Tierney’s Tavern Music Festival
Saturday, June 2, 11:30 a.m. – closing. Free
Tierney’s Tavern, 134 Valley Road
Watchung Mountain Riders, 94 Proof, Alternative Facts, The Porchistas, Vinn Mott, School of Rock, and a DJ until closing
By GWEN OREL
Last year, Tierney’s Tavern’s music festival was a little smaller than it had been in the past. But the crowd didn’t seem to know, and showed up in force.
“We got slaughtered,” said Dan Tierney with a laugh. Dan, 26, runs the festival with his 22-year-old sister Grace Tierney. “We didn’t have enough of anything. And it was just so much more than we expected.”
The bar had expected a smaller crowd, but attendance was over 3,000 people, and the wait time was ridiculous, Grace Tierney said.
They won’t make that mistake this year.
There will be a food truck outside, from the French Quarter, and vendors including Red Eye Café, Applegate Farms and Nauna’s Kitchen. All of the profits will benefit Toni’s Kitchen, the food ministry of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, as they did last year.
“They need it,” said Dan Tierney. “I think they really need the help this year.” People are also encouraged to bring donations of household items, such as shampoo, and food for Toni’s Kitchen.
As always, entry to the festival is free. Six bands will perform on two stages, one stage upstairs, where the bar has performers on weekends, and one stage in the parking lot.
This year, for the first time, the festival will also include comedy thanks to Four Fourteen Entertainment, which also provides the lineup for Sunday Comics at Tierney’s.
Incorporating live comedy makes Dan Tierney a little nervous, since it’s harder to wander in and out of a comedian’s monologue than it is a band’s set. To avoid disorienting the audience too much, they picked high-energy comics “with funny sounding voices that our customers could really walk into this bar and not need to know any context to find the people very funny.”
The festival will include activities for children. Chalk to draw in the parking lot is a perennial fave, Dan Tierney said. “Last year we had kids draw all over it, and it was like a mural. By the time they were done it was really sweet to see.”
School of Rock, a music school focusing on rock performance Montclair, will provide an “instrument petting zoo,” where children can look at instruments up close.
While some of the bands are classics, like The Porchistas, fan favorite The Defending Champions were unavailable, Dan Tierney said. They needed to find one more band. Vinn Mott were performing for the second time upstairs at Tierney’s when he saw them and was blown away. He hadn’t had any expectations, hadn’t expected a sold-out room, and then he heard the standing bass harmonica player belting it out “like bluesy bar music,” he said. So he booked them and the number of bands are the same as in previous years.
Now that it is the fifth year of the festival, the planning has become streamlined. “It’s definitely getting easier because everyone knows their jobs,” Dan Tierney said. And every year, they learn more. Last year’s food emergency — including an angry main cook — taught them to prepare for the crowds. And the day of, he said, “once everything is done, it’s such a cool rush seeing all these people out in our bar.”
Working with Toni’s Kitchen, and the energy that organization brings, has helped, the siblings said. They began working on the festival right after St. Patrick’s Day, the other huge event Tierney’s holds every year. “Our minds just sort of shifted to the next catastrophe coming up,” Dan Tierney said.
It’s hard to know how many people will come, but they expect as many people as last year. They only put wristbands on people who are drinking, and don’t put them on much older adults, so the count is not exact.
“Most people with kids will stay for one band, let their kids draw, and take off,” Dan Tierney said.
“But there are a few people who stay the entire time, and it’s very, very impressive,” said Grace Tierney. She would see someone and say, “I thought you came in at like two o’clock, and it’s 2 a.m., and you’re still here.”
Dan Tierney said, “There are a lot of sunburned people the next two days in the bar.”