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Posts tagged with The Arts

Cleveland: A City Worth Visiting

CLEVELAND: WHY NOT?

By Ernest Barteldes


When I told friends that my wife and I had booked a trip to Cleveland for Labor Day weekend, most of our friends gave us a puzzled look. “What's in Cleveland? ” many asked. Others wondered why we hadn't booked a trip to say, Myrtle Beach or Las Vegas, where surely I would have more things to do than in the Ohio city by the shores of Lake Erie.

My response was easy – for the last few years, I have been contributing music articles to the city's local alternative newspaper, the Cleveland Scene (www.clevescene.com), and I wanted to get to know the people I had been exchanging e-mail messages with since I began writing for the paper. Also, I felt like I owed Cleveland a visit, even if it just meant checking out all the music venues whose shows I'd been previewing all this time.

We got up before the sunrise on Saturday morning and headed to LaGuardia airport, where we took an early flight that reached Cleveland at about 10:00 AM. We then headed to the local RTA train http://www.riderta.com, which got us to the Downtown area in less than 30 minutes (why the NY subway does not reach either of the international airports here is beyond me), checked into our hotel and started planning our day.

The first thing we did was get some lunch, and the place we chose was the nearby Flannery's Pub located on the East Fourth St. restaurant district (http://www.east4thstreet.com, where they also have an outpost of the House of Blues). After satisfying ourselves with a tasty meal and a couple of local microbrews, we headed to Cleveland's best-known attraction, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame an Museum (www.rockhall.com).



In spite of the high admission prices ($ 22 at the door, cheaper if you book with your trip), the Rockhall did not disappoint. There are plenty of memorabilia, movie screenings, multimedia and much more to see and hear. My personal favorites were the Woodstock 40th anniversary celebration, the R & R history chronology and the Elvis Presley display. I also liked the Les Paul tribute, the current exhibit on the life and work of Bruce Springsteen and of course the striking views of the lake, which can be seen from the glass panels of the building's pyramid-like setup. After visiting the Hall, we hung out at the neighboring park, where there a street fair going on.

Later that evening, we checked out a foodie event called A Taste of Cleveland and ended the evening by paying a visit to Wilbert's http://www.wilbertsmusic.com, where we caught a fiery performance by bassist Doug Johns, who played backed solely by a drummer.

It was a lucky break that the National Air Show http://www.clevelandairshow.com was taking place that weekend. There we saw Air Force Thunderbirds and several acrobatic acts in addition to a collection of both civil and military aircraft. After that we met with a friend at Zocalo http://www.zocalocleveland.com, an upscale Mexican-style restaurant. After resting for a few hours, it was time to head to the Waterloo Cafe http://www.thewaterloocafe.com , where we saw a great performance by banjoist Tony Furtado (review below). There we also met with one of my local editors, who after the show took us on a drive around town.

On our last day there, we went over to The Great Lakes Science Center http://www.greatscience.com, where they have many interesting attractions, such as flight simulators and other curiosities. We ended our visit by having lunch at a sports bar and restaurant called The Winking Lizard http://www.winkinglizard.com, where we enjoyed a wonderful meal accompanied by even more microbrews.

There is much more to see in Cleveland. I surely hope we get the opportunity to stay there again soon.

Our visit to Cleveland would not have been possible without the help of some local (new) friends we knew via emails but who we had never met in person before. I'd rather not mention their names on a public newsletter, but let me tell you that Renata and I owe you big – you know who you are.

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New York Celebrates Brazil on Labor Day

The 25th Anniversary of Brazilian Day in New York

by Ernest Barteldes

Sunday, September 6 W 46th Street and 6th Ave. 12-6 PM http://www.brazilianday.com

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Ever since I moved to New York almost nine years ago (though it doesn't seem that long – time really flies), I have looked forward to Labor Day weekend, when the annual Brazilian Day Festival takes place. It is an opportunity to reconnect with the spirit of the country I left behind through its music, food and language.

