Hey Mr. DJ (July 27 – August 2)



Dear Friends,

We all make mistakes. But sometimes these mistakes can be avoided if we do all of our research and know our audiences. Let me tell you a story.

I recently went to a show where the main act was a group of DJs. We’re talking super reputable DJs, where they were the headliners, not just the filler music between sets. I hadn’t thought about what the appropriate setup for a DJ was, but when I saw the setup at this venue, I knew something was off. There were tons of seats. Think what you see when you enter a symphony hall or Broadway theater. So…The DJs got on the stage.

Now here’s the play-by-play of what happened:

  • People got up to dance.
  • The only places to go were in a small space in front of the stage  or in the aisles.
  • For those who went into the small space:
    • People who were seated in the front rows were frustrated because 1) they arrived early to get a good spot; and 2) they could no longer see.
    • They were packed like sardines.
  • For those who went into the aisles:
    • They got yelled at by security guards to “keep the path clear!” and either had to push into the small space, sit down, or head to the back of the venue (which is large.)
  • As a result, the space began to clear out. The reasons?
    • The people seated in the front left because they could no longer see;
    • There was no place to dance.
    • It was too crowded if you wanted to dance and be close to the artists.
    • Even though there were plenty of seats further back as well as more open space, the situation may have frustrated audience members and the result was leaving altogether (it was also very far from the stage.)


The music was great but it was sad to see the venue clear out rather quickly. How could this have been avoided? In most cases, we know the artists. But we need to know THEIR audiences and their behaviors as well! Make the space accommodating for all. Perhaps a good ten rows of chairs could have been removed to accommodate the dancers. Those who wanted to sit could still have a vantage point from chairs that encompass the dance floor or from further away.

Another idea: when people are leaving, why not ask them why? That may feel intrusive. But if there’s a chance you can accommodate someone who has been frustrated in one way or another, why not do it? I see my role as an arts administrator as customer service representative. It’s not very glamorous but I want audiences to come back and I’ll do what I can to have that happen. And as I’ve written before, if you mess up once, you may never get that person back.

Anyway, I guess that was a little bit of a rant. But it comes a place of wanting lots of new audiences who come back over and over again. That’s a good thing for everyone, no?


New to the list?


In my world, nothing compares to the sultry wonderfulness of NYC summer evenings and the beautiful art we, the public, brought together over the sake of art, get to experience together. So…arts for all!

I keep a compulsive list of free, summer cultural events. Back in the day, I had banker buds, grad school chums, non-profit pals, and unemployed friends. “Free” made arts available to all of us. I continue to stick to “free” because of my strong conviction that high-quality arts should be accessible to everyone. Some weeks I’ll share cool events I’ve been to and what made them so cool. So…

  • If you’re a fan, spread the word! Don’t just forward this list. Tell your friends to sign up (in the right-hand corner of the webpage.)
  • I’ll post last minute events as well as quick reviews of things I attend on Twitter. Follow me here.
  • Stars (***) indicate where I’ll most likely be or my main recommendation(s) for the day.
  • I usually post the list on the website first. If you haven’t received an email from me and you’re looking for things to do, be sure to check it!
  • Listings are in order of timing, more or less. On the weekends, when there are a lot of listings, I’ll try to break them down by time of day (i.e., Day, Night.)



Aight, here’s what I got for Monday, July 27 – Sunday, August, 2:


Monday, July 27


***Brass: The Human Jukebox Brass Band at One Penn Plaza. Started organically in Central Park in 2012, The Human Jukebox Brass Band are a supergroup of conservatory trained musicians playing modern music played with jazz sensibility. Disclosure: I produce this series. (Midtown) >>

Irish: Niall O’Leary and Friends. Niall is one of the accordionists in my accordion series and he always brings a taste of Ireland. At this event, he’ll bring his accordion, along with a bodhran and spoons for an evening of traditional Irish music and dance. (Downtown) >>

Literary: Brooklyn Bridge Park’s annual literature series features a program with a reading, Q&A, and book signing with the authors, each curated by a different local, independent bookstore. This week, it’s Community Bookstore Park Slope. (Brooklyn) >>


