Certain things signal the end of summer: the shrinking hours of daylight, back-to-school preparations, the desire to buy a great pair of boots. And for those Out East, there’s the Surf Lodges’s annual Labor Day Weekend concert in Montauk. Each year, the 2-day event serves as the culmination of the hotel/concert venue’s summer programming—the last hurrah of weekends at Surf Lodge, which is kicked off with a Memorial Day concert.
Sofi Tukker and Lukas Nelson closed out the 2019 season but come 2020, Surf Lodge had to adapt to a world with COVID-19. By this summer’s end, the buzzy Montauk lodge will have hosted but two concerts—a virtual Memorial Day concert and an upcoming 2-part Labor Day Weekend event. This Saturday at 7:30 pm EST, Surf Lodge, Bumble, and The Governors Ball will host Australian artist Tonnes and I on its virtual stage. And the following night at the same time, it’s Gary Clark Jr.
May’s concert was the first time Surf Lodge dabbled in a digital event. For the occasion, the property’s doyenne Jayma Cardoso filled the deck with cardboard cutouts of Surf Lodge’s frequent party people (the Brinkleys, the Brant brothers) to “watch” artists Rüfüs Du Sol, Bob Moses, Sofi Tukker, and Snoop Dog sing from their receptive locals. In the timeline of New York’s lockdown, the event fell smack-dab in the middle of it, when the concept of celebration felt like a foreign one. In the end, the concert lifted the spirits of anyone who tuned in, offering a small taste of normalcy in the strangest of times. It was no replacement for the IRL experience, however, it was undoubtedly the easiest time anyone had trying to get into a Surf Lodge concert.A scene from a pre-pandemic Surf Lodge concert.Photo: Courtesy of Madison McGaw/BFA.com
“When we did the first virtual concert at the beginning of the season, I thought we would be able to do a live concert by Labor Day,” explained Cardoso. “When we realized this would be impossible, l decided to stay connected as a community—even if it was virtually—and host another digital show for LDW. Music is so important for bringing people together. We need this now more than ever.”
Her decision to stick with another digital event was motivated in part by what went down at the Chainsmoker’s Southampton concert in late July. It was a show put on with the best of intentions and the assumption that guests would follow protocols—they didn’t. Being wary of a repeat scenario, Cardoso went full steam ahead with another livestream.
“I wanted to have two very diverse acts for LDW that complimented each other and also gave fans a different show and experience. I'm obsessed with Toni Watson's (Tonnes and I) voice. She's gone from busking in Byron Bay to the top of the Australian charts. I thought this is our chance to say Tonnes played at Surf Lodge (virtually) before she won a Grammy!... Gary first performed at Surf Lodge in 2014, he then went on to win his first Grammy later that year. I'm always so surprised and in awe when we get to have him perform.”A shot of Gary Clark Jr. at a Surf Lodge performance in 2016.Photo: Courtesy of Madison McGaw/BFA.com
Ahead of the show, Gary Clark Jr. spoke of the preparations he’s been making to ready his Hill Country Texas home for the virtual event. (He explains there will be lights and a fog machine in action.) As for vocal prep, he jokes he’s been “taking singing in the shower a little more seriously.”
The perpetually behatted musician—who has earned multiple Grammys for his bluesy soul songs—continued to say that he misses playing at Surf Lodge but the scrappy, resourcefulness required to put on a compelling virtual concert brings him back to his early days on the road when he was doing everything on his own.
“There’s nothing like playing outside during sunset at Surf Lodge, there’s no better feeling than that. I’ve been fortunate to play large venues but one thing that that lacks is the feeling of connection you get, playing house parties and small blues clubs. People so close that, if I’m not careful, I could wack someone in the head with my guitar. But doing this virtual concert, I don’t have my guitar tech with me and I’m just doing this all on my own like I used to—lugging my own gear around and just trying to make it happen.”
Both day’s concerts are free and available to stream on the Surf Lodge’s YouTube page. Plus, there’s a charitable component; the event is encouraging guests to shop a capsule collection, designed by model Jacquelyn Jablonski, for her label Sports Verified. It's a line of athletic gear that, per Jablonski, “is designed for a consumer who might prioritize the snooze button over gym class.” 100% of the proceeds of this capsule collection will benefit the Equal Justice Initiative, which works to end mass incarceration, excessive punishment, and racial inequality."
Sports Verified can also outfit you to, say, watch the virtual concert this weekend. If past Surf Lodge events are anything to go by, it's an anything-goes, you-do-you sort of dress code. The Lodge is all about those good vibes.