New York really has some amazing free outdoor concerts all summer long. For every one I go to, I probably miss 5 or 10 other really badass shows. I tried to check out the free Q-Tip show in Central Park and it was completely filled past capacity. Unlike Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park you can't just stand beyond the fenced area and still watch the show. Central Park's Summer Stage is up on a hill and there's bleacher-style seating. So everyone outside the designated concert area can hear the show, but can't see shit. The following day Lee "Scratch" Perry performed at Summer Stage and I decided I just couldn't make the trip out there again on the hopes I was early enough to get into the fenced off audience pen, just so I could bake in the hot sun while suffering from one of the worst sunburns of my entire life (thank you global warming and expired sun bock). Still, it probably would have been worth dieing of heat exhaustion just to see Lee "Scratch" Perry, but I wasn't feeling up to it.
However, the week before I was able to see hip hop revolutionaries Dead Prez performing free at an outdoor festival designed to raise awareness about solar energy and the environment. I don't think there was very much promotion because the crowd was pretty small considering Dead Prez was headlining. It was cool on a selfish level because that meant I didn't have to fight the crowds to get to the front of the stage, but on a much deeper level it was sad because in this day and age where we are actually seeing the disastrous effects of global warming on a massive scale people should be exposed to the message that this festival is promoting. We should be making a serious effort to switch over to environmentally conscious alternative energy sources before it's too late. We should not only be trying to halt the effects of global warming, but reverse the damage that's already been done. Dead Prez was one of the few artists on stage who actually knew a lot about environmental issues, alternative energy sources and ways in which to protect the planet. They talked about how polluted the City is, especially our rivers. They talked about being vegan for your health and the health of the planet. They urged people to exercise and drink more water, but not from the East River. They joked that that's where our "pure unfiltered New York City tap water" comes from. They also rocked the effing house with songs such as "New York," "War Path" and their mad popular jam "Hip Hop."
The CitySol Festival is an annual clean energy-powered music, art and community event hosted by Solar One, New York City’s first solar-powered "green energy, arts, and education center." Solar One's mission is to "empower people of all ages with the vision, knowledge and resources to attain a more environmentally sound and sustainable future." A message that was echoed on the solar-powered stage by artists such as Dead Prez and Brooklyn's Ihsan, whose eco-conscious hip hop anthem "Go Green, Get Green" was a real crowd pleaser.
The music portion of the festival took place at 23rd St and the East River and was co-curated by Digiwax, who put out a free CD Mix Tape that was given out at the festival. The Mix Tape was called "Hip Hop is Green Vol. 2: Solar Heat" and featured tracks by Dead Prez, Ihsan, O'Neal McNight, Outasight and many many others, with 21 tracks total mixed by DJ GETLIVE!
"It's bigger than Hip Hop..."
All jokes about New York City tap water aside, New York City has some of the cleanest and best tasting tap water in all of the U.S. and environmental groups in the City are urging people to stop buying bottled water and instead refill reusable containers with "pure unfiltered New York City tap water" instead, thus preventing billions of non-biodegradable plastic water bottles from ending up in landfills every year. New York City's water comes from upstate sources so clean it is not required by the EPA to be filtered in any way. The water is screened and treated and that's about it. Its full of minerals and because EPA standards are higher than the FDA's standards, New York City tap water is actually safer to drink than bottled water. The best part of all is that New York City tap water is completely free, just like nature intended.
Disclaimer: many old buildings in New York still have lead pipes which can contaminate the otherwise pure and delicious New York City tap water. Prolonged exposure to lead can lead to brain-damage and death, so get that shit tested. If you can't afford to get your water tested and you don't trust your scumbag landlord when they say the pipes aren't lead, then be sure to only drink from the cold water tap. Let it run for about a minute before drinking from it. Never drink from a hot water tap.
Ok all you "freeloaders," it's time to take advantage of the free Ikea water taxi to Red Hook before the multinational, anti-union mega-box store goes back on their word and stops providing free water taxi service between Manhattan and Red Hook for non-Ikea shoppers.
I joy ride the Ikea water taxi all the time for the view and hope that it won't soon be a thing of the past. I mean, it's a free open-air boat ride with amazing views of the Manhattan skyline, the Brooklyn Bridge, Governor's Island, the Statue of Liberty the New York Harbor and the historic loading docks of Red Hook, which are unfortunately marred by the site of the big ugly blue and yellow building that houses overpriced cheaply made Swedish crap furniture designed for people with no imagination or real sense of style.
Ikea has sworn up and down in all the media that they would be providing this service for free, regardless of whether you were a customer of Ikea or not. This wasn't just a gift to Red Hook or to New York City, Ikea offered the Red Hook water taxi service to gain community support for the unwanted box store. This was intended to mitigate traffic concerns, and provide compensation for negative effects in the neighborhood, such as destroying historic structures and ushering in a tide of gentrification and displacement.
