After hosting his inaugural FOLD Festival featuring Pharrell Williams, Beck, Keith Urban, Duran Duran, Chaka Khan, and Janelle Monae on August 4-5, 2015 in Riverhead, New York, Nile Rodgers declared to the ecstatic audience, “The Martha Clara Vineyards is our new home. We’re coming back next year, and in 2016 the festival will be three days.”
Inspired by the opening lyrics of his 1978 quadruple platinum dance anthem, “Le Freak,” the FOLD (Freak Out Let’s Dance) Festival presented a diverse lineup of the best in rock, rap, R&B, pop, dance, and country music, as well as a second DJ stage. Williams, Beck, and Urban opened the festival on August 4, and Rodgers and his group CHIC performed each evening, as well as serving as the band for Urban, Williams, Khan and Monae. The first night was highlighted by an improvised Rodgers/Urban guitar duel featuring a 15 minute blues jam on Urban’s 2002 hit, “Somebody Like You.” After playing nearly the entire night. Rodgers was taken to a local hospital suffering from a knee injury, however, he was back on stage the following day and never missed a beat.
The legendary guitarist/composer/producer recalled how a show in 2013 in Riverhead with Adam Lambert inspired him to return to the picturesque town at the eastern tip of Long Island to launch his first music festival. As he led a dazzling CHIC performance featuring Khan and Monae, Rodgers told the crowd, “They had a chair for me because they didn’t think I could stand.” Despite tremendous pain, the three-time Grammy Award winner showed no signs of his injury as he performed his CHIC classics, including “Le Freak” and “Good Times.” He also showcased iconic hits he composed and produced for other stars: “Let’s Dance” (David Bowie), “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out” (Diana Ross) and “We Are Family” (Sister Sledge).
Monae was a human dynamo as she performed her single “Electric Lady” before channeling James Brown for her riveting version of “I Feel Good.” Monae. who is featured on the upcoming new CHIC CD It’s About Time, was humbled to sing with Rodgers. “I am thankful to share the stage with this icon,” she said proudly.” She was followed by another icon, Ms. Khan, who took the party to the next level with her classics. “I Feel For You,” “Sweet Thing,” “I’m Every Woman” and “Ain’t Nobody.”
Throughout the evening,. Rodgers expressed his gratitude for the overwhelming support of the festival and his music. Following Khan’s set, he discussed the life threatening challenge that served as a springboard to re-catapult his career after four decades.
“Four and a half years ago, I was diagnosed with extremely aggressive cancer,” he recalled. “Doctors told me to put my affairs in order. I’m a musician, so when they said, ‘Put your affairs in order,’ I went and wrote more music and did more shows, being on the road 300 days a year. I hooked up with Daft Punk and Pharrell.” The result, a song that earned his three Grammy Awards (including Record of the Year) which he performed, “Get Lucky,” punctuated with his liberating words, “Now, I’m cancer free!”
Following a DJ set by Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Keith Shocklee, Rodgers introduced the final act of the festival.
“I met Duran Duran in the summer of 1982, and I produced several Duran Duran records…’The Reflex,’ ‘Wild Boyz, “Notorious.'” He added that he also recorded their latest single. “Pressure Off” featuring Monae. “They are like my second band. They are like brothers to me.”
The rockers from Birmingham, England opened their 90 minute set in tribute to Rodgers with the number one hit he produced for them in 1984, “Wild Boys.” Following the song, lead vocalist Simon Le Bon said, “Thank you Nile Rodgers for the best introduction we ever had,” before launching into the title song of the 1985 James Bond film, A View to A Kill.
Later in the show, Le Bon recalled how the group’s long association with Rodgers began.
“We were in Australia at a party, and we heard a song by INXS, ‘Original Sin,’ produced by Nile Rodgers. We sent our song ‘The Reflex’ to him, he remixed it, send it back, and it sounded completely different (becoming the band’s biggest hit). Since then, we have a great friendship. We love you. You are my brother.”
Then Rodgers joined “his brothers” to play guitar on another monster hit he produced for them, “Notorious.” He continued his featured role as Monae returned for her first live performance of the group’s new single. “Pressure Off.” Le Bon commented,” Janelle Monae is one of the best new singers of the past year. She is a firecracker!”
Fittingly, Duran Duran closed their set to a thunderous applause with “The Reflex” as Rodgers smiled like an adoring fan from stage right, looking forward with great anticipation to returning next year for the 2016 FOLD Festival.