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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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Weekend Live Music Preview: 9/17-9/19

IMG_3029The summer may have unofficially ended on Labor Day weekend, but with a delayed reopening to live music thanks to COVID, things are still going strong here in NYC into the third week of September. Good thing we still have balmy temps and (relatively) clear skies. 

So here's a roundup of some of the best things happening this weekend, much of it outdoors. Man, look at all of this music!

Friday 9/17

Death of Classical presents Simone Dinnerstein, Green-Wood Cemetery, 7pm (Additional performances on 9/15 & 9/16.) Inspired by first responders, parents, caretakers, and all those affected by COVID-19, the famed pianist and Brooklyn native will lead the audience on a walk through the cemetery, pausing periodically to perform music by Bach and Richard Danielpour on several pianos that will be scattered along the route. $100, including a pre-concert reception.

Anzu Quartet Performs Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time, Roulette, 8pm. Made up of veterans of Bang on a Can and other NYC new music ensembles, the Anzu Quartet (Ken Thomson, clarinet; Ashley Bathgate, cello; Olivia De Prato, violin; Karl Larson, piano) perform Messiaen's searing work of perseverance on the 80th anniversary of its premiere at the Stalag VIII-A Prisoner of War camp in Germany. $25 in advance, $30 at the door.

Celebrate Brooklyn: Mr Eazi/Bembona/AJO, 7pm. Nigerian superstar Mr Eazi brings the laidback rhythms of Banku music - which blends Ghanian highlife and Nigerian afrobeat - to the bandshell. New York-based AJO and Puerto Rican-Panamanian artist BEMBONA open. Free.

Saturday 9/18

Rite of Summer Music Festival, Governor's Island, 1pm and 3pm. For the conclusion of their 10th anniversary season, the Rite of Summer Music Festival is presenting new music stalwarts Alarm Will Sound in the NYC premiere of John Luther Adams' Ten Thousand Birds, inspired (as Messiaen was) by the songs of birds. Admission is free; the ferry (which leaves from both the Battery and Brooklyn) costs $3 roundtrip. 

The Great Long Meadow Fire, Radegast Beer Hall and Biergarten, 3pm. It's not too early to get your Oktoberfest on at Williamsburg's Radegast, where upstart brass band The Great Long Meadow Fire will put up some alt country, dark Americana and gospel blues to go with your Hofbrau. Free.

Brooklyn Americana Music Festival, Various Locations, 3pm (Additional performances 9/17-9/19.)  This annual festival of folk, roots, country blues, bluegrass, and all things Americana is back live this year with more than fifty shows at locations in and around DUMBO and Red Hook. Weekend shows are all free; others $20-25.

Celebrate Brooklyn: Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue/Lady Blackbird/MICHELLE, 7:30pm. The electric Trombone Shorty and his explosive brass band brings down the curtain on this year's Celebrate Brooklyn Festival with their get-out-of-your-seat blend of hip hop, funk and NOLA groove. Get ready to dance! Free.

Sunday 9/19

New York Philharmonic, Alice Tully Hall, 2pm (Additional performances on 9/17 and 9/18.) Hot on the heels of the Met Opera's triumphant return last weekend with Verdi's Requiem, the Phil returns to Lincoln Center for the first time since March 2020 with a varied program of new and classic works, including music by Anna Clyne, Copland, and Beethoven's 4th piano concerto (with the amazing Daniil Trifonov.) As with most concerts this season, this program will be performed at Alice Tully while Geffen Hall receives its looooonnnng overdue renovation. Tickets $48-86.

Central Park Summerstage: Patti Smith and her Band, 7pm Patti was supposed to be part of the big NYC Homecoming concert on the Great Lawn last month, but unfortunately, Mother Nature had other ideas. Any chance to see this legend should not be missed - especially when it's outdoors in Central Park. Free.

Stephane Wrembel, Barbès, 9pm. We all probably took our share of things for granted before COVID, but one of the things I missed the most this past year was being able to roll down the hill Sunday nights to Barbès where Wrembel, the world's greatest exponent of Django Reinhardt's gypsy guitar music (as well as his own Oscar-nominated compositions), held court each week until the wee hours. Wrembel is back, and hopefully is here to stay. $20 suggested.