Category: Music

The Dyckman Farmhouse

Sunday, August 6th, 2006 | All Things, Eats, Music, NYC History

The Dyckman Farmhouse Museum sits anachronistically perched on a knoll, 15 feet above street level at 204th Street and Broadway on the narrow northern tip of Manhattan. The avenue has been lowered many times since the Dyckmans, one of the early Dutch families of New Amsterdam, built the house around 1783 to replace an earlier structure that had been burned down by British troops during the Revolutionary War. Today the original farmhouse is a museum, run by the City of New York/Parks & Recreation and the Historic House Trust since 1916, when it was restored and donated to the city by two daughters of the last Dyckman to grow up there. It is Manhattan’s only surviving 18th century Dutch Colonial-style farmhouse.

The Dyckmans harvested salt hay (from the marshes lining the river borders of the property) and planted cabbage and fruit orchards on land worked largely by indentured and freed slaves until the mid 19th century. The family owned several hundred acres of Manhattan property – worth about a bazillion dollars in today’s real estate market – before the last of the Dyckmans decamped for the urban comforts of a Queen Anne-style row house on East 71st Street in the 1870s.
The museum grounds cover just under 1/2 acre on which sits the farmhouse itself – reopened this Summer after three years of extensive renovations – a reproduction smokehouse and a tiny formal garden (both put in by the Dyckman sisters) and a reconstructed Hessian Hut, which in its former life had housed German soldiers, primarily from the province of Hesse-Cassel, during the Revolutionary War.

Several weeks earlier, I had made reservations for the after-hours guided tour. The group numbered just six people, plus the guide, which was just manageable, given the confines of the small space. We toured the inside of the house, which was still in the process of being refurnished after the renovation. Most of the objects inside date from the 19th century, brought in by the Dyckman sisters. With the notable exception of a dining room sideboard, almost none of the furniture pieces are original to the 18th century farmhouse; many objects were scattered when the family vacated after three generations, and some were lost in a trade with Boscobel, another Dyckman home, in Putnam County. The wall along the interior stairs leading to the cellar kitchen bares one of Inwood’s many schist outcroppings. The upper floor houses museum offices and two refurnished bedrooms. The space was stiflingly hot in even today’s pleasant weather; the guide told us that during last week’s heat wave, the lone air conditioning unit, running at full blast, could not bring the temperature below the mid 80s.
Dyckman Farmhouse

Back Porch

Hessian Hut

On the way out, we chatted up Maeve, one of the summer interns, who earlier in the day had given us a good recommendation for our pre-tour lunch. Inwood, once home to Irish and Jewish immigrants, is a predominantly Dominican enclave. Galeria Restaurant at 207th and Vermilyea is just one of the many local eateries serving authentic food at reasonable prices. The slight snag was in the ordering process, which I couldn’t figure out: most of the pre-set meals seemed intended for much larger groups, and there didn’t appear to be any a la carte option posted. In the end, we just pointed at whatever looked good (fried/roast chicken, rice and beans, sweet plantains) which the server obligingly piled onto a plate until asked to stop — all for $6.
Galeria lunch

Páprika – an all-female group from Brooklyn, specializing in dance music from around the globe, e.g., Turkish pop star Tarkan‘s Simarik, better known stateside as “Kiss Kiss.” At Riverside Park South, Acoustic Sundays:


GW Bridge

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P.S. 1 Summer Celebration

Sunday, July 30th, 2006 | All Things, Arts, Events, Music

5 Pointz, down the block from P.S. 1, is the latest incarnation of the a 200,000-square space on Crane Street. The space, formerly known as Phun Factory, billed itself as the world’s largest aerosol art museum. After a landlord-tenant dispute in 2001, Pat DiLillo, the group’s founder and director, stepped down. Onetime artist Meres, ne Jonathan Cohen, took over the project, rechristening it with its new name to symbolize NYC’s five boroughs coming together as one, and continues to offer a place for graffiti artists to showcase their work. The building originated as Gimbel’s former warehouse.

On the way out on the 7, we spied three kids adding their own contributions to the rooftop, seemingly undaunted by the scorching sun.

5 Pointz

The outdoor courtyard of the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center — where the popular Warm Up music series is held on Summer Saturdays — features the new architectural installation by this year’s winner of the annual MoMA/P.S.1 Young Architects Program.

The entry by New York City-based OBRA, a design-oriented office in New York founded by partners Pablo Castro and Jennifer Lee, was selected from a field of twenty five proposals for a building project to transform the courtyard space with projected budget of $70,000. Their design, titled BEATFUSE!, is constructed of seven curved, interconnected shells made of plywood and polypropylene mesh. The project also encompasses “wooden tidal pools, water misters, and light strainers that create constantly changing shapes in the mist.” On view through September 2006.

