It’s the summer of 2016 and Tammy Faye Starlight is Nico Underground and it is the show to see! I caught her at David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center for free! A dazzling gifted performance artist /singer who you would suspect has supernatural powers the way she channels Nico. Tammy catches every nuance of Nico’s personality - the talented, the glamorous, the narcissism, and just a hint of the junky self-destruction yet to come. Black comedy at its best. Can’t wait to see her impersonation of Marianne Faithfull on her next tour! Since Fela Kuti’s Nigerian band planted seeds in the late 1960’s the Afrobeat sound has grown into such a huge scene. NYC shared this enthusiasm this summer. I saw Antibalas open for the Roots at The Lowdown Hudson Music festival at Brookfield Place - a Brooklyn based band that modeled its sound after Fela Kuti’s The Afrika 70, and mixed with a strong Latin flavor. My prediction? This outfit will be huge. Catch this band while you can, before they become a deep pocket band! Not only is Antibalas touring NYC’s free concert scene, there’s King Sunny Ade who just played Summer Stage and Metrotech doing his Nigerian Juju music.
I also grabbed in performances by Rich Medina (DJ), Orlando Julius and the Afro soundz, CYMANDE (the newly reunited UK Afro-collective) all seen at Central Park Summerstage and the price was right, free again! I missed out recently seeing Ladysmith Black Mambazo at Lincoln Center but I did catch them last summer. They are a South African male choral group that sings and chants African folk music. Their music is sweet and mellow, just right after a hard day’s work with a beer.
Last but not least, I did intercept with Maimouna Keita School of African Dance. Brooklyn foremost West African Dance Company at Herbert Von King Park. And yes Femi Kuti is touring and keeping his father’s reputation alive and will be playing his version of Afro beats at Celebrate Brooklyn Festival in Prospect Park later this summer (July 23). And let’s not forget Africa’s premier diva, Angelique Kidjo also playing Prospect Park on July 29. I did mention that I saw The Roots at The Lowdown Hudson music Festival. Well they are a superb band to listen to and a very visual band to watch. But old fans complained to me that they sold out since playing on the Jimmy Fallon show! Questlove doesn’t have the chops anymore. Well, all I know is that the crowd and I loved them playing over an hour and half in the blistering heat and all for free!
Now a report on the local bands in the clubs and bars of NYC. With a lot of glue the scene is holding up and the glue is made up of only a few individuals who are virtually keeping the band scene alive. ‘Frank Woods presents Wind Down Sundays’ at Otto’s Shrunken Head on 14th street is one such entrepreneur. Only the reaper can stop Frank Wood from doing what he does best, promoting Rock bands for over 40 years and looks like the reaper doesn’t want to mess with Frank anytime too soon. Also being a master of ceremonies is Unsteady Freddy’s once a month (first Saturday of every month) surf rock shindig at Otto’s. Somehow Freddy gets the best surf bands in the whole USA to play at his monthly shindig. I recently saw the Vibro Jets. This band actually took my breath away!
Then there is Anne Husick’s Friday nights at the Sidewalk Café with rocking great bands like The Dive Bar Romeos, The Cynz’s, The Hipp Pipps, Ricky Byrd (Joan Jett’s guitarist and Rock n Roll Hall of Fame 2015 inductee), and The Bowery Boys. Puma Perl mixes spoken word performers with avant-garde bands in her Pandemonium series at Bowery Electric map room that you wouldn’t find elsewhere, which is always a lot of fun and very well attended. Chris Iconicide hosts a female fronted Rock N Roll showcase called ‘A Witches’ Night Out’ at Otto’s, every few months plus he books hardcore bands at his Puke Island shows. Kipp Elbaum keeps it real and gets things going at Hank’s Saloon and the Delancey club, while Apfel/Krebs puts together Rockabilly and Glam nights at their ‘Flip, Flop & Fly‘ and the ‘Endless Party’ spectacles at various dive bars around the city. Tom Clark’s treehouse weekly gigs at 2a, is a nice destination on Sunday nights, hosts untraditional hard rock, blues and folk bands from across the country.
Almost all these shows are free or very cheap to attend. Due to gentrification, and the insane policy of bars and clubs in New York City not only to not pay the musicians, they also expect bands to bring their own audiences! So it’s expected that not only do bands like Puma Perl and Friends, Iconicide, and New York Junk have to be excellent musicians and entertainers (which they are), they also have to become their own bookers too. In the summer of 2016 local bands are having a hard time surviving in NYC. Hopefully ‘in the year 2525’, Rock will have a strong habitat and be back in vogue again.