As the 2011 North American music festival season kicks into high gear during the next several months, U.K. fest organizer Fred Fellowes will test the New York market with a three-day lifestyle event in August modeled after his Secret Garden Party in England.
The inaugural Escape to New York festival will be held Aug. 5-7 on the Shinnecock Reservation in Southampton, N.Y. The initial lineup includes Best Coast, White Rabbits and the Vaccines, and a full list of performers will be announced in the coming weeks, a representative says.
"We're not coming out guns blazing with a huge mega-list of an event, by any means," says Fellowes, whose summertime Secret Garden Party annually draws about 30,000 people to Grange Farm in Cambridgeshire. Founded in 2003, the event has featured such acts as Phoenix, Florence & the Machine and the xx. "We are trying to start with a modest grass-roots type of approach with about 5,000 people and slowly grow it from there," Fellowes adds.
The idea to stage an event on an Indian reservation was spurred by a chance encounter Fellowes had five years ago at Austin's South by Southwest with entrepreneur Rocco Gardner, who had ties with the Shinnecock tribe.
"He had been looking at ways to help them out and take their desire to look at live events as a way to generate not income but a more positive image for how tribes can leverage their unique position in America," Fellowes says. "Due to the unique nature of the lure of an Indian nation land, in that the same permit laws don't apply, it seems more appropriate to bring over the boutique festival model -- something that's been growing hugely in the festival market over the last eight years in England."
With production duties handled by Dave Lory Productions, Fellowes stresses that Escape to New York is "much more of a lifestyle event rather than the traditional rock concert event in a field." In addition to musical performances, he says the festival will boast high-end food, camping and a range of activities including walk-around theater, spoken word, lectures and debates.
Single-day tickets will cost $100 and a weekend pass runs $275. In light of the U.S. economy, Fellowes hopes festival-goers will view Escape to New York as an alternative to an expensive vacation. "It's comparatively a cheap way to spend your time off," he says.
If all goes well the first year, Fellowes hopes to forge relationships with other Indian tribes across the United States and expand the event beyond the East Coast. "As it progresses into the future, we're looking to attract people from farther afield," he says.
"We're also looking at extending this relationship with other tribes on other reservations around America," Fellowes adds, "once the initial trust has been established and they can see that it's worked for the Shinnecock."