Greenpoint Gazette

Williamsburg Soaks Up the Tunes at Make Music New York, Despite Some Scattered Showers

BY Richard Parks

Loud and proud, yet somewhat reduced by the threat of rain, the city’s mammoth daylong free outdoor music festival crowded the streets of Williamsburg last Sunday.
Now in its third year, Make Music New York presents bands in free performances in public spaces—parks, sidewalks, cemeteries—across the five boroughs. New York’s festival is one of more than 300 Make Music events held in cities around the world. While many of the MMNY Web site-advertized “875 free performances by 3,200 musicians” were delayed, moved indoors or even cancelled altogether due to rain, the oversized festival still offered more than enough noise to go around for the hordes of spectators, who were mostly unfettered by the inclement weather.
Dozens of Brooklyn bands of all styles volunteered their services to the festival, for which no one was paid. Depending on where you were and when, you might have caught an aria, an experimental improvised electronic session, a crooning singer-songwriter, an amateur brass street-marching band, or some good old-fashioned clubhouse rock’n’roll.
The loudest acts to brave the unsheltered street performance locations attracted the largest crowds. The Library Is On Fire, a Bushwick three-piece, selected their performance time and location fortuitously. Minutes into their 3 p.m. set outside of Northside Deli, at Bedford Avenue and North 6th Street, the sky was still clear, spectators were gathering, and the amps were turned up to eleven.
TLIOF’s paradigmatic blend of guitar/bass/drums, audible from blocks away, was difficult to resist, even while the Wilco-with-a-tuba stylings of Tangents emanated from within the nearby Spike Hill. Dozens of passers-by gratefully applauded TLIOF’s sludgy, agitative rock music. Lead singer/guitarist Steve Five, fairly drenched in sweat from a set in the muggy pre-rain outdoor air, remarked on the band’s luck in choosing an early time slot, as storm clouds gathered overhead. TLIOF’s first full-length, produced by Todd Tobias (Guided by Voices) is due out later this year.
At Five’s recommendation, the next spot to check out was Secret Project Robot, a performance space conjoined to the Live With Animals gallery and Mollusk Surf Shop on the Williamsburg waterfront. But in the spitting rain, SPR proprietress Rachael Nelson reported she had to cancel all of the day’s outdoor performances.
“What can you do?” said Nelson, who had booked 20-some bands to play at half-hour intervals.
While some performances were simply cancelled, some of the shows initially planned for a sidewalk stage were moved indoors after the showers started. Festival organizer/performer DJ Shakey had her group moved from an outdoor spot in front of Supreme Trading, on North 8th Street, to the end of the block at K&M Bar, where a bevy of likeminded electronic musicians who meet regularly as Warper Party did their thing with loops and laptops.
DJ Shakey was unitimidated by the nasty weather, and questioned its effect on festival turnout.
“I figure people who are interested in music and downloaded a map are probably motivated to (come out and watch the bands) anyway,” she said. Although the shows she booked were pushed back by an hour and a half, “Warper doesn’t call off anything, ever!”
After making the rounds at Front Room Gallery (indoors, electronic improvisations) and waiting out a bit of rain there was a magnetic pull West to happenings at Sodafine and outside Passout Record Shop, on Grand Street. There several late acts picked up the momentum considerably, drawing large crowds in the late evening.
At Passout, Rick Snyder, who runs the open mic night at Banjo Jim’s in the lower East Side, dedicated an inspiring tune to his son Rusty (“I watched you grow from a little bush / to a big ole tree”). It was intimate, acoustic-guitar-accompanied ballads and blues from Snyder, who tapped a flip-flopped foot on the rainy sidewalk as he strummed his traveler’s guitar.
Less than a block away, the discordant scream/fuzz duo Red Dawn II set up on a soggy sidewalk commenced a brief, exhilarating set to the delight of several dozen onlookers. Members of This Library Is On Fire, who cancelled their later show in front of their apartment because of the weather, could be spotted in the crowd, visibly rocking out to RDII. Some others were perched atop an American Flag-painted minivan with Texas plates as Wolfy Part II, RDII’s spasmatic lead singer, ducked and kegeled and scrubbed his Fender, bellowing into the mic in front of band mate Allison Busch—at just 19 quite a fierce drummer. Clothes were dampened but spirits were not; as stalwart spectators swilled beer from plastic and brown paper bag-obscured cans, it seemed the perfect ending to this year’s rainy Make Music festival.

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