When songwriter Bryan Downey built a recording studio in the Noyac woods in 2009, he didn’t know he’d be tapping a deep vein of singer-songwriters that live, write and work on the East End. But as they began to flood to his door looking to record, he teamed up with guitarist and web designer John Monteleone of Sag Harbor to begin promoting and showcasing the work of up-and-coming singers who perform their own work.
They held their first invitational open mic in the dead of winter in a restaurant on Main Street in Sag Harbor that was then known as Blue Sky (it’s now called Page). It was a cold night in February of 2010, but people were standing on tables and chairs trying to get a glimpse into the back room to hear the musicians play.
“I invited as many singer-songwriters as I knew, and in February, we packed the house,” said Mr. Downey this week. “A little bulb went off. If you have one person sing, it may be that only three people show up, but if you have a whole bunch, the place packs out.”
They quickly moved the series into the lobby at the Bay Street Theatre. Now called Hamptons Singer-Songwriters, they were a growing crew of songwriters, of all ages, abilities and musical ranges, who continued to pack the house at Bay Street for two seasons.
The group has now grown to more than 80 performers, said Mr. Downey, and they’re making their debut at The All Star bowling alley on Route 58 in Riverhead this coming Tuesday for what he hopes will be a regular series showcasing the talents of singer-songwriters from both forks, and from farther afield.
“Doing it in Riverhead helps for both our North Fork and South Fork members,” said Mr. Downey. “I think it’s a really good hub for trying to get new ears. We have members from Patchogue, Mattituck, Southold and Greenport. We want to make it easier for them to get to the venue. If everyone commutes 30 minutes, you’re in Riverhead.”
“The one problem with doing concerts in the Hamptons is, it’s the same audience all the time,” he added. “We really want to expand to new faces, new ears. Doing it in Riverhead helps for both the North Fork and the South Fork.”
Each show will feature six artists for 30 minutes apiece. This week, on Feb. 18, Bryan Gallo, Alyssa Scartozzi, Skylar Kelleher, Fred Raimondo, Dick Johannsen and Jewlee Trudden will take the stage, and, if the audience is lucky, they’ll also be treated to a performance by Glenn Feit, a remarkable octogenarian guitarist and crooner who just began playing a few years back.
“I try to put together a blend of age, genre, and a teenager or two, with artists who are aspiring, established and hungry for exposure,” said Mr. Downey. “I know all the singers and I know their capabilities.”
Members of Hamptons Singer-Songwriters have been singing in small groups for the Maureen’s Haven homeless shelter network in Southold, and they’re in discussions with The All Star’s management about holding a benefit concert for Maureen’s Haven in April.
So far, Mr. Downey has put together the lineup for this coming week and the following two Tuesdays. The shows will run from 7 to 10 p.m. each night. On Feb. 25, Chuck Finch, John Ciccariello, Steve Skoldberg, Julia King, Michael Pour and Mariann Megna will perform, and on March 4, Cynthia Daniels, Alfredo Merat, Mike Rusinski, Job Potter, Michael Weiskopf and Catherine Che will perform.