Sunday, September 21, 2014

What's Good in New York On Indefinite Hiatus.

After nearly four years, What's Good in New York will be indefinitely shuttering it's proverbial doors and going on hiatus. We've brought you reviews and previews of concerts, restaurants, shows and exhibits, and we hope that you have had just a little more fun in NYC because of WGINY. All prior posts will remain up at whatsgoodinny.blogspost.com, and you can still follow us on Twitter @whatsgoodinny for fun NYC facts.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

GRAMMY Award-Winning Jazz Vocalist, Gregory Porter, Charmed Audiences at Summerstage


Last weekend, jazz vocalist, Gregory Porter charmed a fresh Summerstage audience at Central Park as he performed his message-laden music to a packed lawn. Some conspicuous celebrities in the audience included basketball legend, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and "Orange is the New Black" actress, Michelle Hurst. In just four years since releasing his first full-length album, "Water," Gregory Porter has become a household name when it comes to jazz. Having been nominated three times for a GRAMMY (one for every studio album), Porter finally emerged victorious from the 2014 GRAMMY awards with the iconic gold-plated gramophone trophy memorializing his Best Jazz Vocal Album, "Liquid Spirit". He has certainly come a long way since I saw him in 2011 at Zeb's, on the very night he had received notice of his very first GRAMMY nomination, for "Water".

Versatile Jazz Musician Otis Brown III 
Returning to Sunday night's performance at Central Park, audience spirits were high as we waited patiently for Porter to take the stage. As Porter recently signed onto Blue Note Records, the concert celebrated Blue Note's 75th Anniversary, and, also supported by "progressive urban music [web]site," okayplayer.com, was actually a collaborative effort by several well-known jazz musicians including Otis Brown IIITerence Blanchard, Jean Baylor, Chris Turner, and surprise guest, Robert Glasper. Each musician was joined by "Revive Big Band," an amalgamation of internationally-known brass, percussion, and guitar players, led by spirited trumpeter, composer and arranger, Igmar Thomas. Following what seemed like a never-ending parade of smooth trumpet, trombone, saxophone, piano, drum, and vocal solos, the audience was more than warmed up for Gregory Porter.

Gregory Porter Takes the Stage
Porter began his set with a mellow song about treating others with kindness, a self-described "message of love and respect," entitled "Painted on Canvas". With just a handful of instruments backing him up, Porter soulfully sang that "we are like children painted on canvasses," as he created a colorful canvas of his own through his music. He was soon joined by Revive Big Band as he moved into a more energetic, swinging set that included "On My Way to Harlem," and "Musical Genocide". Porter explained that he wrote "On My Way to Harlem," which somewhat poignantly refers to arts and literature greats such as Duke Ellington, Langston Hughes, and Marvin Gaye, who were all once known for hanging around the now-booming neighborhood, as he himself was on the way to a gig in Harlem. The audience danced, clapped, and stomped their feet so loudly that the bleachers I sat on literally shook during "Musical Genocide," from that GRAMMY award-winning album, "Liquid Spirit." In each song, Porter gave ample time to highlight instrumental solos, as he does on his albums, but it's the lyrics he sings that won't leave your head. Porter closed out his main set with the moving song, "1960 What?", a powerful commentary on and tribute to the civil rights movement.

Igmar Thomas and Revive Big Band

Gregory Porter has recently embarked on a world tour, but when he's home in New York, you can often find him performing at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club on the Upper West Side. If you love jazz, you should also check out the Charlie Parker Jazz Festival, August 22-27. Porter won't be there, but a wealth of other renowned jazz musicians will be performing. Hungry for more Revive Big Band? You may find them on the bill at local jazz haunts such as Blue Note and Zinc Bar.



All photos in this post are by Heather K. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

FOX & Friends "All-American Summer Concert Series" Brings You Gin Blossoms, The Beach Boys, and More!

Every Friday this summer, FOX & Friends has presented a different live performance, totally free! Highlights so far have included performances by The Charlie Daniels Band, Boys II Men, Bret Michaels, and Twister Sister, among other stars. The catch? These shows are only for early birds, as the "All-American Summer Concert Series" takes place from 6am-9am.

The Concert Series, which kicked off on Memorial Day weekend and will run through Labor Day weekend, is really "All-American" to the core, featuring a melting pot of music from rock to country and pop to R&B. While most of the concerts have spotlighted well-known acts, some Friday mornings have given rising stars such as 15-year-old singer, Sabrina Carpenter, a time to shine.

Tomorrow's concert, on Friday, August 8, brings Gin Blossoms to town. You may be surprised to find that this American rock band, which formed in the 1980s, is still touring, but when you recall some of their greatest hits, such as "Hey Jealousy," "Follow You Down," and "Found Out About You," it's clear to see why these blockbusters continue to propel them.

On the bill for next week, on Friday August 15, are perennial superstars, "America's Band," The Beach Boys.

Bands usually take the stage at 8am, but get there early to ensure a good spot. For some extra incentive, if you time it right, you may find you can snag some free bbq from Famous Dave's. All shows air live on FOX News Channel and take place at 1211 Avenue of the Americas, on the corner of 48th Street.


Monday, August 4, 2014

John Leguizamo’s “Ghetto Klown” Gets a New Audience in Central Park

By Tami Shaloum

John Leguizamo Impersonates His Father in "Ghetto Klown"
Photo by Heather-Ann Schaeffner
The City Parks Foundation continued its incredible SummerStage programming last Monday night with a real scene-stealer: John Leguizamo, performing his acclaimed autobiographical one-man show “Ghetto Klown.” For 90 minutes, Leguizamo played about a dozen characters, danced his ass off, and bared his most intimate tales on stage, all to copious laughs and delighted shrieks. Apparently the HBO version of the show aired this March and, in a cruel conclusion, Leguizamo truncated the performance by urging the audience to go see the rest of it on HBO.

