In the summer, the Parks Dept. of New York offers all kinds of free entertainment – Central Park offers Shakespeare in the Park, concerts and a one-day Jazz Festival among other events. I went to one concert in Central Park. It was too much like going to a baseball game with people milling around, coming and going all the time – hardly worth the effort or expense.
I much preferred the Celebrate Brooklyn! concerts at the Bandshell in Prospect Park partly because I’m lazy – this being closer to home – and mainly because this was a smaller venue. Also FREE. The Bandshell was located at 9th Street and Prospect Park West, almost directly on the other side of the park from where I lived. The days are really long in New York in the summer, so it was still light out when the concerts started and I rode my bike around Circle Drive to listen to the concerts from the road. And it was perfectly safe to ride the bike back around Circle Drive when I was ready to go home
The Bandshell always had really fine artists performing [blue grass musician Rhiannon Giddens and Willy Nelson are a couple of the performers this summer] so it was really enjoyable. The park personnel set up folding chairs roped off from the cheap seats (the grass). They even had a seating chart, which I found amusing. Generally the seats were filled, and there were loads of picnickers around them on blankets on the grass.
None of the picnickers had a bottle of wine, like you might find at the Hollywood Bowl in LA, because it is illegal in New York to have an open container outside. This includes your front porch, a backyard party, or hanging out of your own window. Incredible as that seems, I learned about it when I got a “Summons” (a traffic ticket) once for riding my bike the wrong way on Circle Drive on a weekday at a time when the gates had been blocked so cars could not drive inside the park (Circle Drive is a one-way street surrounding the park). At any rate, I had to appear at a special court to “answer” the Summons.
A group of us were told to enter a room where a cop asked us if we wanted to pay the fine or go upstairs for a lecture and not pay the fine. Those of us who were not in a hurry – which was almost everyone – chose to go upstairs. When we were upstairs, another cop asked us what we had done to receive a Summons. Everyone except me had violated the open container law. One man stated he was on the sidewalk leaning on his own car. Another said that he was at a party in a friend’s back yard and a neighbor had called the police about the noise. When the police arrived, they told everyone to quiet down and they had to choose one person to get the Summons for the open container violation since they were drinking outside in the back yard. I was astonished.
Here’s the best part – when the cop asked me to say what I had done and I said, “I was riding my bike going the wrong way in Prospect Park,” he said, “WHAT!” Then, he dismissed my Summons (and everyone else’s too) and we all went home.
Back to the summer concerts. There were also concerts in Coney Island on Thursdays at an outdoor venue near the Cyclones Stadium. They usually had vintage R&B bands and people actually danced. I was only there once after spending time at the beach, and I don’t think they have those concerts in Coney Island anymore.
What they do have now at Coney Island is “Burlesque at the Beach.” Folks take classes to learn how to perform burlesque with big feathery fans and whatnot, then at the end of their class, they perform at a sideshow on the boardwalk.
You can find more about that here: http://coneyisland.com/programs/burlesque-beach
post by Alana Cash