Monday, July 18, 2011

Support the Arts and Celebrate Brooklyn with Bands Like "Animal Collective"

For the 33rd year, BRIC Arts|Media|Bklyn brings summertime music, dance, theater and film to the Prospect Park Bandshell. I have had the pleasure of taking in all sorts of shows at the Bandshell, from a flamenco dance ensemble to concerts by cult indie favorites such as The Swell Season (that duo from "Once") and Blonde Redhead. Every summer, talented artists, many unknown to the larger public (yet always drawing long lines and large crowds), are showcased as part of BRIC's Celebrate Brooklyn! festival, and the majority of the shows are free. This year's Celebrate Brooklyn! lineup has more than 20 free performances on the bill, plus six "benefit concerts" to raise money for the arts (free shows do have a "suggested" $3 contribution and I encourage readers to donate the $3).

Although performances began June 10 with singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist, Andrew Bird, the Bandshell is just beginning to heat up, and will continue to bring spectacular artists to Brooklyn through Celebrate Brooklyn's final night this summer, a benefit show headlined by electronic blazers, Cut Copy.

Animal Collective Stage -- Picture by John H.
One band that really heated up the stage recently was experimental rock band, Animal Collective, during a benefit show at the Bandshell on July 12. Animal Collective's polychromatic setup fused lights, animation and sound together, creating a non-stop kaleidoscope of neon beats that make you wish you had some glowsticks and/or could cause you to break out into "the robot" at any moment. Although the mellow-rock sounds of their lengthy discography are often quite lyrical, the live Animal Collective experience was more about jamming to smooth music infused with moments of bizarre experimental electronica. The melodies were fresh and fluid, and it was often difficult to discern where one song ended and another one began, as each beat blended into the next. Although the band did not play what is arguably their most famous song, My Girls, the audience did not seem to mind as they continued to be whisked away into the psychedelic sounds of Animal Collective.

Of the upcoming free Celebrate Brooklyn! performances, I would recommend The Feelies and Real Estate show this Saturday, July 23,  at 7pm, and/or Ra Ra Riot on Friday, August 5, at 7pm. I am also tempted to look into this Thursday's West Side Story "Dance and Sing-Along," which kind of sounds amazing ("In this unique participatory screening of one of Hollywood’s greatest musicals, the lyrics will be shown on Brooklyn’s enormous outdoor screen and “Officer Krupke” will teach audiences some of the famous steps. Sharks enter at 11th Street, Jets at 9th"). Leave a comment if you go to any of these. 

A few things you should know to make the most of your time at the Bandshell shows, whether free or paid:
  • The venue is outdoors. It is a perfect setting, with grass for picnicking and blankets nestled among shady trees toward the back, and plenty of standing room in front. But don't forget your bug spray, sunblock (if you get there before sunset) and water (essential -- at the Animal Collective show, the vendors ran out of water, plus, it's better for the environment). 
  • You may also want to bring a flashlight (to find the bathrooms and/or food and drink vendors after dark).
  • There is always a long line for port-a-potties and you should probably bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer, because that goes quickly too. 
  • There are Emergency Medical Technicians on-site in case you run into trouble (again -- water, water, water!!)
  • Finally, look UP -- there are bats and birds (and sometimes stars) abound. 

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