Tag: festival

I believe in love

Sunday, August 3rd, 2008 | All Things, Arts, Music

Another summer Sunday, another street fair.  This one was just a preview of the larger Columbus Avenue Festival which will be taking place on September 21, 2008 between 66th and 86th Streets.

After a late May visit to Central Park’s Delacorte Theater for Hamlet, we continued the summer streak with Shakespeare in the Park’s second production: Hair.  This time, it was SYB who scored a pair of tickets through the Public’s virtual line.  (No Craigslist for us.)

The landmark rock musical was presented here (also for free) last September in a concert staging to commemorate the 40th anniversary of its debut at the Public Theater’s inaugural 1967 season. The music by Galt MacDermot, with lyrics by Gerome Ragni and James Rado, is notable as an era-defining soundtrack, but remain familiar to the Flower Children’s children through television commercials… and the closing credits of The 40 Year Old Virgin.

The Public’s impassioned artistic director Oskar Eustis, profiled in The Times in June, introduced tonight’s performance by underscoring the continuing relevance of Hair’s anti-Vietnam War anthems by drawing parallels with our current “unpopular war abroad” — a sentiment greeted by enthusiastic applause.

(As for the connection to Shakespeare, one need look no further than the song “What a Piece of Work is Man,” which draws almost entirely from Hamlet’s famous speech.)

Joyous performances by a diverse and wildly charismatic cast (under the direction of Diane Paulus), the 12-piece on-stage band, that famous flash of group nudity… Although Hair is in structure little more than a revue with just the wispiest suggestion of a storyline, this is one situation where the whole truly is more than the sum of its quaintly dated parts. And how about “the duo of hotness” that is Jonathan Groff and Will Swenson? (Groff is best known for his Tony-nominated role as Melchior Gabor in Broadway’s Spring Awakening;  Christopher J. Hanke took over the role of Claude on August 17 and will remain through the show’s extended September 14 run, replacing Groff, who had a prior commitment.)

Check out the lauding reviews from New York magazine, The Post, Variety, Time Out New York, and The Times.

From the opening “Aquarius” to the plaintive “Let The Sun Shine In” finale, it seemed at times that half of those in attendance were singing along with the performers.  When the show reached its explosive conclusion, and the entire audience was invited on stage for a riotous dance with the actors and musicians, we could not help but be swept up in the Summer of Love… or at least the 2008 approximation of it.

Flickr preview: Labor Day at the U.S. Open, 4th Round, featuring Andy Murray and Serena Williams, both of whom advanced to the semis.  Also: cast members from HBO’s Entourage.

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Sasquatch Festival: Day 2

Sunday, May 25th, 2008 | All Things, Music, Travel

Read more from Josh Bis on Sasquatch: Day 2 — same lineup, better pictures.

I arrived at the Gorge to catch the second half of Rogue Wave‘s set on the Wookie! stage. Later, we would see Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, a.k.a., Mates of State here — that cute couple from Connecticut that was profiled in the issue of New York magazine I had in my backpack that afternoon.

We caught most of their set while waiting on line at the gear concessions stand. $40 for The Cure concert tee was deemed exorbitant — why, Bob? The millions you’ve made fetishing alienation and depression not enough for you? — but $25 for the limited edition festival t-shirt more reasonable. Or so we told ourselves.

As the sun shone brightly overhead, I dug into a Philly cheesesteak at the picnic area as The Blakes wrapped up their set on the Yeti! stage. (Why is it so difficult to eat healthily at these things? In my defense, it was at least not deep fried.) Afterwards, we could hear the sounds of The Presidents of the United States of America — truncated to “The Presidents” on the program — wafting over from the Sasquatch! stage. Now, I probably haven’t thought about that particular band in about a decade, so their prominence here was a bit baffling to me. Sure, “Lump” and “Peaches” were catchy in a post-grunge novelty act sort of way, but that was 1995. Chalk it up to hometown nostalgia, I suppose. (In addition to playing the main stage, PUSA were featured glowingly — twice! — at the Experience Music Project rock museum in Seattle. But more on that later.)

I was pleasantly surprised by Michael Franti & Spearhead who brought the crowd to its feet with an extremely energetic set, sending both concert-goers and colorful beach balls bouncing up and down the hill.

Local favorites Death Cab for Cutie followed as the sun set, and the hordes really descended then, many no doubt looking to stake out prime floor spots for The Cure’s closeout show. The boys opened with new materialwe approve that DCFC “avoid[ed] the post-blowup letdown with a strong new album” — before settling into more familiar tunes from Transatlanticism and Plans. Frontman Ben Gibbard, clad in black, gave shoutouts to The Cure and to The Smiths, explaining his black-wearing “because black is what I feel on the inside,” and because he was “so goddamn excited to see The Cure.” (Join the club, Ben!) He dedicated “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” to them.

