A Festival for a Friend: ToeJam Music Fest Returns for its Third Year
Psychedelic cowboy rock band Evolfo and ToeJam music festival bring a weekend of fun, sun, and good tunes to Milton, NY.
Photo by Liz Maney
The first ToeJam music festival was started the summer of 2015 as little more than an ‘I wonder if we could do it’ idea between a couple of friends. Now in its third year, the event, going on August 19-20, has nearly doubled in size, and become a way to honor a departed friend.
In 2016, Vinny Pezzella — musician and friend of the festival organizers — was killed by a drunk driver. Working with Pezella’s family and friends from his hometown of Trumbull, CT, Joe Tonelli, the festival's organizer, set up the second and now third ToeJam festivals held in Vinny's honor, with proceeds benefiting a scholarship fund set up in his name.
“Any profits now from the festival go towards a scholarship that was set up by his family for a high school student that goes to high school in Trumbull and is going into performing arts,” says festival organizer Joe Tonelli.
We sat down with Rafferty Swink, keyboardist and vocalist for ‘garage soul rat rock’ septet Evolfo, currently prepping for their second appearance at ToeJam to talk about new albums and old friends.
Evolfo is based out of Brooklyn, but you first formed up in Allston, MA. Can you tell us how you all met and came together as a band?
We all met while attending college in Boston. For almost four years we all lived very close to one another. Our roommates introduced me to Matt [Gibbs, guitar/vocalist], and it turned out we were neighbors. Our trumpet player Kai [Sorensen] lived down the hall from me. Through trial and error, over a year or two, the line up that we have now was formed in this way.
When and why did the move to Brooklyn happen?
We all moved to Brooklyn a few years ago. We all felt that if we wanted to make a living in music, then New York was the logical move. A lot of us play in multiple bands and in 2013 there was a slow migration of a lot of these groups. For Evolfo, in particular, it was a pivotal move. After we got to Brooklyn, we really tried to dig deeper into our sound and aesthetic to record Last of the Acid Cowboys.
How would you compare Last of the Acid Cowboys to your earlier EPs? What did you learn that went into its recording?
The LP is the culmination of all of our EPs’ exploration. I’m proud of the EPs and I think they represent a moment in time that we are no longer in as a band; Last of the Acid Cowboys is the debut and our first true sonic statement.
This’ll be your second year at ToeJam Festival, correct? How did you get hooked up with them originally?
Yes, we played last year! I’m not clear on the details of how we got hooked up with ToeJam, but I think it has to do with our drummer Angelo [Spampinato]. One of the organizers knows Angelo, heard our music and then invited us.
You’re known for your, shall we say, “energetic” live shows. Can you give us any hint of what we might get at TJF?
Sweat! Loss of inhibition! Loud guitars! A giant rat man! And the occasional golden speedo.
After ToeJam you’ve got shows coming up in Brooklyn and then a few throughout the Midwest. What else can we expect from Evolfo in the near future?
Expect us to be working on brand new jams and possibly a few more Last of the Acid Cowboys music videos.
What have you guys been listening to recently, either for inspiration or just relaxing?
I’m all over the place. Lots of Alice Coltrane, NxWorries, the new ‘Tyler, the Creator’ album, SZA, Scientist’s “Scientific Dub,” Solange, and Milton Nascimento.
ToeJam 3 will be held the weekend of August 19-20 in Milton, NY. Tickets are available via TicketLeap. In the spirit of charity, this year marks the inclusion of new ticketing levels to encourage greater donations: In addition to regular $27.50 tickets there is now a ticket-and-a-shirt option, a $60 Silver Donor ticket which includes t-shirt and a name on the festival’s Wall of Thanks, and an $80 Gold level ticket which also includes limited edition merchandise, access to VIP areas and indoor bathroom, and an invitation to an exclusive crawfish boil. For the extra-generous, a $150 Supreme VIP ticket will allow attendees the option of sleeping in the site’s house rather than the campgrounds. Apple picking, swimming, and dog petting are complimentary for all attendees.