Live Concert Review: The World’s Fair Anniversary Festival featuring Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaries with Damien Escobar and Hollis Brown and others, at Flushing Meadow Park 6/7/15

As a blogger, living in New York is admittedly one of the best things you can do; after all, the sheer breadth, quality and variety of music you can cover over the course of a week or a month can be rather exciting and overwhelming. Over the past month or so I’ve covered two festivals, Northside and New Music Seminar’s New Music Nights with my dear friend and colleague Natalie Hamingson, along with several Summerstage shows and a few one-off shows across town. And as you can imagine, I’m still desperately catching up a month and a half later. But it’s part of the job — and somehow has to do it, right?

Early last month, the New York City Parks and Recreation Department and Summerstage celebrated the 75th Anniversary of the 1939-1940 World’s Fair and the 50th Anniversary of the 1964-1965 World’s Fair at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park with an afternoon festival of live music, local vendors selling international cuisine, a car show and activities for the kiddos, among other things.

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(Photo Credit: Classic Car Show at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park)

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(Photo Caption: The Iconic Unisphere at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park)

As for the music, the organizers attempted to craft a showcase that featured local and nationally known acts that reflected Queens’ diversity. And although that attempt was gratefully appreciated, the afternoon did suffer through some vexing issues. First, the festival’s organizers and press team must do a better job communicating to the public. When I arrived at the park with my mother and a dear friend, we only knew that there was going to be a fairly international focus when it came to music and that Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaries were set to get on the stage at 4; however, no one mentioned that on the New York State Pavilion, there were two openers before Bradley, Queens-based, classically trained violinist Damien Escobar and Queens-based indie rock band Hollis Brown, which actually pushed Bradley’s set to 6. Sadly, my friend had to make it home to pick up her son and wound up missing Bradley’s set. And certainly, if I were in one of the opening bands, I would likely want the entire world to know what the entire afternoon’s bill was, so that I could promote the fact that I was on a bill with an internationally recognized artist. Hell, just knowing who exactly was on the bill can create some curiosity for some of the more adventurous concertgoers, who may have checked out the festival’s artists on Spotify or YouTube.

One of the biggest problems of the entire festival was that the overall quality of the artists on the bill was a little disappointing. If you’re a New Yorker, you’ve probably come across MTA Music Under New York act Raices Group as you’ve been commuting back and forth. Their sound offers a subtle modernization on the traditional music of the indigenous peoples of the Andres Mountains, complete with positive messages. There was a particularly strange moment in which the band’s frontperson Jachamallku Paucar admitted to the band having a minor sound issue because of the weather conditions, although I’m pretty certain that no one actually noticed one way or the other. Still, their sound made a gloriously sunny day seem even more glorious.

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(Photo Caption: Raices Group at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park)

My mom, my friend and I went to the main stage by the New York State Pavilion to catch Damien Escobar, a Queens-born artist, who has developed a reputation for crafting a classically-based renditions of pop songs. And although Escobar had a charming, charismatic stage presence, there was something about his music that struck me as incredibly cheesy yet crowd pleasing and inoffensive. For a family-friendly event, being fairly inoffensive is a plus; however, I would have loved to hear more of a unique twist on familiar songs — or slightly more obscure songs form the same set of popular artists he covered.

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(Photo Caption: Damien Escobar at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park)

Next up was the Queens-based indie rock act Hollis Brown, who captured the attention of the blogosphere with a sound that channels deep fried Southern rock — in other words think of The Allmans, Lynynd Skynyrd and the like; however, live the band’s material reveals its weaknesses and the fact that they haven’t seemed to completely find their own voice. The bluesy, soulful songs shamefully lacked soul or any real sense of what inspired the source material. And in some way, it made the set seem painfully long.

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(Photo Caption: Hollis Brown at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park)

Last and not least, was the afternoon’s headliner, Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaries. I’ve written about Bradley and his incredible live set before so I’ll stop myself from repeating myself too much. But this time, one of the most moving moments of the set was when Bradley told a story about how he had an near fatal allergic reaction to penicillin, and how at one point. he thought he was close to dying. But it was the patient attention of his nurse and doctors, as well as his faith and sense that Bradley had some unfinished business that pushed the soul artist on. By the time, he had finished his story, the audience was in the palm of his hand.

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(Photo Caption: Charles Bradley Doing the Robot at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park)

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(Photo Caption: Charles Bradley Is Feeling It)

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(Photo Caption: Charles Bradley Wants You to Come On Over, Girl, at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park)

For these photos and more, check out the Flickr set here:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskfTGP6Z

For these photos and more, check out the Flickr set here:

https://flic.kr/s/aHskfTGP6Z

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