What Would Summer Be Without (Free) Music And Dance?

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There’s always plenty of music to listen or dance to in our city–especially in the summer. And a chunk of it is free, people! I’ve already given you the schedule for SummerStage, but here are some other worthy events scheduled for the latter half of July.

The Riverside Clay Tennis Association holds free sunset concerts, like Rickie T & his Reggae All-Stars shown above, post-sundown, on last Saturday night. Shows are held in Riverside Park, right by 97th St. next to the tennis courts (‘natch). Reggae, classical, tango and jazz are among the many genres represented. Bring a picnic basket and a bottle of wine and watch the sky above the river turn multiple colors as these seasoned performers close out the day. And be prepared to dance, people! Rickie T. got everyone from two-years-old to 80 up on their feet. Concerts begin at 7 each Saturday night and will run through August 16th.

Pete Seeger fans can mourn his passing together at Seeger Fest, a five-day event honoring the lives and legacies of Pete and Toshi Seeger through music, film and community events. Shows start at 7:30 pm on July 17th on Pier 46 (Charles St. and West St.)

Also on the 17th, the Bronx Raised Hip-Hop Series is on at the Willis Avenue Community Gardens in the Bronx (Willis Ave. and 143rd St.)  Local artists use dance, spoken word, and music to deliver rhythm and rhymes that reflect a Bronx state of mind. If you miss it tomorrow night, there will be another one on August 2nd. Who knows? Maybe you’ll witness the musical birth of the next Afrika Bambaattaa or Grandmaster Flash.

You can finally learn the dance of love…tango…in Stuyvesant Park (around Second Ave. and 16th Street). Argentine tango lessons will be among the around the fountain. Beginner lessons are from 6:00 to 6:45 pm, but the dancing doesn’t end until 9.

Motown will be represented on the Astoria Park Lawn in Queens in the Motor City Revue on July 31st at 7:30. Marvin, Smokey, Diana & The Supremes and The Temptations are just some of the artists that will be covered.

See? There’s something for everyone. Click here for a more comprehensive list.

R.I.P. Tommy Ramone

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The last living member of the original lineup of the Ramones has left us. Waaaaah! Tommy was the drummer of one of our city’s favorite bands, one that we’re proud as hell of. The foursome was formed in Queens in 1974, and Tommy, along with Dee Dee (bass), Joey (lead vocals) and Johnny (guitar), became a (the!) major influence in the punk rock movement.

Tommy was born Thomas Erdélyi on Long Island. When the Ramones first came together, he was supposed to be the manager, but was drafted as the band’s drummer when Joey became lead singer after finding that he couldn’t keep up with the band’s increasingly fast tempos.

“Tommy Ramone, who was managing us, finally had to sit down behind the drums, because nobody else wanted to,” Dee Dee later recalled.

I know that I’ve certainly gotten jobs that way.

While we would have liked to play host to the whole band, we know for certain Dee Dee checked into our hotel alone in 1979. But we like to think that maybe Tommy came and visited him, right?

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The Rolling Stones At Washington Square?

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The Rolling Stones landed on our shores in 1964 for their first US tour and our hotel was their home base. Can you imagine Keith Richards hanging in the lobby bar? Charlie Watts getting hot sauce advice from Ronnie? Ooh, what I would give to see Mick busting out his Tina Turner-like moves in the lobby. It was 50 years ago that they played two shows at Carnegie Hall before coming home and crashing with us.

The Rolling Stones: England’s Newest Hitmakers was released in May. The single, Not Fade Away introduced American kids to the band that their parents would hate.

Let’s take a minute to watch The Boys when they played their hit on the Dean Martin show:

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Lincoln Center Arts Festival Begins Today

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The Lincoln Center Arts Festival is officially on and lasts through August 16th. The beauty of this event is its global reach: you can enjoy performances by artists and ensembles from 11 countries unfolding in six venues right here in the city on and off the Lincoln Center campus. Theater, music and ballet will all be represented, so choose your poison. Here are some highlights:

From Russia, The Bolshoi Ballet, Opera, Orchestra and Chorus will bring the audience both ballet (Swan Lake) and opera (The Tsar’s Bride).

