Tag: Previews

Interview: A Q&A with New Colossus Festival Co-Founder Mike Bell

Co-founded by three New York music industry vets and longtime friends, Lorimer Beacon‘s founder and head Mike Bell, Kanine Records‘ founder and label head Lio Kanine and Kepler Events and Lola Live’s Steven Matrick, the second annual The New Colossus Festival, which will take place on March 11, 2020 – March 15, 2020 will feature more than 100 handpicked, emerging indie bands and artists from the US, Canada, the UK, the European Union, Australia, and Singapore. By design, the festival takes place just before SXSW: the festival’s co-founders view the festival as a pre-SXSW stopover that will give its emerging acts an opportunity to organically gain exposure – while filling a critical void in the festival circuit.

The festival’s second year finds the festival expanding by leaps and bounds: while still featuring showcases at venues across the East Village and Lower East Side including Berlin Under A, Lola NYC, Pianos, The Bowery Electric, Arlene’s Grocery and The Delancey, the festival has expanded to feature showcases at two beloved New York institutions – The Bowery Ballroom and the recently added MOSCOT Eyewear, as well as Ludlow House.

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Of course, New Colossus offers adventurous fans and music industry insiders alike an opportunity to catch many of these emerging and buzzworthy bands before SXSW – and in many cases, the festival will offer the unique opportunity of catching some of these acts playing their first Stateside shows ever. Personally, I’m looking forward to catching JOVM mainstays The Orielles, Summer Heart and A Place to Bury Strangers, along with Beverly Kills, Hanya, Bodywash (who I caught at M for Montreal last year) and Jackie – but I’m also looking forward to some serendipitous discovery of new acts and the opportunity run into old friends, and to network and meet new friends and colleagues. And much like its inaugural year, the second New Colossus Festival will also feature panels and talks that will be of interest to the music community.

I got in touch with New Colossus Festival co-founder Mike Bell by email to chat about the second edition of the festival – primarily its rapid expansion, the founders hope for the future and more. Check it out below.

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WRH: This year is the second New Colossus Festival. In terms of the festival, what makes this year’s edition different than last year?

Mike Bell: We’re thrilled to be back!  This year we’ve grown from 6 venues to 9 venues while still keeping everything within walking distance on the Lower East Side.  We added MOSCOT Eyewear on Orchard Street as a venue, which will host shows all day Friday. It’s pretty exciting to be teaming up with a wonderful Lower East Side institution.   We also added an after-party at Ludlow House on Thursday and a late show featuring our friends A Place To Bury Strangers at Bowery Ballroom on Friday.

WRH: The second edition of New Colossus features a packed lineup of over 100 bands. Much like last year, there’s a big representation of Canadian acts. But I also see a few Norwegian acts, a few Spanish acts, a fair number of British acts, an Irish act or two, a couple of Austrian acts, an Irish act or two, an Australian act and even an act from Singapore on the bill. Was there anything specifically that changed in how acts were chosen and booked this year?

MB: Our prime motive is always the quality of the music and how it makes us feel. We’re booking bands who play music that we love.  We aren’t targeting a band from Djibouti because they’re from Djibouti. If there’s a great band from anywhere in the world that is able to make it to NYC and are serious about their careers as professional musicians, we’ll certainly consider them.   I will say that there are great festivals and conferences like Halifax Pop Explosion, Focus Wales, The Great Escape and Music Finland that have flown us out to find talent because their governments support exporting their music and art.

WRH: Who comes up with the festival playlist?

MB: That’s all Steven [Matrick]! He’s really good at it and puts a lot of thought into song placement. He’s been sending out playlists to his friends for many years.  You can hear his “Best of 2019” here:

WRH: This year’s festival sees the addition of two new venues – Ludlow House and the biggest venue in the festival’s history to date, Bowery Ballroom, which will host arguably the most talked about showcase of the entire festival. Does this give you and the organizers a sense of an even bigger future for New Colossus?

