Rock the Farm was a music festival unlike any other … from the message we received the day before, warmly reminding us to bring our chairs and blankets in case of a chilly evening, to the welcoming party on Friday night at the Hershey Motel, where strangers were made to feel like family while we enjoyed excellent barbeque and superb music by the pool from two of the festival’s many tribute bands — Rainbow Full of Sound (playing the music of the Grateful Dead) and The Beautiful Mess (Johnny Cash), all the way from South Carolina.
The family party vibe of this festival is probably no surprise as Rock the Farm, which took place in Seaside Heights on Saturday, is the musical version of a Mom and Pop store. The idea was conceived and realized by Lynn and Marc Regan, who oversee every aspect of this fundraiser festival and ensure that every dollar raised goes to help those battling addiction through their CFC Loud N Clear Foundation — created by Lynn Regan and her son Daniel. Their story is riveting, heartbreaking and inspiring, and they have created a wonderful event in order to use the power of music to heal hurts and save lives.
It was enlightening to see so many families with children of all ages enjoying music — as well as face painting, the petting zoo, foam parties, jewellery making and more — in a safe environment without the evidence of alcohol or drugs at every turn. Alcohol was available but only in a cordoned-off area — most bar patrons stayed there, as there was a great view of both main stages from almost everywhere on the grounds.
The festival was manned by a throng of CFC Loud N Clear Foundation volunteers, ranging in age from teenagers to grandparents and wearing purple shirts sporting positive, encouraging messages. This was the friendliest collection of people you could meet, many having come through their own private hell as was shared in messages from the stage between musical acts, when they were acknowledging lives and families saved by the work of the Regan family and their team.
At the back entrance to the festival from Casino Pier on the Seaside Heights Boardwalk, the “Inspire Stage” (Stage 3) was the home of local artists such as Strumberry Pie and Scott Elk — amazing voice. The standout here was the ultimate Jersey Girl rock chick Jo Wymer, who, with her band, delivered a blistering set that left the crowd wanting more.
She also featured new artist Samantha Spano — voice of an angel — in her set and then proceeded to leave it all on the stage when she was joined by horn player Eric Salkin for her righteous finale, “I’ve Got the Music in Me.” There is no doubt that she does!
Over on the two main stages — Love Stage (Stage 1) and Hope Stage (Stage 2) — a tireless crew worked to alternate seamlessly between the many tribute bands slated to play this event. This entire operation was masterfully hosted by Rich Robinson (90.5 The Night) in association with Bill Spadea (New Jersey 101.5) — providing the perfect mix of music, facts about the fundraiser/foundation and powerful personal testimonials from members of the CFC Loud N Clear team.
On these two stages there was something for everyone — from The Weeklings (The Beatles) to The Glimmer Twins (The Rolling Stones) and Light My Fire (The Doors) and many more who delivered solid sets and had everybody singing along.
In a house of Pink Floyd fans, the Echoes tribute band was on our must see list — their set was technically excellent — vocally, musically, lights, lasers and all — but they left the crowd wanting to experience favorites like “Wish You Were Here” and “Comfortably Numb” at the end of the night.
One of the most engaging and crowd-pleasing performances of the festival was delivered by Tusk, with a high-energy run-through of Fleetwood Mac standards — including my personal favorite, “Hold Me” — that finished with a rousing rendition of “Don’t Stop,” with the entire crowd joining in. And the showmanship of their Stevie Nicks was unforgettable!
In a day of excellent music for a wonderful cause, the MVP must go to Hotel California (The Eagles), because from the moment they hit the stage, they grabbed the audience, held it in the palm of their hand and did not let go until they were forced to, by time constraints. Even then we all wanted to hear more. From the high-energy collaboration with the crowd on “Witchy Woman” to the bittersweet piano strains of the opening notes of “Wasted Time,” we all sat mesmerized by the vocal talent and exquisite harmonies of this band. And just when you thought it couldn’t get any better, they launched into the most beautiful version of “Take It to the Limit” that I have ever heard, recorded or live!
It was surreal, at one point, to look to the back of the venue and see children dancing in the foam while at the same time the grandparent brigade was at the front of the stage dancing to the music of their youth — both groups equally ecstatic and living in the moment.
One of the most poignant experiences of the day was visiting the “Butterfly Garden,” a tent festooned with photos of loved ones lost to addiction. There were 129 in all, most of whom were so very young and should have been attending music festivals, not forming part of a beautiful memorial at one.
The Butterfly Garden also provided some disturbing statistics, not least of all the fact that the heroin death rate in New Jersey is more than three times the national average. A call to action, maybe?
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