By Melissa Arnold
There’s something especially memorable about going to a concert. Showing up with hundreds or even thousands of music fans creates an energy that’s hard to find anywhere else, and hearing a favorite song performed live can be pretty emotional and even lead to societal change.
This summer, the Long Island Museum in Stony Brook will celebrate the global impact of music festivals on culture with an exhibit called Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience.
“This is a really exciting opportunity for us here (at the museum),” says Joshua Ruff, director of collections and interpretation. “It gives us a chance to display some material that people wouldn’t normally associate with the museum.”
Common Ground is a traveling exhibit that was developed in 2014 by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland, Ohio. The Long Island Museum will be the only East Coast venue for the exhibit, which will move on to Austin, Texas, this fall.
Visitors will be taken back in time to some of the biggest music festivals in the world, including the Newport Festivals, Woodstock, Live Aid, Coachella and more. Ambient sounds of bands tuning up, people chatting and even radio ads from each era will provide a true “you are here” feel.
Additionally, you’ll be treated to music and video footage from each festival, along with some special artifacts. Some noteworthy items are guitars from Davey Johnstone of the Elton John Band, Muddy Waters and Chris Martin of Coldplay; a guitar pick from Jimi Hendrix; and a corduroy jacket from John Mellencamp.
“The festival experience is one that brings people together from all walks of life. They’re memories that last a lifetime,” Ruff said. “This exhibit has items that will appeal to everyone, from baby boomers to contemporary concertgoers.”
While the exhibit will honor many musical superstars, the LIM is giving special attention to Bob Dylan this weekend as it marks his 75th birthday.
On Sunday, they’ll host musicians from all over the country who will play nearly 20 songs from Dylan’s career, which began in the 1960s and continues today. Dylan’s new album, “Fallen Angels,” drops tomorrow.
The concert is one of the final events for this year’s Sunday Street Concert Series. The series has its roots in a radio show of the same name on Stony Brook University’s WUSB-FM.
Radio personality Charlie Backfish has hosted the show since the 1970s, and was a part of launching similar live events at the university’s UCafe in 2004.
“Dylan is such a monumental figure in the acoustic world — he caused quite a controversy when he used an electric guitar and a full band at the Newport Folk Festival in the 1960s,” Backfish explained. “We thought it would be cool to make our last concert of that first year all Bob Dylan music.”
The Bob Dylan concert has since become an annual tradition for the Sunday Street Concert Series, which relocated to the Long Island Museum in January due to upcoming university construction, but Backfish is thrilled with the move’s success.
“We’ve had a tremendous welcome from the LIM, and we’ve had sold out audiences for most of our shows since we’ve moved there,” he said. “It’s very exciting that we’ll be able to celebrate Dylan’s 75th birthday the same weekend as the opening of Common Ground. The timing couldn’t be more perfect.”
Backfish hosts “Sunday Street Live” from 9 a.m. to noon each Sunday on 90.1 WUSB. This Sunday’s show will feature all Bob Dylan hits. Listen online or learn more at www.wusb.fm/sundaystreet.
Common Ground: The Music Festival Experience will be on display at the Long Island Museum, 1200 Route 25A, Stony Brook, through Sept. 5. For hours and admission prices, call 631-751-0066 or visit www.longislandmuseum.org. The Sunday Street Concert featuring covers of Bob Dylan will be held at the museum on Saturday, May 21, from 7 to 9 p.m. Tickets are $30 and extremely limited. To order, visit www.sundaystreet.org.