Legendary country singer Willie Nelson drew an appreciative crowd by land and sea—well, pond—to the Surf Lodge in Montauk Sunday evening for a concert in which Jimmy Buffett joined him for a couple of songs.
Mr. Nelson, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday, played straight through for about 90 minutes, noting at one point that he was “studying how to be 80” and that it was looking pretty darned good.
“Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die,” “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” “Hey Good Lookin’,” “On the Bayou,” “Good Hearted Woman,” “Crazy,” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” were tunes that most concert-goers knew by heart. They sang along, with Mr. Nelson’s encouragement, during the show.
Those who were unable to snag a spot at the Surf Lodge, many of them locals, used their own ingenuity to catch the concert, plying Fort Pond on paddleboards, and in kayaks and sailboats, and forming a flotilla right next to the restaurant. Mr. Nelson turned and acknowledged them at least once, inspiring toots and the raising of paddles in salute from the pond.
About 500 people attended the concert, according to Jayma Cardoso, owner of the Surf Lodge. “It was awesome; it was great,” she said.
The concert was free and admittance was on a first-come, first-served basis, although there were 100 reserved spaces going for $100 that raised money for the Montauk Playhouse Community Center Foundation, whose community center, a work in progress but already in use, is right down the road. With donations made by concert-goers and diners at the Surf Lodge factored in, Sunday’s event raised more than $20,000 for the foundation, which hopes to add an aquatic center and multi-use rooms to the Montauk Playhouse Community Center.
“It was such a great night,” Maureen Rutkowski, the foundation’s project director, said on Tuesday. “We’re so thankful to the Surf Lodge.”
She noted that there were about 30 to 40 people at any given time waiting to get in to see the performance, and that Surf Lodge employees let them in only as capacity would allow.
Those who could not get in were also able to hear Mr. Nelson and his band from the roadside, where some people set up lawn chairs on Industrial Road.
East Hampton Town Police Chief Ed Ecker Jr. said there were no arrests attributed to the concert, and Patrick J. Gunn, the town’s public safety administrator, said no citations were issued either by the fire marshal or ordinance enforcement officers. Five police officers were on the scene to control traffic and parking, and three East Hampton Town Marine Patrol officers on Jet Skis and one Montauk Fire Department “tin boat” were on the pond to assure the safety of boaters. Town fire and code enforcement officers were also on hand.
Combined with the Surf Lodge’s security, there was “an abundance of caution” surrounding the event, said Chief Ecker, who added that Edgemere Road “stayed relatively clear for the amount of people that were there,” and considering that the Blessing of the Fleet was taking place at Montauk Harbor on the same day.
“We had really no calls other than some parking complaints on Industrial Road that we took care of,” the chief said of the Willie Nelson concert. “I think we staffed it and had a good plan along with their private security.”