MB: By the time your readers see this, we’ll have announced MOSCOT as another venue that will be hosting bands all day Friday, March 13, with our friends from AdHoc. As mentioned previously, MOSCOT has been part of the Lower East Side community for over 100 years. They’re also a huge supporter of music so it made a lot of sense to team up with them.

The Bowery Ballroom show is a big deal and we’re super excited about it. However, we really don’t see this as a showcase nor as a “headline” show. We definitely don’t want to be the kind of festival that makes fans choose between seeing a more established band versus a smaller one. A Place to Bury Strangers are part of our TNC family and we see their show as another awesome band for festival attendees to see after the other showcases have ended.  That said, Bowery Ballroom is a great venue and we hope to expand and do more shows with them next year.

WRH: Festivals like Winter Jazz Fest, New Colossus, SXSW and other festivals with a conference segment have featured talks covering a variety of subjects of importance to their audiences, which will predominantly be musicians, music industry professionals and journalists. How did you and the organizing team come up with the subjects for the various talks that will happen this year?

MB: The topics we chose were the ones that we felt were most useful and interesting to the bands playing the festival. We feel it is important to include speakers who would be the most likely to connect with the artists in a meaningful way.  In the age of declining record sales, Indie labels, sync and touring have become vital to survive as a musician.  The other panels are on activism, mental health and the history of music in NYC, all very relevant to the bands playing our festival.

WRH: Besides making a living off your art and passion, and how to survive the touring life, one of the biggest issues that concern musicians, music industry types and those who love them is their mental health and wellness. A portion of my readers aren’t music industry insiders. Can you talk a bit about why having discussions on the subject of mental health and wellness is so important for the music community as a whole?

MB: Mental health and wellness is something we need to talk about as much as possible. Professional artists’ lives and livelihoods are dependent on maintaining their wellbeing. We are here are for the artist and want to help them with their careers, which includes making sure that issues like mental health are not stigmatized and that they addressed in an open form.  Most touring musicians spend a huge percentage of their lives in bars at music venues and it is a struggle for everyone single one of them to be healthy and sane while touring.

WRH: Simon Raymonde and The Charlatans UK’s Tim Burgess DJ’ing a New Colossus After Party? Holy shit, dude. So, how did that happen?  

MB: It’s pretty amazing! Tim is also playing his first US solo shows at the festival. Lio has been friends with Simon and his wife Abbey for years and we all love their label Bella Union. In the end it really all came down to them believing and understanding what this festival is all about.  Bella Union also sent us two of our favorite bands Penelope Isles and Lowly last year, and Pom Poko and Dog In the Snow this year, as well as the legendary Tim Burgess of the Charlatans.

WRH: Where do you see the direction of the festival next year?

MB: We are already thinking about what we’ll do for 2021 and have some plans that involve integrating more with the community and the neighborhood as a whole. We’d love too partner with a backline company and do more pop up shows in art galleries and stores.

For more information on the festival, including badge and ticket information, check out the Festival’s home page: https://www.newcolossusfestival.com

I’ll be covering New Colossus’ second edition. You can check out festival coverage here:

Twitter: @yankee32879

@williamhelms3rd

Instagram: @william_ruben_helms

Interview: A Q&A with M for Montreal’s Program Director Mikey Rishwain Bernard

M for Montreal (French – M pour Montreal) is an annual music festival and conference, which takes place during four days in late November. Since its founding 14 years ago, the music festival and conference has rapidly expanded to feature over 100 local and international buzzworthy and breakout bands in showcases across 15 of Montreal’s top venues.

300 music industry movers and shakers, heavyweights and tastemakers from over 20 different countries make the trek to Montreal to seek out new, emerging artists and new business opportunities – while hopefully eating a ton of smoked meat sandwiches and poutine. I have the distinct pleasure and honor of being one of those music industry folks, who will be in Montreal tomorrow. As you can imagine, I’m looking very forward to poutine and smoked meat sandwiches, as well as a wildly eclectic array of music that includes the rapidly rising hometown-based Francophone indie rock act Corridor; acclaimed London, Ontario-based DIY rock collective WHOOP-Szo; British Columbia-based psych folk act Loving; hometown-based singer/songwriter and guitarist Ada Lea; hometown-based shoegazers Bodywash; Vancouver-based dance punk act NOV3L; Cameroonian-French pop artist Blick Bassy; and New York-based dance punk act Operator Music Band;  as well as a showcase featuring Icelandic artists and a two showcases featuring locally-based and Canadian-based hip-hop among a lengthy list of others.