John Leguizamo Takes the Audience Through the Decades
Photo by Heather-Ann Schaeffner

Despite this slightly condensed version, Leguizamo managed to pack in enough hilarious anecdotes to entertain his audience. He took us through the decades, from the 1960s to the 90s; from his poor Queens upbringing by two ineffectual parents to his acting lessons with a hilariously brittle and raspy old woman; and from the development of his four previous one-man shows to his adventures in Hollywood. Leguizamo managed to infuse his act with both pathos and devilish fun. The vignettes of his father were particularly sad, as he told of the man who never believed his son could make something of himself, even after he finally did. Particularly revealing was the confession that his most successful creations came to be during bouts of severe depression.

Leguizamo Presents an Anecdote About Being
Arrested For Performing on a Train
Photo by Heather-Ann Schaeffner
Even though some of the stories were a bit heavy at times, Leguizamo managed to balance the light with the dark, keeping the audience in stitches. His charming persona shone through on stage as he interacted with audience members every now and again. People seemed to love shouting things at him and he handled them gracefully and humorously. His honesty lent itself to great storytelling, even as he told embarrassing stories about himself. One favorite character of mine was his “pinko commie” grandfather, who while being the most encouraging family member managed to be the most hilarious, making sure his grandson did not get too tan because “only White Latinos make it to Telemundo.”

I would recommend checking out the HBO special of “Ghetto Klown,” or even trying to catch Leguizamo live. Even though the show is four years old (it premiered on Broadway in 2011) this reintroduction feels right, as though Leguizamo had been lurking under the surface ready to pop out at any time and bust a move.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Spotlight Your Talent 2 Welcomes Entertainment Industry Performers and Networkers at R Bar - July 31

A little over five months ago, Creative Spotlights and The Red Shark Entertainment Inc. threw their first "Spotlight Your Talent" industry mixer, which showcased a variety of up-and-coming musical acts, and allowed artists across all veins of the entertainment industry to meet, socialize, and network.

Tomorrow, July 31, Creative Spotlights and Red Shark are at it again, throwing a second industry party, "Spotlight Your Talent 2". As with many sequels, there are tributes to the original, but there's also an entire new cast of characters, a new venue, and, of course, drink specials.

Spotlight Your Talent 2 kicks off at swanky rock bar, R Bar, at 6pm, and will be hosted by Demetrius Triplet and Tiana Miller, with live performances by Rick Rocker, Gabrielle Sterbenz, Craig Greenberg Band, and Johnny Hobbes ft. Ran Dosis and Circe. Click around these links and you'll see what an incredible line-up is in store for the night.

The use of the word "spotlight" is also no accident as, in addition to spotlighting the talent of these live performers, select attendees will have the opportunity to claim 5 minutes of their own spotlight during an open mic portion of the show. Plus there will be an open casting call by TZ Productions, as well as one area of the bar designated specifically for networking. The aim of the event is to "provide opportunities to build stronger relationships in the entertainment industry."

The best part? It's free, if you're 21+ and RSVP here in advance.



It's Showtime at the Apollo Theater Every Wednesday Evening at "Amateur Night"

Child Star Kai Rivera Performs at Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater
Photo Courtesy of Shahar Azran*

Apollo Theater Photo
Courtesy of Shahar Azran
It's almost Wednesday night, and that means it's Showtime at the Apollo! Every Wednesday evening, The Apollo Theater holds its famous Amateur Night, drawing budding performers-- singers, dancers, comedians, and the like-- through it's doors with dreams of discovery. Tomorrow's show, July 30, will be a particularly special Amateur Night, a Top Dog Competition, bringing together the best contestants of the 2014 season thus far, to further compete and potentially continue towards a grand prize of $10,000 cash at a culminating "Super Top Dog" Amateur Night, which will be Wednesday, November 26. On the eve before Thanksgiving, one lucky (and talented) winner will really be bringing home the bacon!

The Apollo Theater's Amateur Night celebrates its 80th anniversary this year, having staged shows nearly every Wednesday since 1934, when Ralph Cooper was Master of Ceremonies. One of the first stars to be discovered was one Ella Fitzgerald, who initially entered as a dancer, but changed her tune to sing instead.

Any individual Amateur Night is only as good as its audience, as performers rely on audience participation and judgment to decide who will pass on to the next round. As each performer gets into his or her act, the audience is asked to cheer or jeer, based on how much they are enjoying the set. If the jeers are overwhelming, the performer risks being literally ousted from the stage by "The Executioner," comedic impressionist (and tap dancer extraordinaire), C.P. Lacey. The only performers who remain safe from the audiences jeers are the "child stars," who are typically introduced in the first half of the show, when audience members are asked not to critique these "stars of tomorrow". Finales for all groups of performers feature an applause meter that measures the audible energy of the audience as they clap and cheer for one performer or another. The finale cheers are then instantly converted into a graphic representation of volume from 0-100, and presented via a giant on-screen stage. The performer with the highest score moves to the next round.

WGINY had the opportunity to attend a recent Amateur Night on Wednesday, July 16, with an international crowd hailing from Japan, France, Australia and other countries, not to mention many native New Yorkers. By 7pm, a huge line had formed outside of the theater that night, despite a sign announcing that the evening was already sold out. Walking through the doors that have welcomed an unprecedented number of legendary stars, many often at the start of their careers, was equally humbling and encouraging. A pre-show DJ warmed up the crowd with soul and hip-hop sounds, as the audience danced in the aisles. Ignorant of curtain calls, the real show actually opened a few minutes before the 7:30pm start time listed on tickets, and within seconds the audience was at a hush.

