There’s a mixed plate of altruism and entertainment up for grabs at Nectar’s this weekend, and Islanders are invited unofficially to say goodbye to summer with a preview of things to come for the Edgartown nightclub.
The Labor Day weekend extravaganza kicks off tonight with a benefit event that targets the two Islands the Nectar’s owners have come to consider home — if only for temporary spells throughout the year — Martha’s Vineyard and Jamaica. Ticket sales for a concert headlined by the Island’s own Ben Taylor, and proceeds from a preceding auction event will be divided evenly among the Martha’s Vineyard organization Helping Homeless Animals, and the Jamaican community outreach organization the Rockhouse Foundation.
Tomorrow and Sunday, the Nectar’s boys will shift gears, staging what they hope will be the first of many music festivals on their expansive campus. To mark the event, the band Soulive will appear on consecutive nights to channel some of the most beloved musicians of the previous century — the Beatles and James Brown. But don’t expect straight cover music from the versatile musicians. The Fab Four and the Godfather of Soul merely provide the inspiration for each themed night, and the trio of musicians that makes up Soulive will inject the music with their characteristic pizazz.
Nectar’s owners Christopher Walsh, Peter Picard, Noel Donnelan, and Jason Gelrud have come full circle since their business partnership originated in Jamaica a number of years ago. Back then, they teamed up on a student travel company, hosting large-scale concerts and parties in a sun-soaked island environment that Mr. Walsh described as “magical.”
“Jamaicans are great people . . . They’re very happy, positive, strong, optimistic,” said Mr. Walsh, in an afternoon interview at the nightclub, which shares its space during the day with the pizza restaurant Flatbread Company. “We fell in love with the country, we fell in love with the people.”
Enough so that when the foursome made their way north to the Vineyard to launch a live music nightclub with their well-earned musical experience (they also own Nectar’s in Burlington, Vt.), they didn’t forget the island that gave them so many of their initial practice runs.
Jamaica remains a place of comfort for all four owners, and they each return at least once a year to recharge. But on Friday, they’ll return only in spirit, as they educate Vineyard residents about the sometimes dire educational conditions existent for Jamaican children, and ask for their support.
The Rockhouse Foundation springs from the luxury Rockhouse hotel in Jamaica where the tourist population consists mostly of the wealthy elite. In contrast, many of the local hotel employees send their children to schoolrooms designed to hold 30 students, but packed with more than twice that many. “You couldn’t slip a piece of paper in between these kids at the desks,” said Mr. Walsh.
Since 2003, the foundation has taken steps to help address the problem, funding the renovation and expansion of several schools and the construction of a community library. In return visits, the Nectar’s boys have already seen the impacts of the foundation’s aid. “We went to the library on a Saturday, in the middle of the day, and there was literally a line, a waiting line to get in to use the computers. It’s pretty amazing,” said Mr. Walsh.
This summer, the four owners decided to call on the Vineyard to help out another island community. “The [Jamaican] kids are driven, determined students. They have this quest for knowledge and learning. But the conditions are bad,” Mr. Walsh said.
Half the night’s proceeds will go to the Rockhouse Foundation, while the other half will be kept on Island, to assist the no-cage, no-kill animal rescue group Helping Homeless Animals. “We didn’t want to dedicate this benefit just to something in another country, we wanted to help out a local cause too,” said Mr. Walsh.
Ben Taylor was on board to participate for a number of reasons. “Ben is an animal lover; we’re animal lovers,” said Mr. Walsh. Mr. Taylor’s mother, Carly Simon, is a board member for Helping Homeless Animals. He’s also a big fan of reggae, the music Jamaica is known for. “He immediately was like, yeah, I’m in. Count me in,” said Mr. Walsh.
Special guest John Forte of the Fugees, a close friend of Mr. Taylor’s dating back to high school, will also be part of the evening’s performances. Doors open at 9:30 p.m. and the auction begins at 10 p.m.
Mr. Walsh said Nectar’s would like to make the benefit an annual event. “We’ve never done this,” he said. “It’s kind of a precursor to a real festival. We think this is going to do very well but we really want to see if there’s a percentage of clients who are fans who will commit to the two-day plan. We’re testing the waters about a festival-type dynamic.”
Either way, Soulive is sure to appeal to a diverse audience, which is what Nectar’s aims to do. “They’ll be two totally unique shows. The first night they’re going to play the Beatles album Rubber Soul, from beginning to end, in their interpretation of it. And the second night they’ll do a tribute to James Brown. They’ll do their own music too, but they’re adding these components to each night to make them unique,” said Mr. Walsh.
Rubber Soulive is their latest album, and has seen a torrent of critical acclaim since its release this year. “There’s been a lot of press behind it, because they haven’t done something like that before, like a tribute to a great artist,” said Nectar’s general manager Aaron Busick.
“They’re kind of at the forefront of this whole new funk, soul, jazz revival,” Mr. Walsh said. “And they’re probably the most recognizable band.”
To purchase tickets to either event, go to nectarsmv.com.