Coachella concept gets a Long Island accent

Special to The Times

When Paul Tollett learned of plans for Field Day, a Long Island rock festival largely modeled on the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival that he created, he wasn’t angry that a rival had taken up a concept whose viability he’d worked hard to establish.

In fact, he was flattered -- enough so that his Goldenvoice promotion firm, part of the Anschutz Entertainment Group, is now partnering with the Field Day organizers to put on the event. Just a week before Coachella takes over Indio next weekend, Goldenvoice and Field Day executive producer Andrew Dreskin have made an agreement to involve the L.A. firm in producing and promoting the Long Island festival, set for June 7-8 at Enterprise Park in Calverton, 70 miles east of New York City.

This may prove to be just the first Coachella-inspired festival the two team up on.

“I think there will be more, because we’re going to bring this to other parts of the country,” says Dreskin, former co-founder and chief executive of TicketWeb, the first company to sell concert tickets over the Internet. The firm was bought three years ago by Ticketmaster.


As for the festival, “it’s about time,” Tollett says. “I think it has to be big markets, progressive cities. But there’s room for a few more out there.”

Though these festivals have been common in the U.K. and Europe for years, the general feeling was that the concept hasn’t been a good fit in the U.S. since the ‘60s. Maybe for jam bands and bluegrass, but not alternative rock. For that crowd, Lollapalooza was the way to go, with a package that traveled around the country, generally in established venues. Coachella, after surviving a financially rough debut in 1999, proved the doubters wrong. Dreskin, who moved from California back to his native New York in late 2001, thought it was time to try it there.

“These are commonplace around the world, and Coachella is a great example of one that took hold,” he says. “I just refused to believe that this model would not work in the U.S.”

With that in mind, he found a site that could support such an event as well as provide some camping facilities, and booked the Beastie Boys and Radiohead as the top attractions, with Beck, Sigur Ros, Underworld, Blur, Thievery Corporation and Beth Orton among the other acts that had either been in Coachella lineups or fit a similar aesthetic.


But how many places can it go before it gets spread too thin?

“Look at the distances people travel to go to Coachella,” says Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of concert business weekly Pollstar. “Obviously it’s the kind of thing that would work in other markets. The problem with the summer is there are so many large concerts and big tours out. Will it get confused with a local stop on Lollapalooza or Warped or other things competing?”

Help for the Blues

The Rhythm & Blues Foundation has provided cash honorariums for veteran blues and soul performers totaling more than $3 million in awards and special grants since 1998. But at the organization’s annual awards dinner in February, such honorees as Clarence “Frogman” Henry, Koko Taylor, the Dixie Cups and George Clinton were left nearly empty-handed, as a combination of foundation management missteps and the economic downturn meant the coffers were bare.

Foundation board members Bonnie Raitt and Ray Benson decided to try to make up the difference, though, and have put together a benefit concert to be held at the Backyard in Austin, Texas, on May 28. In addition to Raitt and Benson, Jimmy Vaughan and R&B; great Ruth Brown are scheduled to perform.

“We never say how much we give as honorariums, but artists talk to other artists, and this year when some opened their checks, they were shocked to get one-fifth of what had been given in the past, rightfully,” says Benson, the Asleep at the Wheel leader who will be taking a rare solo turn at the show, previewing his upcoming solo album. “So Bonnie and I talked and said, ‘Let’s do something, make sure we do the right thing and get the money.’ We’ll do fine.”

In the long term, changes are being made to put the foundation back on solid ground, including a move from its Washington headquarters to New York office space donated by Sony Music. Benson says that music business support has remained strong. Benson also reports progress in the foundation’s ongoing campaign with the labels to ensure veteran R&B; artists are given fair royalties and compensated for unfair contracts of the past.

Small faces


* After having much music exposed through commercials (the Mitsubishi Endeavor and Dodge SRT campaigns), film scores (the Internet-available “Animatrix” shorts spun off from “The Matrix”) and video games, English musician-producer Rob Overseer is readying his debut album, “Wreckage,” due June 3 from Columbia Records. Music from those ads and “Animatrix” will be included on the collection.

* Chilean group La Ley is following up its Grammy-winning 2001 “MTV Unplugged” album with “Libertad,” produced by KC Porter and Humberto Gatica and due May 27 from WEA. The band is set for a U.S. tour starting in late June.