Peace, love and local music.
That was the idea behind Port Jeff’s first Port Palooza — a day-long festival at the Jill Nees Russell Stage at Harborfront Park.
Spearheaded by Kevin Wood, the village’s parking administrator and owner of The Space downtown, the event was cosponsored by the village as a way to bring people together after the last year and a half.
“I think it’s going to be the first of many, and it’s a great launch,” Mayor Margot Garant said at the concert. “It’s exactly what we envisioned. So, I’m looking forward to doing it year after year and I think it’s going to grow.”
From noon to 8 p.m., on Saturday, July 31, local artists took on the stage, including Flamenco guitarist Jonathan Fritz; Port Jefferson’s Cole Fortier and his father, Andrew; Mount Sinai’s The Como Brothers; musicians from Port Jefferson’s School of Rock All Stars; Common Ground; Grand Folk Railroad; and a special performance by the Frank Catalano Jazz Quartet from Chicago. Jeffrey Sanzel of Theatre Three kicked off the event with an invocation.
Wood said this was something that happened after COVID-19 restrictions began to lift.
“I thought people needed to get together,” he said. “Peace, love and local music. And that’s exactly what this is: peace, love and local music, with the exception of the last act which we’re importing from Chicago.”
Although the jazz quartet is Chicago-based, it still had a local connection. Wood’s grandfather, Al Gallodoro, was a world-renowned saxophone and clarinet player with the Paul Whiteman and NBC Symphony orchestras. Catalano knew of him, too. Wood and the musician met once at a New York City club, and they began talking. Catalano eventually bought one of Gallodoro’s saxophones.
“It couldn’t have gone to anyone better,” Wood said.
Ending with jazz, the festival had it all — pianos, guitars and heavy metal. The one thing that didn’t make the set list this year was rockabilly, “but that will happen next year,” Wood said.
The Como Brothers took the stage, playing their viral Port Jeff anthem, “Take Me Home” along with several new songs. Over the last two years, the brothers have been releasing such songs sporadically on their Spotify account, which will lead to an eventual EP release.
Matt Como said when Wood reached out to them asking to play, they were thrilled.
“This is actually the first full, original gig we’ve done in a while because of the pandemic,” Matt said.
“It’s great to be playing for people again,” Andrew Como added. “We’ve been holed up in our basement writing new songs, so this gave us the chance to show people what we’ve been working on.”
Wood said that although the event was free for all to enjoy, raffles were held to raise money for the Middle Island-based animal rescue, the Star Foundation. A red guitar signed by all the musicians along with a pet portrait, hand painted by local artists Nancy and Bob Hendrick, raised over $1,500 for the foundation.