Before heading out to Montreal, I chatted with the festival’s program director Mikey Rishwain Bernard about a wide range of topics including Montreal and Montreal’s music scene, what music fans, music industry professionals and journalists should expect from the city and the festival and more. Check it out below.

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WRH: While JOVM does have readers in Canada, most of my readers are based in the United States. Can you tell me and my readers a couple of things about Montreal and its music scene that we probably wouldn’t know but should know?

Mikey Rishwain Bernard: Most people will identify Montreal with Leonard Cohen, Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and that’s cool as shit. After that Arcade Fire movement, it felt like many creative Canadian musicians started flocking to Montreal for the cheap schools, cheap rent, vast music scene and live venues. All that hype brought a new generation of artists like Grimes, Mac DeMarco, BRAIDS and more. All this to say is that Montreal is one heck of a place for creative space, freedom and affordable rent. Aside all that, there’s an entire francophone music scene that’s considered mainstream and not to forget the top shelf beatmakers and producers, most notably Kaytranada, Kid Koala, and A-Trak. There’s a lot of government funding dedicated in arts and culture and that’s a huge factor.

WRH: This is the 14th edition of M for Montreal. What was the inspiration behind its creation?

MRB: First and foremost, M was created on a whim. It was set up as a showcase to introduce 6 Montreal bands to 12 festival buyers and media from the UK, who happened to be in Montreal, while on their way to NY for CMJ. It helped artists like Patrick Watson and The Besnard Lakes get some action. In short, M is a networking platform for Canadian artists and industry to mingle with international tastemakers. We now recruit over 100 international delegates from 15 different countries to attend in hopes to export these acts into their respective markets. Another inspiration behind M is Martin Elbourne.  He’s our co-founder. A legendary British programmer who books for Glastonbury and co-founded The Great Escape festival in Brighton. He also worked with The Smiths and New Order, and has always had been involved with new wave’s in the making. He saw Montreal as a “sexy city” and wanted to contribute to this festival to help bring Montreal acts to Europe. Since then, M for Montreal has grown into not only a platform for Canadians, but we also make a little room for international acts.

 WRH: What does a program director of a festival do? 

MRB: I curate the music and conference. Lots of listening, making offers, negotiating and waiting. On repeat.

WRH: In your mind, what makes a successful festival? 

MRB: Aside from the talent, it’s the experience. The people you meet and the memories you make. I sound like Hallmark card, eh?

WRH: This is my first time in Montreal – and it’s my first time covering the M for Montreal festival. Besides the cold weather and maybe a little snow, what should I expect as a journalist? What would other music industry professionals expect from the festival?

MRB: You’re gonna feel welcome and our locals treat our guests/delegates with a lot of respect. Quebecers are very welcoming and charming, and they’ll all share their opinions on where to go, who to meet and what to eat. Everyone is going to ask you to try poutine. Just do it, once or twice. Try it sober at least once if you get the chance. Aside from that, don’t be surprised if some women kiss you on both face cheeks.

WRH: As a music fan, why should I check out Montreal? Why M for Montreal?

MRB: Like previously mentioned, the rich music history. It’s always good to see where Leonard Cohen slept & where Win Butler got his coffee, but it’s also a privilege to discover and experience the culture and new music cooking in French Canada.

WRH: I was doing some research and checking out the artists playing this year’s festival. Admittedly, I was very impressed – the bill manages to be very local centric but while being an eclectic and diverse sampling of a number of different styles and genres. There’s also a fair number of Canadian acts from other provinces, at least one American band and so on. How much work went into that? And how do you and the other organizers choose the artists on the bill?

MRB: It’s a mixture of things. We work with a lot of new kids on the block, Canadian export partners and local industry. We book bands and work with people who wanna play ball. Not for the money, but for a chance to play for some interesting people from all over the world. So, like the programming, it’s all over the place.

