Saul Williams may not directly challenge the status quo every day but an uprising is at core of his being. When he performed a free show for Summerstage in Marcus Garvey Park, Williams began his set late due to technical difficulties some of which continued through his set. However, with a simple stage arrangement, it was simply him and his a backup DJ/producer, Williams commanded attention at the park. When the music dropped out (due to audio issues?) he continued on and later, he inflamed the audience further from the crowd. With the lights low (and the sun down), Williams’ system challenging lyrics aligned with his MartyrLoserKing multimedia backdrop and allowed his message to be the center of attention. As an artist, a poet, an activist and more, Williams is steadfast on his principles and his music reflects his social and political views. Check out some photos and a couple of clips from his set below.
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After two days of alternating weather and headlining acts of alternating quality (I didn’t say this – the majority of reporters did, though), the third, or officially Day 1 of the Sziget Festival, brought about some much-needed guitar and alt-rock. The gargantuan pan-artistic event has been growing exponentially in the past 15 years or so, and this growth meant some difficult decisions regarding the nature of Main Stage(s) performers had to be made. Now that Sziget is indisputably one of the largest cultural events in the world, in order to sell enough tickets to support its magnificent 1,500-plus programs and 3,000-strong staff (seriously, major kudos to those people working around the clock so that we can feel at home), compromises have to be made, and that’s all right, business is business, after all. It is for this reason that the majority of the Main Stage headliners in recent years have been pop and club-house stars, and the good ol’ guitar had to, literally, forgo center stage, and settle for the large A38 tent, the epicenter of, in my opinion, best festival performances for some four years now.
Although the show hadn’t sold out, Garbage‘s performance at Summerstage was a treat for all those in attendance. With Kristin Kontrol (Dee Dee from the Dum Dum Girls) as their opener (it was Welchez’s second public New York City performance with the moniker) playing tracks from her debut X-Communicate, Garbage smashed through their catalog including the ‘90s classics “Stupid Girl” and “Push It”. But the offerings from their newest album Strange Little Birds were equally as exciting. Lead singer Shirley Manson was everywhere as she belted out “Empty” and “Even Though Our Love is Doomed”. Really though, Garbage brought tons of energy to the stage and ensured their fans that, at over twenty years in, they are not gonna be a nostalgia act any time soon. Check out photos from the show below and additional tour dates from Garbage as well.
It should be apparent that Josh Ritter is one of my favorite artists as I’ve covered his shows at least five times for this site alone. So at the first chance I had to see him with The Royal City Band in 2016, at a free outdoor show in Prospect Park (where he had opened for Damien Rice last year) I leapt at it. Ritter is one of the happiest performers I’ve seen on any stage and there was no reason this show would be different.
It’s a few years since Comedy Central had their last event at Summerstage (Stars Under the Stars), which featured then rising talent Amy Schumer. This year, Comedy Central hosted a show with talent from their flagship show The Daily Show with Trevor Noah: Ronny Chieng, Jordan Klepper, Adam Lowitt, Desi Lydic, Hasan Minhaj, Michelle Wolf, and Roy Wood Jr. on Sunday, June 26. The free event was an “extra night of work”, joked Klepper, who quickly realized the audience hadn’t paid to get in either. He was probably “disappointed” that he and co-emcee Lydic were decked out for the night—chumps fawning for a crowd. Nonetheless, Klepper and Lydic proved gracious hosts, and introduced all the performers with baby pictures of that individual.
I find it difficult to translate comedy into a review, given I’d essentially spoil some excellent punch lines, but I can mention a couple of highlights. There was Wolf’s hilarious bit where she read texts from a person she dated, including the fake idiom “chipping away at the ham”. Noah himself offered great commentary on Rihanna being strong enough to withstand the rap artists guesting on her tracks, as he deftly imitated the body motions of a singer. There were many, many other laughs earned during the nearly two hour show; the audience responded heartily to each talent, even staying after the show was over to try and meet the comedians. Photos from the event are below.