Derek Davies and Lizzie Plapinger always dreamed of hosting a music festival on Martha’s Vineyard. As best friends spending summers at the Chilmark Community Center, they shared a love of music and the Island. As they grew up, they never lost sight of their passions or their goal. The pair founded Neon Gold Records, a boutique record label featuring top indie music acts such as Passion Pit and Gotye.
“Without Martha’s Vineyard, there would be no Neon Gold Records,” Mr. Davies said. Independently, Ms. Plapinger’s band, MS MR (pronounced “Miss-Mister”) has enjoyed international success and Mr. Davies’ custom-printed tie was featured in Men In Cities magazine.
On Saturday, July 6, Mr. Davies and Ms. Plapinger will give back to the Island with the third annual Stars + Stripes music festival to be held at Flatbread by the airport. The proceeds will benefit the Martha’s Vineyard YMCA.
The Stars + Stripes festival features performances by headliner Walk the Moon, electropop band St. Lucia and Brooklyn-based Haerts. Island favorite Duke’s County Love Affair (DCLA) will fill in for Magic Man, a Providence-based synth rock group whose drummer recently broke both his wrists in a skateboarding accident.
“We always imagined that we’d be throwing music festivals,” Ms. Plapinger said. “Bringing in the YMCA was a nice way for us to pay homage as summer Islanders.”
The festival will also feature opening acts by Island teens Tessa Whittaker and Darby Patterson, among others, as part of the YMCA’s teen music program. Funded by Comcast, the YMCA’s teen center has a full recording studio in which Island youths can perfect their musical abilities and learn how to record their work. The Stars + Stripes festival will give these young musicians the opportunity to gain valuable performance experience in front of a live audience.
Celebrating the Fourth of July on Martha’s Vineyard has become a way for Mr. Davies and Ms. Plapinger to stay connected to their Island roots. Oh, and it’s Derek’s birthday.
“The fact that [Stars + Stripes] is on the Fourth of July is just the cherry on top,” Ms. Plapinger said. “It has become increasingly difficult to be together, so July 4 has become this staple holiday and a reason to be back on the Island.”
According to the pair, this year’s Stars + Stripes festival has already set a record in terms of fundraising. Whereas past years’ festivals raised approximately $30,000 each, Mr. Davies and Ms. Plapinger have already raised more than $60,000 from a variety of business sponsors, including the Beach Plum Inn and the Home Port restaurant in Menemsha.
But that’s just the beginning. Although the festival’s sponsors will underwrite the musicians’ expenses, their performances are all donated — a considerable expense that no longer needs to be covered, said Sara Soushek, the YMCA’s financial development director. Profits from tickets, food and promotional sales will go directly to the YMCA.
Mr. Davies said that he hopes the festival will continue to foster growth in the Island’s music community.
“The Island has such a rich musical heritage,” he said. “When Nectars shut its doors, it was such a shame to see that there wasn’t another prominent music venue.”
“It feels like our story and our relationship with each other and the Island are coming full circle,” Ms. Plapinger said. “It’s kind of a family reunion.”
The Stars + Stripes Festival begins at 7:30 p.m. at Flatbread Co., 17 Airport Road. Tickets for the 21+ show are $30 in advance and $35 day of show. Visit flatbreadcompany.com