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Summer Concerts In The Park

Guided by Voices

One of the first records I listened to with any sort of regularity was Simon and Garfunkle’s Concert in Central Park, aka The O.G. Central Park show. Perhaps even more than the music itself, I’ll always remember the famous introduction by then-mayor Ed Koch, “Ladies and Gentleman, Simon and Garfunkle!” The crowd of half a million weary New Yorkers, their park neglected by years of mismanagement and misery, burst forth in a roaring applause that seemed to reinvigorate their faith in the city at large. Thanks in part to the money that was raised from this concert, the city was able to begin restoring the Park to its present grandeur. Though it was recorded several years before I was even born, it was this album that began a lifelong fascination with Central Park, New York City, and even music as a whole. 

Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Many years later, I moved into my first apartment in New York, off 88th street, an earshot away from the famous Great Lawn that had hosted Simon and Garfunkle 20 years before. While the epic, open air shows on the Great Lawn don’t happen often (DMB, Bon Jovi, Andre Bocelli, and The Black Eyed Peas have all played in this millennium), they are complimented by the annual Summerstage Festival, which takes a more egalitarian approach to its lineup. Featuring a wide variety of current and past artists, Summerstage has hosted some of our favorite bands, such as The Walkmen, The Flaming Lips, David Byrne, and most recently Guided By Voices, Diamond Rugs, and Kurt Vile.

Greg Demos and Tobin Sprout of Guided by Voices

Jonny Corndawg with John McCauley of Deer Tick

Dave "Smoota" Smith

Being in Manhattan, Summerstage draws a huge range of people from all backgrounds and generations. Brooklyn Hipsters mingle with Manhattan socialites and Staten Island guidos, old and young all sharing the experience of live music. 

Just recently, we caught Guided by Voices and Pains of Being Pure at Heart on a hot day in early July, truly sweating balls. This show was part of the fledgling CBGB Festival, which made headlines over a stabbing between former band members last Friday at Webster Hall. Complaints about heat and/or overall safety aside, both bands we saw that day sounded great and brought good energy to the stage. So much so, fisticuffs nearly broke loose between some concertgoers and security during the Guided by Voices set. Big Ass Lens did not attempt to diffuse the situation, instead instigating them, hoping for a good photo opportunity to sell to TMZ.

Summer in New York is inseparable from Summerstage. What is better than a day spent in the park, drinking a couple cold ones, jamming out to tunes. While you’re there, maybe ride the carousel, amble through the zoo, and feed the animals human food. Relax, wild out, zone out, do your thing. The camera sees, but does not judge. Sometimes, it even sees illegal activities, but it so easily bribable, you got nothing to worry about.

Always cherish the park; its verdant arbor, its people and its sounds.

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