Tuesday, July 28


***Americana: David Wax Museum. A fun mash-up of Americana roots and Mexican Son Jarocho, with a twist of indie rock. My college friend, Suz has a beautiful energy and she gets everyone pumped up, playing the fiddle, accordion, and best yet, donkey jawbone. (Downtown) >>

Classical: The Knights. The Knights make their Bryant Park debut in their last outdoor concert of the summer. “An orchestra of friends from a broad spectrum of the NYC music world who are deeply committed to creating original, engaging musical experiences. Led by an open-minded spirit of camaraderie and collaboration, The Knights seek to engage with contemporary culture through vibrant performances that honor the classical tradition and our passion for musical discovery.” There is also a rehearsal from 5 – 6:40pm if you can’t make the show. (Midtown) >>


Wednesday, July 29


Film: The 38th Asian American International Film Festival. It seems right that this film festival would take have a hub in Flushing. Asian American and Asian independent cinema from more than 30 countries, a variety of topical panels and workshops, industry mixers, staged readings, exclusive interviews, live performances, receptions and more. Through 7/31. (Queens) >>

***Music: The Rooks at One Penn Plaza. If you ask The Rooks about their sound, chances are they’ll mutter some blurry portrait of Frank Ocean, J Dilla, and the Talking Heads getting drunk at a dive bar in the year 2023, while Justin Vernon waits in the car to drive everyone home. They promise this will make more sense after a listen. They were nominated for Deli Magazine’s Artist of The Month award (Feb 2014) and he 14th Annual Independent Music Awards in the R&B/Soul category. Disclosure: I produce this series. (Midtown) >>

***World: Accordions Around the World. Ten accordionists play in different pockets of Bryant Park. Come for a stroll; leave with a tasting of music from around the world. Every Wednesday in July and August from 6 – 8pm. Disclosure: I produce this. (Midtown) >>

Music/Dancing: New York Night Train Soul Clap & Dance-Off featuring DJ Jonathan Toubin and The Suffers. I only saw the video, but I’m excited by The Suffers, a ten-piece band from Houston, TX who are redefining the sound of Gulf Coast Soul, intertwining elements of Classic American Soul with Rock & Roll. They sound great. For the dance party, the concept is simple – dancing to the 1960s soul and rock 45s of DJ Jonathan Toubin  and, in the middle, a short dance contest determined by a community panel of judges. (Midtown) >>

Tour: Churches and Synagogues of Greenwich Village. On this tour, see inside the First Ukrainian Assembly of God: Community Center. Though the neighborhood was once Ukrainian, today this church/center houses people of all cultures and religions. I like taking glimpses into things that I may never normally see. (Downtown) >>

Dancing/Salsa: Nu D’Lux. Once again, the main branch of the Brooklyn Public Library converts the plaza out front into a huge dance floor where they provide a salsa rueda dance lesson followed by the Afro-Cuban and Afro-Puerto Rican vocal stylings and the modern-groove rhythm section (conga, bongo and timbales) of Nu D’Lux. I really like this group. (Brooklyn) >>

Latin/Rock: The Mavericks / Orkesta Mendoza. If you love the ferocity of garage bands and have a deep love of romance, pure country, and covers, check out The Mavericks who fuse Latin big band, rock, and R&B. Longtime Calexico and Devotchka collaborator and sideman Sergio Mendoza mixes cumbia, merengue, and ranchera with jazz and rock, adding a pinch of psychedelia to create what he calls “indie mambo.” I love Orkesta Mendoza – one of my stand-outs of globalFEST in 2014. (Uptown) >>

***Dance: Philadanco and TU Dance. The Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO!) celebrates 45 years, built on the hope of a black ballerina, Joan Myers Brown, Philadanco preserves predominantly African-American traditions in modern dance. TU Dance was founded in 2004  by Toni Pierce-Sands and Uri Sands in Saint Paul, Minnesota. This leading voice in contemporary dance, TU performs work that draws together modern dance, classical ballet, African-based and urban vernacular movements. (Uptown) >>

