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THE RIVER TO RIVER FESTIVAL | Consider yourself lucky: For the thirteenth annual edition of River to River (R2R), the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council has trimmed this normally month-long, totally free summer arts event down to a lean 11 days — without sacrificing any of the diversity we’ve come to expect from its dense blend of music, dance, visual art and participatory experiences.
With many of the activities set outdoors, the June 19-29 festival hits that late spring/early summer sweet spot — meaning there’s every chance you won’t even need a light jacket, and even less chance you’ll be subjected to the sort of oppressive heat that will soon have us pining for a winter storm advisory. So forget all about those Netflix marathons and binge on the arts, old school style: by seeing and doing as much as you can, all around Lower Manhattan, in a week and a half. These highlights will get you started. For R2R, top to bottom, visit the website: RiverToRiverNYC.com.
On opening night, the “R2R Bash” (5-8 pm) is a block party-style event on North End Way. Many of the festival’s participating artists will be there for meet-and-greet opportunities, and there will be discounts at area restaurants and retailers. In addition to many family-friendly activities, the dance troupe/rock band People Get Ready will get, and keep, the people moving.
On the first official night of performances, June 20, “Terry Riley and Friends” is dedicated to the music and influences of minimalist composer Terry Riley. Performers include his son, Gyan, Tracy Silverman and the Young People’s Chorus. Renowned flutist Claire Chase and Bulgarian percussionist Svet Stoyanov will perform a new duet by composer Marcos Balter that’s based on a poem by Edgar Allen Poe, paired with a new arrangement of Riley’s “Tread on the Trail.”
On June 21, R2R contributes to the citywide day of free music that marks the summer solstice. “New York Walkscape” is a parade through Lower Manhattan, during which participants will transform environmental sounds into a musical score (by using a specially created, GPS-enabled app). “And Death Shall Have No Dominion” celebrates the centenary of the birth of Dylan Thomas in a distinctly modern way — by using your mobile device to accompany the singing of words from Dylan’s work. It concludes when all involved converge on a public park, for a group sing. “Digital Sanctuaries, NYC” is another gizmo-driven walk. It allows you to visit 12 historic sights throughout Lower Manhattan, using an app to turn them into musical, meditative sanctuaries.
The next day, the annual “Bang on a Can Marathon” delivers eight hours of boundary-busting music, of the world and local variety, from the likes of Louis Andriessen, Carlos Carrillo, Julius Eastman & Jace Clayton, Paula Matthusen, Meredith Monk, The Bang on a Can All-Stars & Friends, Bearthoven, Contemporaneous, Dawn of Midi, Great Noise Ensemble, Roomful of Teeth and (they really mean this) many, many more.
On the festival’s final three days, a series of concerts will highlight “New and Old Sounds from Latin America and the Caribbean.” You’ll see (and hear) everything from an accordion-fronted Tex-Mex punk band to ambient folk and electronica to experimental and socially conscious work. Each evening features sets by the NY-based DJ Nickodemus. Although dancing is not required, it’s highly encouraged.
From Memorial Day through the end of September, LMCC’s Arts Center on Governors Island is the setting for “Trisha Brown: Embodied Practice and Site Specificity.” An exhibition of her work between 1961 and 1979, it focuses on the choreographer’s range of responses to NYC’s built environment. Back on the island of Manhattan, R2R features dance work at a variety of venues, in various stages of development. Eiko, Vanessa Anspaugh, enrico d wey, Tere O’Connor, Souleymane Badolo, Reggie Wilson, Wally Cardona & Jennifer Lacey, Maria Hassabi and Okwui Okpokwasili are among the participants.
The festival’s Exhibition & Open Studios program features visual art installations, exhibitions and studio visits. On June 28 & 29, a mobile app will help you navigate the studios of LMCC’s 20 artists-in-residence on Governors Island. In Battery Park, “The Signs of Paradise” is a vertically robust installation that takes its name from the fact that all 50 states have a town named “Paradise.” A signpost will point to each of these towns, and note the specific mileage (should you want to plan a summer road trip to, say, Paradise, Wyoming).
This year, R2R is debuting “Living Rooms” — a series of after-hours parties that will put you in the same room as festival presenters, and then encourages all manner of dance, discussion and brainstorming. It’s held at VBar Seaport.
River to River takes place at numerous Downtown venues, from June 19 to 29. All events are free — but due to limited capacity, some require advance notice (RSVP period begins June 9). For the full schedule & more info, visit RiverToRiverNYC.com. Facebook: facebook.com/rivertoriver. Twitter & Instagram: @R2RFestival.
THE ARChive OF CONTEMPORARY MUSIC’S SWINGIN’ SUMMER RECORD & CD SALE | Founded in 1985 — just around the time when a flood of zeroes and ones began to wash away vinyl as the commercial medium of choice, the ARChive of Contemporary Music began doing their Noah thing — by gathering two copies of all popular music released in America each year. Today, their library has over 22 million songs from 1950 to the present. The collection is made available to researchers, press and the music industry. Every June and December, the fun-loving archivists open their doors and turn their ground floor over to the public, for a massive sale that helps fuel the non-profit’s mission.
The summer version of this event will feature over 20,000 items up for grabs — including an “Astroturf Yard Sale” section full of vintage kitchenwares and clothing. But the real draw that keeps old school hard copy purists coming back twice a year — year after year — is the promise that everything in stock is donated by record companies and collectors. That means no need to check for scratches, skips or other defects among the pop, rock, jazz, reggae and world music releases. Also in prime condition: vintage 60s psychedelic posters from the Gande Ballroom in Detroit, Japanese pressings of Nonesuch CDs, rare Fillmore East programs, turntables, audio equipment, DVDs and shelf upon shelf of music-themed books.
