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Park Life


(This post goes out to WEQX, for playing Bloc Party’s ‘Miracle,’ Dandy Warhols’ ‘We Used To Be Friends,’ Devo’s cover of ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,’ and Fatboy Slim’s ‘That Old Pair Of Jeans’ between 9 and 10 am this morning. We’re fortunate enough to be able to pick one of America’s last genuine standing “modern rock” stations.)

Saturday afternoon found me reliving my old Brooklyn days, hanging in Prospect Park with a bunch of long-time local/DJ/music friends on their annual ‘Punk Rock Picnic.’ It wasn’t a journey I’d have made down from the Catskills but for a nice conveyor belt of circumstances: the wife and kids were already at the Jersey Shore, the annual Siren festival was taking place at Coney Island, Nortec Collective were performing at the Prospect Park Bandshell in the evening, and Radio 4 were playing across Brooklyn at The Hook that night.

The best way to treat such days is to go with the flow, and when a group of multinational footballers descended on our part of the park, iJamming! Pubber McCutcheon and myself abandoned plans to join thousands of hipsters in the side streets of Coney Island for Siren – much though I wanted to see Art Brut and Tapes’N Tapes – and volunteered our ball skills. The following 90 minutes were everything that makes NYC wonderful: with a hilarious Hispanic commentator/official on the sidelines awarding every player a nickname associated with the previous World Cup (mine was Luca Toni), with almost every shade of skin represented, and with only a modicum of foul play, we enjoyed a 3-team round robin tournament that was as tiring as it was fun. I’d dressed for the picnic in cargo shorts, a thick t-shirt and skate shoes; I was about an hour into the game before I realized I was playing with wallet and sunglasses and mobile phone weighing me down too. Fortunately, I’m fit enough to run it out with the best of them, including the kid defiantly wearing his Zenedine Zidane shirt.

I didn’t stop to take photos, but the multinational crowd had descended on the park with a high-end video camera, and asked McCutcheon (but not me) to sign a release form. It was the kind of good-natured pick-up game of which Nike makes TV commercials, so who knows? Maybe some of it will end up on air some time soon. And to think – I never showed up for a pick-up game in Prospect Park in my ten years of living there.

Nortec Collective: five computer geeks and a couple of Tijuana brass

An hour or two later, former Step On/Resurrection DJ Nick Cain and myself headed over to the bandshell for the Celebrate Brooklyn performance by Mexico’s Nortec Collective. Again, this seemed to be represent everything that’s good about our world: a group from just below the border that samples from traditional Mexican music like NORteño and awards it a contemporary TEChno ethic, playing for free in the famous North American melting pot and drawing, understandably enough, a large audience of ecstatic young Mexicans, eagerly dancing to electronica from their own culture. A few concert-goers were surprised to see just the two conventional musicians (a brass section) vastly outnumbered by some five computer operaters and one on-stage video mixer. I thought this was just business as usual for the modern world, and laughed out loud when the visuals amended the famous Kraftwerk imagery of performing robots with Sombrero hats.

Nortec Collective’s music is not as techno as the name implies, even when the tempo increases and the acid grove kicks in: throughout the hour-long set, it had the chill groove of a Hispanic Thievery Corporation. There were no introductions, and song titles were only hinted at via the visuals, but that’s just fine: this was, just like a DJ set, about the overall experience, not the individual song or performer. You can listen to a variety of Nortec Collective tracks at their web-site here – and if they come to a park near you, bring your favorite Mexican beer, some guacamole, and don’t forget your dancing shoes.

Nortec Collective: Mexican traditions meet the modern dance floor.

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