Capone, the "Gangster of Comedy"
Photo Courtesy of Shahar Azran
Things didn't say silent for long, however, as the aptly named "Set It Off Man," Joe Gray, along with some appearances from The Executioner himself, continued to liven up the crowd with some opening introductions, songs, and impressions. Several entertaining moments passed before I realized that Gray wasn't the show's main MC. That title belonged to the night's wisecracking host,
Capone, who was introduced by Gray. An actor and comedian known as the "Gangster of Comedy," Capone kept the audience on its toes.

As for the performers, there was a healthy dose of competition. The "Stars of Tomorrow" segment featured a talented pool of mostly teenage singers and dancers with incredible potential. Standing out were "Energizers Dance Company," a children's co-ed dance troupe from nearby Hudson Valley, and 15 year old female vocalist, Sydney Arterbridge, who wowed the audience with her rendition of Minnie Riperton's "Loving You," her voice never wavering even as she hit the high note walk-downs.

As Capone introduced the second round, the adult performers' segment, he reminded us how quickly stars can be born at the Apollo. In 2012, a little known metal band named "Unlocking the Truth" graced the stage as an Amateur Night competitor. Two years later, "Unlocking the Truth" had just signed a record deal with Sony and had plans to embark on a North American tour. Capone also did not let us forget how easily a hopeful career could be crushed on the same stage, and we saw this reality unfold as one singer was herded off by the Executioner. As mentioned earlier, at times it really is a mix of not just talent, but luck. The shamed singer actually had a pretty voice, but she chose the wrong song, attempting to replicate one of Whitney Houston's greatest known ballads, "I Will Always Love You," to the chagrin of the majority of the audience.

My personal favorite of the adult competitors was "Energy Dance Company," literally the grown-up counterpart of the proficient child star dancers we had watched earlier. The choreography for both groups was sophisticated and hip, yet there was a real genuineness to these multicultural dance teams which showcased various races and body types, breaking barriers and stereotypes about dancers. Despite my cheering as loud as I could for these guys (and gals), the evening's first-place winner was Jawan Mathis, a male vocalist with a range of several octaves who was unafraid to show off. An audience favorite, Mathis took first-place again at the most recent July 24 competition, and will be one of the contestants at tonight's "Top Dog" show.

Read more about the History of Amateur Night, the blessed Tree of Hope that performers rub for good luck, and the current Crew, including accomplished Musical Director, Onree Gill. Tickets for Amateur Night at the Apollo can be purchased at ticketmaster.com, and/or discounted tickets are sometimes offered at goldstar.com. The Apollo Theater is located at 253 W. 125th Street.

*All photos in this post are courtesy of renowned entertainment and politics photographer, Shahar Azran

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ballet Hispanico and A Palo Seco Flamenco Company Celebrate Spanish and Latin Culture


By Tami Shaloum
Photos by Heather-Ann Schaeffner


Two dance companies showed how rich and how distinct Spanish and Latin cultures are from one another on Wednesday night at Rumsey Playfield. Although often conflated, the two cultures represented by the dancing of A Palo Seco and Ballet Hispanico have their own unique zest. The wild flourishes and intricacies of A Palo Seco’s flamenco was a nice segue way for Ballet Hispanico, a company that aims to explore and preserve Latino culture through dance. The two sets complemented each other well, as A Palo Seco represented a more classic, traditional way of dance and Ballet Hispanico pulled from that Spanish tradition to create something entirely its own, a more contemporary take on classical dance and Hispanic tradition.



A Palo Seco consists of three female dancers and a four-piece band. What I really love about flamenco dancing is how it is not just the body that is used to express the art form, it is also about the live music for the rhythm, the shoes stomping to the beat, and the dancing with fans, skirts, and scarves that add to the aesthetics of the movement. A Palo Seco exemplified everything wonderful about flamenco—the clothing was vibrant, the music dramatic, and the dancers elegant. In fact, the performers were so skilled that the specificity of their movements made their dancing look both precise and improvised all at the same time.



Ballet Hispanico is an exciting company in that they infuse their classic dancing with a lot of other styles and some amazing physical feats. They began their set with an all-male piece that incorporated some acrobatic-like dancing, then went on to perform a piece with salsa and flamenco movements, and finished with some Afro-Latin dance moves. Like A Palo Seco, they wore very bright costumes but in a modern twist, they were neon colors. This was used to great effect during the last piece, which had an EDM-like sound scape. The company also gave a nod to Latin music greats Tito Puente and Celia Cruz, who provided much of the soundtrack to the set, and furthered the company’s cause to celebrate Latin culture.



While the one-night dual performance is over, the good news is that both companies are based in New York City, so you are bound to find them performing somewhere relatively soon. Separate from each other, they would definitely stand up on their own; but together, they were magical. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

80s & 90s Rock Cover Band, "Lavender Steel" Created an Infectious, Nostalgic Dance Party at Shillelagh Tavern.

by Heather K. with contributions from Marissa Strong

80s & 90s Rock Cover Band "Lavender Steel" Performing at Shillelagh Tavern
Photo by Marissa Strong Used With Permission
When my friend invited me to see her personal trainer's new 80s & 90s rock cover band, "Lavender Steel" at Shillelagh Tavern in Astoria last Thursday, I didn't know what to expect. As we first entered the intimate bar and music venue, I was so struck by the loud sound of the band warming up that I almost walked out. I'm so glad I didn't. Within minutes of the start of Lavender Steel's set, rather than fighting the urge to leave, I was fighting the urge to be the first one to spontaneously break out into dance. Several songs in, as singer Barbara Serbes made her way into the audience with her microphone, I knew I could no longer remain seated and it was time to join the dance party that had already begun on the floor.

Lavender Steel touted their "girl power," as the band was fronted by two somewhat alter-egoed female vocalists whose styles and voices complemented each other well. Serbes (also the creator and founder of Female Fitness Force), who went by "B," sported an all-black glam rocker chick getup that accentuated her features, while her counterpart, Collette Mclafferty wore a glimmering lavender dress and had her hair slightly pulled back into a bandana, portraying a hippie/gypsy vibe. The smiles never left their faces, and the energy in the room continued to rise as they belted out rock ballads including Madonna's "Burnin' Up," Pat Benetar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," George Michael's "Faith," Modern English's "Stop the World and Melt With Me," and a random sampling of renditions of other rock, pop, and new wave blockbusters from the 80s & 90s.    