Cate Blanchett and Isabelle Huppert will star in the Sydney Theatre Company’s presentation of Jean Genet’s The Maids, an intense play in which two housemaids construct sadomasochistic rituals while their mistress is away.

From Japan comes the top Kabuki theater company, Heisei Nakamura-za, with Kaidan Chibusa No Enoki (The Ghost Tale of the Wet Nurse Tree), a classic revenge tale from far east.

And from not so far away–just a few thousand miles west, in fact–comes the Houston Grand Opera production of The Passenger, an intense 1968 opera about the Holocaust from Mieczylslaw Weinburg, The libretto focuses on a former SS prison camp overseer on board an ocean liner who fears her secret past is about to be revealed. (A friend of mine from Houston who’s an opera nut and a man of great taste has seen it and says that it’s incredible.)

Check it out!

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Mamas and Papas and Alleys

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In 1963, 18-year-old Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas co-wrote California Dreamin’ and Creeque Alley with her then-husband John, while living right here at the Washington Square Hotel. We’ve played host to hundreds of artists of all types over the years…something that we’re quite proud of. Isn’t it nice to think that the atmosphere at our little hotel could maybe possibly hopefully foster some creativity? We like to think so.

We all know California Dreamin’. If you don’t recognize the title right away, you will remember Creeque Alley once you have a listen. It’s an autobiographical song narrating the story of how the group was formed, and describes its early years. (The title references a club in the Virgin Islands.) Here’s a video of the group’s performance of the tune on The Ed Sullivan Show:

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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SummerStage: What You Need To Know

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One of the highlights of summer in the city is the wonderful SummerStage series of concerts. The shows have been going on since the 80′s and never disappoint.

SummerStage in Manhattan takes place at Rumsey Playfield: enter Central Park on 69th and 5th Avenue and follow the crowds…you’ll be sure to find it. (There are SummerStage events in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, too–with some shows devoted solely to kids.) Almost all the events are free; the few that aren’t are benefits for charities. And it’s all about variety.

Some cool highlights this year: The Metropolitan Opera Summer Recital Series on June 23rd, Ballet Hispanico on July 16th, the Rock Steady Crew’s 37th Anniversary Concert on July 27th and a Motown Gospel Revue on August 9th. Beck, The Counting Crows and Toad the Wet Sprocket will be playing benefits. One thing I love about this series is that you can check out different music genres and it costs nothing.

Along with the music, there is, of course, FOOD! And good, interesting local food at that. Asia Dog, Blue Marble Ice Cream, Lonestar Empire BBQ and Pizza Moto. Plus local City Winery wine, and local brews: Laguanitas, Ommegang and Six Point. All vendors are cash-only.

There are bleacher seats available, but it’s probably more comfortable to head to the park early and bring a blanket. I’d arrive at least an hour before the show to get a good viewing location. The show goes on rain or shine, but will be cancelled in the event of dangerous lightening. (We New Yorkers are hardy, but we’re not stupid.)

Check out the complete lineup here.

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Pride Week 2014

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It’s almost that time of year again–Pride Week–in which we celebrate our LGBT brothers and sisters and the people who love them. (Which includes us!)

Here are a few highlights:

June 24th is a free Family Night at Hudson Park’s Pier 46. Doors will open at 7:30 for a screening of The Wizard of Oz at dusk. Bring the kids and definitely come early, as seating, blankets and treats will be offered on a first-come, first-served basis. Ruby slippers optional, although presumably would be very much appreciated.

June 27th brings The Rally, the first of which occurred one month after the Stonewall Riots in June 1969. A police raid that took place in the early morning hours at the Stonewall Inn here in Greenwich Village begat a series of spontaneous, violent demonstrations by members of the gay community. That year, the rally consisted of about 500 people gathered for a “Gay Power” demonstration in Washington Square Park followed by a Candelight Vigil in Sheridan Square.