Among the most memorable moments I can recall was Daniela Mercury (2001), who at the time was touring in support of her crossover pop album Sou de Qualquer Lugar, a disc that broke from the usual Axe music content she'd been doing until then. It was a rainy afternoon, and the crowd was not as numerous as it had been before, and it was great fun. Another was when Ivete Sangalo serenaded the crowd (2003) with a mix of dance-friendly songs and also some tunes that reminded all of us of lazy, sunny days by the beach.

Not all the memories were that great, though. I recall cringing in 2003 when the US National Anthem was interrupted by an unruly crowd who screamed the Brazilian anthem over it – which prompted the event's organizer, Mr. Joao de Matos to take the microphone and admonish the audience, who had to be reminded that they were in American soil after all, and that they owed respect to the nation that had received them so well.

But such incidents were isolated. As I have written in numerous publications in the past, the Brazilians who come to the party are mostly well-behaved. Few arrests (if any) are ever made during the day, and everybody has lots of fun as the day goes on – and also during the various after-parties that take place all around Manhattan – which makes Brazilian Day a must-see festival for those who happen to be in New York that long weekend.

The lineup this time around - the 25th anniversary of the event – includes samba/soul diva Alcione, percussion innovator Carlinhos Brown (who has worked with various big names in the industry both in Brazil and abroad), controversial punk rocker Marcelo D2 and singer Elba Ramalho, one of the principal acts that helped northeastern music reach mainstream radio during the 1980s.

As for myself, I will be skipping Brazilian Day this year. Instead, I will be paying a visit to Cleveland, the home of the Rock and Roll Hall of fame. Their local alternative paper, the Cleveland Scene, has been continuously been publishing my work for quite a long time, and I think it's due time for me to get to know it...

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New York Culture Beat: The Brazilian Film Festival in NY

Not many Latin American films make it to US theaters these days, so it is always with great anticipation that I wait for the Brazilian Film Festival (www.brazilianfilmfestival.com), an ongoing circuit that makes an annual stop in New York, starting at Central Park Summerstage and then on to Lower Manhattan's Tribeca Cinemas.

The festival opens with a live concert by Rio de Janeiro-based Silvia Machete, an up-and-coming singer-songwriter who is yet to become a household name either in Brazil or abroad. In previous editions, the Festival showcased more “name” artists like Maria Rita and Margareth Menezes, but this year they apparently went for a change in musical direction.

Following the concert is a screening of “If I Were You 2,” a sequel to a highly successful comedy in which a couple (played by Tony Ramos and Gloria Pires) accidentally get their minds swapped after an electrical storm and as a result learn to understand each others' private worlds better.

Another interesting feature is Budapest, an adaptation from the eponymous novel by Chico Buarque de Hollanda. The plot follows Jose Costa (Leonardo Medeiros) , a ghostwriter who accidentally lands in Hungary during an emergency landing while enroute from Istanbul. Fascinated with the language and culture, he later decides to spend some time there and learn how to speak Hungarian – the one language that – as the narrator explains, “the Devil respects.” Shot on location both in Rio and Budapest and spoken in Portuguese and Hungarian, it is one of the must-sees this time around.

Documentaries are also plentiful during the event. One that has sparked my curiosity is Wandering Heart (Errante Navegante), an account of Caetano Veloso's international tour in support of 2003's English-language CD A Foreign Sound, which received mixed reviews back then and much criticism from more purist Brazilian fans who considered the disc a sell-out.

There are countless shorts included this year (my personal pick being Cleansing of Bomfim from Bahia to New York, about the ritual cleansing of Manhattan's 46th St. before Brazilian Day) in addition to dramas, comedies and various other genres – which just might please the most avid movie fanatic.

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New York Music Beat: The Siren Music Festival, Coney Island July 18

by Ernest Barteldes

Now that the Latin Alternative Music Conference is behind us, it is time to check out another New York music tradition, the Siren Music Festival in Coney Island, a sweaty music event that is currently on its ninth edition with a large day-long showcase of both independent and signed bands who are expected to be breaking through soon – examples of past participants include Baby Loves Disco, Guided By Voices The Donnas, Modest Mouse, The Stills, Death Cab For Cutie and also The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who played the festival shortly before their major-label debut turned them into the neo-punk darlings they went on to become later on. I've been attending this Village Voice-sponsored festival since its second edition (I only missed it in 2007, when I was traveling in Brazil), and for starters let me state that this is not for the faint of heart – you have to walk back and forth between the two stages to catch the different performances – the crowds are huge, bathrooms are hard to come by (the best being at Nathan's Famous facilities on Stillwell Avenue), and of course there is the unwavering heat to deal with. But the Siren Festival is great fun, and there is the opportunity to discover music before it hits the radio stations – call it finding diamonds in the rough. And there are also the countless freebies that you can score there, ranging from CD compilations, T-shirts, energy drinks and of course the ever-present New York City condoms – the mayor does want us to stay safe, I guess.

