Pictured Above: Azwel will perform at The Suffolk on March 2.

Homegrown music has long been alive and well on Long Island, and this spring it’s being showcased in a new way at The Suffolk in downtown Riverhead.

Long Island Stage, a new island-wide non-profit, has organized three Thursday nights of music in March, showcasing original rock and folk music by groups that call the Island home.

Long Island Stage founder Brian McAuliff’s Bohemia-based audio-visual technology company Bri-Tech began opening up its showroom for streaming concerts during Covid, and he was surprised, once the worst of the pandemic passed, that people kept asking him when he was going to have more concerts.

“I’m personally into music, and I have a lot of friends who are singer-songwriters, and because of how they work, they didn’t get help from unemployment during Covid,” said Mr. McAuliff in a mid-February interview with The Beacon. “We’ve been busy again with our work but there was still a need.

Mr. McAuliff was introduced to the management of The Suffolk earlier this year, and ‘they said ‘we’ve been wanting to do something for local people,’” he said. “It’s a great place. It’s absolutely beautiful. Every Long Islander should go see something there.”

When he put out a call for acts to perform in the series, he received 40 applicants, and more applications are still coming in. They were eventually narrowed down through a blind listening session to nine acts, all of which are full bands, with three of them featured each night.

“I’ve been watching live music for years, and there were new bands I’ve never heard of, with people from all age brackets and genres,” said Mr. McAuliff.

Chelsea Takami
Chelsea Takami will be performing on March 16.

The first concert, on March 2, will feature rock ’n roll acts Azwel, Playing Dead and Kate Van Dorne.

The second concert, on March 9, features folk artists The Belle Curves, Nick Russell and Karen Bella.

The third concert, on March 16, will spotlight soft rock artists Rorie Kelly, Whaley and Chelsea Takami.

Tickets for each show are $25 and are available at suffolktheater.com.

Bri-Tech will provide the bands with a full multi-camera recording of each of their concerts to help them with promotion.

“Our mission is to provide promotional support and performance opportunities to original creators on Long Island,” said Mr. McAuliff. “A culture is defined by its creators. There are 7 million people on Long Island —it’s a good place to be famous.” 

He added that he draws some inspiration from the radio station WBAB’s long-running “Homegrown” series that highlighted bands from Long Island.

“New music is necessary. Youth suicide rates are up, and tons of young people haven’t found their space,” he added. “I want to help them find their space, and have Long Island be an arts community. People should be noticed for what they create. Why can’t we be homegrown?”

Mr. McAuliff hopes to continue the series at the Suffolk with future shows featuring music ranging from the spiritual to the avant-garde. 

“I’m opening to listening to what people want,” he said. “Music is pretty universal. I hope to make a difference with it. We have to connect with each other, and there are very few things that are as emotional as music. People sing to the same songs, no matter how they vote.”

More information is online at suffolktheater.com.

Beth Young
Beth Young is an award-winning local journalist who has been covering the East End since the 1990s. She began her career at the Sag Harbor Express and, after receiving her Masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has reported for the Southampton Press, the East Hampton Press and the Times/Review Media Group. She founded the East End Beacon website in 2013, and a print edition in 2017. Beth was born and raised on the North Fork. In her spare time, she tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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