New music collective Bang on a Can celebrates its 20th marathon this Friday as part of the River to River festival.
Summertime, and the music is free and easy
By Lee Ann Westover
Summer in New York City is electric, not only due to the welcome wealth of visible skin, but also because of the free, outdoor entertainment that awaits us nearly every day of the week. Downtown, the never-ending concert season begins this weekend, as three different festivals coincide in June and July. Following is our guide to the sounds each has to offer.
River to River
The gargantuan River to River Festivals (www.rivertorivernyc.com) partnership of community organizations was founded after September 11, 2001 as a means to rebuild commerce and culture in Lower Manhattan. Valerie Lewis, VP of Marketing and Communication for the Alliance for Downtown New York, reminds us of why her neighborhood is the perfect setting for all the fun. We have the best natural stages around, from the South Street Seaport with views of the Brooklyn Bridge, to the World Financial Center, to Castle Clinton the second oldest opera house in the city. Plus, Ive heard that its five degrees cooler in Lower Manhattan! Aside from meteorological anomalies, here are a few more reasons to check out River to River this summer:
Bang on a Can Marathon 20th Anniversary
With over 26 hours of uninterrupted music, expect to see more than a few bright stars from all over the world as they come together to celebrate the 20th anniversary of new music collective Bang on a Cans marathon sessions. Theyll blow your mind with a genre-bending soup that pulls heavily from world and pop music while breathing new life into the classical scene. Yo La Tengo closes the show on Sunday. Saturday, June 2 at 8 p.m. through Sunday, June 3, World Financial Center Winter Garden.
Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings
New York Citys reigning queen of soul will knock your socks off with her explosive performance and slam-dunk vocal abilities. Her world-famous band, The Dap-Kings, features the tightest, funkiest rhythm section in town and a quartet of fantastic horn players wholl fire up some sharp dance moves. Thursday July 26th at 7p.m., Castle Clinton National Monument, Battery Park.
Riders in the Sky with the Carolina Chocolate Drops
Sporting every necessary item of brightly embroidered cowboy gear, Riders in the Sky are like a living museum that preserves the music of the real and imagined Wild West. They are sure to delight you, your kids and your granny. Guests the Carolina Chocolate Drops play traditional antebellum African-American music on banjo, fiddle and jug. Its finger pickin good! Wednesday, July 25 at 7p.m., Battery Park City, Rockefeller Park.
Seaport Music Festival
One of the festivals under River to Rivers banner is the enduringly cool Seaport Music Festival (www.seaportmusicfestival.com), held at the South Street Seaports Pier 17. Ive always wanted to try to create the best outdoor club in Lower Manhattan
and New York City, says producer Steve Dima, with palpable excitement. In general, the festival focuses on presenting up and coming bands that push against musical boundaries. Dima describes himself as a huge music fan and although he makes the yearly trip to Austin, TX for the South by Southwest music festival, he admits that the Internet has deeply changed the way programmers find new artists. Its almost too easy. You used to have to go talk to people at the record stores and wait for albums to be mailed from overseas. Now with the help of Myspace.com, a bands music is only a click away.
Although Dima cant bring himself to love one band on his roster more than another, he will admit that Animal Collectives opening night show for the River to River Festival will be off the hook. The Baltimore-based outfits avant-rock sound will be set off with bigger lights, bigger speakers, and video screens to mark the occasion. A fireworks show sponsored by Target will take it to the next level at nights end. Friday, June 1 at 7 p.m., South Street Seaport.
Fujiya and Miyagi
Think indie-dance-rock plus disco-punk and youll just about encapsulate the sound of these UK imports. Their Myspace track list reads like a cross between medical records and a to-do list (Ankle Injuries, Collarbone, Photocopier, Cassettesingle), yet they will have no difficulty coaxing you to your feet to shake some booty in the sea breezes. Friday, July 6 at 7 p.m., South Street Seaport.
Au Revoir Simone
Three pretty girls playing quality, shimmery pop on their keyboards while singing angelic harmonies above it all. Need I say more? Friday, August 10 at 7 p.m., South Street Seaport.
Washington Square Music Festival
Way back in 1953, violinist Alexander Schneider, along with the help of the local neighborhood association, presented the Washington Square Music Festival (www.washingtonsquaremusicfestival.org) as a gift to the City of New York. Some 54 years later, it has endured several renovations of the park itself and the constant waxing and waning of New York Citys legendary street life. Executive Director Peggy Friedmans enthusiasm shows that all the years have not diluted the passion with which festival organizers take on the yearly presentations. Of the summer evening performances, she says, People feel this wonderful positive energy. Everyone is united in the process of making music. It is uniquely Village. Although the concert traditionally features classical programming from their house band of area musicians, programmers always mix in a few surprises. Here are a few treats in store for us this year:
Rishell and Raines Trio
City councilman Alan Jay Gerson, a real Village kid as Ms. Friedman describes him, donated special funding to recreate the mood of a 1960s folk concert hosted by Paul Rishell and Annie Raines blues/roots trio. Were a little scared, notes Ms. Freidman, because we are doing it on a Sunday afternoon. The Park is going to be really full. So arrive early for a good vantage point. Sunday, June 17 at 3 p.m., Washington Square Park
Gershwin/Weill Music as Political Statement
The anti-war satire of Gershwins Strike up the Band (a world premiere of Eric Salzmans orchestration) and the subversive anti-capitalist bent of Kurt Weill/Bertold Brechts Three Penny Opera and Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny represent perhaps the timeliest programming of all this summer festival season. Tuesday, July 17 at 8 p.m., Washington Square Park
The Charles Mingus Orchestra
For 14 years, the Mingus Big Band wowed us weekly at the now-defunct Time Café. It was out of that project that the Mingus Orchestra was born. The heady jazz and burning solos have given way to an emphasis on composition, bringing the best of smoky club music into the arena of the classical stage. Tuesday, July 31 at 8 p.m., Washington Square Park