their song portfolios and instead stuck mainly to hits. For instance, Rodgers and his band Chic performed a handful of tunes including the festival’s namesake “Freak Out” and the David Bowie hit “Let’s Dance.” Williams played just three songs — “Get Lucky,” “Happy” and “Blurred Lines.”
Though the night featured lively performances and an enthusiastic crowd, attendance was still way down from the 10,000 concert goers organizers told Riverhead Town they were expecting. An estimated 3,300 attended Tuesday’s concert, a spokeswoman for Nile Rodgers Productions told Newsday.
Still, she told the paper, the crowd “definitely exceeded expectations.”
“It will grow every year,” she said.
A representative for Nile Rodgers Productions did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Times Review.
And while those in attendance seemed to agree that parking moved smoothly, the lines for the handful of food trucks parked on the grounds were scores of people deep.
Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter, who was enjoying the show with his wife Kathleen, said there was a minimal number of complaints and that traffic flowed well down Sound Avenue during the event.
“I think it’s really wonderful. Nile Rodgers did a wonderful job,” he said. “Riverhead really let its hair down.”
Rodgers has said he plans to make the festival an annual happening and that it might grow to a three-day event over the course of a Friday, Saturday and Sunday next year. He even hinted at a possible lineup, dropping names like Daft Punk which along with Williams won the Album of the Year Grammy for the Rodgers produced “Random Access Memories.”
“We have 12 months to get it together,” Rodgers told the crowd. “It’s going to be great.”