Long Island’s Best Kept Secret

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Ssshhh. Try not to let the word leak out or my wife is going to divorce me.

Do you know about the annual Montauk Music Festival? Since 2010, Montauk has opened its tourist doors prematurely, the weekend before Memorial Day weekend, offering hotel and restaurant specials while luring Long Islanders to the beaches with the promise of food, fun and, most importantly, live music.

Don’t expect to see Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty, that’s not what this Festival is all about. It’s about getting away for the weekend with your friends, trying to catch some early rays on the beach (if the weather cooperates), sitting around a beach fire at night and catching a ton of live music from local (and not-so-local) performers.

My wife and I accidentally happened upon the very first Montauk Music Festival in 2010 as we were celebrating our anniversary out East and trying to get a jump on the summer without spending $300 per night. There were special room and meal deals, and when we arrived, we found out many of the venues that were open (including John’s Pancake House) had live music all during the weekend.

Not that Montauk was a ghost town that weekend, but we pretty much had the place to ourselves. It was wonderful.

The musical acts varied from place to place; reggae in one, rock in another, folk in a different one. Sometimes the same place would have all different acts. We had such a great time sampling all kinds of music; we went back again the next year. And the year after that, and the year after that.

In the last few years, we have enticed a number of friends and relatives to join us and each year our posse seems to grow. We all stay at The Atlantic Terrace, enjoying the shared courtyard together. The price has remained the same for the last few years (about $119 per night), but there is something satisfying about knowing the room you paid $119 for goes for over $300 a night just a few days after you leave.

We’ve sampled bands like Grand Folk Railroad; a bunch of teenage kids called The Montauk Project; the always entertaining Oogie Wawa; a horn band called Ladies Drink Free and a young girl with a guitar (Molly Adele Brown). A few years ago, while we were catching the sunset at The Montauket, Jimmy Fallon joined the band that was performing and sang The Doors classic, “Roadhouse Blues.” We even witnessed a band playing the Stones’ “Memory Motel” at, you guessed it, the Memory Motel.

Anything can happen at the music festival. Once, a band showed up at The Sloppy Tuna without drums. They had a drummer, but no drums. They were able to get some local guy to bring his drum set to the venue and they played their set.

Our hotel, the Atlantic Terrace, hosts live music on the Friday night of the festival. The aforementioned Oogie Wawa has played each of the last two years, right in our courtyard. We danced, had a few adult beverages and then stumbled back into our rooms.

On Saturday and Sunday, the traffic circle area (they call it the Green Pavilion) becomes a gathering place as it hosts multiple bands all afternoon—just remember to bring a lawn chair. You can stay for hours and see all different types of music without ever leaving your seat. Of course, you might want to stay out of the sponsored Tequila Tent or the rest of your day will be shot.

What worries my wife is letting everyone in on our secret. What was once an intimate weekend, where a couple could enjoy some live music at a reduced rate before the hectic summer season begins, is turning into a crowded throng of people on the south fork. As the festival gets more popular, more people will show up.

So please, if you decide to come to Montauk the weekend before Memorial Day weekend to enjoy the festival, don’t tell my wife you heard about it from me.

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