"B" has also been known to have yet another alter ago, that of lead female vocalist, "Myndi Lauper," in 80s cover band, "Weird Science". Starting off with similar roots in a small neighborhood setting, Weird Science gained acclaim and now tours the tri-state area and beyond, often playing in large, outdoor venues. With those roots, it's no wonder that Lavender Steel's performance Thursday night (only their second ever since performing as a band in public) was more like an all out exciting rock concert than the quiet, intimate bar show I had expected. Complete with a range of vocal harmonies and fast-fingered guitar solos, it was like going to see Broadway's "Rock of Ages," but cheaper, more fun, and a whole lot more interactive. Lavender Steel's energy was truly infectious.

Lavender Steel closed out their intended one hour set with Journey's, "Don't Stop Believing," encouraging everyone to stand up and sway their arms. The entire audience obliged, and as the song ended, we were already begging for an encore, chanting "One More Song!" in unison. The band had earlier taken several requests, so I yelled out a suggestion, another Journey favorite, "Separate Ways". The band members smiled, but fittingly went into Whitney Houston's "I Want to Dance With Somebody," as we all laughed and danced. The band then began to clean up and say their goodbyes... until... a few minutes later... I was chatting with Collette, who noted how much she loved singing "Separate Ways". With a microphone still in her hand, she starting mouthing some of the song lyrics jokingly. Without warning, a random audience member then jumped up and starting fiddling on the band's keyboard. After a few notes, the room began to realize that he was playing the introduction to "Separate Ways," and suddenly Lavender Steel was compelled to re-take the stage by this "keyboard bomber". This awesomeness continued for several more songs before finally ending for good, to the dismay of the audience who still wanted more from Lavender Steel.

As the show closed out for real, the owner of Shillelagh Tavern, "Astoria's Best Live Music Venue," informed us that he would be immediately re-booking the band for a Friday or Saturday night slot. Although Lavender Steel is a newly formed band, they've already appeared on a college radio station, Long Island University's 88.1, and I expect to see them booking many more varied venues soon. Whether you're nostalgic for your favorite 80s or 90s tunes, or you're just looking to have a fun night out, you should look no further than Lavender Steel's next show. Follow them on facebook and twitter for updates. The Shillelagh Tavern can also be found on facebook and twitter.

Friday, July 11, 2014

A Free Andrew Bird Summerstage Show Is A Rare Treat.

by Heather K.
photos by Katherine Kinkela

Andrew Bird Expressively Bows His Violin.
On Tuesday, Andrew Bird and the Hands of Glory band bestowed a rare treat on New York City by playing a free show at Summerstage in Central Park. Setting the stage for Andrew Bird was Luke Temple, whom you may better know as "Here We Go Magic". Temple's laid-back lyrics and pop-Americana vibe were the perfect complement to Andrew Bird's versatile set.

By the time Andrew Bird appeared on stage, Rumsey Playfield was full, having already neared capacity more than thirty minutes before the opening act began. A diversely talented musician known for making his violin sing, and writing sophisticated songs to accompany his violin and other stringed instruments, Bird opened his set with several instrumental solos - first strumming on a ukulele before moving onto his violin, churning out tunes that were suggestive of some of his popular songs such as "Dark Matter".

Andrew Bird and the Hands of Glory
With a discography of 20+ albums (LPs, EPs, and live), it's no wonder Andrew Bird has garnered such a large following. He incorporates nearly every mode of music into his repertoire - country, folk, rock, Americana, pop, jazz and bluegrass, to name a few. His songs are often both ironic and intellectual, such as "Plasticities," a song based on a made up word that sounds a lot like "Plastic Cities". As Bird and the Hands of Glory band played "Plasticities" at Summerstage, they stretched out the song with a beautiful, melodic instrumental riff that had the audience captivated in its resonance.

Andrew Bird is also heavily influenced by "The Handsome Family," and played many songs from his latest album, "Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of...", a complication of covers of "Handsome Family" tunes.

Pay close attention to the discography listed on Andrew Bird's official website, because you can click on each album and listen to full-length songs. Wikipedia has an even more comprehensive list. Note curiously that the title of his 2012 album was "Hands of Glory". 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Jon Batiste and Stay Human Provided the Perfect Soundtrack to a Summer Afternoon.

By Tami Shaloum 
Photos by Heather K.

Jon Batiste and Stay Human at Summerstage 6.29.14
On any given weekend in New York City, one can hear all kinds of live music played in a bar, concert hall, or some other venue. Fortunately, there are no walls surrounding Rumsey Playfield, where Jon Batiste and Stay Human played a dynamic hybrid of New Orleans jazz, bluegrass, rhythm and blues, and even a little ragtime last Sunday afternoon. Part of the City Parks Foundation’s SummerStage in association with the Blue Note Jazz Festival, the bill began with some funky hip hop and jazz from Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.

The band begins with a familiar, relevant tune, "Summertime"
As audience members swayed under the warm sun, Jon Batiste and his insanely talented band, Stay Human, filled Central Park with tunes ranging from the familiar to the original. Beginning with an evocative "Summertime," they definitely won over some fans, especially when saxophonist Eddie Barbash soared in with sultry accompaniment. The band was both really tight—in sync with each other from start to finish—and loose in all the right places, giving the almost two-hour set a playful, experimental feel as they danced around each other, then came together in unison.