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Another thing is the fact that you don't have to shell out six dollars for your beverage of choice. Delis sell beer for an average price of $ 2.50 (open containers are still illegal on in public, even if brown-bagged or poured into paper cups. The police usually looks the other way as long as revelers behave, but summonses have been given out), and food can be found at affordable prices there. You can also refresh yourself by going for a dip in the ocean – the water is fine at this time of the year, reaching an average temperature of about 60 degrees. The best way to get to the festival is using Public Transportation. You might want to drive, but remember that The Siren Music festival has become the second biggest day on Coney Island (after the Mermaid Parade), so parking can be a daunting task. Subway trains servicing the area are the N,Q,F and D trains. The B64 bus is also a relatively fast option, taking an average of 30 minutes from Bay Ridge – the best option for those coming in from areas like Staten Island. The Siren Music Festival begins at 12 noon, ending at about 9 PM. For information on schedules, band information and pretty much anything else you might want to need, visit their site at http://siren.villagevoice.com/siren

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Thoughts on The Passing of Michael Jackson

When I heard about Michael Jackson's passing a week ago, I was naturally shocked, but somehow the news did not really surprise me. I can't really say why I felt this way.

Although I can't say that I was a Michael Jackson fan (I never owned any of his discs save for Thriller and a handful of Jackson 5 tracks from Motown compilations), I must admit that his songs were an integral part of both my childhood and teenage years. I recall vividly the first time I saw John Landis' elaborate video for “Thriller,” and I still remember the controversy generated by the violence on the original version of his “Black and White” videoclip. However, as his strange behavior seemed to become more important than the music, I pretty much stopped following his career.

What drew me to Thriller back in 1983 (when I was 15) was Eddie Van Halen's twisting solo on “Beat It.” I was in a guitar band phase back then, and really admired what he did to that song. The fact that Paul McCartney was also on the disc was a bonus – even though I thought “The Girl Is Mine” was way below par (was never impressed by their second collaboration, “Say, Say, Say” either)

I think Jackson's music began to suffer because he just tried too hard to top Thriller, the record that would ultimately define his career. I mean, who but the devoted fan can name a memorable track from his last couple of discs? The only thing I can remember about Michael Jackson in the past decade is his slow transformation into a sort of pop-era Howard Hughes.

Hopefully when all the hysteria over his death passes and the tabloids find a new pet scandal to exploit, the public will be able to stop and really listen to the music. It is then that we'll know which legacy he's leaving behind: that of a highly talented musician or just another tragic superstar who was unable to cope with his own fame – or mirror image.

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The Coney Island Mermaid Parade

reprinted from The Brooklyn Paper

Saturday, June 20; Surf Avenue, Coney Island; 2-6 PM; Mermaid Ball in two sessions, 5:30-midnight;
For more information, visit http://www.coneyisland.com

As uncertain as things seem to be about whatever the future holds for Coney Island as an amusement area neighborhood – especially with the current financial crisis - at least one thing seems to remain unchanged in the area: the annual Mermaid Parade, which takes place this Saturday – as it has been for almost three decades..

For those who have never attended, the parade (which celebrates its 28th anniversary this year), this festival of hand-made costumes and – well, very little clothing - marks the true beginning of summer- on a recent edition, a group of women used an intergalactic theme in plastic outfits that must have been scorching under 80-degree weather), assorted sea creatures and random political commentary.

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“I love the people, I love being in the parade, waving to the kids, taking photo's with tourists, dancing at Ruby's at the end of the day,” says freelance illustrator Molly Crabapple. “Everyone is feeling fabulous, showing off their fins. People are there to have a good time and they do. It's a very positive day. The worst thing for me is the weird tan lines I end up with from my costume!”

