Members of Steel Pulse are among the musicians that are scheduled to attend the inaugural Nantucket Music Festival.
Music fans often dream about launching their own festival, but Cynthia Dareshori is actually following through on that dream.
Dareshori, who is active in Boston’s philanthropic circles, was attending the New Orleans JazzFest last spring with her friend Cheryl Emery when they decided to try and bring some of those good vibes back home to Massachusetts.
So they picked Nantucket, which isn’t exactly the easiest place to hold a two-day event where you want thousands of people to come. (Dareshori has a summer home there, and Emery lives there year round.) The island’s an hour away from the mainland by fast ferry, and lodging tends to come at a premium, particularly in the summer. And the neighbors aren’t exactly used to hearing rock concerts down the street.
It’s been almost a year, and Dareshori and Emery are pulling it off. Tickets went on sale a few days ago for weekend passes and VIP passes for the Nantucket Music Festival on Aug. 2 and 3, and the organizers have most of their lineup in place. The festival’s inaugural year will feature Guster, Bruce Hornsby, Steel Pulse and Donavon Frankenreiter, among others. They still have three slots that they’re trying to fill for national acts, as well as slots for local performers.
Dareshori tells me she had help along the way from some key people in Boston’s music scene. Mike Snow, one of the organizers for the relatively new Boston Calling festival, offered his counsel and referred her to a talent buyer, Josh Bhatti of Bowery Presents, and to a concert producer, Bill Kenney. (Bhatti and Kenney are also key players for Boston Calling, which returns to City Hall Plaza on May 23, 24 and 25.)
She originally hoped for Jetties Beach on Labor Day, but Nantucket officials guided her to the first weekend of August, and to Tom Nevers Field, a former naval installation on the south side of the island with water views. The field will be able to accommodate nearly 4,000 people at one time. Some attendees will be on the island already — the island’s population grows from 12,000 to 50,000 every summer — and some will either take the ferry for the day or stay overnight for both days.
Dareshori says the budget for the festival is north of $1 million, but it’s being underwritten in part by donors such as Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google, and his wife Wendy. (The two co-founders of the festival also put their own money into getting it started, Dareshori says.) The goal is to use the festival to raise money to help a local music center.
Tickets for the weekend are selling for $280, roughly twice the cost of a similar two-day pass at this year’s Boston Calling. Dareshori says the price reflects the cost of pulling off such an event during the peak season on Nantucket, where the cheapest hotel room goes for $360 a night with a three-night minimum. Meanwhile, most festivals can sell far more tickets but this one is capped at 3,900 per day.
Plus, most of the equipment has to come over on a boat for the event. Kenney says the fencing, lights and sound equipment, and a piano for Hornsby to play are all being shipped in for the occasion. At least the cost of the stage can be shared with Nantucket Cottage Hospital, which is holding a benefit on the island featuring the Boston Pops the following weekend. (Kenney is also involved with that production.)
It’s been a whirlwind year for Dareshori, who had no experience in running a concert before she decided to get this one off the ground. “If you had told me a year ago that I would be running a concert right now, I would say you must be crazy,” Dareshori says.