Film: Beasts of the Southern Wild. This film is so beautiful and a serious tear jerker. (Uptown) >>

Film: Rooftop Films presents: King of the Wind and Electric Queens (India). A compelling and hypnotic glimpse into one of India’s wildest carnivals. I have come to trust Socrates Sculpture Garden for their amazing curation of films, each Wednesday in July and August. A mix of documentary and films from around the world, they keep it interesting (though their grass is kind of lumpy.) (Queens) >>


Thursday, July 30


Jazz: Jose James. I took my first trip to the Newark Museum this weekend and it was amazing. I was blown away by their amazing collection. I was also shocked to hear that they’ll have Jose James this week. Go check him and this museum gem out! Newark is super easy to get to on the PATH train and only takes 20 minutes from the World Trade Center. (Newark) >>


Soul/Funk: The Family Stone. Everyday People,” “Dance to the Music,” “Hot Fun in the Summertime,”  “Family Affair”…These are all The Family Stone songs. Make a day out of Newark! Check out the Jose James show, then check out NJPAC. Newark is super easy to get to on the PATH train and only takes 20 minutes from the World Trade Center. (Newark) >>
Film: The 38th Asian American International Film Festival. It seems right that this film festival would take have a hub in Flushing. Asian American and Asian independent cinema from more than 30 countries, a variety of topical panels and workshops, industry mixers, staged readings, exclusive interviews, live performances, receptions and more. Through 7/31. (Queens) >>

Dancing: Abada-Capoeira. Brazil in the Bronx! Learn and experience the Afro-Brazilian art form which blends elements of dance, music, acrobatics and self-defense in Van Cortlandt Park’s creative Barefoot Dancing series. (Bronx) >>

Indian: Passport Thursdays. The Queens Museum celebrates a different cultural group of Queens residents every Thursday in the summer. This week, Parul Shah Dance Company performs, followed by the film Haider. (Queens) >>

***Brazilian: Letieres Leite & Orkestra Rumpilezz with special guests Arturo O’Farrill and Steven Bernstein / Cyro Baptista’s Banquet of the Spirits / Forró in the Dark play The Music of John Zorn. I’m drawn to Letieres Leite & Orkestra Rumpilezz because think Afro-Brazilian percussion in a big band format: traditional African-based rhythms with sophisticated jazz harmonies. It’s their US Debut. Cyro Baptista reveals another imaginative layer of Afro-Brazilian jazz fusion by integrating instruments he designs himself into his performances. Forró in the Dark, a collective of New York-based Brazilian expats, plays the rural party music of Brazil’s northeastern states: forró. (Uptown) >>

Brazilian: Marcia Castro. Brazilian singer Marcia Castro started her career in hometown Bahia, mixing regional musical elements with universal rhythms. She has collaborated with Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil. A new voice in the Brazilian contemporary music scene. (Uptown) >>

Film: Rooftop Films at Arts Brookfield, Night 1: Animation Block Party. Animation Block Party is the premier animation short film festival of the East Coast with the best new animated films in the world. Check out the website for the line-up. (Downtown) >>


Friday, July 31


Film: The 38th Asian American International Film Festival. It seems right that this film festival would take have a hub in Flushing. Asian American and Asian independent cinema from more than 30 countries, a variety of topical panels and workshops, industry mixers, staged readings, exclusive interviews, live performances, receptions and more. (Queens) >>

***Classical/Afropunk: Chargaux. The Brooklyn-based string duo performs original works that combine elements of classical music, minimalist electronics, and haunting vocals. They have a really lovely sound. (Uptown) >>

***Afropunk: Afropunk at Lincoln Center with LION BABE  / The Skins / Vintage Trouble. The word “AFROPUNK” has become synonymous with “open-minded,” “non-conforming,” and “unconventional,” placing the institution at the epicenter of urban culture inspired by alternative music. This night will bring out a younger audience – eager to see what this looks like at Lincoln Center. (Uptown) >>