P.S. 1 Summer Celebration

The overhead shells and cool misters provided some relief from the heat and sun, which by this point, was becoming almost unbearable. Small children and babies everywhere – in the pools, at the craft stations, in the origami tent. And on the dance floor: from our vantage point on the concrete steps in front of the DJ booth, we watched a few busting out some excellent moves to the grooves (in the heart) of Deee-Lite.


P.S. 1 Summer Celebration

P.S. 1 Summer Celebration

At the Kevin Kinsella concert at Riverside Park South’s Pier I.

Kevin Kinsella

Kevin Kinsella

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Konono No. 1 @ S.O.B.’s

Monday, July 24th, 2006 | All Things, Music

Met SN for lunch this afternoon. We had initially considered dining al fresco, but the flimsy umbrellas the restaurant had set up in the patio area seemed to offer precious little protection from the blazing midday sun. I opted to take my maki rolls indoors. Scored an invitation on the boat, so depending on what else I’ll have going on at work, and weather permitting, I may be cruising the Hudson as early as next Monday. Sweet!

Met B after work for a pre-show dinner at the charming Ivo & Lulu, downtown offshoot of the popular (but equally tiny) far-Upper West Side restaurant , A. Good luck googling for information on that one. Both restaurants share a commitment to high quality, organic ingredients, and have similar gently-priced Caribbean-accented French menus. With just a handful of tables and a kitchen not much larger than mine at home, it’s a small miracle that the plates they turn out are as well-prepared and tasty as they are. Most patrons take advantage of the BYOB option – no corkage fees – giving a nice bump in business to neighboring Spring Street Wine Shop. When we arrived, our server automatically set out glasses for both water and wine. (Actually, they were four identical glasses: this casual spot only has the one type.) As we had come in empty-handed, B ran out to procure us a bottle for dinner while I placed our orders: jerked duck for him; rabbit and ginger sausage for me.

A satisfying meal, and a delightful find in one of the few remaining non-neighborhoods in Manhattan: not quite SoHo, not quite Chinatown, just off that sad stretch of Varick by the mouth of the Holland Tunnel.

After dinner, we strolled up to S.O.B.’s for the African All Stars Festival, just in time for the 8:00PM show… or so I thought.


Some background first: Konono No. 1 is a 12-piece group hailing from Kinshasa, the capital of Congo. The band’s 2005 debut album, Congotronics created a global sensation, and earned the group the Best Newcomers Award at the BBC Radio3 World Music Awards in April 2006 – a mere forty years into their career. The original group was formed in 1966. In 1978, the then-nameless band recorded an LP with a French engineer that got some play on the radio station France Culture. Former Belgian punk musician turned record producer Vincent Kenis heard their sound and spent the next two decades trying to locate the mystery band he had heard once. Kenis made exoduses to Kinshasa in 1989 and 1996, and finally found the group in 2000.

Konono No.1’s music has been described as raucous Angolan/Congolese Bazombo trance music. Their lineup includes three electric likembés, or thumb pianos – bass, medium and treble – three singers (performing exclusively in the Bantu language Lingala) and a rhythm section, using traditional and makeshift percussion instruments. Their sound system, too, is their own creation: built from old car parts and discarded wood and machinery – in the early days, re-purposed detritus left behind by fleeing Belgian colonists in the wake of political turmoil. Though technically imperfect, the massive system of wooden megaphones — and attendant feedback — creates an entrancing blend of African dance grooves and dissonant distortions.

As I said, the show was scheduled to begin at 8:00pm. And although I’m generally suspect of advertised start times – knowing full well the s.o.p of building audience anticipation through warm-up acts and delays – I noted that there was no opening act, and more importantly, a second set was scheduled for 10:00pm. Both of which would indicate a reasonably prompt 8:00pm start, right?

Well, not quite. S.O.B.’s – which stands for nothing more coarse than “Sounds of Brazil” – specializes in Brazilian, Caribbean and Latin music. In keeping with the theme, the main room is decorated with bamboo accents and the drink offerings tend toward the tropical. Forty-five minutes and some sweet and minty mojitos and caipirinhas later, B consulted with the doorperson and learned that, unbeknownst to us, the club had decided to combine the early and late shows. So Konono No. 1 wouldn’t be taking the stage until 9:45PM.

What to do, but kick back, relax and let the evening unfold?

Konono Concert Poster

Konono No 1

By the time the first likembés sounded off, we were both in hazy, festive moods, further enhanced by another cachaça-fueled hour. The musicians were energetic and genuinely enthusiastic in their performance… and seemed fully at ease with their rather recent success, despite emerging from such humble, unstable roots. The relentless onslaught of sound was contagious. Ultimately, though, I think I enjoyed the concert more than B did, his main objection being the repetitive beats: Ba-BONK-ba-bonk-bonk-bonk. Repeat for two hours.

Is it a bad thing to find comfort in familiarity?

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