Rock Feed

Northside Festival Opens in McCarren Park with Kamasi Washington and Dirty Projectors

by Steven Pisano

20170608-SP1_4191(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

The 9th annual Northside Festival, running through this Sunday, June 11, offers an eclectic mix of symposiums on technology, innovation, entrepreneurship, advertising, government, video, and other topics. If you are looking to connect with other like-minded people in myriad creative disciplines, Northside definitely has something for you.

Of course, there is an equally wide range of music, which kicked off at McCarren Park on Thursday night with Jay Som, Kamasi Washington, and Dirty Projectors. The audience in the park was smaller than last year's opener when Brian Wilson brought his Pet Sounds tour through the borough. But that was a special one-off.

Kamasi Washington's continuously inventive and forceful music is already on a level that brings to mind John Coltrane or Wynton Marsalis. His tenor sax doesn't have the unique signature that many other jazz greats have had, whereby you can hear a short phrase and know right away who's playing. But then, the most notable aspect of Kamasi Washington's music is that he eschews the soloist limelight.

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Lake Street Dive Kicks Off the Summer at the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival

by Steven Pisano

Lake Street Dive at BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival
(All photos by Steven Pisano.)

The summer season of mostly free concerts in Prospect Park as part of the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival got off to a sometimes silky-smooth, sometimes rollicking start with the jazzy, poppy, retro-soul band, Lake Street Dive.

Originally formed as a band in Boston and now based in Brooklyn, Lake Street Dive spins out song after song so impeccably played and sung, it's like watching the flawless execution of a top-flight Major League Baseball team on a winning streak. They just do everything right. But sometimes that perfection can come off as a little tame. I am twice their age, and yet at times felt as if I was listening to performers from an earlier generation, the way I remember as a kid watching Perry Como on the Kraft Music Hall, or the King Family Show on the tiny black-and-white TV in my Italian grandmother's living room.

My college-aged daughter was with me, and she sort of agreed, having seen the group kill it previously at a smaller venue. But their friendly warmth just seemed to dissipate in the slightly chilly air of Prospect Park. It's funny how some performers revel in an open-air setting, and others just get swallowed up by the outdoors.

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Bob Dylan Wins Nobel Prize in Literature

Bob Dylan Nobel Prize
O'Neill. Faulkner. Hemingway. Dylan.

Ending years of what many felt was nothing more than wild speculation, the Swedish Academy awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature this morning to Bob Dylan for “having created new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” Dylan is the first American to win the prize since Toni Morrison in 1993. More importantly - especially for music lovers - he is the first-ever musician to win the award, given annually in recognition of "the most outstanding work in an ideal direction."

When asked if Dylan truly deserved the award, the Permanent Secretary of the Swedish Academy, Sara Danius, had this to say:

"Of course he deserves it! He is a great poet in the grand English poetic tradition. He's been at it for 54 years now, reinventing himself constantly...If you look back 2,500 years or so, you discover Homer and Sappho, who wrote poetic texts that were meant to be performed, often together with instruments. It is the same way with Bob Dylan. He can be read, and he should be read. The times are-a-changing, perhaps."

When asked if there were particular examples of Dylan's work which swayed the jury, Danius cited Blonde on Blonde (1966) as "an extraordinary example of his brilliant way of rhyming and putting together refrains, and his pictorial thinking." 

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Glenn Branca Ensemble at Roulette

DSC03261A packed house filled Roulette on Saturday night, where experimental composer/musician Glenn Branca led an ensemble of four electric guitars, bass and drums in two of his works, including "The Light (For David)", written in tribute to his musical hero and sometime collaborator, David Bowie.  The music was, as you might expect, loud, but also surprisingly intricate and complex, with multiple tunings and a wide range of dynamics. Branca himself conducted, flailing his arms around like a man possessed in between swigs from a bottle of unspecified liquid. It felt epic and strange, orchestral and rocking, all at the same time. I'm not sure it's the sort of thing I'd listen to at home - which I'm sure my neighbors would appreciate - but I'm glad I was there. 

More pics on the photo page.