“I’m constantly looking for the edge ... so I can push it,” says Nona Hendryx. Indeed, a fearless sensibility has always kindled the Grammy-nominated icon’s career, whether recording genre-bending solo albums, writing songs as one-third of the legendary trio Labelle or collaborating with Gary Lucas on their forthcoming, full-length release The World of Captain Beefheart (2017). Her artistry thrives in live music spaces, from leading a band of unbridled, no-holds-barred funk/rock to incorporating progressive technology and visual media into her performances. It’s why Joe’s Pub at the Public has selected Hendryx to inaugurate their 2018 Vanguard Residency program.
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Dutch producer and DJ Armin van Buuren has been a fixture on the electronic music circuit for over 20 years. His latest single, “Sunny Days”, is a radiant, upbeat tune, featuring vocals by Josh Cumbee (the video features a dancing mime), that could easily find it’s way into rotation on Top 40 radio. In a testament to his prowess, he has earned DJ Mag‘s number one DJ in the world title several times (in a row). On top of his regular touring and family life, van Buuren has been hosting his weekly trance radio show A State of Trance for over 15 years. As a badge of honor for his years of service, van Buuren held a special The Best of Armin Only homecoming show in the Netherlands in May of this year, an event dubbed one of “unprecedented scale”.
The music festival landscape, an event production universe in its own right, has changed drastically over the course of the past decade and a half, or so. What had begun some half a century ago as a naïve, albeit admirable attempt at youth liberté and rebelliousness, turned into a global-scale business undertaking some time in the ‘90s, only to, perhaps inevitably, become a gargantuan money-making machinery in the ‘00s, abandoning any semblance of ideology or topicality.
When renowned festivals make the ambitious business decision to expand their activities, namely by creating satellite festivals, there are only two ways in which this tapping into new territory plays out -– either the satellite festival is small, shoddy, cheap, and generally serves only to raise awareness about the queen bee event, or it becomes a rogue sensation in its own right, breathing a new life into the entire franchise and providing ace entertainment for audiences thirsty for new events.
It’s June in New York and there’s rain spitting down on everyone stuck outside. But I’m inside at Warsaw, the Polish National Home in Brooklyn, one of a crowd of a thousand whose eardrums are being ripped to shreds. The bandleader is standing up on a crowded stage, using the neck of his guitar as a baton, his whole body pivoting between swells of violent noise that feel like blinding light. I have decided to take my earplugs out.
The band onstage is Swans, and I leave that night physically exhausted, as if I’d done something other than stand stock-still for two-plus hours. I have a hard time explaining to everyone just what was so pleasurable about the experience, that this all-rhythm, no-melody approach actually heightened the show’s sensory assault, and pushed it into territory generally never trod by touring bands: the transcendent.