Batiste and Ruhumbika getting close with the crowd
Tuba player Ibanda Ruhumbika and percussionist Joe Saylor rounded out the crew perfectly, imparting their expert musicality. Each member was remarkable, but it was Batiste who really stood out, playing the piano and melodica in an improvisational style that showcased both his classical training and jazz sensibilities. His charismatic band leading resulted in a really dynamic show, culminating in a nearly half-hour march through the audience. As they stopped in front of groups of grooving fans, one could see they were clearly having a ball.



More Photos





Sunday, June 29, 2014

David Lawson Invites You to Tell a True Story at The Astoria Bookshop This Tuesday.

Do you have a true story to tell? WGINY just learned of this new open-mic style Storytelling Show at The Astoria Bookshop. Here's how it works: Every first Tuesday of the month, host David Lawson invites storytellers to visit the Bookshop and submit their names for the opportunity to be called up to tell a five-minute true story about something that happened to them. There's no special theme to stick to, so your story can be about anything, as long as it's true. Non-storytellers are welcome to join the audience as well, so that those who get called up have someone to tell their stories to! It's kind of like an open-mic Moth event, except instead of sending in a pitch and competing against thousands of other stories, you just have to get your name pulled from a bucket.

Need some inspiration? Check out Lawson delivering a five-minute true story at the Bookshop here. Lawson is a performer, storyteller, and playwright, known for several solo shows and plays that often take up unconventional topics.

The next Storytelling Show will take place at 7pm at The Astoria Bookshop, 31-29 31st Street, between 31st Ave & Broadway, in Astoria. Join the facebook invite here.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Find Free Events All Summer Long in NYC!

Looking for cool things to do during this long, hot summer in NYC? What could be more cool than free? WGINY suggests some fun, free events for your NYC summer.

Free Music and Performing Arts Shows:

Summerstage: Performances across all five boroughs, mostly in public parks, includes concerts, dance, comedy, and special programs for kids and families.

Celebrate Brooklyn!: Concerts and dance parties all summer long at the Prospect Park Bandshell.

Madison Square Park Oval Lawn Series: Free outdoor concert series on Wednesday evenings through August 6.

Seaport Music Festival: Free Friday night concerts at South Street Seaport.

4Knots Music Festival: Also at South Street Seaport, one-day-only, July 12, a free music festival sponsored by the Village Voice.

River Rocks: Hudson River Park free summer concert series.

Free Dancing:

Moon Dance: Sundays through August 10 at Hudson River Park Pier 84. Alternating salsa and swing. Lessons at 6:30pm; dancing at 7pm.

Midsummer Night Swing: At Lincoln Center through July 12. A different style is featured nearly nightly with lessons first followed by dancing to live music.

Free Film:

River Flicks: Featuring blockbuster movies at Hudson River Park.  "Big Hit" Wednesdays on Pier 63 beginning July 9; and "Family Fridays" on Pier 46 beginning July 11.

Intrepid Summer Movie Series: 6th Annual Movie Series featuring sea, air and space themed movies atop the Interpid Museum's flight deck. Space is limited so get there early. Thursdays from July 10 - August 20. Doors open at 7:30pm; films show at sunset. This summer's lineup includes Independence Day, Gravity, and Spaceballs among the list.

HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival: Mondays through August 18. Lawn opens at 5pm. Films show at sunset. Features classic films such as The Shining and The Karate Kid.

Central Park Film Festival: Annual free film festival in Central park. Runs for one week, from August 18-22. This year's theme is "Scenes from our City".

Find more free Summer movies in a NYC park near you at nycparks.org.

Spend a Day on Governor's Island:
Ride a free ferry from Manhattan or Brooklyn before noon on weekends. One of WGINY's favorite local blog's, feedlivinghappy, describes a day on Governor's Island and why you won't want to miss a trip there this summer.

Stroll Through a Street Fairhttp://www.nycstreetfairs.com/sched.html

For even more free ideas, check out this NY Daily News article: Ultimate Summer Guide: Free New York.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

JuicyBruce Invites You to Get Funky This Friday!

Get your funky juices flowing this Friday night, June 27, with the JuicyBruce Summer Party featuring the music of JuicyBruce and Sanah Kadoura Orchestra. The party will take place at "Zeb's," that cool loft/recording studio/performance space that houses the weekly Jazz Vocalist Series, 223 W. 28th Street, between 7th & 8th Avenues.  

R to L: Jenny Arrigo, Lauren Stockner, Mike Ved, Mike Lunoe, Alex Rubin
Photo by Tai-Hua Wu, courtesy of JuicyBruce.
JuicyBruce first burst onto the local music scene in May 2009, playing groovy rock tunes at bars across New York City. JuicyBruce has since performed for "squeezers" (squeezer = A JuicyBruce fan) at Sidewalk Cafe, The Bitter End, Bowery Poetry Club, Brooklyn Bowl, and a host of other favorite music haunts. Coming from a family that valued music, front man Alex Rubin could play music before he could talk, had always been in bands, and studied music in college, before coming up with the idea for JuicyBruce. Rubin cites as some of his influences The Beatles, Stevie Wonder, Frank Zappa, and Simon & Garfunkel, and his respect for the rock genre is evident in his music.

JuicyBruce put out their first self-titled EP in 2010, featuring catchy yet expressive songs such as Peanut Butter Man and Envelope Me Penelope. The guitar and other instrumental solos are really intriguing and the vocal harmonies created by Rubin and female vocalist Jenny Arrigo are compelling.

Although Rubin has remained a constant in JuicyBruce, the band has been through several layers of change since that EP was released, and the JuicyBruce lineup continues to evolve. Friday's show will feature Alex Rubin on guitar and vocals; Jenny Arrigo on vocals; Lauren Stockner on guitar; Kyle Lalone on guitar; Mike Vedric on Bass; and Mike Lunoe on drums. Complementing JuicyBruce will be the music of the Sanah Kadoura Orchestra. Kadoura can often be found performing at local jazz clubs such as Fat Cat and Smalls. 