WRH: So once the festival ends on Saturday night, what happens next for you and the rest of the team?

MRB: The team will close out the festival and close the 2019 file. The week after M, I’m attending a conference in Saskatoon called Very Prairie… From there, I go directly into hibernation, back home, in Stockton/Lodi California (home of Pavement and Chris Isaak). I will start the new year booking another festival taking place in May called Santa Teresa. And the beat goes on.

While in Montreal, I’ll be busy with my social media accounts, live tweeting and Instagramming as much as I can. Keep on the lookout here:

Twitter: @yankee32879 @williamhelms3rd

Instagram: william_ruben_helms

 

For more information on the festival, check out their homepage: https://mpourmontreal.com/en/

 

 

Interview: A Q&A with Mike Bell Co-Founder of New Colossus Festival

Co-founded by three New York music industry vets and longtime friends, Lorimer Beacon‘s founder and head Mike Bell, Kanine Records‘ founder and label head Lio Kanine and Kepler Events and Piano’s Steven Matrick, the inaugural New Colossus Festival, which will take place March 7, 2019 – March 10, 2019, will feature more than 100 handpicked, emerging indie bands and artists from the US, Canada, the UK and the European Union. Interestingly, the new festival takes place the week before SXSW, and that was by design: the festival’s co-founders view the inaugural run of their festival as a stopover that will give these emerging acts an opportunity to play at curated showcases at 6 different venues across Manhattan’s Lower East Side and East Village (Berlin Under A, Coney Island Baby, Pianos, The Bowery Electric, Arlene’s Grocery, and The Delancey for fans and industry professionals alike.

Additionally, the festival will feature a Kick Off Party at Piano’s that features local shoegazers No Swoon, a full kick off day that features afternoon industry panels and an opening happy hour.

As co-founder Steven Matrick told BrooklynVegan last December, the festival’s co-founders are aiming for a CMJ-like vibe. “CMJ left such a vacuum, not only for independent music venues, but for bands all over the world that used it as a way to play New York City every year,” Matrick told BrooklynVegan. “We chose a very convenient weekend to try to bring back that opportunity. We’d also been discussing a way for these venues to work together again and resurrect the collaborative aspect of Manhattan’s music scene.”

I recently got in touch with New Colossus co-founder Mike Bell by email to chat about the  festival, its timing, what makes it different than SXSW and other festivals and more. Check out a playlist featuring the festival’s artists — and then the interview, below.

 

 

 

BIG

 

 

 

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WRH: You’re one of the founders of NYC’s newest festival The New Colossus Festival, which begins its inaugural run next week. The timing is interesting because it’s a week before SXSW in Austin. What inspired you and your team to do The New Colossus Festival? How is it different from SXSW or from the countless other festivals that will take place over the course of the calendar year?

Mike Bell: The timing is no accident. I’ve been pretty connected with the international music community for over a decade and felt that NYC could be more “available” to artists as they pass through and head to Austin. Putting international bands together with some great local acts in a showcase set-up seemed to be the best way to be more impactful for the artists vs. booking a show on their own.

The entire idea behind The New Colossus Festival is to present great new music in a live setting. That’s really it. We don’t have brands doing activities or headliners who don’t need to be “discovered”.

WRH: What will the average concertgoer get from the New Colossus Festival and its showcases?

MB: This festival has been fully curated in-house and we truly feel the quality of the handpicked line-ups will speak for themselves.

WRH: From the flyer, there looks to be about 100 bands playing showcases during the festival’s three days.  A lot of those bands are American or Canadian but there’s a fair amount of international representation. How were the participating bands chosen?

MB: We have a lot of Canadian acts! Speaking of which, we are doing an event Thursday night at Coney Island Baby featuring an all Canadian line-up headlined by Dusted (Brian of Holy Fuck).

Mostly, the booking decisions were based on bands we like and had relationships with their teams.

