One of the best things about New York is it’s abundance of music. Living here my entire life, I’ve always felt privileged to be surrounded by such amazing talent and the many access points to enjoy it. One of the highlights of New York City music is its seasonal outdoor festival known as SummerStage, which is being presented by Capital One this year. While most people are familiar with its Central Park concerts, it actually takes place across 18 parks throughout the five boroughs. While some benefit concerts in Central Park are ticketed, SummerStage features over 90 free performances throughout the summer showcasing artists from around the globe and across all genres. From indie-rock to hip-hop, jazz to salsa, and contemporary dance to spoken word, there really is an opportunity for everyone to find something they will enjoy.
I had the pleasure of seeing indie-rockers San Fermin play Coffey Park in their hometown Brooklyn. Opening up the night was The Weather Station, a Canadian folk music band. Fronted by Tamara Lindeman, The Weather Station is a force to be reckoned with. Lindeman’s presence is unique and soulful, and there were moments when the band would back away and let her command the stage - summoning an energy reminiscent of female power houses like Joni Mitchell. But it was when all members came together that the music really resonated – and made me excited to explore their music more. Lindeman also took a moment to thank SummerStage for hosting such an event. She spoke of how amazing it was to be here with everyone and that this is what every summer should be like in the city, with free music and friends and family coming together. She was jealous that we had this and I couldn’t agree more. As the sun began to set, The Weather Station handed the stage over to San Fermin and the eclectic crowd of families and millennials, couples and those just walking through the park were summoned and drawn to get off of their blankets and stand center stage. I wasn’t familiar with San Fermin’s music but I immediately knew that this was going to be one of my new favorite bands.
San Fermin, led by Brooklyn-based composer and songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone, was conceived after Ludwig-Leone graduated from Yale where he studied musical composition. This foundation was evident in every song that was played. What began as a collaborative effort between Ludwig-Leone and a few vocalists including Allen Tate expanded to a touring ensemble. Ludwig-Leone composes masterpieces that are brought to life through the vocals of Tate, vocalist Charlene Kaye, trumpet player John Brandon, saxophonist Stephen Chen, violinist Claire Wellin, drummer Michael Hanf, guitarist Tyler McDiarmid and Ludwig-Leone himself on the keyboard. I have a history in ensemble music having played the saxophone all my life and I can honestly say that I haven’t felt this connected musically to a band in a very long time. There were moments of instrumental improve intertwined with powerful vocals that was so undeniably raw and passionate - it was something everyone felt. The mood was only intensified by the beautiful sunset that served as the backdrop. They played 13 songs spanning their 3 albums, self-titled San Fermin, Jackrabbit and Belong.
Looking around I saw people from all over. Families, children, couples young and old, groups of friends spread out on blankets – I had never been to a SummerStage concert before. My idea of an outside concert was sitting in a plastic seat in the last row at Jones Beach. But I have been converted to concerts in the park.
Bride / Emily / Open / Better Company / No Promises / Methuselah / Ladies Mary / Oceanica / Cairo / Parasites / Sonsick / Belong / Jackrabbit
The Weather Station