Empty bar stools, a lack of nightlife and dreary frozen vistas often mark the start of February on the East End.
Strange as it might sound, it was just this desolation that brought inspiration to Hampton Bays native Brendon Henry, whose intent is to bring locals together for the “Cabin Fever Music Festival,” a showcase of independent music artists.
Now in its fourth year, the grassroots festival features 23 bands that will perform throughout February and March at various venues in Hampton Bays, Southampton Village and Westhampton Beach.
“We didn’t have a big music scene out here,” Mr. Henry said, adding that his own band, Haunted Hacienda, will play the opening night of the festival, on Friday, February 4, at Fisherman’s Quarters in Hampton Bays. “We decided to put live music together for the winter and get the scene back going out here.”
The festival began in 2007 with just nine bands and three venues, according to Mr. Henry. He and his friend and partner, Paul Fallo, have seen the number of bands and fans of the festival increase exponentially over the past four years.
“Every year we incorporate a new venue or act,” Mr. Henry said, adding that this year the festival would be returning to the Southampton Publick House after a year hiatus.
The shows generally showcase two or three bands that each play a 45 minute set. Every show starts at 10 p.m. and has a $5 cover charge, which can be paid at the door on the night of the show.
According to Mr. Henry, bands are interested in playing the festival because of its intimate setting, longer set times and the wide spectrum of music that is performed on any given night.
“There’s different types of music,” Mr. Henry said. “The second night we have Jeff LeBlanc, who has a John Mayer sound, and a ska band. We kind of mix it up.”
Mr. LeBlanc, a Center Moriches native who has been playing the festival since it began, said that although he’s played shows with national touring bands such as Third Eye Blind in venues across the country, he always enjoys playing the festival because it’s nice to be close to home.
The pop-punk band 5 Star Heroes, which has roots in Shirley, made its debut at the Cabin Fever Music Festival last year, according to bass player and singer Chris Hero.
“We actually played one of our first shows with our new drummer last year and it was very successful,” Mr. Hero said. He added that the band has also played at The White House nightclub in Hampton Bays. The band will be playing two sets during the festival—one on Friday, February 11, at Finn’s in Westhampton Beach and again on Friday, February 25, at Tom McBrien’s Pub in Hampton Bays.
The East Quogue-based band Easy Money will make the short commute to the Southampton Publick House on Saturday, February 12, where it will play covers of a medley of eighties hits, such as music by Duran Duran and Flock of Seagulls, according to singer Dave Asher.
The upcoming festival is important to the band because it brings attention to the East End’s growing music scene, said Mr. Asher.
“We’re a summer-based community,” Mr. Asher said. “Brendon is still trying to build [the music scene].”
Planeside, a Purchase-based band, is coming back to play for its third year at the festival, according to Chris Sala, the drummer for the band. Mr. Sala said that he and his former band, Joni’s Butterfly, used to play gigs around the Southampton area in the late 1990s.
“It’s kind of like coming home,” Mr. Sala said. “When we did the first one, it was packed,” Mr. Sala said. “It was great.”
Mr. Sala likened the band’s sound to that of the Foo Fighters, which features heavy, guitar-driven rock. Planeside will play on Friday, February 11, at Finn’s in Westhampton Beach and again on March 4 at Fisherman’s Quarters in Hampton Bays.
Mr. Henry, who said that the festival has no sound technicians and no budget, can often be seen running around during shows fixing equipment.
“It’s really grassroots. We don’t have sound guys and we don’t have corporate sponsorship,” Mr. Henry said. “This year my girlfriend bought the fliers and we gave her the money back.”
However, despite the work of promoting the shows, it’s seeing the bands all together that makes the endeavor worthwhile for Mr. Henry, who added that he has seen a decline in the music scene on the East End and on Long Island as a whole as of late. Getting the bands together to support each other is the first and most crucial step to building a music scene, he added.