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Poor Ticket Sales Nix MTK Concert

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They had the music, they had the food, and they had the fashion, but what the organizers of the MTK: Music to Know Festival didn’t have was the crowds.

Just a week before the festival was set to debut, the stage nestled among greenery cradling an unused portion of a runway at the East Hampton Airport, festival organizers on Saturday pulled the plug on the event, citing poor ticket sales.

“It is with heavy, heavy heart that we regret to inform you that the inaugural MTK: Music To Know Festival in East Hampton will not take place,” said festival promoters in a release. “Despite our unique vision and arranging a world-class line-up, ticket sales were not adequate to allow the event to continue. We wanted to let everyone know now before engaging more deeply.”

“Along with our ticket holders, vendors, sponsors, business associates, colleagues and friends in the community, we too are filled with deep disappointment,” continued the release. “We pledge to endure during this difficult time with the same integrity and professionalism displayed throughout the creation of this event.”

The MTK: Music to Know Festival was conceived by hotelier and businessman Chris Jones and screenwriter Bill Collage, both Sag Harbor residents.

It aimed to bring up-and-coming, as well as celebrated indie-music artists, to the East End for a two-day festival that would also feature beer and wine gardens, high-end and local cuisine, an area for children, and special access to artists in the VIP area. One artist rumored heavily among industry sources to be set to perform an acoustic set at MTK was the actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who has earned critical and popular praise for her vocals in the film “Country Strong” and on the television show “Glee”

On Tuesday, Jones said that in order for the festival to go on, 5,500 tickets of the 9,500 tickets up for sale needed to be sold. Tickets were priced at $195 for a two-day pass, and two-day VIP passes for $695. One-day passes were also later offered as an option for festival attendees.

As of Saturday, Jones said the festival only sold 2,500 tickets. While it was possible that more tickets would have sold in the coming week, Jones said that was a possibility he unfortunately could not count on.

“The bottom line is when you run an event, you have a certain amount of losses you can take, and then you have to make a decision,” he said, adding Saturday was the last day the organization could make final decisions regarding expenditures.

The event was plagued from the beginning, when it was first proposed at an Amagansett venue, by a handful of critics locally who questioned the town’s decision to grant Collage and Jones a commercial mass gathering permit in the first place. Comments appeared to wane after the festival was moved to the East Hampton Airport, and particularly after a promised $100,000 was set aside in an escrow account for a number of local charities including The Retreat, Phoenix House, Project MOST, all East Hampton based food pantries, and the East Hampton Day Care Learning Center, to name a few.

Those charities will not receive that funding now, confirmed Jones.

“That is the most disappointing part,” he said. “It was contingent on the event taking place and you can’t really say anything more than that except it is really, really disappointing.”

As to what led to the lackluster sales, Jones said he could not say.

“One thing I will stand behind is the bands,” he said. “We really feel from the bottom of our hearts that we had an amazing lineup. As to what happened thereafter, who knows, but the lineup I will stand behind.”

In addition to a roster of acts including celebrated indie-rock bands like Vampire Weekend, Bright Eyes, and Dawes, folk artists M. Ward, British songstress Ellie Goulding, Brooklyn duo Matt & Kim and Fitz & the Tantrums, Collage and Jones also booked Suddyn, a rock band with roots in Montauk.

“Being born and raised in MTK, I was looking forward to being part of this incredible festival, I would like to humbly express my gratitude to Chris Jones and Bill Collage for their extraordinary efforts to make this seemingly impossible dream a reality,” band leader Alan Steil posted on the group’s Facebook page. “It is important to note that the loss of this festival was beyond the control of these two men and everyone else involved in the process. Again, we’d like to thank them for the opportunity and we were proud to be a part of it every step of the way.”

Since Saturday, Jones said he has been focused entirely on making things right as quickly as possible, in particular for ticket holders, who as of Tuesday night were still without information on how they could gain refunds.

“The Company is working very hard in making arrangements for a mechanism to provide ALL ticket holders with refunds,” read a message on musictoknow.com. “Purchasers of tickets have done so through various interfaces, we will provide clear direction for each of these on this website as soon as possible, but no later than Friday, August 12, 2011.”

“Since this happened I have spent all of the hours I am awake focusing on how to sort this situation out to benefit as many people as we can,” said Jones on Tuesday. “I am not interested in what has gone on. I am trying to make everything right moving forward. I am really focused on trying to do the best thing we can for everyone.”


FAA Approves Music to Know Music Festival at the East Hampton Airport as Producers Announce Talent

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Just a day after Sag Harbor residents Chris Jones and Bill Collage announced the musical lineup for this summer’s MTK: Music to Know Music Festival, they received word from the Federal Aviation Administration that the festival was approved to take place at the East Hampton Airport. That was the final hurdle producers had to jump to ensure the music festival they have been planning for over a year will go on.