It's offensive enough that a big box chain that engages in union busting decided to move into a working class community against their wishes, destroying historic structures that were remnants of labor's past, now there's rumors of Ikea going back on their word of providing free water taxi service to and from Red Hook. Red Hook is one of many Brooklyn neighborhoods that is severely underserved by public transportation, so why shouldn't Red Hook residents and others be able to take advantage of the free water taxi service Ikea promised, especially given the fact that it is heavily subsidized by the City. You're not freeloading when you ride it, that water taxi belongs to you.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, big box stores like Target, Wal-Mart and Ikea and corporate chains like Starbucks, CVS and Duane Reede are destroying everything that is unique and special about New York City. The reason I moved to New York in the first place is because it isn't just one big cookie-cutter strip mall like nearly every other major city in the U.S. However, New York is slowly losing its individuality, its uniqueness, its soul. It's the bodegas, street carts, the parks, community gardens, the small independent businesses, the public spaces that make New York City tick. It's the vibrant, unique neighborhoods with a culture and style of their own that makes New York one of the best cities on the face of the Earth. And New Yorkers aren't going to know what they had until its gone forever and we're living in one big sterile, corporate strip mall you can see from space. One street looking nearly indistinguishable from the next.
So while you still can, hop on the water taxi from Wall Street's Pier 11 and ride it to Red Hook. Enjoy the sights. Soak it all in. Check out historic Red Hook before the yuppies devour it like locusts. Walk along what's left of the historic waterfront. Grab yourself a bagel and check out the views of the Statue of Liberty from the outdoor eating area behind the Fairway. Just be warned, on the trip back they're letting Ikea customers board first. So you may have to catch the next water taxi out if they're all full up.
Sorry for the repost, but I just added a whole lot of pics to my photo album entitled "Brooklyn in the Spring." I also removed some of the weaker photos.
With these pictures I wanted to show the world that Brooklyn is beautiful, especially in the spring. Most of these pictures are from people's personal container gardens, small community gardens and various city parks. They were taken around Crown Heights, Prospect Park, Prospect Heights, Downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene, Red Hook, Brooklyn Heights and on the Brooklyn Promenade.
I just find it refreshing to see living things growing in a city that is mostly steel and concrete. I want to try to promote the idea of greening the city thru guerilla gardening, community gardens, creating more city parks. Not only does it enrich our lives and alleviate some of the stress of city life, flowers and plants and trees help clean the air we breathe. You can grow a garden about anywhere- on a rooftop, in containers on your stoop, in a window box. And you can grow fruits, vegetables and herbs to offset the high cost of food. You'll be doing yourself and the planet a favor.
Soon I'll be posting my pictures from Central Park, so watch out for those. I also have not been to the botanical gardens in either Queens or the Bronx, so expect lots of photos of those after I finally check them out. Not to mention all the parks I haven't been to yet in all five boroughs.
Ok, here's my pics from Pride 2009. They're a little late but I've been busy looking for work and crashing 4th of july weekend rooftop parties.
The batteries in my camera died about three hours into the parade, so I didn't get any pictures of the ACT UP, Polyamorous NYC or New York Area Bisexual Network contingents. There were also some more really beautiful Caribbean costumes and floats, as well as topless dykes and leatherfags in assless chaps. Don't forget the drag kings and drag queens and all the badass trannies and genderqueers.
I intentionally did not take pictures of the endless sea of politicians, corporate floats or gay & lesbian cops. These things do not make me feel proud. They actually have the opposite effect on me. A gay cop is still a cop. You think they won't bash your head in at a demonstration just because they're gay? You think a gay cop won't abuse their power, racially profile, commit sexual assault, shoot an unarmed black man holding a wallet? Well, you're wrong.
This was the 4oth anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. I find it offensive that the gay & lesbian police association's marching band marched in the parade directly in front of the Stonewall Veterans Association. It was a police instigated riot turned into an open rebellion that sparked the national Gay Liberation movement. Gay cops or not, the veterans of the first GLBT uprising in the U.S. should have been at the front of the parade. Period.
1) Why didn't I hear about this at the march? I know there were hundred of thousands of spectators, but the news should have spread like wildfire.
2) It's our fucking parade. It doesn't belong to the police or the city, but to queer people. All queer people. Especially queer people of color. It was queer working class people of color who first rose up against the daily abuses of police violence and institutionalized state repression. It was queer people of color who threw the first bricks and bottles at Stonewall.
3) And last but not least, this happened on the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion!!!
It reminds me of when the Chicago queer anarchist contingent Pink and Black Bloc was attacked by the police, many of whom were known "out" cops, after we scuffled with a Fred Phelps' style "God Hates Fags" group that was allowed to march in the parade because they paid their fee. Many of us in the Pink and Black Bloc were beaten and three of our comrades were arrested. None of the violently homophobic Fag-Haters were arrested. We were screaming that we were being gaybashed at Pride and none of the onlookers did a damn thing. We even tried to stop the Lambda Legal Defence Fund's float, which was swarming with gay lawyers and they just kept dancing to bad Euro-disco. Like we were inconveniencing them.