[DCFC will be playing McCarren Park Pool — with Rogue Wave — on June 10.]

Sasquatch-induced ADD dictated that I slip out about halfway through the set to catch singer/songwriter/guitarist Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks… if for no other reason than that Malkmus was once the lead singer of Pavement, whose Slanted and Enchanted (1992) was perhaps the Greatest Indie-Rock Album Ever. (Their 1994 follow-up Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain (1994) fares well on that assessment as well.) Pavement, which went on hiatus in 1999, is “credited with leading the lo-fi indie-rock movement of the early ’90s” and still serve as the inspiration for many modern rock bands hoping to succeed without the support of a major label.

Can’t say I’m as big a fan of the post-Pavement oeuvre. The classic rock influences are more straightforward — extended guitar riffs and such — but every once in a while, in more reflective sections, you can still hear the hints of Malkmus’ former sound.

Their set was late in getting started — lead-in The Kooks set them back by almost an hour — so by the time Malkmus and Co. took the stage, the excitement was palpable. No mystery over what many wanted to hear: I regularly heard shouts for Pavement songs, but most were satisfied with “Dragonfly Pie” and “Gardenia.” Malkmus wasn’t above teasing the audience either, remarking on how we were experiencing the nicest weather he’d ever seen at Sasquatch, although, “I heard that yesterday it was raining sideways… like, crooked rain.” Boo!

It seems that rumors of a Pavement reunion tour have been greatly exaggerated — much like the Morrissey and Marr rematch, I suppose. We can still dream… though I do hope it happens before it’s time to cash in my IRA.

After cutting out early again — really, I can count on one hand the number of full sets I caught this weekend — I found the main stage bathed in blue and violet lights for headliners The Cure, who finally emerged out of a rolling cloud of fog. Their September 2007 concert at MSG was rescheduled for my birthday in June when I’ll be out of town, so I was particularly excited about this set.

Robert Smith did not disappoint: the setlist mined the band’s extensive catalog, opening with new song “Underneath The Stars,” followed by Disintegration‘s “Prayers For Rain” and Head on the Door‘s “A Night Like This,” and continuing with a liberal sprinkling of the classics: “Lovesong,” “To Wish Impossible Things,” “Lullaby,” “Fascination Street,” “Hot Hot Hot!“, “Inbetween Days”…. Predictably, “Just Like Heaven” had just about everyone in the still-thick crowd on their feet dancing. Just straightforward playing, though — no banter: unlike other performers who bounded giddily around the stage, Smith spent the entire time draped over the mic, letting his distinctive voice do all the work… and it did, holding up surprisingly well after all these many years. (In body, though, 49-year old Smith is noticeably heftier, and the thick Goth make-up did his face no favors, which may explain the paucity of close-ups on the large screens flanking the stage.)

As I gazed up into the almost clear night sky, through which a few stars managed to twinkle through, The Cure broke out the moody, sentimental combination of “Pictures Of You,” “A Letter to Elise” and “From The Edge Of A Deep Green Sea” which nearly had me weeping, despite how many times I’ve heard those songs over the years.

I wish I could just stop
I know another moment will break my heart

I was probably — no, almost definitely — the biggest Cure devotee among our small group, and well into the band’s third(!) hour of playing, my friends were getting restless. By the time the second encore of old-school tunes launched — a run of “Boys Don’t Cry,” “Jumping Someone Else’s Train,” and “Grinding Halt” — The Cure had been on stage for nearly two and a half hours. At one point, Smith promised (threatened?) to play until dawn, and though I probably could have stayed on to see him take up that challenge, enough was enough. We made our way to the parking field to the strains of “10:15 Saturday Night” missing only the 31st song: “Killing An Arab.”

Going into this weekend, I hadn’t known what to expect from Sasquatch — the “circus of grossness” had been a distinct possibility — but this experience far exceeded my expectations. It was even worth missing the Brooklyn Bridge’s 125th birthday celebrations back at home. Aside from the occasional errant whiff (fully anticipated), the crowd was remarkably respectful. Or maybe just happily baked — who’s to say? A big plus was that by carefully monitoring my liquid intake, I managed to avoid the dreaded Honey Buckets altogether… perhaps the festival accomplishment of which I am most (dubiously) proud. That and squeezing my way to the front of The Breeders show on Day 1.

Revisiting old favorites and discovering new sounds were the primary reasons for attending, but the best moments I found were not the times spent rushing among the Sasquatch!, Wookie! and Yeti! stages, but the stretches spent just laying in the sun, enjoying the natural beauty of the gorge and the company of my friends. Throw in a plate of freshly fried dough and a frozen lemonade slushy, and it just doesn’t get any better.

Full Sasquatch Festival 2008 set on flickr.

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