Monday, May 10, 2010

Frontier Summer: The (New) Summerstage

[Today begins a new miniseries about outdoor music events. -FP]

Back in 2008, Vampire Weekend played opening day at the Central Park Summerstage, that magical spot where the city unrolls the fake turf and turns Rumsey Playfield into an outdoor concert venue. As if we had never been to a free show before, we arrived a mere two hours early and found thousands of people waiting on line. OK, we said. Let’s stand behind the stage and listen. Who needs to see skinny quasi-Ivy League boys? So we gathered in a grove to wait. Then came the storm, or rather, the monsoon. One by one, our friends and girlfriends called to say they wouldn't be coming. But we stayed. We played beach volleyball in the mud. We patronized a man selling Baltika from a trashbag. And somewhere in there, Andrew W.K. and Kid Sister played. At last, Vampire Weekend appeared and we decided that we actually did want to see them. So we counted to three, hopped two fences, outran the security guards, and dissolved into the crowd.

This year, the Summerstage celebrates its 25th anniversary, with its usual shows in Central Park and, new this summer, more than 100 performances at 16 parks in all five boroughs. There’s a range of genres from hip-hop to ballet to jazz to comedy. And you won't need a Hot Tub Time Machine to see: the Specials, Public Enemy, Doug E. Fresh, Big Daddy Kane, Living Color, Lisa Lisa (sans Cult Jam), etc. Oh, and Pavement. Who said Generation X is having a midlife crisis?

Here at FP, we’re thrilled about three indie shows in the first two weeks of August: St. Vincent (8/1); The xx and Chairlift (8/6);
and White Rabbits (8/12).

And while Shakespeare in the Park has Al Pacino in Merchant of Venice, we're also curious about about the Summerstage remake of our favorite epic poem by Banana Bag and Bodice (8/25-8/27).

Beowulf – A Thousand Years of Baggage hearkens back to the raw and rowdy style of storytelling in the old Scandinavian mead halls – with a passion for fierce poetry and a pint of thick beer. Monsters and professors collide in blood-soaked Scandinavia as this hefty poem is rescued from 1,000 years of analysis and transformed into a defiantly raucous dissertation on art and violence. With an 8-piece band including dueling trombones, bass clarinet, accordion and saw, Beowulf combines Weillian cabaret, 40's jazz harmony, indie rock, punk, electronica and Romantic lieder into a cacophonous swirl.

And speaking of time machines, apparently St. Vincent and Beck also love the 80s.

Record Club: INXS "New Sensation" from Beck Hansen on Vimeo.

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