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September 2021

Patti Smith Comes Home to City Parks Foundation SummerStage in Central Park


Patti Smith SummerStage 9.19.21
Patti Smith at City Parks Foundation SummerStage 9.19.21 Photo: Pete Matthews/Feast of Music

If you're a music lover like I am, these past few weeks have been a joyous return, a reminder that music offers its own special form of healing, sometimes with words, often just through magical chords and beats. It's also been a literal return to places I haven't seen in a couple of years, such as Tanglewood, BAM and BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! at the Prospect Park Bandshell.

A week ago Sunday (9/19), I found myself back at Central Park's Rumsey Playfield, home of the Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage to see the legendary Patti Smith and her band. I was a bit apprehensive about being in a crowd of strangers without any ability to social distance, but everyone had to show their New York Excelsior Pass or other proof of vaccination upon entry. (Yes, I realize some people consider this an infringement on their personal liberty. No, I don't care.)

After a nearly two-year break, Patti, who is now 74, could be forgiven for being a bit nervous and shaky at her first NYC show in 18 months. (She was supposed to perform alongside Bruce Springsteen at the big Homecoming Concert in Central Park last month, but Mother Nature had other ideas.) On the contrary: Patti's full-throated voice was as strong and powerful as ever, ripping through classics such as "Free Money", "Because the Night", "Land" and "Gloria" with all the ferocity of her CBGB days. Joining her onstage were longtime bandmates Lenny Kaye (guitar), Tony Shanahan (bass), and Jimmy Doherty (drums), as well as her own talented offspring Jackson Smith (guitar) and Jesse Paris Smith (keys and vocals). 

In between songs, Patti shared some of her poetry and other musings, such as a paean to the Harvest Moon rising in the east and remembrances of Charlie Watts, Lee "Scratch" Perry and former husband Fred "Sonic" Smith. Patti also had some choice putdowns for those who tried to make unsolicited requests. ("What? Yeah, just like a guy to say that.") Wearing her usual androgynous outfit of baggy black suit and white t-shirt, Patti was part earth-mother, part punk goddess, part priestess. More than anything, Patti played the role of healer, making it feel like everything was going to be ok after this awful year-and-a-half apart, punctuated with an encore performance of her classic "People Have the Power", to which we all joyfully shouted along. 

Patti Smith SummerStage 9.19.21
Patti Smith at SummerStage 9.19.21 Photo: Pete Matthews/Feast of Music

There are still a few shows left at SummerStage, including a free show this Friday (10/1) with Yo La Tengo and Mountain Movers, and benefit shows with Joyce Manor (9/30) and Kenny Beats and Friends (10/2). Tickets and information available on the SummerStage website.

More pics and setlist below. Additional pics on the photo page.

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Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue Close Out BRIC's 2021 Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival

Trombone Shorty BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn 9.18.21I've had the good fortune to witness the human dynamo that is Trombone Shorty on at least a half-dozen occasions over the past decade, in all sorts of contexts: at the Newport Jazz Festival in 2011, at Carnegie Hall in 2012, at Bonnaroo in 2013, and at Tanglewood in 2019. Each and every time, the crowd enthusiastically responded to his high energy blend of jazz, funk, and overall New Orleans showmanship. 

But, nowhere have I seen a crowd so fired up by Shorty as the one I saw Saturday night at the Lena Horne Bandshell in Prospect Park, where he and his longtime band Orleans Avenue closed out the pandemic-delayed 2021 edition of the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival. After seeing all of last summer's Celebrate Brooklyn! cancelled due to COVID-19, it was great to see live music back in the bandshell, even if the star wattage this year was a bit dimmer than usual. (Other shows I caught included jazz trumpeter Theo Croker, songwriter and social activist Buffy Sainte-Marie, and veteran MC Kool Keith, all free.)

It was also great to see a packed house after a summer of ongoing COVID fears led to half-full audiences for many shows. Of course, this was only possible thanks to NYC's strict policy of showing proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test upon entry, which resulted in slower than usual lines. No one seemed to mind in the least.

Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue went onstage around 920pm and played for well over an hour, pumping out hits such as “Buckjump,” “Hurricane Season,” “Fire and Brimstone,” “On your way down,” and “No Good Time.” Shorty was all over the stage, jumping up and down while blasting both his trombone and trumpet. The crowd got up, and never sat back down. 

Openers included local girl pop collective MICHELLE and LA's "black acid soul" diva Lady Blackbird, who seemed to be doing her best Tina Turner impression with her spiked white wig and leather bustier. 

Thanks to everyone at BRIC for pulling together Celebrate Brooklyn! in time for us to have something to do other than Netflix this summer. Can't wait til next year.

More pics below and on the photo page

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"Sun & Sea" at the Brooklyn Academy of Music

by Steven Pisano

Sun and Sea BAM(All photos by Steven Pisano)

The beach season may be winding down along the area's shorelines, but at the Brooklyn Academy of Music it is just starting. After 18 months of its theaters being darkened by the pandemic, BAM opened its 2021-2022 season last week with "Sun & Sea," which has the unique distinction of being the first opera set entirely on a beach. (Unless you count Einstein on the Beach.)

To create that beach, workers unloaded 25 tons of sand into the Fishman Space. (After the show's run, the sand will be cleaned and reused.) This is where the performers sprawl out on their blankets and beach chairs, surrounded by food containers and toys and lots of beach stuff, singing softly and sometimes blandly to a gently melodic electronic score. At first, it almost seems innocuous, but a closer listen reveals a more ominous message. 

In 2019, "Sun & Sea" won the Golden Lion award at the Venice Biennale--the festival's top prize. (See here for a video from that production.) The work was created by three young Lithuanian artists--director Rugile Barzdziukaite, librettist Vaiva Grainyte, and composer Lina Lapelyte.

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