Film: Rooftop Films at Arts Brookfield, Night 2: Racing Extinction. Photographers, divers, and undercover agents reveal the two worlds that drive extinction across the globe, potentially resulting in the loss of half of all species; the international wildlife trade, and the other surrounds us, hiding in plain sight — a world that the oil and gas companies don’t want the rest of us to see. Using state-of-the-art technology, the Racing Extinction team exposes these two worlds in an affirmation to preserve life as we know it with beautiful, never-seen-before imagery. (Downtown) >>

Film: La Collectionneuse by Eric Rohmer. Part of Films on the Green, a film festival of classics and new flicks coming from France. (Brooklyn) >>

Film: Felix. The Queens Museum has a satellite program to their diverse Passport series. Each week in the Rockaways, a film from a different culture is shown. This week celebrates South Africa. Described as “Billy Elliott with Cape jazz,” the film follows 14-year-old Felix as he dreams of becoming a saxophonist like his late father. When he leaves his township to take up a scholarship at an elitist private school, he defies his mother and turns to two aging members of his father’s old band to help him prepare for the school jazz concert. (Queens) >>


Saturday, August 1



All Forms of Art!: Summer Streets. For three consecutive Saturdays, seven miles of street are closed – bike, walk, rollerblade, and check out the fun stops along the way. I hear there will be a water slide! Also, dance classes, music performances, plus. Have fun! (Downtown to Uptown) >>

Colombian: FolkColombia. Celebrate Colombian culture in Corona Park. Gregorio Uribe Big Band, FolkColombia All-Stars, + others perform. The Colombian community comes out for these events! (Queens) >>

***Poetry/Music: La Casita brings together 14+ local up-and-coming artists (though not-so-local artists as well) to provide a glimpse into the poetic and musical offerings this city has to offer. I’m particularly excited about the Lincoln Center debut of Los Hacheros! This takes place again in the Bronx on August 2nd. (Uptown) >>

Classical: Imani Winds. Part of the now-annual, Rite of Summer Music Festival that celebrates cutting edge and contemporary classical music, the all-women of color quartet performs. Two performances at 1 and 3pm. (Governors Island) >>

***NOLA/Roots: Dr. John & the Nite Trippers / Amy Helm. Check out the six-time Grammy Award-winning musician and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee. He plays on the same bill as Levon’s daughter, Amy. She “wields a powerful voice that can both stir and soothe, whether she is singing traditional gospel, blues standards or her own heartfelt compositions.” (Uptown) >>

Classical: Every Saturday afternoon, Bargemusic, a great presenter of classical music (and also a cool location: an old floating barge on the East River with amazing views of the city) has free concerts, including a Q&A with the musicians. (Brooklyn) >>

Ritual: Hindu Lamp Ceremony. A traditional Hindu Aarti Ceremony at Brooklyn Bridge Park. (Brooklyn) >>



Brazilian: Coladera / Harlem Samba. Made up of a Portuguese musician and a master percussionist from Brazil, Coladera honors Lusophone rhythms and the Portuguese language. Harlem Samba opens. (Downtown) >>

 Film: Rooftop Films at Arts Brookfield, Night 3: Stop Making Sense. An concert movie that captures the enormous energy and joyous highs of the Talking Heads live performance. All of the members and their memorable songs were shot over three concert performances in LA in December 1983, with “wall-to-wall music and beautiful cinematography” this is “one of the greatest rock movies ever made” (Rolling Stone). (Downtown) >>

Art/Music: First Saturday at the Brooklyn Museum. This is one of my favorite free series. There’s something for everyone at the Brooklyn Museum during the first Saturday of every month. Art-watching, art-making, music, talks, films, people-watching… This month celebrates Caribbean culture. Check out the schedule for the full listing of activities and events. Note: there is no First Saturday in September since it usually falls around Labor Day and the big Caribbean Day parade along Eastern Parkway. Get your fill for two months now! (Brooklyn) >>