The Annual Mermaid Parade will be followed by the Mermaid Ball, which this year takes place in two separate sessions at The Dreamland Roller Rink, which is located at the Childs Building - 3052 West 21st St at the boardwalk

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The ball begins as the parade wraps – according to information on the parade's website, Thee Ball will run in 2 skating sessions 5:30pm-8:30pm and 9pm-Midnight - tickets go for $20 (skate rental $5 or bring your own). Weather allowing, it will surely bring large crowds in an event that is usually very crowded – here are some tips for first-time participants: - Access to the parade is simple enough, but mass transit is advisable on this case, since it is one of the busiest days on Coney Island, and parking might be a daunting task. Subway trains servicing the area are the N,Q,F and D trains. The B64 bus is also a relatively fast option, taking an average of 30 minutes from Bay Ridge to Coney. - While delis will be selling alcoholic beverages, it is also advisable to remind that open containers are still illegal on parade grounds, even if brown-bagged or poured into paper cups. The police usually looks the other way as long as revelers behave, but summonses have been given out. To stay out of potential trouble, you can patronize Nathan's Famous hot dog stand or other vendors in the area. - Timing is crucial for the best enjoyment. “I recommend they get there early to secure a good viewing spot, bring their camera, sun-block and water,” says Pontani. “I think it's great for a first- timer to watch the parade and participate the following year.” - “If you can afford it, be a judge (for a donation of $ 100 to Coney Island USA)and sit in the reviewing stands,” says local emcee Fred Kahl, AKA The Great Fredini. “You get a birds-eye view of the whole parade and get all the great bribes for participants wanting to win a prize. Molly Crabapple also suggests participating as a judge, but she says that “it's the most fun to perform.” - Bathrooms can be a problem. There are public restroom facilities at Nathan's and on the boardwalk. You can also use the facilities at Astroland and Deno's for a fee of 25 cents. “As America's largest Art parade, there's so many wonderful sights to see and its all created by independent artists for everyone to enjoy, says Kahl. “The only bad thing I can think of is the line for the bathroom” “A lot of things [in Coney] have changed over the years and with such changes going on, I imagine we are going to be looking at a lot more,” says Pontani. “The parade itself has changed a in the past decade alone, in terms of participants, the route, the crowds. I only hope it continues to grow, gain popularity and fans. I believe it will remain one of the staple events that people love and associate with Coney Island.”

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The Joys of Summer Music

Zap Mama at Summerstage 2007

One thing I love about the warm months of summer is the abundance of free outdoor concerts and festivals that populate the streets and parks at this time. Since I relocated to New York almost nine years ago, I have had the opportunity to enjoy great music, theater and film --- without having to go broke in the process.

My first Summer concert in New York was in July 2001, which turned out to be Celia Cruz's final performance. Already ill with the cancer that would claim her life about a year later, Cruz came on stage with her traditional “Azucar!” scream as the band kicked off the first number. She was visibly frail, but her voice was intact. I also remember that halfway through the set, there was a hailstorm that fell upon us as we ran for cover.

The audience did not know about her illness back then – but it became clear that she was saying goodbye when halfway through “Bemba Colora,” she said: “As I prepare to leave, please, please God, remember my name... and If I die, hell, just bury me right here in Central Park and I want you all here with me. Remember my name: I am Celia Cruz.”

Fortunately for all of us, this statement was recorded and is available on the CD Central Park Summerstage: Live From The Heart of The City,” which came out a couple of years ago, including performances by Burning Spear, Ojos de Brujo, NRBQ and several more.

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Mavis Staples, Central Park Summerstage 2008

There were countless shows I've seen over the years, including Daniela Mercury (at Brazilian Day and Summerstage), Lila Downs (Summerstage, Celebrate Brooklyn), Skank (Brazilian Day, Summerstage), Los Lobos (Summerstage), LadySmith Black Mambazo (World Financial Center), Lulu Santos (Brazilian Day), Thievery Corporation, Cassandra Wilson (Summerstage), Vieux Farka Toure (Summerstage), Chicha Libre (Celebrate Brooklyn)... the list goes on.