Pride is not just a party. It started as a protest. As a queer fist in the air and a "fuck you" to hetero-normativity.
Solidarity to all those fighting the system, and long live Sylvia Rivera!
Melvin Gibbs' Elevated Entity at Celebrate Brooklyn in Prospect Park. June 25th 2009.
Last Thursday my girlfriend and I went to Celebrate Brooklyn's free Femi Kuti concert in Prospect Park. Not only did Femi Kuti rock the house, we were treated to multiple surprises with the opening band- Melvin Gibbs' Elevated Entity.
We were still walking through Prospect Park when Elevated Entity went on. We could hear the sound of the opening song echoing through the trees as we entered the field across from the Prospect Park Bandshell. It was a funky mix of Afro-jazz, hiphop and hard rock. They were well into their second song by the time we got up to the bandshell area. Before the third song, renowned bass player Melvin Gibbs (Defunkt, Rollins Band) started to introduce his band which included such legendary and innovative musicians as Vernon Ried from Living Colour on guitar, Bernie Worrell from Parliament/Funkadelic and Talking Heads on keyboards, High Priest from Anti-Pop Consortium on vocals and Amayo from Brooklyn's Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra on vocals. I couldn't believe it.
Every time Melvin Gibbs introduced another member of the band, Liberte and I looked at each other and were like "No freaking way!" "Bernie Worrell!?!" "Vernon Reid!?!"
I still can't believe we got to see all these really amazing performers all on the same stage, all for free. Amayo from Antibalas and High Priest from Anti-Pop Consortium were badass on dual vocals with Amayo singing and High Priest rapping over a psychedelic mix of African drumming, Bernie Worrell's signature keyboards and Vernon Reid's hard rock guitar licks.
I felt so lucky to see all these musicians play and was especially happy to hear Amayo on vocals since I haven't had the chance to see a live Antibalas show yet since moving to New York. It was kind of like seeing Antibalas mixed in a blender with Defunkt, Parliament and Living Colour. "Awesome" is the only word I think adequately describes the moment.
And this was all just warming up for the main event: Femi Kuti & The Positive Force!
Femi Kuti gave a powerful performance. Some critics complain that Femi doesn't have the same stage presence of his father, the legendary Nigerian musician and founder of Afrobeat, Fela Kuti. I find the comparison to be unfair. Few could match the intensity and raw emotional energy of Fela Kuti. However, watching Femi Kuti take command of the stage with his energetic dancing and listening to his wailing saxophone you can almost imagine what it must have been like to see Fela Kuti perform during the height of his musical career. And the resemblance is staggering. At several point's Femi Kuti's music brought me to tears. Certainly during his anti-colonial anthem "You Should Ask Yourself," as well as during his safer sex anthem "Stop AIDS." Here Femi Kuti sets himself apart from his father with lyrics such as "If you love yourself/Protect yourself." Fela Kuti, who was dismissive about the impact of HIV, sadly passed away from AIDS in 1997.
Femi Kuti's back up band The positive Force is an Afrobeat powerhouse, with full-on surging horns and African percussion that creates a wall of sound that makes it literally impossible not to dance. And speaking of dancing, you can't forget the beautiful and talented Nigerian Kuti Dancers on stage!
Another highlight of the show was the sex education lecture in the middle of the AfroPop song "Beng Beng Beng," which Kuti stretched out to marathon proportions and put more of a focus on the lyrics "Don't cum too fast." Femi Kuti, his band Positive Force and the Kuti Dancers even left the stage to take a break in the middle of the song. During the first part of the song Femi Kuti urged parents to talk to their children about sex. Not just fathers to their sons and mothers to their daughters, but fathers to their daughters and mothers to their sons. After a very short break, Femi Kuti & The Positive Force went right back into sexually charged "Beng Beng Beng," a definite crowd pleaser.
And did i mention that the show was completely FREE?
from the subways to the rooftop gardens, from brooklyn to the bronx, from queens to staten island and manhattan, from washington heights to crown heights, from the beaches to the parks, from the faux dive-bars to the real dive bars, the brooklyn museum parties, vegan pizza by the slice, falafel from a cart, bodegas and the cats that live in them, street vendors and the vendy awards, the vegan dosa cart at washington square park, the turtle pond and the shakespeare gardens in central park, fair-trade cafes, the mud truck, the brooklyn brewery, vegan dim sum in chinatown, the transit museum, celebrate booklyn in prospect park, the koi pond at the brooklyn botanical gardens, the coney island museum and the freak bar, the free water taxi to red hook, joyriding the staten island ferry, going to the top of the rock even though i'm scared of heights... i fucking love new york city.