The 2014 Rally will be held at Pier 26 in Tribeca and will be a lot lighter. A whole lot. Emcee Michelle Visage (Rupaul’s Drag Race) will host performances by Sharon Needles and Betty Who. Be prepared to party.

Line-up for The March begins on the 29th at 11 am at 37th St. & Fifth Ave. (The parade ends at Christopher and Greenwich Streets, by the Stonewall Inn, which still stands today.) A lavender line down the middle of the street will trace the entire route.

Grand Marshals will be Laverne Cox (Orange Is The New Black), Rea Carey (Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force) and Jonathan Groff (HBO’s Looking). If you want to actually march, you must be part of an official group, but many are welcoming new members. Here’s a list. (A small $4 donation is requested of participants.)

PrideFest, on the afternoon of the 29th, is the annual LGBT street fair that combines vendors, entertainers and activities for a day of fun and celebration in the name of equality. Musical performances run from 12:30 to 5 pm. And it’s also free, people!

And finally, that night there’s the Dance on the Pier, (Pier 26 in Tribeca) which is not free, but all proceeds will benefit New York’s Official Pride Events and LGBT community organizations. Demi Lovato will perform and music will be provided by DJ Pagano and DJ Grind.

Of course, there are other events official and not, associated with Pride Week. Head here to find some of them.

Have a blast at Pride Week. Stop in at North Square and say hi!

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So What Do You Feel Like Doing This Weekend?

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There’s plenty to do here in the city!

The Jazz Age Lawn Party is a prohibition-era inspired gathering on Governor’s Island. Dance lessons, vintage portraits, a 1920′s motor car exhibition and a pie contest are just some of the activities offered. Listen to the various musical performances while you munch on everything from chop suey to grilled bratwurst. Saturday and Sunday from 11 am to 5 pm. General admission is $35. If you miss it, there’s another party planned for August 16th and 17th.

The American Crafts Festival at Lincoln Center is a selective one, with 180 master artisans from every region of the United States chosen on the basis of quality of workmanship and uniqueness and design. Festival hours are 12 pm to 9 pm on Saturday and 10 am to 9 pm on Sunday. Admission is free and the show will go on rain or shine.

Seventh Heaven Festival Brooklyn takes place on Father’s Day every year. Over 500 vendors will be hawking food and crafts along 7th Avenue from Flatbush Avenue to 16th Street in Park Slope.

Special Edition NYC is a two-day comic con convention that focuses solely on comic books. It’s a mini-version of the larger Comic Con that is held in October. Top comic creators, artists and publishers will be attending. Get info and tickets ($30 pre-show) here.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dad’s out there. It looks like the weather will be nice, so get out and enjoy!

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Music Tuesdays In The Park

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Summer brings a lot of great things: barbecues, flip-flops and picnics. And music…specifically, music under the stars. Even better, free music under the stars. And, lucky us, each year a wonderful festival happens right next door. The Washington Square Park Music Festival runs free concerts on several Tuesday evenings in June and August. This series of chamber orchestra, opera, vocals and jazz performances has been running since 1953, which make it one of the oldest in the city.

First up, on June 17th, is the Harmonica and Harp with the Washington Square Park Festival Orchestra. Guest soloist on the harmonica is Robert Bonfiglio (pictured above) who was been touted as “the Paganini of the harmonica” by the L.A. Times.

Tuesday the 24th brings Vocal Music/Baroque to Modern with the Festival Chamber Ensemble, which features soloists, soprano Lucia Hyunju Song and mezzo-soprano Laila Salins.

The third and final concert will be held on Friday, August 8th: A Partnership Concert with the International Double Reed Society/NYU, which will be hosted by oboist Matthew Sullivan

Shows start at 8 pm and seating is first come, first served. And again, there’s no charge! But while it’s true that these concerts are free and meant to be enjoyed by all, they do cost bucks to put on, and you can definitely give the Washington Square Association Music Fund a leg up for next year by sending them a tax-deductible donation.

Come by the restaurant and grab a drink and a nosh before (or after) the show and let us know what you think!

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