On the 19th anniversary of her groundbreaking album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill played an intimate set at Montauk hotel Surf Lodge on Friday night. The show was a rare appearance by the Grammy-winner, who’s become known for her reclusive tendencies.
Marking the end of the hotel’s 10th season, the concert was the kick-off to a celebratory weekend that also included a Sunday performance by Ben Harper. Hill took the waterfront stage at sunset, performing both iconic Miseducation tracks, among them “Everything is Everything,” “Ex-Factor” and “Lost Ones,” and favorites from her days with the Fugees, including “Ready or Not,” “Killing Me Softly” and “Fu-Gee-La.” Hill’s absence from recording (her last full-length recording was released in 2002) and performing, and the intrigue surrounding that, heightened the packed crowd’s energetic response to her appearance.
The passionate reaction from the Montauk audience underscored the fact that her absences haven’t made her any less of a source of fascination and respect among her fans and the music industry. (“Ex-Factor” was recently remixed by A Boogie wit da Hoodie and PnB Rock, two artists that had barely reached school age when the song was originally release.) Recent months have suggested that the world might get to see more of Hill. Last weekend she joined Dave Chapelle on stage at Radio City Music Hall, where she played with Common in February. On September 7, she’ll embark on a North American tour with Nas, with whom she toured in 2012 after the release of his album Life is Good.
The desire to offer a singular performance led Surf Lodge owner Jayma Cardoso to pursue Hill. “What really drew me to the idea of having her perform is that Lauryn hardly ever does performances. She’s very selective. And even so, her fans have not and will not forget what she has given the world musically,” Cardoso tells Billboard. “I wanted someone to perform that could evoke a feeling. There was a vibe and it was a moment. And Lauryn Hill delivered.”
Booking Hill at a venue with a capacity not much greater than 100 people was a significant coup for the Surf Lodge. (Performers this summer have included Lupe Fiasco and Jenny Lewis. In earlier years, Willie Nelson, Courtney Love and The Flaming Lips have all graced the stage.) “People said it would be difficult. But to be honest, it was the opposite of that. A friend of mine had a connection to her, so I just asked if he thought this is something she would be interested in, not thinking that what transpired would really happen,” says Cardoso, who previewed her new Manhattan bar Mailroom earlier this week with a gathering DJ’ed by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy.
The weekend’s anniversary offerings also included the hotel’s final gallery show of the summer, from painter Richard Phillips and surf photographer Todd Glaser. On display were photographs taken by Glaser during the filming of Proximity, a recent surf documentary directed by Taylor Steele. Alongside them were painted surfboards that Phillips created for champion Kelly Slater to use during the filming of Proximity, which depicted the US government’s deadly nuclear tests in the Marshall Islands, a location in the film, alongside portraits of women.
The resulting evening was exactly what Cardoso wanted for a celebration of Surf Lodge’s decade in business, during which time it has developed into one of the Hamptons’ most popular spots and played a large role in Montauk’s transformation into a major vacation destination. “It was magical,” she says. “I honestly would say it was less of a venue-vibe and more of a genuine gathering. There was a palpable block party-like feeling to the whole thing.”