Walking the normal route to Lincoln Center, I found myself taking a detour away from the main plaza bringing me into Damrosch Park. The first thing I saw there a crowd gathered around the bell of a large sousaphone. These sights were accompanied by the sounds of loud, fast and powerful marching music. However, there was no parade, there were no colorful military uniforms, instead there were the fun-loving folks of Slavic Soul Party. They rallied a crowd around them with their melodic horn lines and solid drum beats. After joining the crowd and dancing around rubbing elbows with spectator and musician alike, we all found ourselves slowly grooving toward the large stage of the Damrosch Park Band shell. The crowd of music and laughter slowly moved down the aisles of folding chairs that were put out, and one after another, people decided to take their seats. It was as this point that Slavic Soul Party continued over to the head of the stage, still blasting their one of a kind music until they were completely out of sight. It was at this point where a man took the stage and announced the next musical performers, Auktyon with John Medeski.
This group took the stage one by one and the lineup never seemed to end. Guitars were donned, mics were tapped and checked, drumsticks lifted, piano benches sat upon, until this huge rock band finally took the stage. Their first song popped into the crowd’s ears like and explosion of polka rock. They made use of fast erratic drumbeats, highly emphasized chords on the upbeats, and beautiful long tone horn lines. Finally they took to singing and to my surprise they sang in their native tongue of Russian. The lyrics of this first song had lyrics that were sillier and more fun than many songs I’ve heard in English, even if I couldn’t understand a word. Their lead guitarist shook his head as if it were on a loose spring as he sung on and on. They continued through their set, some songs were fast, feel good polka-like songs, which made me, wish we could all toss our fold up chairs aside and dance until we dropped. Others were slower and more moving, using both their music and their lyrics to send a message, no matter what language you spoke. Still they all danced around stage and made me wish I could join them, and be a part of what they do. But all good things must come to an end, and make room for more good things to come about. In this case, I mean the next group, The Plastic People of the Universe.
As they took the stage, I was impressed to see so many different instruments being used. It can be difficult to make saxophone and fiddle work well with guitar and bass, but the Plastic People truly understand the power of good orchestration. They spoke to the crowd through the PA, speaking with accents hailing from Prague. They mentioned how they had served time being the free spirited group that they are, in the confines of Czechoslovakia’s Communist regime. This feeling of fear, angst and rebellion was clear in their music as well. With the use of haunting vocals and melodies we were all submitted to feeling what they had been through, once again despite the language barrier. As the sun went down, the music continued, and we were all washed into the power of the music generated by the Plastic People. They made use of powerful vocal harmonies, simple yet beautiful guitar and bass lines, and incredibly unique solos from both saxophone and fiddle. They continued their set into the night until it was all over for the day, and the great feeling music was finished.
This all is what one can expect when it comes to Lincoln Center, and their summer, Out of Doors Festival is simply one more great way to see amazing music in the city. They gather amazing performers such as Slavic Soul Party, Auktyon, and The Plastic People of the Universe, and many more to craft some fine days of music.