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“We are all systems go,” said Jones on Tuesday afternoon, just minutes after receiving confirmation from the FAA.

Having already received a commercial mass gathering permit from East Hampton Town to move the festival from an Amagansett farm to the East Hampton Airport, FAA approval was the last step before Jones could be assured the concert would go on.

“Now the fun part begins,” he said.

The fun part actually began on Monday night at Townline BBQ in Sagaponack, where Jones and Collage, surrounded by over two dozen supporters, announced the musical lineup for the two-day music festival, slated for August 13 and 14.

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Vampire Weekend, an American indie rock band out of New York City, will headline the festival on Saturday night. According to Collage, the band has turned down a number of major festivals and choosing to come to the MTK Music Festival is a testament both to what the festival hopes to accomplish, and also the market on the East End of Long Island.

“We are pleased to say on Saturday night to headline we have one of the brightest and the best new bands emerging for one of their only U.S. gigs,” said Jones.

“It’s a testament, not just to us, but really to this market,” added Collage. “They specifically wanted to work here, with us. They wanted to be a part of the Hamptons in the summer because of the people that are here. We couldn’t be more thrilled and we see them as a perfect fit for what we think is Music To Know right now.”

The second headlining act, which will close the festival, is the Nebraska-based indie rock band Bright Eyes led by Conor Oberst.

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Oberst, touted as “the new Dylan” in 2005 after the release of “I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning,” and the rest of Bright Eyes recently performed as headliners at the popular Coachella Music and Art Festival. They also sold out two shows to acclaim in March at Radio City Music Hall in New York City and are opening for Coldplay at Lollapalooza in Chicago the weekend before MTK Music Festival opens.

“Frankly, they are just incredible,” said Jones on Monday night.

Vampire Weekend and Bright Eyes will be joined by 16 other acts over the course of the weekend, including The Limousines, a San Jose, California-based electro-pop band, who Jones said sound like “a combination of Peter Gabriel meets Depeche Mode.” They are known primarily for their song “Internet Killed the Video Star.”

Francis and The Lights, a New York City-based soul and electronic band led by Francis Farewell Starlite is also slated to perform, as is Portland folk musician M. Ward, whose 2009 album “Hold Time” featured guest performances by Lucinda Williams and Zooey Deschanel. The New Zealand electronic ensemble The Naked and Famous are also on the roster, as is indie rock band We Are Scientists.

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Tom Tom Club, led by Chris Franz and Tina Weymouth of the Talking Heads, will also perform in the festival, as will the California based folk-rock group Dawes, and the indie-rock, chamber-pop group Ra Ra Riot, a New York based band that incorporates a small string section into their music. Chromeo, a two-member electro-funk group, Canadian pop group Young Empires, Nicos Gun, Brooklyn-duo Matt & Kim, the folk-inspired Tame Impala and the Motown-inspired Fitz & The Tantrums are also slated to perform.

“The Cold War Kids are a real exclamation point in our lineup,” said Jones on Monday night of the indie rock band out of Long Beach, California.

Lastly, MTK Music Festival will feature SUDDYN, a rock band boasting a piano-ballad based sound with influences felt from groups like Radiohead, U2, the Beatles and Muse. The group found acclaim across the pond in Ireland a few years back, scoring three hit singles and quickly becoming one of the most popular unsigned acts in the country.

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What makes that band’s appearance at MTK Music Festival poignant, noted Jones, is that it originally formed in Montauk, where two of its members — vocalist and piano player Alan Steil and his brother Jarrett, also a vocalist and guitar player — grew up, attending high school mere miles from the concert site.

“We are trying to expose them through the festival,” said Jones on Monday night.

On Tuesday, Jarrett said not only was the band, which is rounded out by drummer Brendan Connolly, honored to be playing the festival, but also appreciated what it brings to the table in terms of talent.

“Usually we have a great classic like Billy Joel or Paul Simon out there,” he said in a phone interview from Los Angeles where the band has recently relocated. “But this is a festival of up-and-coming artists and we are really proud to be a part of that.”

The MTK Music Festival will sell 9,500 tickets in total for the two-day music festival, which in addition to music will feature local cuisine, wine and beer, retail booths and an area designed for children.

The cost for the festival is $195 for general admission to the two-days. However, locals will have a chance for a reduced price $175 ticket through May 23. Those tickets are available at Sylvester & Co. in Sag Harbor, Indian Wells Tavern in Amagansett, Khanh Sports in East Hampton Village, and 668 Gig Shack in Montauk.

According to Jones, VIP tickets, which are on sale for $645, already had begun to sell quickly on the first day of sales.

In addition to access to a VIP tent, with a special viewing deck of the stage, preferred parking at the site, and a unique menu of food and spirits, VIP access will also include small performances by guest artists that have yet to be announced as well as fashion shows.

“And we will reveal more of what we have up our sleeve as we get closer to August,” said Jones.

For information, videos and music visit http://www.musictoknow.com.