Friday, July 27, 2007

Hippiefest: Nostalgia for the Future

When we arrived at the Seaside Summer Concert Series, I immediately sent a text to my kids who were at home recovering from day camp and summer jobs: "At HippieFest. Must be a mistake, everyone here is old."

The free Seaside Concert Series at Asser Levy park featured "Hippiefest", an excellent if unfortunately titled, creatively packaged, rolling festival of star acts from the wonder years: Felix Cavaliere's Rascals, The Turtles with Flo and Eddie, Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone leading The Zombies, Wings' Denny Laine, Melanie, and Country Joe McDonald. I hate the word "nostalgia" (the 60s and 70s weren't a fantasy, it was a period of struggle and change that had worldwide ramifications after all) but it was good to be at an event where "60s" wasn't someone's looming birthday.

Country Joe, especially, who also served as host, reminded us that the Sixties weren't just about the music and the funky clothes, bringing a strong thread of political consciousness to the proceedings with songs about "Support the Troops" and "Save the Whale..Save Ourselves". Melanie, who reported that she had just arrived from "Brooklyn, Maine", strong of voice, worked through some of her hits and did an excellent cover of Ruby Tuesday by the Stones. Accompanied by her son on guitar she said "I needed a sideman so I grew my own". Denny Laine, who got things off to a rousing start with Wings' "Band on the Run" , answered a call of "Where's Paul?" with "Paul Who?, but clearly the affection for Paul (and Linda) is there..

To the Mrs and me, the Zombies featuring Rod Argent on cosmic keyboards and soaring vocals by Colin Blunstone, really set the crowd in motion with "Time of the Season" and other hits plus Argent's anthemic "Hold Your Head Up". They were rather awesome. The singer noted that Brooklyn held special affection for them as they first appeared in America in 1964 (ahem) at the a Murray the K show at the Brooklyn Fox

The Turtles, featuring the delightfully manic Flo and Eddie (Mark Vollman and Howard Kaylan), reminded us of why, post-Turtles, Flo and Eddie fit in so well as vocalists for Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention. Their great humor and energy made their brief set seem even briefer. The show closed with Felix Cavaliere's Rascals. Cousin Brucie, formerly of CBS-FM now on Sirius Satellite, who served as series host Marty Markowitz's musical alter ego, noted that the Rock n Roll Hall of Famer Cavaliere had recently become a grandpa. Oy-vey, maybe so, but close your eyes, and he is still that soulful keyboardist and singer who created those rock radio classics : "Groovin'," and "People Got to be Free".

The series in its 29th year of free shows with major acts is in itself a work of art (produced by the Slope's own Debby Garcia ) Beep Markowitz who created and has hosted the event in white dinner jacket & jeans for lo these many years, holds court, thanking sponsors, welcoming show biz and political luminaries (including, last nite, Sid Bernstein, who brought the Beatles to America in 1964, and was in da house) along with other neighbors and just plain folks. I also saw Sopranos' Steven Schirippa (aka"Bobby Baccala") doing a little spot coverage for someone with a microphone. Still, at Seaside, it is Marty's world and we just get to live in it. Without getting into the inevitable heat that surrounds Markowitz (he is a politican after all), the free concert series at Coney and Wingate Field are cool institutions and 29 years isn't a bad legacy. But last night, the 1960s took center stage and reminded us that, at least while the boomer demographics are still prime, the zeitgeist was with us and the music will never die. Iraq may have replaced Viet Nam, but freedom and most of all love may still hold the key..

Peace Out.

--Brooklyn Beat

Note: This post also appeared at

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Apocalypse...whaaa? - remembering the 1977 Power Failure (aka Blackout of '77)

I was in my early 20s, coming home from my job as an evening manager of Bookmasters in Penn Station (or "Bookies" as my co-worker, artist David Wojnarowicz referred to it), and the F Train stopped, of all places, half-in and half-out of the Smith and 9th Street station. We passengers somehow made our way down from the elevated station tower in the dark in one piece, amazed at the new world that had just opened up to us..

I shlepped up 9th street to my apt at PPW and 8th Street ($125/month, utilities not included)and hung with my neighbors on the front stairs, illuminated by candles (and no doubt the lights of a thousand flickering bongs)...

Interestingly, I didn't have a car then, don't think I had an AC, no computer, just my stereo and my little B&W Philco TV (on which I watched the news and the Honeymooners and in a few short years, the drama of the John Lennon murder), so I was more oblivious to the technological deprivations then than I would be now... it was darkness, uncertainty but still community..

