In the long, long ago of like ten years past, every summer New York was stuffed with great free outdoor show options. Post-9/11 downtown had River-to-River Festival in places such as Battery Park (QRO venue review), Castle Clinton (QRO venue review), and South Street Seaport (QRO venue review). SummerStage held events not just in Central Park (QRO venue review), but in all five boroughs. Over in Brooklyn there was Celebrate Brooklyn! at the Prospect Park Bandshell (QRO venue review), and hipster Ground Zero, Pool Parties at McCarren Park Pool (QRO venue review).
Unfortunately, things have mostly shrunk since then. River-to-River is a shadow of itself, while South Street Seaport is still being repaired from damage wrought by Hurricane Sandy & more. SummerStage & Celebrate Brooklyn! both still put on full summer schedules, but like always they lean towards the high-falutin’ & family-friendly (with pricey drinks). And the Pool Parties achieved their goal of raising enough money to convert McCarren Park Pool back into an actual pool.
Summer had started in more ways than one, as it was maybe the first out-and-out hot day of 2017 in NYC. House of Vans is a mixture of an indoor warehouse and an outdoor space, but both are very open, and were quite hot. The heat (and school still being in season) might have limited the turn-out, as there wasn’t a huge line for the regular free beer – though was for the sole taco truck, which led to something of a cluster-fuck in front of it, later in the evening (when respect for the line had declined, more beer had been drunk, and the harried food truck staff stopped taking people’s names with their orders or separating windows for receiving & delivering orders). The heat also drove VIPs into the air-conditioned VIP space.
The two musical acts in some ways reflected how hip-hop has shifted in the last thirty years. While once it was dominated by East Coast & West Coast, such as headliner Brooklyn’s Digable Planets, nowadays flyover country is fully in on the game, from Hotlanta to even Toronto, and especially Chicago, opener Joey Purp’s home. While Planets’ multiple singers had a full band behind them, Purp was solo with just a DJ (though JP did sit at the front lip of the stage at one point). Digable Planets were known in the early nineties for their accessible alt-rap in songs such as “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” and “Where I’m From”, a flipside to the alt-rock boom of that era, when the economy was booming and the worst thing a President could do was lie about sex, while Joey Purp had a much tougher edge for today.
The House of Vans Brooklyn summer season continues on (and now there’s a House in Chicago, too), through into August:
6/1/17 – Beach Fossils, Saba, Nyck
6/7/17 – The Drums, Princess Nokie
7/12/17 – Royal Headache, Sheer Mag, Downtown Boys
8/3/17 – Descendents, special guest