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May 2019

2019 NYC Summer Music Preview

Celebrate Brooklyn 2018 It's up in the mid-80's today in NYC, which has got me thinking about my favorite time of year: summer, when all sorts of amazing music heads outdoors. In addition to some of our old faves - Celebrate Brooklyn, Summerstage, Warm Up - there are some exciting new additions this summer, such as Industry City's new Summer Series. Sadly, there are also several casualties this year, including Williamsburg's Northside Festival and Panorama. R.I.P.

Below are some highlights; check out our Summertime list on the right for updates throughout the summer. 

Celebrate Brooklyn: (June 4-August 10) My personal favorite of all the free NYC music festivals - and not just because it's walking distance from my apartment - Celebrate Brooklyn returns to the Prospect Park bandshell for it's 41st season with an eclectic lineup including R&B, Latin, indie, and roots music, most of it free. Highlights include a blockbuster opening night with Patti LaBelle (6/4), a double bill with Liz Phair and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (6/29), bluegrass supergroup I'm With Her (Aiofe O'Donovan, Sarah Jarosz, and Sara Watkins, 7/18) and Canadian stalwarts Broken Social Scene (7/25). Benefit shows include The National with Courtney Barnett (6/12&13), Father John Misty with Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (6/19) and Mac DeMarco (8/6).

SummerStage (June 1-September 24): SummerStage gets a facelift this summer with a (long overdue) $5.5 million renovation to Rumsey Playfield, including a new stage, sound system, lighting and raised bleacher seating. Lineup includes Durand Jones and the Invitations (who we caught twice at SXSW in March, 6/1) Parquet Courts (6/8), Big Freedia (6/13) and Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane and Matt Garrison with Brandee Younger (6/15).

Rite of Music Summer Festival (June 1 - Sept. 7) Governor's Ball has long since outgrown it's original home on Governor's Island, but you can still take the ferry to see live music once a month this summer with this free new music festival, now in it's 9th year. Performers include Ensemble Connect (6/1), Sandbox Percussion (7/6), Go: Organic Orchestra and Brooklyn Raga Massive (8/10), and Sirius Quartet (9/7); performances take place at 1 and 3pm. 

Met Opera Summer Recital Series (June 10-19): It's not the same as when they used to do full operas in the parks, but if you want the Met experience on the cheap, go check out one of these free recitals, which take place in all five boroughs. Among the top flight singers are Ying Fang, Nathan Gunn, Leah Hawkins, and Joseph Lim.

NY Philharmonic Concerts in the Parks (June 11-16): Music Director Jaap van Zweden is sticking around this summer to lead the parks concerts in all five boroughs, with a program including Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 and Copland's "Hoe-Down" from Rodeo. Followed by fireworks, of course.

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Hypercube at the DiMenna Center

Hybercube DiMenna Center - 1 (1)(Photo: Michael Yu)

Sometimes, when I look through all of the new music listings in NYC, it's honestly hard to tell one group from the next. And, with most of the music on the program being, well, new, it's hard to know what to expect, unless they're playing something by Reich, Glass, Wolfe, or some other well-known composer of an older generation. 

But, Hypercube, who performed last Tuesday night at the DiMenna Center, piqued my interest. And, telling from the packed house, that of many others as well (including familiar faces like Elliott Sharp and Tristan Perich.) Part of what interested me was the NYC-based quartet's unusual lineup of saxophone (Erin Rogers), electric guitar (Jay Sorce), accordion/piano/synth (Andrea Lodge) and percussion (Chris Graham). 

Hypercube (named after a geometric shape) performed in the round, switching sides every so often to give everyone a good view. They started with Rogers' own composition, Casino (Remix), which sounded like some sort of Hunter S. Thompson nightmare, with Rogers' tenor sax mimicking the intoxicating chorus of slot machines while Sorce's guitar screeched like someone had set off the fire alarm. 

Nicholas Deyoe's they solidify then tilt veered between atmospheric and anxious, inspired by Alison Carter's poem in which she tries to make out the contents of her bedroom in the dark. Sorce played his guitar with partially open strings, creating a tense, glissandi-filled sound.

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A Quick Visit to The Ring at The Met

Met Opera Die Walküre - 32After Tuesday's NY Phil concert with Semyon Bychkov leading the U.S. Premiere of Thomas Larcher's colorful, surprisingly tonal Symphony No. 2 "Kenotaph", I took a chance and walked across Lincoln Center Plaza to the Met, just as Die Walküre, the second installment of Richard Wagner's monumental opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen - was letting out for its second intermission.

Sure enough, a patron who had had enough for one night - Die Walküre runs five hours, not including curtain calls - offered me her ticket in the Grand Tier, which is how I got to see all of Act 3: the Ride of the Valkyries, the long duet between Wotan and Brünnhilde, the Magic Fire music. As I said when the Met last staged the Ring in 2012, this Robert Lepage production - and it's 40 ton machine - is a bit hit-and-miss, but the music, as performed by the mighty Met Orchestra under the brilliant conductor Philippe Jordan, is breathtaking. (Jordan is currently Music Director of two of the biggest opera houses in the world: the Paris Opera and the Vienna State Opera.) As for the singers, home grown soprano Christine Goerke is a force of nature as Brünnhilde, her voice easily carrying over the orchestra. Bass Michael Volle is a menacing, almost terrifying Wotan, while soprano Eva Maria Westrbroek fortified her position as the world's leading Sieglinde. 

Tickets for the remainder of this cycle, as well as cycle 3 next week, are all gone, but you can take your chances at the box office on returns. Or, maybe just show up a few hours late and hold up a finger. You'll be glad you did. 

Video preview here. More pics below and on the photo page.

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