WRH: Everyone who has gotten into music is a fan of someone. As a fan, is there anyone that you’re looking forward to see at New Colossus? Are there any dream bands you’d love to have play the festival, if you had unlimited money, etc. etc.?

MB: There are some bands I’m absolutely planning on catching. In the spirit of creating a level playing field for all the bands who are performing, I’d really rather not call any out by name publicly. Come find me and I’ll tell you who I’m going to see. 🙂

WRH: There are also a number of interesting panels during the afternoon, covering a number of topics including the importance of an indie label, finding your own formula in changing landscape, obtaining a visa to work  and play gigs in the States, and mental health in music. How did you and your fellow founders find the speakers?

MB: We decided to do the panels as a way to offer the bands something more than just a stage to play on. This is for them to learn, network, and grow. The topics were chosen based on input from the industry and the panelists are mostly all friends of ours

WRH: There are a lot of moving parts in a festival, especially one that features as many bands as yours. How long did it take for you and the team to plan, book and promote it? When will you begin work on the 2020 festival?

MB: I teamed up with Lio [Kanine] and Steven [Matrick] fall of 2017 to do a TNC day party at Pianos which happened almost exactly a year ago. This was more or less a soft launch. The event we put together went very well and so we decided to go all in for this year. Planning for 2019 began pretty soon after our 2018 event ended in March. 2020 planning has already begun.

WRH: Venues like Piano’s, Arlene’s Grocery, Berlin Under A and others will be hosting showcases. How did they get involved? With the Sidewalk Café closing, is there an even bigger impetus for keeping the festival in the Lower East Side? Do you foresee participating venues in Brooklyn or elsewhere, like what eventually happened with CMJ?

MB: We started with Pianos and went to venues who were nearby with the idea that we wanted to present great new music from around the world. We do not plan to expand beyond a walkable distance and plan to keep everything as tight as possible.

The idea with doing this on the Lower East Side made the most sense to us. It’s the most music friendly neighborhood in the city even though venue closings have been happening. Historically, this is where many people from around the world came to and lived when starting out the US. There are so many creatives who got their start there from the mid-19th century on the Bowery to today.

WRH: Where do you see the festival going in the 3-5 years?

MB: Hopefully still going! We want to grow and are looking at ways of expanding in ways that make sense while maintaining our goal of putting the music first.

WRH: What’s next for you and your colleagues?

MB: A little rest a little reflection… then onto 2020 planning\

 

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If you’re a rabidly voracious music fan, who wants to brag about catching acts before anyone else heard of them, New Colossus may be for you — festival badges are for the entire 4 day and 3 night run are $50. You can buy a badge here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/the-new-colossus-festival-tickets-53519054934

I’ll be covering the inaugural New Colossus Festival. Check out the following social media outlets for my coverage, photos and more.

Twitter: @yankee32879

Twitter: @williamhelms3rd

Instagram: @william_ruben_helms

Preview: MONDO.NYC 2018

Founded by some of the originators of CMJ and its long-running CMJ Marathon, Mondo.NYC is a music, technology and innovation-based festival that within its first couple years has quietly taken the place of both the CMJ Marathon and New Music Seminar’s New Music Nights Festival. Interestingly, the third edition of Mondo.NYC, which will take place October 2, 2018 – October 5, 2018 finds the global, emerging music, technology and innovation conference moving east across the East River to Williamsburg with The Williamsburg Hotel, Rough Trade and Brooklyn Bowl hosting daytime conference-related events. Interestingly, those daytime events feature partnerships with The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), Guild of Music Supervisors, Record Store Day, a collection of international consular and export agencies and others to connect fans, artists, music industry professionals, business pioneers and veterans, leading names in tech and music to network, trade ideas and learn in a rapidly changing industry landscape as well as inspired others to become the industry leaders and up-and-coming artists of the future. Live music will take place on both sides of the East River with showcases being hosted by the aforementioned Brooklyn Bowl, Piano’s, Berlin, Arlene’s Grocery,  Coney Island Baby, The Delancey, DROM, Hank’s Saloon, Niagara and N.O.R.D.