JuicyBruce is currently planning a new, full length LP, "Juicer Than Thou," which may include some live tracks from Friday night's performance. Doors open at 7:30p.m. and entrance for the evening is only $10. The event is sponsored by Long Trail Brewing Co. Join the facebook invite for updates and more info. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Who is Ingrid Vollset?

Who is Ingrid Vollset? Despite a growing list of local theater, film, and other "industry" credits, it's likely you haven't heard of her, yet. I have only now heard of her because I happened to become mesmerized by her singing in the subway station last night, on the N/Q/R platform at 59th & Lexington, and I wasn't the only one. Her acoustic-electric guitar case, open on the floor for donations, was full of bills, and in the time it took to catch one train, I saw more than a handful of people drop more. I later googled Vollset's name, and was surprised to find that she also boasts a solid professional background in acting, not to mention her skills as a singer-songwriter.

When I initially sauntered her way in the subway station, captivated by her contemplative lyrics and her folksy, wispy, indie rock style, I was sure that Vollset was something of a Regina Spektor meets Company of Thieves. According to this old facebook event post which I stumbled upon in my google search, Vollset actually cites a varied range of influences including not just folk and soul greats such as Susanne Vega, Bob Dylan, and Nina Simone, but also hip-hop and reggae artists such as Lauryn Hill and the Marley family.

If I were a person whose job it was to discover music, I would discover Ingrid Vollset.

Find her on soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/ingridvollset-1.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Grace Period Blog Presents Performance as Activism: "The S.M. Cabaret: Slaves of Sallie Mae"

As summer comes into full swing and the newest wave of college graduates throw their caps high with blithe enthusiasm, for many there is an unspoken skeleton in the closet, ready to reveal itself in six months, whether or not anyone is prepared: that skeleton is Student Debt.

Co-Founder Sydney Arndt Shows Off Her Debt
Photo Property of The Grace Period Blog
While one now Off-Broadway musical asks, "What can you do with a BA in English?", one Off-Off-Broadway newcomer, "The S.M. Cabaret: Slaves of Sallie Mae," asks (proverbially, not via puppetry) "How can you ever pay off a BA or MA in [insert any creative arts or humanities area here] with short grace periods, ever-growing interest, and stagnant incomes?" The cabaret-style show is a vision of The Grace Period Blog, co-founded by NYU MA Performance Studies Alumni, Gabriela Moreno and Sydney Arndt. The Grace Period Blog first went live in September 2013, and was inspired by the founders' "personal experience with the student debt crisis in America." The Grace Period Blog has clear activist goals including: extending the student loan grace period beyond six months and encouraging deferment and income-based repayment plans for private loans. What's unique about this site is that each post is intended to inspire more performance, and the content is interwoven into performance ideas. The performance itself becomes the activism.


The first content-driven performance of The Grace Period Blog took place in Washington Square Park on November 21, 2013, the very date on which the founders' student loan grace period ended. Since then, the founders have continued to work to turn their show into a movement, and most recently their efforts have evolved into "The S.M. Cabaret: Slaves of Sallie Mae," which WGINY had the pleasure of catching last week at Greenwich Village's IRT Theater.

3 of the "Great Lakes" from "Hey My Servant!"
R to L: Sarah Lucie; Sydney Arndt; Laura Mooney
Photo Property of The Grace Period Blog
As soon as I walked into the theater, instead of a playbill, I was handed a syllabus. Instead of skits there were lectures, and instead of actors there were professors. A "key term" to remember at the top of my syllabus was: "Sallie Mae: A publicly traded corporation that originates, services, and collects on student loans." For a moment I was filled with a first-day-of-school dread, and that was before the emcee, co-founder Gabriela Moreno, announced that 50% of all student debt is held by families in the bottom 25% of household incomes.


Introducing the first act, Moreno referenced a popular student loan provider, Great Lakes, and as she explained that these "legal loan sharks" could be sultry but dangerous, the opening number, "Hey My Servant!" began with five female performers wearing next-to-nothing, except for large posters representing New York's own famous five Great Lakes. A creative parody on Cy Coleman and Dorothy Fields' "Big Spender" from "Sweet Charity," "Hey My Servant!" tackled loan crisis issues, explaining how and why students often chain themselves to loans. Other numbers similarly addressed problems with loan deferral, refinancing, interest accrual, and the like, with a particular focus on the effects of America's economic crisis on artists, and the difficulty of earning a sustainable income on creative art alone. Writers and performers may enter school thinking that they will immediately become the next Carey Bradshaw or Sarah Jessica Parker (see what I did there?), but upon graduation they are forced to face the harsh reality that if they want to survive financially, it may be at the expense of their artistic passion. And yet, the message of the show is not to give up those dreams, but to forage on and follow your passions, even if that means working as a nanny for three families, and a research assistant, and an after school program theater specialist, as performer Jenna Tanimi does. Co-founder Sydney Arndt's penultimate burlesque lecture/skit, "Are you an actress?" addressed just this, as she craftily captured the caricature of the omnipresent actress/waitress in New York City, of which she admittedly is one, as well as an event caterer, theater critic, and restaurant reviewer.

Sarah Lucie in "Screw Loose"
Photo Property of The Grace Period Blog
One of my favorite numbers, "Screw Loose," came right after the emcee reminded the audience that, in July 2013, the federal student loan interest rate doubled from 3.4 to 6.8%. "Screw Loose" featured the vocal stylings of Sarah Lucie as a character who has literally been driven mad by her inability to pay her student loans. Her soulful solo was unexpected and she sent gasps through the audience as she belted out her woes.

Although the ideas of The S.M. Cabaret are presented in a light and humorous way, and may even cause you to snort on more than one occasion, the student debt crisis is nothing to laugh at. Though the show had a burlesque theme and a definite sex appeal, the real meat was not the girls on the stage, but the awareness they were raising.