I have already begun to attend local concerts this year. For those with a lot of time in their hands, go ahead and look for all those reviews via Google – there are hundreds of those out there.

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Bossa Nova Discovery

“I just don't get it,” Karen said as she wondered about her musical tastes. “How can I be so hooked by Bossa Nova while still loving the music of George Michael?”

The year was 1996. Karen and I were sitting at a beachfront restaurant in Fortaleza, a city in northeastern Brazil where we both resided. We had been going out for a few months, and as college students we had very little time on our hands. Whatever chance we got, we would either watch a film on video or hang out at the beach - which would almost always end up with a torrid lovemaking session, a delightful routine that began after about half a year into the relationship.

At the time, neither of us had exactly eclectic musical tastes. I was – and still am - a huge fan of the blues of Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Stevie Ray Vaughan, while she was going through a dedicated phase of discovery of bossa nova and everything that had to do with it, going from the creation of the rhythm in the hands of Jobim, Joao Gilberto, Roberto Menescal and a few others who got together and revolutionized the sound of Brazil, blending the sophistication of cool jazz with the spontaneity of samba and achieving monumental success around the globe.

In Brazil, bossa had been - at first - a little more than a passing fad that was almost on the way out until American guitarist Charlie Byrd toured the country and discovered the beat. Over a quick session with saxophonist Stan Getz they recorded what was to become Samba Jazz, and shortly after came the historic Getz/Gilberto recording that would earn multiple Grammy awards and turn Astrud Gilberto into a star in her own right thanks to the single mix of “The Girl from Ipanema,” which pretty much obliterated Joao Gilberto's Portuguese-language vocals, which made what would be a mildly successful jazz CD into a major hit that resonates to this day.

Back in the mid-90s, George Michael was still best known for hits like “I Want Your Sex” and “Freedom '90,” and even though it was obvious to many that he was a gay man, some female fans still looked at him with dreamy eyes – his scandalous bathroom arrest (to which he would later respond with the video “Outside”) had not yet happened, and since the release of Listen Without Prejudice he had been enjoying a lot of success around the world despite having an aversion to touring – a characteristic that is too common among Brit musicians (maybe excluding Eric Clapton).

Karen was just as obsessed with George Michael as she was with Bossa Nova – her collection even included his discs with Wham and a handful of hard-to-find bootlegs, which only compared with her carefully guarded CDs of Jobim, Vinicius de Morais, Chico Buarque, Nara Leao, Miucha and others – it was something that she couldn't explain and simply didn't understand, and she was just wondering about it as we relaxed at Biruta, a youth-oriented beach bar we had always favored.

Karen always prized intellectuality over her looks. A tall, dark Brazilian woman with long, black hair,full lips and inquisitive brown eyes, she was the kind of girl who looked down on any woman who used her looks for leverage. To this day, she rarely wears any makeup to work as an effort to tone down any attractiveness that might overshadow her academic training

“ I just don't get it,” she insisted. “George Michael has nothing to do with bossa, and I love his music – is there something wrong with me?”

“I don't think so,” I said in response. “You can have diverse musical tastes, there's nothing wrong about liking more than one style – I mean, look at your relationship with northeastern rhythms – is there any rhyme or reason for that?”

“But at least there is a connection,” she responded with the same kind of vehemence that she used whenever she wanted to prove a point. “Bossa nova was created by Joao Gilberto, who is a northeastern guy, so at least the roots are the same.”

At the time, I didn't have a reply, but now I do: the simple syncopated beat of the forrozeiros (who have since been discovered by international audiences) is the music of the people – bossa is made by virtuosos who read music and have the kind of musical education that is beyond the reach of many of those musicians in Pernambuco or Ceara.

She still couldn't contain herself, and between sips of caipirinha, she would mutter about her musical ambiguity, which was beyond her understanding. As we were leaving for my beat-up 1979 VW, a strange version of “Corcovado” began to play on the restaurant's loudspeakers --- it seemed to be some electronica-inflected, deformed version of the classic tune with a jaded female voice taking the lead. I recall how we shrugged and left, wondering who had committed such an atrocity.

