Summer is heating up on the East End — and so is the talent. From Westhampton to Sag Harbor and beyond, the arts scene is bursting at the seams, bringing a fresh slate of music, theater, dance and comedy to our favorite local stages.
Andy Grammer: From Busking to Big Time
As a street performer, Andy Grammer had moves. And they usually started with ‘Hey! Hey, hey, hey!’
When given a moment, he can slip right into them, like he’s back busking the Santa Monica Pier, trying to make a name for himself — or, at least, get passersby to pay attention.
Those days are long behind him.
With massive hits on the radio — think “Keep Your Head Up,” “Fine By Me” and “Honey, I’m Good,” just to name a few — the present-day multi-platinum pop artist is selling out stadiums, guest starring on “American Idol” and making fans of all ages swoon as they belt his lyrics word for word.
It is a reality he still can’t believe at times, he said, and often credits his roots for the musician he is today. It was a training ground, and set the bar high, he said.
“As an artist, you want to create your art and you want people to get enjoyment from it. That same feeling happens when 10 people, or even three people, stop on the street corner and smile at you in a way that’s like, ‘Oh alright, they’re really liking this,’ and actually being of service to them,” he said. “It’s the same kernel as when you play for, like, 10,000 people and they’re all singing the words. It’s just this idea of, like, you are actually doing something that makes people happy, or feel a certain way, or takes them somewhere. It’s a really special thing when that happens.”
He paused, and laughed to himself. “But I think there’s a sweetness when you don’t have to try so hard to get people to stop.”
On his most recent tour of “The Good Parts” — which he will bring to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center on June 29 — he took a few risks with the audience, peppering in spoken word poems and more stories between his hit songs.
It was a certain level of freedom that he knew he finally had, he said, and it felt good.
“The last thing I ever want to do is lose a crowd. I think that was really ingrained in me as a street performer,” he said. “I’m very cognitive of making sure that they leave highly entertained, but what’s awesome is they can leave entertained but also a little bit moved, and that’s the coolest.”
Andy Grammer will play the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, located at 76 Main Street, on Friday, June 29, at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $110 to $160. For more information, please call (631) 288-1500 or visit whbpac.org.
Jared Angle: Remembering, and Dancing, the Greats
Nearly every pilgrimage Jared Angle makes to the East End involves a visit to the Oakland Cemetery — specifically, George Balanchine’s grave.
“I went for the first time three years ago, and it was so special,” he said. “It’s a very special, serene place.”
In a way, the Sag Harbor cemetery is a piece of his own history, as principal dancer for the New York City Ballet — the company Balanchine co-founded, and made great with Jerome Robbins, who once lived in Bridgehampton and is the focus of Angle’s upcoming behind-the-scenes program, “New York City Ballet On and Offstage,” a fusion of dance and discussion on August 24 at Guild Hall in East Hampton.
“It’s the Jerome Robbins centennial this year, so we just started a festival celebration of him and his work,” Angle said. “His ballets are some of my absolute favorites to do, so I’m excited to explore his work and explain it to an audience in a way they haven’t experienced before — to bring them inside the work in a fun way.”
Together with eight dancers, they will explore Robbins’ repertory, from “The Prodigal Son” — giving a nod to his early dancing days — to “Fancy Free,” which inspired the musical “On the Town,” to “Dances at a Gathering.” Arguably his most famous ballet work, it marked his return to the New York City Ballet in 1969 after a long hiatus “directing every major show on Broadway you ever heard of,” Angle explained.
“It’s one of the most special things that I’ve ever danced. I love it,” he said. “It’s an hour-long ballet set to Chopin piano music, and it’s this perfect little world that he creates. It’s a really great example of him creating a community on stage, and there are elements of a nostalgic past — to a folk-y European history of his family — but at the same time, even now, it feels completely in the present. It’s just a beautiful work.”
Principal dancer Jared Angle will host “New York City Ballet On and Offstage” on Friday, August 24, at 8 p.m. at Guild Hall, located at 158 Main Street in East Hampton. Tickets range from $45 to $100, or $43 to $95 for members. For more information, please call (631) 324-0806 or visit guildhall.org.
Colin Quinn: A Commentary on the Nation
When Colin Quinn answered the phone on a recent afternoon, he first needed to vent.
“I’m in a bad mood!” he complained, his pout borderline audible. “Because my mouse is Bluetooth and it’s not working, and I keep doing everything they said to do, and it’s not working. You know how that gets. All you need is one thing on your computer to ruin your whole life.”
What followed was a string of meandering, ever-relatable gripes — his sentences casting off halfway and rushing into the next, frantically bouncing from thought to thought.
It was very Colin Quinn.
The stand-up comedian — most notably known for his tenure on “Saturday Night Live” — will bring his newest show, “One in Every Crowd,” to Bay Street Theater on June 23, a performance that may be the last of its kind.
“It’s a lot of stuff. It’s a lot of material,” he said. “Now it’s becoming two shows, so people are really gonna get a bang for their buck. Maybe the night after Bay Street, I’ll split them.”
Each half addresses a different phenomenon that Quinn sees in the world. The first? “The resident asshole wherever you go,” he said.