This may not be a show for the 1% (although we certainly hope they get the message), but for the rest of you, keep up with thegraceperiodblog.com for more info. You can also like them on facebook and follow them on twitter.

You've got a grace period of a little over a month to get to this show, as the next planned run will be July 31-August 2, location TBD. There are also plans to take the show on tour to local colleges where the Blog can also focus on workshopping with arts students.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Da Marcella Mediterranean Taverna in Midtown Offers Italian and Spanish "Comfort Food".

The area around Rockefeller Center, while rich in notable attractions, is somewhat devoid of notable, non-chain restaurants. Restaurateur Manuel Moreno and his Executive Chef Francesco Mueses are trying to change that with Da Marcella Mediterranean Taverna. Having opened in November 2013, at 11 W. 51st Street, Da Marcella Mediterranean Taverna is already building a name for itself, and was completely packed with patrons when I went for a press dinner on a recent Thursday evening. This may be because some are already familiar with Da Marcella's acclaimed West Village location, but more likely it's because locals and tourists alike are finding that the rustic, homestyle Italian and Spanish fare offered is of the highest quality and quite delectable.

Meatballs Da Marcella
Photo by WGINY
Nestled between 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Plaza, Da Marcella Mediterranean Taverna has an unassuming entrance that you could almost miss, so look out for the eponymous awning. Once you step inside, descend a staircase lined with inspiring culinary quotes, and you will see that the atmosphere is incredibly warm and inviting, and understand why owner Moreno calls his taverna "a neighborhood restaurant that just wants to feed people in the same generous manner that [his] mother fed half of the neighborhood in which [he] grew up 60 years ago in Madrid." In fact, many of the menu items, such as the signature pasta dish, Tagliatelle alla Bologenese, are made from original family recipes. Da Marcella's expansive dinner menu offers eight different pasta dishes, six of which are only $16. For those who work in the neighborhood or are visiting on a weekday afternoon, the price of the lunch portions is nearly half that, at only $9 for a filling pasta entree. Organic whole wheat and gluten free pasta are also available for an additional $1.

Tagliatelle alla Bolognese,Topped with Fresh, Grated Parmesan Cheese
Photo by WGINY
Speaking of that Tagliatelle, it may just become your favorite go-to comfort dish, made with al dente pasta, and a Bolognese Ragu that is cooked for eight hours and combines 18 different ingredients, creating a flavorful, but not overpowering sauce, which allows you to focus on the sweet finish of the meat. Ask for fresh Parmesan cheese to top the Tagliatelle, and try pairing with a glass of Sada Integolo Toscana IGT, a Cabernet-Montepulciano blend that combines both a full-bodied and light taste, much like the Tagliatelle.

Another stand-out comfort-food item is the Meatballs Da Marcella (pictured above), Chef Francesco's specialty veal and pork meatballs made with San Marzano tomato sauce. There's no beef in these meatballs, yet one taste reveals that these supple morsels are truly from the upper cut. Other notable appetizers included the smooth and savory Burrata Cheese, San Daniele Prosciutto, with Truffle Sauce over "Crostone," which paired nicely with a well-rounded Melini Chianti by Borghi d'Elsa, and the Pulpo Marinado a la Catalana, made with freshly grilled Spanish octopus that is so tender and simple, you'll forget you're eating shellfish. The latter dish was complimented by a glass of crisp, Spanish white wine made from the most recognized grape in the region, an Albariño wine from Rias Baixas.

Burrata Cheese, San Daniele Prosciutto, Truffle Sauce over "Crostone"
Picture from Da Marcella website, used with permission

Pulpo Marinado a la Catalana
Photo by WGINY
As for that notable Spanish flair of Da Marcella's (mostly Italian) Mediterranean Taverna, it is exceptionally prevalent in the recently introduced Paella "Da Marcella," made in the traditional Valencia style, with Bomba rice, clams, mussels, chicken, azafran, mixed vegetables, and azarfrán. Although this item does not currently appear on the regular menu, it is often offered as a house specialty, and is definitely made to share.

Paella "Da Marcella"
Photo by WGINY
Before you leave, don't forget to partake in at least one of the rich desserts, the perfect way to round out the evening and head home happy and fulfilled. WGINY recommends the velvety Ricotta Cheese Cake, or the creamy, fruity Panna Cotta. All desserts are made in-house and are only $8.

Trio of Desserts. R to L: Panna Cotta, Tiramisu, Ricotta Cheese Cake

Da Marcella Mediterranean Taverna's midtown location is open Monday to Thursday from 11:30am-10:30pm, Friday from 11:30am-11pm, Saturday from 4pm-11pm, and Sunday from 4pm-10pm. Reservations are recommended and can be made online or by calling 917-639-3911. There is a full bar (whereas West Village location offers only beer and wine), currently offering a wide variety of 18 wines by the glass, and with rotating happy hour specials.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Opening Reception Tonight at Blue Mountain Gallery Highlights Five Emerging Artists in an Exhibition Running Through July 5


Andrew Dylan Campbell's The Motive for Metaphor, 72" x 44", Acrylic on Canvas, 2014
The Chelsea neighborhood of New York is notorious for, among other things, streets lined with art galleries beckoning passersby to come in, browse, and, hopefully, buy. Tonight, I'm particularly excited to attend the opening reception for an exhibition at one such gallery, Blue Mountain Gallery. Blue Mountain welcomes five emerging artists, who all have in common that they have recently completed an MFA program at Western Connecticut State University, but the versatility among these artists is anything but common. The "Thesis Exhibition," which represents the culmination of two years of intensive work for each of the artists, will run through July 5. Gallery hours are usually Tuesdays through Sundays from 11am-6pm, but tonight's opening reception will go from 5pm-8pm. View the exhibition catalog for more information. Highlighted pieces include paintings, sculpture and illustrations, across mixed media.