The following morning, I was browsing through a music store in Fortaleza's upper-class midtown area (those were the days before digital downloads came to exist) when I came across an album called Red Hot & Rio, a charity album put together by The Red Hot Organization to bring awareness to HIV/AIDS in Brazil. Among the participants were Chico Science (one of the creators of the Mangue Beat, who sadly passed away a week before the disc came out), Marisa Monte, David Byrne, Milton Nascimento, Sting and others.

Among the surprises on the disc was Everything But The Girl, who turns out was the group who had recorded the version of “Corcovado” that we heard at the beach, and a recording of “Desafinado” in a duet featuring Astrud Gilberto and... George Michael, who had shed his sensual dance chops to sing - in Portuguese, no less – in a soft bossa nova voice.

I could not contain myself, and I immediately purchased the disc and called Karen on the phone. I played the disc, but she could not figure out who the voice belonged to, and tried to guess a few times until she finally gave up. I drove over to her place and handed the disc over to her without the sleeve, and she was as puzzled as ever, until I mentioned our conversation from the day before. She gave me a puzzled look, and as she opened her lips she said, “George Michael?” almost in disbelief. She could not believe that the two musical things she loved the most had – quite unlikely – come together.

The tune was a departure for him. Gone were all the synths and beats – he sang bossa with the same respect that Sinatra gave the genre on his 1967 album with Jobim. He would repeat that approach on Older , Songs From The Last Century (a criminally overlooked disc) and during his MTV Unplugged set – by discovering Brazilian music, he changed the focus of his career (with the cost of losing some of his dance music-loving fans), often flirting with jazz, as heard “How Do You Keep The Music Playing?”, his magical duet with Tony Bennett in 2006. At the time, however, this was almost unheard of. I still remember the look on Karen's face as she spun the song, still unable to register that her favorite singer had gone bossa.

As for myself, Red Hot & Rio was like a gateway into the world of bossa nova, a genre that I was yet to discover and later master. Back then, I did not understand its sensibilities, and the bossa resurgence was still a few years away. Today, Oscar Castro-Neves, Joao Gilberto, Jobim and others have – through their music, at least – become good friends who I rely on from time to time, and who have helped me in my musical path.

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Weekly Articles Digest

Hi all,

With Memorial Day behind us (the weather was great in New York, but has since deteriorated), we start focusing on the summer activities – in the meantime, there is a lot of turmoil going on --- today, the New York Times did a feature on the battle over Proposition 8 in California – two lawyers who were at opposing ends during the Bush-Gore debacle almost a decade ago have joined forces to try and overturn the law that made same-sex marriage illegal in that state. According to that piece, David Boies and Theodore B. Olson have set their political differences aside to fight together for something they believe is right. And by the way, so do I. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/28/us/28marriage.html?_r=1&hp

I have also just learned that there has been a dramatic shift in the Goldman case in Brazil. According a report on O Globo newspaper, a prosecutor there has given an official opinion that Sean Goldman – who was illegally taken to Brazil by his mother about five years ago – belongs with his father, now that the mother has passed. The Brazilian family has been battling to keep the boy in Brazil – but the battle is definitely not over --- If you haven't heard about the case, here is a good resource: http://riogringa.typepad.com/my_weblog/the-goldman-files.html

Finally, I am happy to announce that I have started a blog with musings, short stories and some more material – it's a low-key thing that I have done in order to stretch my creativity and also to post things of mine that are outside of the realm of music and arts --- I have posted a few thoughts there, and there has been a lot of controversy – the blog is hosted by a newspaper in Lawrence,KS, where I have relatives. If you ask me what the blog is about, I'd quote Seinfeld and say that is really about nothing specific... Check it out at http://www2.ljworld.com/weblogs/newyorkmusic/

Anyway, here are the goodies for this week:

Houston Press

Mariachi Real de San Diego, reviewed

http://blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks/2009/05/sonidos_y_mas_mariachi_real_de.php

Cedric Burnside & Lightin; Malcolm perform in Houston

http://www.houstonpress.com/events/cedric-burnside-and-lightnin-malcolm-cleve-and-mary-1131217/

Broward New Times

http://www.browardpalmbeach.com/2009-05-28/calendar/they-re-every-woman/

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