Originally published on Newsday.com (July 31, 2011)
Corky Laing, a legendary drummer from the rock band Mountain, may seem out of place on the fields of a North Fork winery.
But on Sunday the Quebec native was right at home on Long Island with his new band, Corky Laing and The Memory Thieves. The hard rock band performed its first big show along with nearly two dozen other bands at the NOFO Rock and Folk Fest.
For two days, about 1,000 festivalgoers rocked out to rock, indie and folk music at the Peconic Winery in Cutchogue, where about 20 bands played.
The festival, in its second year and broadcast live on WUSB 90.1 FM, is the brainchild of rocker Josh Horton, and Peconic Bay winery manager Jim Silver. This pair came up with the idea to build a festival on Long Island where people can bring their kids and hear music. They both said that the North Fork was the perfect place for an event like this.
“We wanted to create a substantive cultural event that is accessible to all generations, accessible to anybody that would want to go to a music festival,” said Horton, a Greenport native who played alongside Laing as part of his new band.
“We do realize that Long Island is a community that had a significant population that grew up on Woodstock music. If you’re 55 or 65 years old, you’re going to hear a lot of what you love, and if you’re 40 or 35 years old, you’re going to hear a lot of what you love.”
For Laing, music festivals are nothing new. As one of the original headliners at Woodstock in 1969, Laing said this festival brings back the feel of that landmark music festival.
“It’s not a classic rock festival or a indie festival; it is something that hearkens back to the origins of the festivals,” Laing said. “You have the historic bands, you have the contemporary bands and then you have the future bands, and that’s what a great festival is about.”
This weekend marks the first performance for Laing and his new band, which he spent the last year putting together. And his band is not the only new thing for Laing, who as a drummer spent most concerts secluded behind the rest of the band. Now he takes a new place on stage — right out in front.
“That’s sort of a new position for drummers,” said Laing, who learned how to play by watching other drummers. “People just loved it, they just loved watching the drummer play.”
But the festival was not just about the musicians. Horton and Silver said the idea was to bring the music to the people who would normally not have something like this on the North Fork.
“For me, it’s just such a pleasure to observe the festival as it’s under way,” Horton said.
“Just watching the people enjoy themselves and take in generations of great music that they grew up with while also absorbing that music live.”
Silver said what sets the festival apart is not the diversity of the music or the child-friendly atmosphere — it’s the beauty of the local area.
“It’s a beautiful spot, you’re surrounded by vineyards; that lends a very convivial nature and a very peaceful tone to the concert,” Silver said. “As loud as it gets, it never can drown out the natural beauty of the place.”