The next day I remember seeing my sister and now late-brother in law who lived on Berkeley and 7th, and we made our way to the Coach Inn I think on Garfield and 7th where we sat at the bar with the door opened (no A-C) drinking cool (maybe room temperature) draft beer as the stifling heat, chaos and violence which did not seem to touch our little corner of the world at that time, unfolded, before any of us had kids, or careers, before the Slope became the mighty economic engine that it is today,and we sat and sipped and laughed and gazed into the distance at this glimpse of apocalypse and our own unknown futures and the sheer wonder of it all...

Speak memory

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why the Excitement Over WCBS-FM ? Here's Why

I'm back. Miss me? Spent a couple of weeks doing stem-cell research in Indochina, but now I am back and going, going, gone...the excitement of today was the return of 101.1 FM in NYC. WCBS-FM. Wow, when it went away two years ago it seemed like another post- 9/11 casualty in some perverse way.

After 9/11 Bloomberg was elected and New York was going to turn modern, corporate and bad to the bone. Let's start by getting rid of all of those old fogey institutions and replace them with something..well, "Youthful". Well, it turned out that youth (or "yutes" to quote Joe Pesce in My Cousin Vinny) don't listen to the damn radio when they have Ipods and Iphones and Idon't know what else. There was something so New Yawk about cbs-fm..It was always there (kind of like NY1 is there, I guess, or the Drudgereport), every season, at work, at home, in the car even , or when you are exercising. And it was like a particular kind of musicology lesson, where you honed your musical knowledge and chops. Tonite, I was on the elliptical for an hour in the basement and I was hauling ass & I Listened to 101.1 and there was not a song that was not wonderfuly familiar, memorable, and touched you in a special place. I know all of you young uns are moving in, with your inspiration, your derivate musiques, your wishes lies and dreams and you would like nothing more that us older 50s to take a powder or generally move off stage and that's what theoriginal removal of 101.1 was..I tried to listen to Jack, I really did, but it had no remove cbsfm, which had so much New Yawk brassiness and pizzazz and that was kind of a melting pot for the diverse, black and white pop musics that were new and fresh in the 60s-80s and that we grew up on, well, to remove it and replace it with the weak Jack FM was a repudiation of all of us who were young once too, damnit, young just like you, ya fools...

While we didn't take to the barricades over cbsfm, it did represent a loss and a fear that wow, to quote Bob Dylan, Things Had Changed.. and while change can be necessary and good not everything needs to tossed in the trashbin.. so the fact that it is back is a little bit of a mystery and an unexpected joy and in this hot summer of Iraq slaughter, global warming, a weak dollar and other very pressing "gut" fears, it is great and wonderful to have this little bit of familiarity and comfort back in our lives as we make our way through each New York day.