***Dance/Gospel/Performance Art: Garth Fagan Dance / Carmen de Lavallade: The Creation / The Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble. Garth Fagan’s ever-evolving dance language draws on the weight of modern dance, the speed and precision of ballet, the energy of Afro-Caribbean dance, and the rule-breaking experimentation of the post-moderns. These elements intertwine not only in the well-loved signature pieces he will be performing, but also in a Lincoln Center commissioned work that pays homage to Geoffrey Holder’s illustrious legacy. To further celebrate his spirit, Holder’s widow, Carmen de Lavallade, will perform his moving rendition of the story of creation based on a James Weldon Johnson poem suggesting life’s graceful cycle. Harlem’s spirit-filled Ebony Ecumenical Ensemble opens the evening with their powerful gospel voices, celebrating African American musical heritage. (Uptown) >>


Sunday, August 2



***World: A Celebration of Immigrant New York featuring Abdoulaye Diabate and Super Manden, Boodoosingh Tassa Drummers, Calpulli Mexican Dance Company, Csürdöngölö Folk Ensemble, and Ikhlaq Hussain. Abdoulaye Diabaté and Super Manden is an ensemble of master musicians led by lauded Malian-born singer Diabaté, who is steeped in the Malian griot tradition. The Boodoosingh Tassa Drummers, formed by Queens native Ryan Ali, performs high-energy drumming based on musical forms from Trinidad and Tobago; Calpulli Mexican Dance Company performs regional dances of Jalisco, Michoacán, Puebla, and Veracruz, along with compelling interpretations of traditional Aztec dances. Csűrdöngölő Folk Ensemble, accompanied by acclaimed Hungarian folk music band Èletfa, offers a high-energy tour of traditional Hungarian music and dance, as well as regional traditions from Slovakia and Transylvania. Sitar virtuoso Ikhlaq Hussain is part of a centuries-long line of master musicians in the Delhi Gharana tradition. This will be really awesome. (Uptown) >>

West African: Famoro Diobate & Kakande. An afternoon of music from West Africa. Harlem Meer has wonderful, intimate concerts, that are frequented by members of the neighborhood. (Uptown) >>

***Poetry/Music: La Casita brings together 14+ local up-and-coming artists (though not-so-local artists as well) to provide a glimpse into the poetic and musical offerings this city has to offer. This time, this program is in the Bronx. As I already shared, I’m particularly excited about Los Hacheros! (Bronx) >>


Salsa: A big night in Cuban charanga/salsa: Tipica 73 plays on Orchard Beach. (Bronx) >>

***Brazilian: Nação Zumbi / Nation Beat’s Carnival Caravan feat. Cha Wa / DJ sets by Vinil Pompéia. Nação Zumbi is one of the most important groups in Brazil, having introduced “manguebeat” (a hip-hop beat with a maracatu groove.) Nation Beat’s Carnival Caravan feat. Cha Wa opens with their blend of Brazilian and Mardi Gras Indian music. (Uptown) >> 


Film/Soul: Mr. Dynamite: The Rise of James Brown / A Soul Train Tribute to James Brown. ImageNation puts together a nice line-up of films throughout the summer. Usually a music act opens. (Uptown) >>

***Brazilian: Ache: Lavagem da Rua NY. Lavagem da Rua is a sacred Brazilian tradition that translates as “the cleansing of streets.” African diasporic tradition acknowledges the road as a metaphor for the journey of life. The Caribbean Cultural Center brings together artists representing countries of the diaspora including Brazil, Cuba, Trinidad, Haiti, Puerto Rico, and more to reflect the different roads of song, music, and dance travelled on the path to a joyful destiny. A long list of artists will participate, including Batala NYC! (Uptown) >>

Soul/R&B/Film: Felix Hernandez Rhythm Revue / Screening: “Get On Up.” In 1983, Felix Hernandez began a two-year project traveling the U.S. collecting hundreds of hours of interviews with R&B artists. The material was used for a 13-part radio documentary called Harlem Hit Parade, which was syndicated to 70 NPR stationss. In 1986, Felix introduced Rhythm Revue, New York’s first radio show devoted exclusively to classic soul and R&B. It premiered on WBGO and is now in its 29th year. Felix’s unique mix of classic soul, disco and funk consistently draws a crowd of 2,500 to 3,500 dancers per event. I heard this event is crazy. The film Get On Up is the life story of James Brown. (Staten Island) >>



Aight, that’s what I got. Have a good week everyone!

All good things,


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