Several of the artists seem to draw inspiration from their surroundings and their life experiences. For example, the exhibited works of Andrew Dylan Campbell,* an American painter and the only one of the artists to also hold an MA in Visual Arts, reflect at first glance the beach as a familiar setting, as Campbell grew up on Long Island. However, Campbell holds that "the true content of his paintings is revealed slowly through the destruction and rebuilding of the figural and gestural elements involved, based on intuition and memories." 

Come down, peruse the pieces, and if you see something you like, let the artists know. 

*Campbell happens to be a personal friend, but don't let that overshadow his immense talent and passion for his work as a painter. See for yourself. Come to the exhibition. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Spotlight on Two Indie Productions You Should Check Out This Weekend.

Fulfill all of your indie theatre kicks this weekend at TADA Theater. Interested in crime, mystery and the feeling of film noir? Funny...Sheesh Productions' Doubles Crossed: The Ballad of Rodrigo has what you're looking for. How about sexuality, personal relationships, and a story about breaking away from the conventional? Ivy Theatre Company's The Feminism of Soft Merlot, or (How the Donkey Got Punched) will whet your appetite. In a press release, these companies describe how they are currently working together "in a space sharing partnership to promote artistic union and collaboration within the New York City Independent theatre scene." Read about both shows and choose the one for you or, if you go this Saturday or Sunday, make it a double feature!

Funny…Sheesh Productions Presents Doubles Crossed: The Ballad of Rodrigo.
 By Tami Shaloum


The sequel to Jason S. Grossman’s 2012 play, Doubles Crossed, and the second in his trilogy, The Ballad of Rodrigo is a thriller in the vein of 40s and 50s film noir. Even the backdrop is a screen that displays images of fake news headlines that refer to the play’s plot. While there are references to the first play, there is no need to have seen it to understand what is going on. A summary in the program, and the aforementioned headlines, brings the audience up to speed.

The plot follows Freddie Tower aka Freddie the Finisher (Gregory James Cohan), former criminal with the Dead Street mob, now assuming his dead twin brother’s identity as FBI agent Irving Tower. Tower’s back in town to get to the bottom of a mysterious death involving the deceased crime boss’ driver Rodrigo. Along the way, he gets entangled with an enigmatic woman named Trina (played magnetically by Alison Parks), who always seems to show up at the same greasy spoon each day at the same time as Tower. Said greasy spoon, owned by Sally (cheerfully portrayed by Cindy Keiter) and her son Flapjack (James Holden)—police detective at the local precinct and the only one who knows Tower’s true identity—becomes the setting for most of the action. Will Flapjack turn Tower in? What is the mystery woman doing in that coffee shop every day? What is Tower really up to? While the story has plenty of twists and turns, the ending becomes especially convoluted. The underlying message is don’t trust anyone because you never know who can turn on you.

The language of The Ballad of Rodrigo is especially interesting. It has its own neo-noir lingo and although definitions are handily listed in the program, it’s pretty easy to catch on. The characters also speak with old-timey inflection, as though they were performing a radio play in the 1940s. Directed by Amber Gallery, they never sound hackneyed, though there are some archetypes: the nosy trench coat-clad reporter just itching for a story (the fast-talking Allen Warnock); the unhinged, neglected son of a crime boss out for revenge (dastardly portrayed by Matthew J. Nichols); the jaded, alcoholic cop who’s lost everything (Ridley Parson). There’s also a slight anachronistic quality to the setting that’s somewhat confusing but ultimately charming. The characters use cell phones, while also having rotary phones on their desks. Some characters dress in period costume and some dress more modern.

Doubles Crossed has the feel of a movie with the presence of a play and will leave you wanting more. Good thing it’s a trilogy.

Doubles Crossed: The Ballad of Rodrigo
is playing at the TADA Theater Friday through Sunday. For tickets, go to http://balladofrodrigo.brownpapertickets.com/


Ivy Theatre Company presents The Feminism of Soft Merlot, or (How the Donkey Got Punched).
 By Heather K. 


The Feminism of Soft Merlot, or (How the Donkey Got Punched), much like some of the characters presented, should not be judged by its initial appearance. The show focuses on a seemingly stable yipster couple, Kareena (Diana Oh) and Teddy (Patrick Daniel Smith), and Kareena's sweet, prude friend, Sam (Lauren Dortch-Crozier). Kareena and Teddy have got it made - great jobs, great apartment, and above all, a great relationship. The over-confident Kareena feels obliged to impart her relationship wisdom onto her friend, resulting in witty banter between Kareena and Sam, which often hinges on the actresses' decisive comedic timing. You may recall actress Diana Oh from Mac Rogers' "Frankenstein Upstairs." Her adeptness with deadpan humor is hard to forget. 

Hoping to help Sam explore the dating world, and perhaps help her friend delve deeper into her own sexuality, Kareena sets Sam up with Kyle (Justin Anselmi), a former beau she herself had met online, before Teddy came into her life. Kareena assures Sam that she and Kyle never had relations, and she encourages Sam to meet him in person, despite Sam's coyness upon learning that Kyle works as a pornography filmmaker. The opening scenes are riddled with subtext and foreshadowing, and we soon see an unexpected transformation in Sam. Intriguingly, just as Sam seems to be finding herself, Kareena begins to lose herself, and a shocking event shakes her relationship with Teddy to its core. The result is compelling. 

The Feminism of Soft Merlot examines human relationships at their best and worst, and tackles some tough issues. What is feminism, really? Is it fighting for the right to vote or fighting for the right to dance on a pole? Can it be both? Can society ever accept that women may desire sex as much as men? What makes a woman independent? What is acceptable when it comes to expressing your sexuality? Morales and mores are tested in this unexpectedly poignant play that you'll find yourself still talking about days later. 

The Feminism of Soft Merlot, or (How the Donkey Got Punched) is playing at the TADA Theatre Thursday through Sunday. For tickets, go to http://ivytheatre.brownpapertickets.com/