Jukebox the Ghost have a high probability of experiencing some technical difficulty during one of their shows. Fortunately, at Central Park’s Summerstage the greatest difficulty the band encountered was a microphone that was too close to pianist Ben Thornewill’s face, or one he got too close to, as he bumped into it at one point. Could it be their “curse” doesn’t apply when they are openers? I don’t know for sure, but I would rather have dealt with some technical difficulties and watched a longer set than catch them in abbreviated form. But I take what I can get. And the piano driven pop trio, Thornewill, Jesse Kristin on drums and Tommy Siegel on guitar, were in fine form.
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When I arrived at Brooklyn Bowl on June 23rd for the Buy This Fracking Album release show, I walked in, past the informational tables, to the stage to find a man (from Pennsylvania I believe) on stage with a bottle containing some disgusting looking liquid. As he explained, this was the drinking water from his home. It had become so visibly toxic as a result of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking”, the method by which gas can be released from the earth by drilling and injecting fluids into the ground. The fluids often contain harmful chemicals (which the businesses involved do not have to disclose) and can leech into water tables and wells, contaminating drinking supplies and even shifting the tectonic plates, creating earthquakes. This is somewhat hard to imagine living in the big city, and unfortunately because this isn’t affecting the city directly, perhaps a reason that Brooklyn Bowl wasn’t as crowded as it could have been. Fracking is an important concern for so many people now though, and the Movement Music Records label is taking great initiative to engage a wider audience. You can visit their site to find out more information and to stream or purchase the Buy This Fracking Album. There are also several pledge campaign videos over at Youtube to watch.
There was still much great talent on stage though, including, Amy Helm, Marco Benevento, Michael Glabicki, DJ Logic, Mike + Ruthy, Kristen Graves and more and it was a family friendly affair. I got to catch The Mike + Ruthy Band, whose set occasionally turned into an informal jam session with Benevento and Helm joining them on some songs. They did play some new material too, as they recently released their album Bright as You Can and it’s receiving great reviews, including the one here at PopMatters. On July 7th, they will be again joined by friends for their own album release party at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City. Ticket information can be obtained here. Mike and Ruthy also host the Summer and Winter Hoot Festivals at the Ashokan Center in Olivebridge, New York (a couple hours from NYC), family-friendly festivals of course (which should come as no surprise given the two tour with their children). More information on the Summer Hoot, happening August 21-23, can be found here.
Having seen Josh Ritter twice already this year, I was aware that he’s been giving a lot of time on stage to honing new songs. The new material is fascinating and it is a treat to see him perform songs like the enthusiastic “Henrietta” alongside crowd favorites like “Kathleen” and “Joy to You Baby”. However, unlike the most recent time when I saw him perform with Zachariah Hickman, Ritter went solo for this set, on par with headliner Damien Rice. Unfortunately, this resulted in Ritter being drowned out by the collective audience chatter.
The Northside Festival has tons to offer, and is perhaps the biggest series of shows outside of CMJ in New York. The weekend after Governors Ball, this series is more like CMJ than a getaway, as the festival has shows across tons of venues. While the entire festival encompasses music, film, and tech, we were only able to attend some of the music nights, notably the second (Friday the 12th) and the last (Sunday the 14th).
The rain on Sunday night might have been a surprise but it was not a deterrent to the throng of fans attending the final headlining set of the 2015 Northside Festival from Run the Jewels. El-P and Killer Mike (with one arm in a sling) were devastating together and even more so when Nas made a special appearance. Friday night had a headlining set from Neko Case, but I wanted to catch Malawian group the Very Best along with Heems at another one of the multitude of showcases. The Very Best are supporting their new album Makes a King while earlier in the day Dutch artist Jacco Gardner was performing tracks from his new album, Hypnophobia. Following Gardner and Irie Maffia, former Das Racist, Heems took the stage solo, save for a portable music device providing beats, spitting out rhymes from his album Eat Pray Thug. I, like some others in the audience, were confused by the guitar he occasionally strapped on and “played” but it didn’t appear plugged in so… ? Check out photos from these sets below.
Celebrate Brooklyn! is one of the most popular summer series in New York City and the 2015 season kicked off on a nice evening with a gala for all the beneficiaries and a musical performance from the legendary Chaka Khan.
As the Amsterdam News reported, “What seemed like a never-ending line last night stretched from the Prospect Park Bandshell entrance to around the corner and down Prospect Park SW. Thousands of people waited hours for Chaka Khan as she kicked off “Celebrate Brooklyn!” Performing Arts Festival on June 3. “The Queen of Funk” stepped on stage in all-black attire with big hair and an even bigger voice. She performed top hits including “I’m Every Woman,” “Tell Me Something Good,” and “Ain’t Nobody,” among other chart toppers.”