Some quick highlights include:

  • RIAA hosts “Everything You Need to Know About Streaming Revenue and Policy in One Hour”
  • Guild of Music Supervisors NYC Education Event & Film Fest, an immersive full-day symposium to meet, network and learn from some of the top music supervisors and industry executives in the business, that will take place at The Williamsburg Hotel, October 5.
  • Record Store Day presents “A Conversation With…” Series at Rough Trade Records
  • The Second Annual Marauder Radio Room @ Pianos — College stations record interviews and live sessions with Mondo showcasing artists.
  • MusicTech Day @ Mondo.NYC hosted by Brian Zisk
  • Northern Beat: Indigenous Canadian New Music Showcase at the Metropolitan Museum of Art with iskwé, DJ Shub with James Jones and Elisapie
  • HOTS, The Hungarian Music Export Bureau, presents Breakthrough Artists from Hungary Ivan & the Parazol and Mörk
  • SWISS LIVE TALENTS present KT Gorique, The Last Moan, Sophie De Quay & The Waveguards, Eliane Amherd

Mondo’s speakers include key leaders from the emerging music and frontier tech industries:

●      Preeti Adhikary, VP of Marketing, FuseMachines

●      Danielle Aguirre, General Counsel, National Music Publishers’ Association

●      Lauren Apolito, SVP Strategy & Business Development, Rumblefish/HFA

●      Shelita Burke, Pop Star/Data Scientist

●      Bryan Calhoun

●      Susanna Choe, Co-Founder, Peace Accelerators

●      Thomas Emmanuel, US Business Development Advisor, Sonm

●      David Garrity, Partner, BTBlock

●      Mitch Glazier, President, RIAA

●      Adam Huttler, General Partner, Exponential Creativity Ventures

●      Lenny Kaye, Artist, Guitarist for The Patti Smith Group

●      Scott Kessler, Director of Business Development, L03 Energy

●      Tammy Khan, Partner, BTBlock

●      Clara Kim, General Counsel, ASCAP

●      Michael Kurtz, Co-Founder, Record Store Day

●      Andrew Levine, Content Director, Steemit

●      Jonathan McHugh, Director/Producer/Music Supervisor

●      Arjun Mendhi, CEO, MTonomy

●      Tatiana Moroz, Founder, TATIANACOIN

●      Ed Morris, Co-Founder and Director, Gate Reality

●      Rohan Reddy, Co-Founder, Y2X

●      Emma Reeves, Executive Director, Free the Bird

●      Jordan Rudess, Keyboardist/Composer, Dream Theater

●      Xander Schultz, VC, Galaxy Investment Partners

●      Cary Sherman, CEO, RIAA

●      Stephen White, CEO, Dubset

●      Bill Wilson, Co-Founder, Indie Ninja

●      Brian Zisk, Co-Founder/Executive Producer, SF MusicTech Summit

●      Shoshana Zisk, General Counsel, George Clinton Enterprises

 

Of course, I’m looking extremely forward to catching some of the incredibly diverse music offerings, including:

 

  • Omar Souleyman (Syria)
  • Laxmi Bomb (India)
  • Lord Esperanza (France)
  • Crosa Rosa (UK)
  • Kingswood (Australia)
  • Sevi Ettinger (China)
  • Mörk and Ivan & The Parazol (Hungary)
  • Eliane Amherd and Sophie de Quay & The Wave Guards (Switzerland)
  • DJ Shub, Elisapie, Goodbye Honolulu, iskwé, Karimah, and Kielley Koyote (Canada)
  • BriGuel, Girl Skin and HoneyChrome, RYAL (NYC)
  • THRILLCHASER (Providence)
  • The Darbies (Los Angeles)
  • and a long list of others

 

For more information, including tickets, showcases, talks and more, go the following: https://mondo.nyc

Hopefully, I’ll be covering the events of the conference, and if so, be on the lookout for a variety of live conference through my various social accounts:

Twitter: @yankee32879

Twitter: @williamhelms3rd

Instagram: @william_ruben_helms

Preview: SummerStage 2017

Back in 1986, the City Parks Foundation created SummerStage in the spirt of Central Park’s original purpose — to serve as a free, public resource to help culturally enrich the lives of New Yorkers through live concerts, dance performances, and other cultural events.  And the festival’s first few years revealed relatively humble beginnings as its first few years of live programming were at Central Park’s Naumberg Bandshell; however, with artists such as Sun Ra Arkestra and legendary South African vocal act Ladysmith Black Mambazo and an impressive list of others playing those first few years, Summerstage, SummerStage quickly developed a reputation for presenting one of the most diverse array of artists across a variety of cultures, genres and styles — and they’ve continued to do so throughout its 30 plus year history. Over the past handful of years, SummerStage’s organizers have expanded the festival beyond Manhattan with shows hosted in parks, bandshells and and makeshift stages across the city’s other five boroughs, and from covering the festival throughout most of the history of site, it’s a wonderful afternoon or evening with your friends and neighbors; plus, there’s nothing like catching acts that keep you in touch with your inner child.

2017’s SummerStage season will begin in earnest on June 3rd with the legendary and imitable Mavis Staples, a national fucking treasure if you ask me, with contemporary blues artist Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely Good Music to round out a night of soul, gospel and blues at Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield. And the rest of the lineup for his year continues an incredible run of must-see acts. Some other highlights will include:

And of course, there are a handful of benefit shows presented by The Bowery Presents at Central Park’s Rumsey Playfield to help support City Parks Foundation’s continuing efforts to present free arts programming to New Yorkers and that lineup is equally impressive.

SummerStage will also be expanding its family-friendly pre-show workshop offerings this year to include dance classes, beatboxing lessons and introductions to DJing and Latin percussion. These interactive workshops will take place prior to elect SummerStage shows throughout the summer and all ages are encouraged to come out to your local park to participate. This year, the pre-show workshops will being with a DJ lesson from Scratch DJ Academy and a beatboxing tutorial with beatboxer Exacto before Digable Planets’ Coffey Park show — and other workshops will include salsa dance lessons in St. Mary’s Park and a poetry class in Marcus Garvey Park.

For more information and schedules check out SummerStage here: http://www.cityparksfoundation.org/summerstage/

Preview: Secret Solstice Festival 2017

With its inaugural run back in 2014, Reykjavik, Iceland’s Secret Solstice Festival has quickly become one of Iceland’s largest music festivals, featuring a diverse and eclectic array of established and internationally recognized artists, locally renowned acts and up-and-coming artists from all over the globe, performing in one of the most unique backdrops in the entire world – the roughly 72 hour period of near constant daylight Iceland experiences during the Summer Solstice, because of its proximity to the Arctic Circle. (After all, Reykjavik is the northernmost capital and administrative region of the northernmost country in the entire world.) Building upon its growing reputation as one of the world’s most unique music festivals, the fourth edition of the festival may arguably be one of the biggest and most diverse lineups to date as it includes Foo Fighters, Rick Ross, the UK electronic act The Prodigy, The Verve’s former frontman Richard Ashcroft, Pharoahe Monch, Chaka Khan, Foreign Beggars, Dubfire, Novelist, Rhye, Dusky and Chicago house music artist Kerri Chandler. Along with those artists, some of Iceland’s renowned acts, including Högni, Úlfur Úlfur, Amabadama, Emmsjé Gauti, GKR, Tiny, Aron Can, KSF, and Alvia Islandia will be performing. And adding to the 72 hour party vibe, the festival’s organizers have planned a series of electronic dance music takeovers and showcases featuring some of the world’s best party crews – including Ibiza’s Circoloco, Above & Beyond Records’ deep house imprint Ajunadeep Records’ dance floor collective Crew Love, ATG and Dubfire’s SCI+TEC among others.
Interestingly, for the second consecutive year, Secret Solstice is currently the only major music festival in the world to be certified CarbonNeutral®, as the festival sources almost all of their power needs from the use 100% renewable geothermal energy, hybrid vehicles provided by Toyota Iceland – and from offsetting any residual emissions through the purchase of high quality, verified carbon credits. Unlike any other festival I’ve attended or heard of, festivalgoers and artists alike can know that they’re being environmentally responsible while partying and catching some of the world’s most interesting artists. Of course, during a multi-day festival like Secret Solstice, it’s difficult and damn near impossible to catch everyone and everything, so consider me as a helpful guide – with some information on artists I’d love to catch while in Reykjavik.

