“So, now what?”
That was my thought a few weeks back, three days before the Bklyn Sounds showcase when a friend called to tell me that an outdoor concert we’d attended a few days prior was now rumored to be a COVID “superspreader event.”
My COVID test was negative. Yet as news of the Delta variant, and talk of vaccinated people catching the virus, spread through the city in that first week of August that “Now what?” became a vinyl record skipping on the turntable of my mind.
Writing a column whose purpose was to bring ethical, cultural joy to people, but which, by the nature of our health-crisis circumstances, may be leading them to illness, was sickening.
Three weeks later, that “Now what?” has only gotten louder. Community events as diverse as the West Indian Day Parade, Mermaid Parade, and the upstate Basilica Hudson festival which was to take place in September have been canceled.
Holding predominantly safe music events remains possible, whether indoor or outdoor and much of New York City’s musicker community has confronted the unprecedented moment many people are calling ‘Back To Live’ with thoughtful clear-sightedness, and an understanding of what a localized, more equitable music future can be like.
Even as the stories of the federal government’s responses to the needs of independent clubs remain desperately uneven. Earlier this week by Josh Houghton, co-owner of the Greenpoint’s mainstay dance venue, The Good Room wrote:
Because just as people in the community need a musical culture, that culture can’t exist in a bubble, it needs interaction among its various constituencies—the more diverse, the better—and engage the world at large. That’s how music stops being individualist entertainment but something greater.
So, in answer to, “Now what?” I honestly don’t know.
As long as there are events I regard as safe — and to me that does NOT mean 60,000 people in a field — I will continue to attend them, and let people know about some of the great local ones I believe they should know about. But just as the first Bklyn Sounds column made it clear that returning to the old normal was never an option, so it should be clear now, that our musicker future is still undetermined.
If you care about music and musicians, I urge you to do everything you can to ensure that we have one.
THIS WEEK’S PICKS
The all-beatwise women Celebrate Brooklyn bill on Friday (8/27) features a trio of great young musickers.
- The Queens-born Korean-American singer/producer Yaeji is a pop star in the making (some would say: made), fluidly mixing various electronic and hip-hop styles into a unique poly-lingual perspective. She also chose the evening’s other performers:
- Oakland ex-pat, Brooklyn resident Nappy Nina, one of the borough’s best young rappers, full of attitudinal wit and a wealth of perspectives and the wonderfully blue, Chicago singer KeiyaA. (Prospect Park Bandshell at 9th Street, 7 pm, Free)
Celebrate Brooklyn’s other program this weekend celebrates the borough’s more chamber-pop tendencies.
Saturday (8/28) evening’s show features San Fermin, led by singer-songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone whose formal composition training is apparent throughout the band’s lush songs and arrangements. Some of which are abetted by the evening’s support act, Attacca Quartet, a Grammy-winning string ensemble with an equally unstuffy approach to “classical.” Also on-hand is the excellent Philly-based singer-songwriter Son Little. (Prospect Park Bandshell at 9th Street, 7:30 pm, Free)
Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald’s Obama Portraits arrive at the Brooklyn Museum this week.
To celebrate, on Saturday (8/28) the museum’s sculpture garden hosts a program of poetry and sound anchored by one of the city’s most potent music-cultural weapons, the Burnt Sugar (The Arkestra Chamber), an electric big band under the (loose) direction of guitarist Greg Tate, which brings the history, the funk and the noise in equal measures. (200 Eastern Parkway, 4 pm, Free with RSVP)
Another great Saturday (8/28) free-music option takes place at the Coney Island Amphitheater, where Stetsasonic, the Brooklyn squad which prefaced (then participated in) hip-hop’s golden era, celebrates its 40th anniversary.
You could make an argument that Stet seeded the Native Tongues vibe picked up by Tribe Called Quest and Jungle Bros, and you can’t argue that “Talkin’ All That Jazz” is an all-time-great hip-hop/house crossover. All of which makes it seem that the “Friends” who may come to Coney Island may be notable. (3052 W. 21st Street, 7 pm, Free)
I have mentioned a few times this summer that there’s a preponderance of great, young Black techno DJs and producers making new work in Brooklyn right now.
Two of them, AceMo and MoMa Ready, collectively known as AceMoma, are taking over the borough’s great long-running afternoon “Mister Sunday” (8/29) party at Nowadays, on the Bushwick/Ridgewood border. They are two of the best we got right now. (58-06 Cooper Avenue, 3 pm, $15)
Like many other young musicians, Bed-Stuy-based producer/singer-songwriter who goes by Spencer. (born: Spencer Miles Abraham Allen) veers between genre categories almost to the point of descriptive ineligibility.
But the thing about his mix of pop craft, hip-hop beats, and occasional lo-fi sounds and jazzy arrangements, is that there’s a classically soulful voice attached to them, plus a strong sense of traditional songwriting that transcends eras.
On Monday (8/30) he’s playing a free show at Brooklyn Central Library Plaza. (Library Plaza at Grand Army Plaza, 7 pm, Free)
No, Mexico City’s San Rompe Pera, a family band that features two marimba players (!) helping to bash out a punk-flavored cumbia (!!), is not a local group. But they’re nothing if not local-music minded.
It’s been heartening to see how the quintet led by the Gama brothers, has spent the past 10 days playing great community venues in all the city boroughs, from dive bars to neighborhood gardens to Lincoln Center Outdoors. On Monday (8/30), San Rompe Pera closes their NYC tour with two sets at Barbes in Park Slope, which will be packed (yikes!) and epic. (376 9th Street, 8pm + 10pm, $15)
Reminder: If you are a Brooklyn (or greater New York) artist, label, venue or musicker organization that is releasing new music, or producing (Brooklyn) events, or just making noise that you want to spread through the community, please drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’d love to hear it — and potentially put it on.