The inaugural Escape to New York festival – hosted on the wooded and remote Shinnecock Indian Reservation in Southampton, N.Y. this past weekend – had been a long-time dream of curator Fred Fellowes (the creative mastermind behind the U.K.’s Secret Garden Party) who had been trying to bring his dreamy vision stateside since 2004. The vibe was ritzy forest circus, with festival-goers in headdresses and feathers frolicking around the performance and installation art like wood nymphs.
By the time the Psychedelic Furs graced the main stage on Saturday, the crowd had grown to more than 6,000, putting the Indian Reservation at capacity. The English rock band seemed to bring generations together as everyone sang along to new wave hits like “Love My Way” and “Pretty in Pink.” Tim and Richard Butler were all about the swagger, bobbing and weaving with their hips and giving the occasional pause and suggestive eyebrow raise through their dark sunglasses to screaming fans in the front row. Their oozing sex appeal seemed a little ironic as bubble gun-wielding fans added to the trippy atmosphere of the stage by blowing thousands of bubbles among the crowd, while onstage, giant florescent tropical flowers and big yellow taxi cabs gave it a rock-concert-from-outer-space like feel.
After the sun went down, though, everyone had had enough peace pipe passing and hand-holding – they were ready to seriously rock out. They got just that from a group of rambunctious Brits who have been making quite a splash in the recent months, but the Vaccines’ Saturday night set was abruptly cut short after about a half hour when their rollicking high energy turned calamitous and an onstage collision ultimately ended in bassist Árni Hjörvar diving face forward into the drum set. “I think the only good show is an honest show and we play how we feel, so I think we played frustrated and angry, but it was ultimately satisfying,” the bassist told Rolling Stone backstage after the set.
“We’ve had a pretty interesting run, doing four continents in just over a week and everybody’s emotions are running in overdrive, and this is the last show we play for a couple days,” said lead guitarist Freddie Cowan, before saying that the band will soon head to the studio to record a new song, possibly for the follow-up to their debut. “But we’re having fun. It’s a bit of a fashion show out here now, isn’t it? All these good-looking people.”
As the evening was winding down and headliners Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros were finishing up their long-winded set, lead singer Alex Ebert announced that they would play a new song called “Child,” which had a hearty honky-tonk backbeat and was laced with hymnal-esque harmonies. Shortly after, Jade Castrinos announced they would play song she just wrote entitled “Car Crash,” a slow and aching ballad featuring subtle guitar and harmonica. They closed out their set with an island themed “Home,” and somehow the crowd-pleaser seemed fresh with a new calypso arrangement.
Even when the events of the main stage were retired for the evening, the party raged on in the Dance Tent and at the “glamping” (“glamorous camping”) grounds about a mile away, where luxury eight-person teepees were set-up for campers. There, a surprise set from Gary Clark Jr. capped off the night. He churned through “Don’t Owe You a Thang” under a small picnic tent while fans scrambled to push tables and chairs out of the way to get closer. When the crowd seemed as if it would overtake the small corner of the tent in which the three-piece were nestled, Clark comfortably transitioned into an impassioned “Please Come Home,” seeming to cause everyone to hold on to each other a little bit closer.
“I have a show tomorrow night in Montauk, so we were in town and it was very last minute,” Clark said after the set. “But I’m glad we’re here. Now I have to go change out of this,” he said, motioning to his long sleeve thermal shirt that was soaked through with sweat. The night was over, but not before a few eager ladies caught True Blood‘s Alexander Skarsgård coming out of the luxury RV bathrooms for a last minute photo-op.
Torrential downpours on Sunday morning continued into the afternoon, forcing concert promoters to cancel the last day of the event; Of Montreal had been scheduled to close out the weekend. And sadly, ticket holders of the just-cancelled MTK Festival (which was supposed to have been held this weekend) who had been told their tickets would be honored at Escape to New York on Sunday were also out of luck.