Preview: Living Colour at City Winery 3/13/17

Currently comprised of founding members Corey Glover (vocals), Vernon Reid (guitar, synths, backing vocals) and Will Calhoun (drums, percussion, keys, samples, backing vocals), with Doug Wimbish (bass, drums, guitar, programming, backing vocals), the New York-based rock quartet Living Colour originally formed in 1984 and they quickly received attention for a sound that meshed elements of heavy metal, funk, jazz, jazz fusion, soul, prog rock and alternative rock with lyrics that frequently focused on the personal and sociopolitical, frequently commenting on and attacking Eurocentrism and racism in America. The quartet’s original lineup, featuring featuring the founding trio of Glover, Reid and Calhoun with Muzz Skillings (bass) cut their teeth and honed their sound and live show playing shows at CBGB’s.

Interestingly, the band found an unlikely champion in The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, who took the band under his wing, produced a demo, which caught the attention of Epic Records. And with the release of 1988’s commercially and critically successful full-length debut Vivid, the band’s original lineup, quickly rose to attention with their smash hit “Cult of Personality,” which won a Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock Performance; they also won the Best New Artist Award at 1989’s MTV Video Music Awards. Adding to a growing international profile, The Rolling Stones had Living Colour opened for the rock legend’s Stateside leg of the Steel Wheels tour. They quickly followed that up with 1990’s sophomore effort Time’s Up, which also won a Grammy.

After releasing three full-length albums with a number of major and minor hits, the band split up with the members focus on a variety of creative projects; in fact, Wimbish, Calhoun and Glover had teamed up with Glover in a project called Headfake, which played frequently in the New York City area. And as the story goes, in late 2000, Headfake played at CBGBs with Reid joining them, leading to rumors of a Living Colour reunion. Of course, those rumors proved to be true, as Living Colour went on their first tour together n six years the following summer.

The members of the band have since released one of their most experimental efforts to date, 2003’s Collideøscope, followed by 2005’s rarities and B-sides compilation, a few live albums, 2006’s Best of compilation, Everything Is Possible: The Very Best of Living Colour and 2009’s Chair in the Doorway. And over the past couple of years, the band has been on a rather busy touring schedule, touring to support the 25th anniversary of their seminal effort Vivid.

As a personal note, as a music obsessed boy, I’ve almost always listened to a wildly eclectic variety of music, and in the 80s metal was a big thing. I loved Metallica, Def Leppard, Ozzy Osbourne, Motley Crue and the like; but when I watched their videos and concerts, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me — and even in my 8 year old mind, I knew that I couldn’t be those guys. I was black and from Queens. However, seeing someone who looked like me with guys who came from neighborhoods that I knew or had family in, kicking ass and taking names was a revelation. And it made them heroes to me.

Sadly, I was too young to catch them back then; however, I have since seen them twice — once at Afropunk during their Vivid 25th Anniversary Tour and later at Brooklyn Bowl, and I’m thrilled to know that the band is playing tonight at City Winery.

Live Footage: Lee “Scratch Perry”/Preview: Dub Champions Festival: Lee “Scratch” Perry and Subatomic Sound System at Brooklyn Bowl

Perry turned 80 in March, and remarkably the man has managed to remain youthful, vital, challenging, forward-thinking, innovative, eccentric and imitable as ever as over the past decade or so he’s collaborated with the likes of The Beastie Boys, The Orb, Felix Da Housecat and several others while keeping a fairly busy touring schedule.

The reggae legend returns for the annual Dub Champions Festival at Brooklyn Bowl and this year’s appearance continues Perry’s continued tour with Subatomic Sound System to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the release of Super Ape — and to celebrate the legend’s 80th birthday. Of course, in honor of that occasion check out some live footage of the great and incredibly eccentric Mr. Perry.