“The one commonality that everybody in the world has — I don’t care what your race, what your religion, what your political leanings are — all your life, from grade school through every job you’ve had, every team you joined, there’s been one asshole that’s there to make everybody feel miserable and bad,” he said. “And sometimes they’re the leader and sometimes they’re a follower, but there’s always one.”
A segue into the second half of the show — which tackles the breakdown of the nation — still proves to be elusive, he said, but he is hesitant to shy away from the material. It is timely as ever, he noted, and a current state of affairs he predicted years ago.
“It’s sad. I don’t feel happy about it,” he said. “Maybe I would have felt happier if I bet somebody $10 million. Then I would have been happier — if my prediction came true and I had a heavy bet on it.”
Colin Quinn will perform on Saturday, June 23, at 8 p.m. at Bay Street Theater, located at 1 Bay Street in Sag Harbor. Tickets range from $69 to $99. For more information, please call (631) 725-9500 or visit baystreet.org.
Aston Barrett Jr.: The Wailers Are Back
When Bob Marley died at age 36, in a way, so did “One Love.”
And so did The Wailers.
Nearly four decades later, the Jamaican reggae band has finally found its groove again, according to drummer Aston Barrett Jr., as they work on their first record since 1985 — one that keeps with tradition and represents rasta, and lives up to the standard that Marley set.
“We, as Wailers, we have to do good. A lot of bad things came in our band after Bob died. A lot of evil try to come in, and a lot of it came in, and it took a while to come out,” Barrett Jr. explained. “The reason why it came out is because of what the music represents. That’s the power of Bob Marley and the Wailers.”
With a new message, “Stand Firm,” The Wailers are officially back — steered by Aston “Family Man” Barrett and joined in solidarity by his son, Aston, and original Wailers guitarists Junior Marvin and Donald Kinsey.
“It’s funny, it’s like a movie — a living movie — growing up with everyone,” Barrett said. “You see the ups and downs, the middle, the top, the left and right of everything. You’re seeing the mental, the spiritual and the physical of the whole message and the whole movement, because everything is a movement.”
With new talent in the group — including lead singer Joshua David Barrett, singers Shema McGregor and Hassanah, Owen “Dreadie” Reid on guitar and bass, and Javaughn Bond on three keyboards — they are keeping The Wailers’ legacy alive, Barrett said, while adding to a vast repertoire of peace, love and unity.
“If you listen to all of the Wailers songs, there is a message for everything. Anything you’re going through, there’s a song for it. We did the same thing,” Barrett said. “We have to write songs that applies to everyone, and even as Bob said, ‘My music is so simple, even a baby can understand it.’ So we have to make music that is exactly like that, and gives you goose bumps.”
The Wailers will play a concert on Saturday, June 16, at 8 p.m. at The Suffolk Theater, located at 118 East Main Street in Riverhead. Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and tickets are $59 and $65. For more information, please call (631) 727-4343 or visit suffolktheater.com.
Bakithi Kumalo: ‘Graceland,’ And Staying Humble
Bakithi Kumalo was working as a mechanic when he got the call.
“Hey, listen, there’s a guy by the name of Paul Simon from America. He’s looking for you,” his boss said, holding the phone.
“Oh my God, what did I do?” Kumalo responded, shaking, dropping the tool he was holding.
“No, they’re looking for you to come to the studio and record,” his boss continued, cracking a smile as he sang the lyrics to a popular song Kumalo didn’t know — by a man he had never heard of.
They were in the heart of Johannesburg, South Africa, not far from Kumalo’s home in the nearby township — where he grew up in the midst of apartheid, with 17 people to one house, where “struggle,” he says, was the norm.
For him, music was an emotional escape. But when a demo he recorded fell into the right hands, he had no idea it would be a physical one, too.
“I had a bass without a case, my hands were greasy and I looked terrible. My sneakers, toes outside, my pants ripped. And I go to the studio,” Kumalo recalled during a telephone interview. “Man, when I got to the studio, there were a lot of people and I meet Paul and he’s nice, and he says he likes my playing. And then, when you see an opportunity, you don’t wait too long. Because when you wait too long, you might miss it.
“So right away, I just said, ‘This is it. This is it. So, I just gotta be humble and stop being nervous, and just grow to this. No pressure.’”
It is a philosophy the Grammy Award-winning bassist repeated to himself during the “Graceland” tour with Paul Simon and his move to the United States 30 years ago, the start of a career that would bring him to venues around the world, performing alongside the biggest names in the industry.
On Saturday, August 11, he will round up an international crew of musicians for a “Nations United” concert at the Southampton Cultural Center — from Uruguay and Venezuela to Puerto Rico and the mainland United States, he said.
“We’re trying to connect all people from all these continents, because there’s so much problems and so much struggle, but here, everybody’s coming together to contribute and make a place where we meet,” he said. “I’m doing this to connect us, to connect us as people and contribute, because this is what it’s all about, you know?”
Bakithi Kumalo and Friends will play a “Nations United” concert on Saturday, August 11, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Southampton Arts Center, located at 25 Jobs Lane in Southampton. Admission is free. For more information, please call (631) 283-0967 or visit southamptonartscenter.org.