“Our CDs are cheaper than downloading,” the organizers vow, noting that most classical LPs go for $1, hundreds of CDs are priced $1-$5, and most just-released selections are in the $5-$10 range. In the priceless column: free admission, the chance to talk shop with other likeminded souls, and the ten-digit search engine’s promise of unexpected finds hidden at the bottom of a stack. Want to up your chances of unearthing that hidden treasure? Become a member of ARChive, and you’ll score an invite to June 5’s pre-sale cocktail party — where members shop before the general public, while snacking on quality grub from Bonnie’s Grill in Brooklyn, Tribeca’s Bubble Lounge and Two Boots. Kenny, the “hipster city bus driver,” mixes drinks at the bar and keeps you just lubricated enough to be magnanimous in defeat, should you get bested in the inevitable trivia-based conversation with fellow shoppers.
Free admission. Sat., June 7 through Sun., June 15, from 11 am-6 pm daily. At the ARChive of Contemporary Music (54 White St., 3 blocks south of Canal St., btw. Broadway & Church Sts.). Call 212-226-6967 or visit arcmusic.org.
NEW YORK CLASSICAL THEATRE: “AS YOU LIKE IT” | If all the world’s a stage, then why watch a play surrounded by four walls, cooped in by a ceiling and subject to a climate that’s as controlled as the notion of assigned seating? This summer, as it has for the past fifteen years, New York Classical Theatre wants to take you out of the box and into woods. For their Lower Manhattan waterfront production of “As You Like It,” the sprawling Forest of Arden (circa 1910) is played by the wide open spaces of Battery Park — whose winds, as fresh and occasionally rough as the trials of budding romance, give wing to Shakespeare’s breezy tale of mistaken identity, sibling rivalry, gender roles and the traditional rules of romance.
Fleeing to the Forest of Arden, exiled Rosalind assumes a male persona, befriends the object of her true affection (Orlando) and counsels him in matters of the heart. Rosalind’s not the only one adopting a disguise and attracting the wrong partner — which leads to a great deal of confusion among the lovestruck characters. At least the audience won’t be lost, thanks to helpful staffers who will chaperone the crowd from location to location, within Battery Park.
Free. Tues.-Sun., July 1-27, from 7-9 pm. At Battery Park (meet in front of Castle Clinton). Performances also take place in Central Park (May 27-June 22) and Prospect Park (June 24-29). For info, call 212-252-4531 or visit newyorkclassical.org.
JAZZ AGE LAWN PARTY on GOVERNORS ISLAND | Spend a dapper-dressed, dance-filled, cocktail-friendly afternoon living like the Great Gatsby — without the expense of owning a grand estate or the hassle of cleaning up after all the party guests have retreated from your great lawn. To do so, you need only hitch a ferry ride from the tip of Manhattan to nearby Governors Island. That’s where Michael Arenella and His Dreamland Orchestra preside over the ninth annual installment of their “quintessential outdoor celebration of the Jazz Age and its living legacy.” Immediately upon stepping ashore, you’ll be immersed in a world of art deco, hot jazz and all manner of roaring 20s food, fashion, drinks and games — all taking place on a sprawling green, nestled under a canopy of century-old trees.
Throughout the day, the finest jazz age entertainment is performed on two stages. Queen Esther pays tribute to jazz royalty of yore, while “society pianist” Peter Mintun conjures the era he’s been tapped to invoke on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” A quick complimentary lesson on all the essential steps of the era will prep you and your partner for a romantic turn on the massive wooden dance floor set up on the lawn — right under the foot of the stage, where the Dreamland Orchestra performs a songbook of 1920s tunes, personally transcribed for your dancing pleasure by composer, conductor, musician and singer Michael Arenella.
Throughout the afternoon, listen to original recordings from the 1920s, brought to life by a collection of antique gramophones. Take home a vintage portrait, after cozying up in the Sweetheart Booth or perching upon the giant (although not built to scale) Paper Moon. Get up close and personal with flivvers and Tin Lizzies, at the vintage motorcar exhibition, and show off those dance lesson moves by entering the Charleston Dance Contest. Keep the junior set happy with an excursion to Kidland — where carnival challenges come with playful prizes.
The adults get a fun game of their own, by pretending to skirt prohibition! Renowned mixologists Julie Reiner and Andy Seymour will serve their own original creations, based on St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur — while Martini sparkling wine flows by the mini-bottle or glass. Ice cold beer is also available, along with old-fashioned lemonade and other non-alcoholic choices. Era-inspired entrées are on the menu, and chef Jimmy Carbone (of Jimmy’s No. 43 in the East Village) returns to serve up fare including “Squab on Toast,” “Sliced Beefsteak Sandwich” and fresh grilled Mexican corn. The Dreamland General Store has an assortment of picnic blankets, parasols and hand fans — while in the vendor section, artisans offer vintage clothing and original creations that will let you return to this bygone era any day of the week, for years to come.
From 11 am to 5 pm. Sat. & Sun., June 14, 15 & Aug. 16, 17. On Governors Island. Find ticket and transportation info, as well as special offers, at jazzagelawnparty.com.
– BY SCOTT STIFFLER