By Anna Young and Martin Wilbur
Blistering heat didn’t discourage several thousand music lovers from flooding Parkway Field on Saturday to enjoy the 14th annual Pleasantville Music Festival.
The event, headlined this year by the iconic 1980s group The Psychedelic Furs, featured 18 bands on three different stages. They were preceded on the Main Stage by Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Robert Randolph & The Family Band, country-rock band Cracker, Lizzie and The Makers, and the Brooklyn-based folk group The Lone Bellow.
“One of the many impressive things we do in this town is taking place here today as we have gathered together music lovers from all over to our little festival site,” said the festival’s Executive Director Bruce Figler.
Whether music fans were attending for the first time or have been festival regulars, patrons arrived early to get a seat close to the Main Stage and continued to shuttle between the three stages to catch each performance.
First-time festival attendee Tom Diack said he made sure to get in by noon to see Battle of the Bands winner The Bluechips open the Main Stage. He was also excited to see The Psychedelic Furs and former congressman John Hall, a member of the 1970s band Orleans, perform an acoustic duo with bandmate Dennis “Fly” Amero.
White Plains residents Gary and Anne Stern said they attend the festival every year because they enjoy the feel of a local event. Many of the musicians have local or Hudson Valley root.
“We love the music,” Anne Stern said. “Anytime you can support local music and musicians is fantastic.”
Music fans streamed in throughout the afternoon filling the field between the Main Stage and the bleachers. In mid-afternoon, after Cracker finished its performance, Figler said he was pleased with the turnout.
“This is the first of the name international bands with every one of them, and there’s four of them, a big group will come,” he said.
In addition to the music, this year there were enhanced food options with close to 20 vendors selling a wide array of treats and cuisine, from chicken waffle cones to barbecue to Indian and French food to pizza, hot dogs, kettle corn and ice cream.
Pleasantville Mayor Peter Scherer said with an operation as involved as the music festival there are always unexpected hurdles, but each year the village manages to pull off a rousing event. The village is helped by a small army of volunteers who transform Parkway Field into a successful professional concert ground, even though it’s a one-day event.
Blessed with outstanding summer weather throughout its history, Scherer said the festival has become one of Pleasantville’s most recognizable attractions.
“This is way too big for us to do and way too good for us not to do it, but just like Pleasantville always does, we step up to the plate,” Scherer said.
For the first time, organizers provided free ice cold water from oversized jugs allowing the crowd to fill up its reusable bottles and containers. It was a much sought-after amenity on Saturday, along with the large tent facing the Main Stage providing shade for those who arrived early enough to secure a spot. Mercifully, there was some cloud cover that rolled in by late afternoon to cool the crowd off.
It wasn’t just music fans who connected with the vibe but many of the performers as well. Pop-rock singer-songwriter Emily Angell, who entertained the crowd for a 30-minute set on the Chill Tent Stage, said it was exhilarating to play the festival.
“It was such a great experience because the entire staff of the Pleasantville Music Festival is so hospitable and accommodating,” Angell said. “The crowed in general had such great energy and it’s just one of the best gigs I’ve ever played.”
Many of the musicians included on the bill said they looked forward to performing at a well-attended festival that’s close to home and where family and friends can see them perform.
Former pro baseball player Dan Zlotnick of Somers, who also performed on the Chill Tent stage, said he was thrilled to get the call from Figler that he was included in the program.
“To be here and have people appreciate the music, you can’t beat it,” he said.
The festival’s three Battle of the Band winners got the festival off to a strong start on the three stages.
Paul Beladino, lead singer of rock band The Bluechips, which kicked off the Main Stage performances, said he felt relieved after the band’s set was done. He said he now has more confidence in their future.
“Now that it’s over, we have a clean slate and it’s time to get back to work,” bassist Tom Davis said.
Bluechips drummer Jake Albi, who grew up in Mount Pleasant, said it was an honor for him to play a festival in the town he grew up in.
David Vogel, who opened the Chill Tent Stage and received a standing ovation after his set, said he was excited to play the festival, adding how thrilling it was to play on a stage greater than his house or coffee shop.