The atmosphere at the 2014 Afropunk Festival was permeated by the happenings in Ferguson, Missouri (namely the death of Michael Brown) and last month’s chokehold-related death of Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York. People had their hands in the air as a tribute to Michael Brown nearly as often as they did for the performers. In correlation, the (what seemed to me to be) higher police presence at the fest didn’t impede any of the fun, nor did the weather for the most part. Saturday was a bit overcast and there was a light rain for a bit which may have been enough to keep some of the crowds away—Sunday was extraordinarily tight when the sun was out in full force. Photos from much of Saturday (I didn’t stay for Sharon Jones partly because I caught her earlier this year and part of Sunday (D’Angelo with the Roots headlined but photographers weren’t allowed in the pit and he started an hour late) are below. Other notable moments were seeing Mayor de Blasio on site for Bad Brains set and Cold Specks unfortunately not performing due to visa issues.
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The Roots’ first show since their manager Richard Nichols died in July was a celebration for Guitar Center’s new store in Times Square. Aside from having their banners on stage, the sponsor didn’t have much else to do once the Roots took control of the audience just after 10 pm. As Entertainment Weekly wrote, “The band took the stage at New York’s Best Buy Theater Thursday to celebrate Guitar Center’s 50th anniversary, kicking off their set with a rousing performance of “Table of Contents (Parts 1 & 2)” off their 1999 album Things Fall Apart. Sousaphonist Tuba Gooding Jr. kicked up his knees and marches across the stage as he played, often looking like he’d been transported from a 4th of July parade, and Black Thought bounced around as he rapped.” You can check out photos of Black Thought bouncing below or find a larger gallery of images over on Facebook.
Lincoln Center is host to so many great shows that even on the same night you may find yourself conflicted over what to see. While I chose to see the world premiere of the ‘Song of the Jasmine’ dance as part of the ‘Out of Doors’ series, that meant I had to miss Tift Merritt performing in-doors for the ‘Americanafest’ series. But I had seen Merritt recently with Andrew Bird and she will surely be back around again so I chose to see the dance—though I had to catch a couple of her songs at the beginning.
The turnout for the dance performances was impressive as the Asia Society also shared word of the event. The first performance, done by the Chinese American Arts Council Dancers and called ‘From Chinatown with Love’, featured vivid colors and costumes as well as the dancers incorporating accessories like fans or spears. In stark contrast was the Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers and their performance of ‘Be/Longing 2’. The dancers wore comfortable, loose athletic attire that didn’t pull attention away from their dramatic motions.
Photos by Mark Manary
Joan Jett strolled on stage in Sedalia, Missouri, at the Missouri State Fair with a gum-chewing grin, fiddled with her Gibson for a couple seconds, and then ripped into an opening trifecta: punk proclamation “Bad Reputation”, The Runaways classic “Cherry Bomb”, and the grandstand-rattling “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)”. After shedding her black leather jacket, she exhibited her wiry frame, jogging around the stage, still like a teenage Leather Tuscadero in a spandex chevron jumpsuit and Chuck Taylors.
Jett was intent on showcasing her first new album in seven years, last year’s strong yet underrated Unvarnished, playing six of the album’s ten songs, including the Hurricane Sandy-inspired “Make It Back”, the Dave Grohl collaboration “Any Weather”, and “Soulmates to Strangers”, a co-write with Against Me’s Laura Jane Grace.
The parade of new songs was broken up with three older self-penned numbers: the first song she ever wrote, The Runaways’ “You Drive Me Wild”, 1981’s “Love is Pain”, and “The French Song” (Joan’s “all-time favorite video”) from 1983’s Album.
But this is a state fair and with the smell of funnel cakes and diesel in the air, the people had come to pump their fists to the hits while trying not to spill their $5.75 Bud Lights. Just when the crowd seemed to waver on unfamiliar new album material, Joan delivered the haymaking threesome of “I Love Rock ‘n Roll”, “Crimson and Clover”, and “I Hate Myself For Loving You”. After introducing her Blackhearts during the three-song encore, she summed up her message of rebellion, individualism, and acceptance with Sly Stone’s “Everyday People”.
The fact that David Gray is able to nearly fill massive venues across the world almost 15 years after the release of his lone global breakthrough (1999’s White Ladder) is somewhat perplexing. This isn’t because Gray himself is bad; he, in fact, remains one of the most underrated singer/songwriters out there. But in going through his discography, it doesn’t take one long to realize just how off-kilter he is compared to his contemporaneous singer/songwriters. His chord progressions are often unpredictable and at times unsettling (“When I Was in Your Heart” from 2010’s Foundling); his choruses typically rely on repeated simple phrases (“It takes a lot of love” from fan favorite “My Oh My”); and, most of all, his lyrics, while rich with playful alliteration and intriguing images, at times become too surreal for their own good (“There are carnivals of silverfish waiting to dance upon our bones” from 2009’s Draw the Line). He’s easy to admire, but it’s equally easy to be confounded by how popular he remains, given the type of fare that typically does well in the mainstream public.
// Notes from the Road
"Radio 104.5's birthday show featured great bands and might have been the unofficial start of summer festival season in the Northeast.READ the article