Live Music: Hamptons Style

A summer lineup that will not disappoint

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Many of the non-locals who head to The Hamptons come the summer extol the overall quiet atmosphere to be found—but one can also receive steady, heavy audio entertainment as some of the biggest acts in popular music pass through the East End to perform for those throngs of seasonal visitors.

There are two major Hamptons venues that specialize in concerts, and Stephen Talkhouse is the loud, funky one. It’s hard to imagine until you see it for yourself: a medium-sized building located on Main Street in Amagansett, the Talkhouse seems generally unassuming…during the day. At night, especially during the warmer months, a line to enter can form (mostly Wednesdays-Saturdays) that may stretch for blocks. As it turns out, while serving as a relaxed pub on many occasions, the establishment’s live music calendar is the main draw, ranging in content from local cover bands to iconic legends of the rock, blues and alternative sort. Celebrities of both the musician ilk and otherwise have been known to arrive without previous announcement and play the stage (rocker Jimmy Buffet and Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon notably among them) of a room where nobody is much more than 20-30 feet apart; in other words, whether at the bar, at a table or on the floor, you are always pretty close to the action.

As for bands this season, the Talkhouse is once again hosting a number of talented distinguished artists, such as Los Lobos (June 19), The English Beat (July 23), and Buckwheat Zydeco (July 24). Dress is very casual, and so is the ticket pricing, as while some of the bigger shows may cost upwards of $60-$80, most nights you can catch some live tunes for an average admission of around $30. (161 Main St.)

The other top spot for live music on the South Fork is the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, a hall which is very much unlike the Talkhouse. A straight-forward performance venue, once upon a time WHBPAC was a movie house—and it still holds the general appearance of a glamorous theater—but since the late 1990s the room has become a dedicated place for serious concert lovers. Spacious yet intimate, there are only a bit more than 400 seats, so even the chairs in the back row can make one feel relatively close to the goings-on.

No clubby moments here, just shows—many of which feature substantial artists like Michael McDonald (June 6) and David Crosby (July 3). Expect a casual-but-neatly dressed crowd here, and unlike the mid-level ticket covers found out at Stephen Talkhouse, the WHBPAC will consistently hit you up for higher prices, generally in the range of $55-$225. (76 Main St.)

Another worthy option for alluring shows this season is Guild Hall. Not necessarily thought of as a space for concerts, this East Hampton playhouse is more of a theatrical and cinematic factor in the summer culture scene. A classic theater space with about 350 seats (including a short balcony), GH is best known for hosting plays (starring known actors) and special performances (with celebrities with drawing power)—but nonetheless, bands ranging from buzzworthy to big time do play here—such as the Beach Boys, who are playing as part of the GH’s Season Spectacular night (July 3, Brian Wilson will not be involved). Other musical evenings offer performances from acts like Reserved For Rondee (July 10), The Doo-Wop Project (August 10) and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Mavis Staples (August 15), while also including a piano-powered tribute to Stephen Sondheim (July 5) led by Tony Award-winning orchestrator Ted Sperling. Ticket prices usually cost $30-$100 on average (but the Beach Boys are taking part in a special event, with admission starting at a mere $1000). (158 Main St.)

However, before thinking that catching live music in the Hamptons means a definite dent in your bankroll, keep in mind that Surf Lodge in Montauk does a Saturday/ weekend/ holiday sunset concert series every year, and it’s totally free. Seating? Not really—there are some chairs and surfaces suitable for one to park a posterior around the Lodge (including a really big fire pit), but you’d be better served by picking comfortable footwear in advance as chances are you will be standing (unless you’re one of those savvy guests who gets the OK to park a rowboat, raft or paddleboard in adjacent Fort Pond directly behind the slender staging area). You will also most probably be surrounded by a crowd of pretty people—Surf Lodge has a longstanding ability to draw some truly beautiful faces—and unlike most live music opportunities, those who arrive early enough and plant themselves right along the front of the stage can end up being approximately an arm’s length from the band. A full schedule is available on their website, thesurfelodge.com. (183 Edgemere St.)