Peace Out

Current Reading

  • Midnight Rising: John Brown and the Raid that Sparked the Civil War- Tony Horwitz
  • A Sultan in Palermo - Tariq Ali
  • Hitch-22: A Memoir - Christopher Hitchens
  • Negropedia- Patrice Evans
  • Dead Funny: Humor in Nazi Germany - Rudolph Herzog
  • Exile on Main Street - Robert Greenfield
  • Among the Truthers - A Journey Among America's Growing Conspiracist Underworld - Jonathan Kay
  • Paradise Lost - John Milton
  • What Is Your Dangerous Idea? Thinking the Unthinkable - John Brockman
  • Notes from the Edge Times - Daniel Pinchbeck
  • Fringe-ology: How I Can't Explain Away the Unexplainable- Steve Volk
  • Un Juif pour l'exemple (translated as A Jew Must Die )- Jacques Cheesex
  • The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins
  • Pale King - David Foster Wallce
  • David Bowie: Starman bio - Paul Trynka
  • Tobacco Stained Mountain Goat - Andrez Bergen
  • The Future of Nostalgia -Svetlana Boym
  • Living in the End Times - Slavoj ZIzek
  • FIrst as Tragedy Next as Farce - Slavoj Zizek
  • How to Survive a Robot Uprising - Daniel Wilson
  • Where is My Jet Pack? -Daniel Wilson
  • Day of the Oprichniks - Vladimir Sorokin
  • Ice Trilogy - Vladimir Sorokin
  • First Civilizations
  • Oscar Wilde -Andre Maurois
  • The Beats - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • SDS - Harvey Pekar, et al
  • The Unfinished Animal - Theodore Roszak
  • Friends of Eddy Coyle
  • Brooklands -Emily Barton
  • Abraham Lincoln - Vampire Hunter - Seth Grahme-Smith - Entertaining and historical
  • Dictionary of the Khazars - Pavic
  • Sloth-Gilbert Hernandez
  • War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy
  • Charles Addams: An Evilution
  • Life in Ancient Greece
  • Time - Eva Hoffmann
  • Violence - S. Zizek
  • Luba - a graphic novel by Gilbert Hernandez
  • Life in Ancient Egypt
  • Great Apes - Will Self - riveting and disturbing
  • Lost Honor of Katherina Blum - Heinrich Boll - could not put it down
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed (author deserving of new wide readership)
  • Living in Ancient Mesopotomia
  • Landscape in Concrete - Jakov Lind - surreal
  • 'There Once Lived A Woman Who Tried To Kill Her Neighbor's Baby'-Ludmilla Petrushevskaya - creepy stories - translation feels literarily "thin"
  • Mythologies - William Butler Yeats (re-read again & again)
  • How German Is It ? - Walter Abish
  • The Book of Genesis - illustrated by R. Crumb - visionary
  • "Flags" - an illustrated encyclopedia - wish I could remember all of these. Flag culture
  • Sirens of Titan - Kurt Vonnegut
  • Ubik - Philip K. Dick
  • Nobody's Fool - Richard Russo
  • Hitler's Empire - Mark Mazower
  • Nazi Culture - various authors
  • Master Plan: Himmler 's Scholars and the Holocaust - Heather Pringle
  • Eichmann in Jerusalem - Hannah Arendt
  • Living in Ancient Rome
  • Traveling with Herodotus -R. Kapuszynsky
  • Oblivion - David Foster Wallace - Some of his greatest work
  • Infinite Jest - David Foster Wallace - still wrestling with this great book
  • Netherland - Joseph O'Neill - staggeringly great read
  • Renegade - The Obama Campaign - Richard Wolffe
  • Mount Analogue - Rene Daumal
  • John Brown
  • Anathem - Neal Stephenson - love Stephenson but tough slogging first few chapters
  • 7 Deadly Sins
  • ALEX COX - Alex Cox
  • FIASCO by Thomas Ricks
  • I, Fellini - Charlotte Chandler & Federico Fellini
  • Best of 20th century alternative history fiction
  • Judah P. Benjamin - Eli Evans - Confederacy's Secretary of State & source of the W.C. Field's exclamation
  • Moscow 2042 - Vladimir Voinovich - Pre-1989 curiosity & entertaining sci fi read; love his portrayal of Solzhenitsyn-like character
  • Gomorrah - Roberto Saviano - Mafia without the It-Am sugar coating. Brutal & disturbing
  • The Sack of Rome - Celebrity+Media+Money=Silvio Berlusconi - Alexander Stille
  • Reporting - David Remnick - terrific journalism
  • Fassbinder
  • Indignation - Philip Roth
  • Rome
  • Let's Go Italy! 2008
  • Italian Phrases for Dummies
  • How to Pack
  • Violence - Slavoj Zizek
  • Dali: Painting & Film
  • The Gang That Couldn't Shoot Straight - Jimmy Breslin
  • The Good Rat - Jimmy Breslin
  • Spook Country - William Gibson
  • A Blue Hand - The Beats in India - Deborah Baker
  • The Metaphysical Club - Louis Menard
  • Coast of Utopia - Tom Stoppard
  • Physics of the Impossible - Dr. Michio Kaku
  • Managing the Unexpected - Weick & Sutcliffe
  • Wait Til The Midnight Hour - Writings on Black Power
  • Yellow Back Radio Brokedown - Ishmael Reed
  • Burning Down the Masters' House - Jayson Blair
  • Howl - Allen Ginsberg
  • Cat's Cradle - Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Palace Thief - Ethan Canin
  • John Adams - David McCullough
  • The Wooden Sea - Jonathan Carroll
  • American Gangster - Mark Jacobson
  • Return of the King - J.R.R. Tolkien
  • Gawker Guide to Becoming King of All Media
  • Jews and Power - Ruth Wisse
  • Youth Without Youth - Mircea Eliade
  • A Team of Rivals - Doris Goodwin
  • Ghost Hunters -William James and the Search for Scientific Proof of Life After Death - Deborah Blum
  • Dream -Re-Imagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy - Stephen Duncombe
  • Love & Theft - Eric Lott
  • Exit Ghost - Philip Roth
  • Studio A - The Bob Dylan Reader

Current Listening

  • Alexi Murdoch Wait
  • Wilco Summer Teeth
  • Wilco The Album
  • Carmina Burana - Ray Manzarek (& Michael Riesmann)
  • Polyrock - Polyrock
  • 96 Tears - Garland Jeffries
  • Ghost of a Chance Garland Jeffries
  • Yellow Magic Orchestra
  • Mustang Sally Buddy Guy
  • John Lee Hooker
  • Black and White Years
  • Together Through Life - B. Dylan
  • 100 Days 100 Nites - Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings
  • DYLAN: 3 disc Greatest...
  • Glassworks - Philip Glass
  • Wild Palms - Soundtrack -Ryuichi Sakamoto
  • Dinah Washington - Best of..
  • Commander Cody& His Lost Planet Airmen Live at Armadillo