Summer In the City (and the Country):
You might not know it by the weather, but we are officially now in the middle of summer – and if you need proof, look no further than the amount of outdoor activities taking place up and down New York State this weekend. It’s the kind of weekend that makes you glad to be alive – if somewhat frustrated by so much choice!
Certainly, New York City residents are hardly lacking for free musical events this weekend, beginning with Superchunk and Versus at the South Street Seaport tonight, Friday, as part of Merge Records’ 20th Anniversary. Saturday, three of the finest annual festivals all take place on the same day. First up, the Village Voice-sponsored Siren festival continues to rock Coney Island, even as that treasured Brooklyn outpost remains under threat from developers. Siren is an endurance test, especially in hot weather, and the line-up is not as strong as it has been in years when I’ve seen the New York Dolls, M.I.A., and Mission Of Burma…. But then again, for the hipster set, an opportunity to hang out near the ocean and catch the likes of Built To Spill, the Raveonette, Japandroids, and Spank Rock is not to be sniffed at. Nor is the typically eclectic line-up at Giant Step’s annual Summerstage event in Central Park, which features America’s Q-Tip, and Chester French, Sweden’s Little Dragon and British DJ Benji B. And if you’re swift of foot, you can make it from central Park down to Prospect Park and still catch King Sunny Ade’s headlining set at Celebrate Brooklyn’s African Festival. All these events are free free free and it was all I could do not to go down to the City this weekend to enjoy some of this (and that).
Instead, I realized that there’s too much going on in the Hudson Valley to spend the weekend anywhere else. It’s not outdoors but still, tonight, Friday, Jason’s Upstairs in Hudson hosts Britain’s champion audio-visual remixers, the Eclectic Method, along with house DJ Mr. Chips and an early screening of the movie The Remix Project. Such underground/cutting edge events – especially those featuring heavily in-demand British trendsetters – are not the norm for this rather relaxed part of the world, and I only hope enough people attend for Jason’s to be able to book more such similar acts. (The former Stray Bar is also playing host to Mark Eitzel/American Music Club on Sunday, more by way of Merge’s 20th Anniversary.) On the way up there, and in the interest of the outdoor notion, I may try and stop off in Saugerties, where the town is engaging in an “Open House” sidewalk stroll, and one of my my favorite stores, the Partition Street Wine Shop, will be hosting a summer tasting from 6-9pm.
When it comes to live music this weekend, well, the Rosendale Street Festival may not rival Summerstage, Celebrate Brooklyn or the Siren Fest for the caliber of its artists, but still it offers two solid days of music across five stages in one lovely small town, and there’s at last a few acts I wouldn’t mind catching, including Pitchfork Militia and the Rhodes who, naturally, happen to be playing at exactly the same time. Also on the musical front, Life In A Blender will be playing Sunday lunchtime outside Phoenicia’s new Main Street attraction, the Mystery Spot (owned and operated by photographer/painter Laura Levine) as part of a Music from Front Porches summer series. And staying in Phoenicia, as one might be well advised to do this weekend, the first of a long-discussed outdoor movie night will be taking palce on Saturday on the Village Green with a showing of Wall-E, requesting an $8 donation per family as the launch of a fund-raising drive to bring new playground equipment to the park.
The Wall-E screening will itself vie with the monthly Arts Upstairs opening, now habitually joined by Andrea Cabane’s nearby studio. And both these Saturday night parties are but among the many attractions on the second annual Shandaken Artist Studio Tour, a self-guided journey through the beautiful hamlets of Phoenicia, Mount Tremper, Shandaken, Chichester, Pine Hill and Big Indian, providing the opportunity to meet with some of the finest artists in the Catskills, quite literally on their own turf.
Is that all, you ask? Not really. You can catch Godspell in both Kingston and Stone Ridge, The Producers in Rhinebeck (where I missed out on a performance of Tommy that finished last weekend), or visit the Spiegeltent at Bard in Red Hook, which turns into a dancefloor after its regular Friday and Saturday night activities. Are we spoiled for choice?? Yes we are. Which means that, if this weekend doesn’t rise to the temperatures I recall from this time last year, when we were in true heatwave mode, then it’s all the less reason to complain that it’s too hot to move. So get out and about. Life is good.