Rockland-Bergen Music Festival | Press and Media

Press and Media

First time Rockland-Bergen Music Festival on Sunday - June 28, 2014



WHO: Willie Nile, Marshall Crenshaw, Tom Chapin, John Eddie, Alice Leon, others.

WHAT: Rockland-Bergen Music Festival.

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 7:15 p.m. Sunday, rain or shine.

WHERE: German Masonic Park, 120 Western Highway, Tappan, N.Y.; 845-721-0962 or

HOW MUCH: $50 at the gate, $20 for college and high school students, free for children 12 and under. No fee if you were born in 1964.

How often do you show up at someone else's birthday party and get a present yourself?

You'll be getting one Sunday at Joe D'Urso's 50th birthday party - otherwise known as the first Rockland-Bergen Music Festival. Provided, that is, that you happen to also be celebrating a 50th birthday this year. All guests born in 1964 get in for free.

"I wanted to do something that included other folks that were turning 50, and maybe bumming out about it," says D'Urso, a Park Ridge resident, who decided to throw himself an epic birthday bash for this year's big Five-Oh and invite the whole tri-state area to party with him.

Willie Nile, Marshall Crenshaw, Tom Chapin, John Eddie, Alice Leon, Jesse Malin, McMule, James Maddock, Arlon Bennett, Chris Brown, Kevin Cronin, Anthony D'Amato, Bobby DiBlasio, Rob Dye, Peter Elkas and Over the Line will be among the 22 artists at D'Urso's festival, on two stages. His own band, Joe D'Urso and Stone Caravan, will be taking the "Glow Stage" at 5:30 p.m.

And if that's not enough to turn around even the bluest birthday, the one-day affair at German Masonic Park will also feature at least three food vendors, two drink vendors (including sales of beer and wine), craftspeople and a playground for the kids.

"I figured for my 50th birthday I was trying to sum up the 50 years I've been growing up, and my 25 years as a musician," he says. "I'm the last year of the baby boom. The music that comes over the PA between artists is only the music that was released in 1964. Early Beatles stuff. Early Motown. I thought it would be fun to keep the theme in there."

He's expecting between 500 and 2,000 people to show up; if all goes well, the event may expand to two days next year. "I really needed to stick my toe in the water," he says.

But D'Urso isn't making his first foray into the festival business merely to celebrate his own birthday - actually this past Tuesday - birth year, birth parents or seminal influences, though it does all of that. One of the stages, the "Glow Stage," is named for his late mother, Gloria; the other, the Seeger stage, is named for the iconic folk musician who passed away in January. "I've been talking about doing this festival for four or five years, but Pete's passing was kind of the kick in the butt that made me do it," he says.

In addition, the Rockland-Bergen Music Festival celebrates the counties where D'Urso now lives (Bergen) and where he grew up (Rockland, specifically Tappan). "I felt this area needed something," he says. "I felt we were underserved when it came to music festivals."

And above all, the festival celebrates summer itself.

"Summertime festivals are fun because you're in your shorts, you're sitting out with your lawn chairs and umbrellas, and that alone is festive," D'Urso says. "And this park still has a very 1950-ish feel. There are these little paths and huts, and the train runs through it every so often, though not in the middle of the fairground. I'm gonna start singing 'The City of New Orleans' when it comes through."

The festival's mix of folk and roots rock mirrors his own grab bag of influences as a singer-songwriter/musician. His band, formed in 1989, has released 13 records and played in 25 countries, he says. "I grew up listening to Dylan and Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen," he says. "Definitely rootsy, Americana kinds of things. My music has always been that kind of Greenwich Village folk songwriter thing, but obviously the Jersey Shore, Bruce, Southside [Johnny] and Little Steven [Van Zandt] have been an influence. I'm kind of stuck on the borderline of the two."

Many of this year's headliners are people D'Urso has worked with in the past - both as a performer and as a board member for various charities, including Light of Day (Parkinson's disease) and WhyHunger. "These are all people I've been raising lots of funds with over the years," he says.

He's even had Bruce Springsteen show up at his charity events from time to time. But this time, for this event (not a fundraiser), D'Urso is not holding his breath.

"It would certainly be a great birthday surprise, but I'm not counting on it," he says.