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The Bands of Summer
New York City Edition

Written by Eric Atienza
Photographed by Amy Davidson

(Opposite photo: Jenny Logan of My Teenage Stride)

(Also See Our Seven Other Music Stories)

With the explosion of music scenes in Omaha, Montreal and Austin in recent years it might seem easy to overlook New York as a center of rock music. Labels like Saddle Creek and Arts & Crafts along with the South by Southwest music festival have certainly shifted some of the spotlight but if this summer is any indication, when it comes to live shows all roads still lead to New York City. From ongoing concert series’ to festivals to arena and club shows bands come from far and wide to fill all types of venues between the Hudson River and the Atlantic Ocean.
No matter what type of outdoor environment you prefer there is a concert series in New York to take advantage of the brilliant summer weather.

For the nautically inclined the Rocks Off concert cruises provide the unique opportunity of listening to some truly fantastic music while gently navigating either the Hudson or East River. No matter the chosen cruise, you’ll end up crossing paths with the Statue of Liberty before the boat finally returns to port, and highlights of the past few months include indie-rock luminaries the Weakerthans and hardcore pioneers Bad Brains.

Neko Case with The New Pornographers
Photographed by Amy Davidson

Ra Ra Riot
Photographed by Amy Davidson

If you like water but don’t like being on it, at Pier 17 of the South Street Seaport – nested on the banks of the East River – the River to River concert series has consistently brought brilliant and sometimes explosive music to these warm summer evenings. New York indie-pop act Ra Ra Riot made it a stop on their current tour as did the Oregon experimental-rock trio Menomena, and Scottish six-piece Camera Obscura will be stopping by in August. Further, on July 4th the New Pornographers (including alumnus Neko Case) played a free show at Battery Park.

Sabina Sciubba of The Brazilian Girls
Photographed by Amy Davidson

Sabina Sciubba of The Brazilian Girls
Photographed by Amy Davidson
Sabina Sciubba of the Brazilian Girls
Photographed by Amy Davidson

One of the few bastions of greenery in the city, Central Park, serves as the home base for Summerstage which hosts acts big and small, and produces an eclectic group of acts every weekend in the heart of the park. R&B singer Joss Stone and hip-hop mainstay Common kicked everything off and a few weeks later Television – the late 70s underground rock near-legends – graced the same stage. The Brazilian Girls (don’t let the name fool you – like many of the Summerstage headliners they are all from New York) exhibited their brand of trance-like electronica and later this summer the Beastie Boys will be stopping here as well.
Eschewing all semblance of nature, every Sunday in Williamsburg, Brooklyn a free show takes place in what used to be the McCarren public pool. These pool parties, while costing nothing for listeners, have managed to attract both rising and fully risen stars from the underground. Band of Horses, TV on the Radio, Blonde Redhead and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists are some of the bands from this summer’s docket.

While these recurring shows are dependable in terms of week to week quality there are also myriad single date events to pepper the audiophile’s calendar. Built to Spill and Cat Power recently played the McCarren Park pool and Sonic Youth made the venue a stop on its Daydream Nation tour while Feist – the Canadian singing/songwriting sensation – is set to play there later this month. From around the city Sparta hit the Fillmore at Irving Plaza on their way through, the White Stripes played Madison Square Garden, Tegan and Sara are set to play a sold out show at Hiro Ballroom and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs will no doubt make sure that Webster Hall is bursting at the seems. If that weren’t enough, nerd-rockers They Might Be Giants have set up camp at the Bowery Ballroom and are playing a show every Wednesday continuing through the middle of August.

Finally, who could forget the final Siren Music Festival at Coney Island with acts ranging from local favorites Matt and Kim to Saddle Creek staples Cursive to the practically iconic New York Dolls.

My Teenage Stride
Photographed by Amy Davidson

The big story right now might be the big waves being made in up-till-now unassuming scenes, but there’s clearly no need to look elsewhere for music. Whether you prefer the local – such as Brooklyn up-and-comers My Teenage Stride – or the legendary, New York in the summer can satisfy all of you musical needs.


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