The Borough of Homes & Churches rocked as Celebrate Brooklyn! brought a great line-up of acts for a wonderful free show.Now in its thirtieth season, Celebrate Brooklyn! has one of its best stables of shows yet, all in the open and enjoyable Prospect Park Bandshell (QRO venue review). The season started off with the superfly Isaac Hayes, but the indie-rock first really kicked into gear on Friday, June 27th, thanks to Cold War Kids, Elvis Perkins in Dearland, and Sam Champion.
Representing the borough, locals Sam Champion (QRO spotlight on) brought their fun, roots guitar-rock into the fresh air where it belongs. A QRO favorite, the boys didn’t disappoint, with their sound playing particularly well in the sunshiny hours of the early evening (note, though, for future reference: when Celebrate Brooklyn! says things start at seven, they start at seven – none of this ‘an hour or more after doors’ like you get at the clubs). Especially excited to see the band was a bunch of preschoolers up front; it turns out drummer Ryan Thornton teaches pre-school, and brought his kids along. Usually, when Sam Champion plays Brooklyn, its indoors, so it was really nice to see the band get up on a big outdoor stage so close to home (really close: Thornton only lives a couple of blocks away…). Bassist Jack Dolgen’s hair was as wild as ever, while guitarist Sean Sullivan seemed to make an art out of rock guitar poses, and singer/guitarist Noah Chermin (QRO interview) stepped up front and center. Heavenly Bender, their sophomore full-length, is finally coming out this summer, and this was “So Good” of a way to remind the folks at home to go out and get it.
Before ‘Elvis entered the building’, the two MC’s for Celebrate Brooklyn! remarked that one thing they loved about this group was its diversity, and Elvis Perkins in Dearland (QRO live review) had that in spades at the Bandshell. Singer/guitarist Perkins started things off solo, which each member of Dearland slowly joining him on-stage (an act they would repeat later on in the show). The group stretched from new material to old, from down beat to up (though when Perkins asked the crowd if it was okay if he took things down a bit, most of the folks seemingly wanted to keep on a-rockin’). They’d even switch up instruments, Perkins sometimes employing the Dylan-trademark harmonica headset, bassist Brigham Bough mixing up upright and electric, guitarist Wyndham Boylan-Garnett occasionally rocking the accordion, and, in everyone’s favorite, drummer Nicolas Kinsey bringing out the giant marching band bass drum. As the light turned to twilight, Perkins invited Cold War Kids on stage for a raucous finale.
And Elvis Perkins – and especially Dearland – would repay that favor late in Cold War Kids’ set. But first, the Californians played not just their hit singles like “We Used To Vacation”, “Hospital Beds”, and “Hang Me Out To Dry” (the clear crowd pleaser), but a bunch of new songs to be on their new album this fall, which showed the band developing on beyond 2006’s Robbers and Cowards debut full-length. It wasn’t that long ago the Kids were playing tiny places like Piano’s (QRO venue review), but they’ve made the adjustment in fortunes well. And they ended the night in an absolutely wild fashion, as all of Elvis Perkins in Dearland joined them on stage on various wind/horns (with Bough and Kinsey wearing odd masquerade ball/Lone Ranger masks), with everyone in the crowd up and rockin’.
Being a free show on a sunny summer Friday early evening in the mammoth Prospect Park Bandshell, it comes as no surprise that the place was teeming; while there was enough space to spread out your blanket on the outer lawn, or find a place to park yourself in the inner seated area, the ringed sidewalk between the two was often clogged. But what was surprising (apart from seeing someone smoke at a show – one can forget that it’s possible in New York…) was the high number of minors there, kids born after the Cold War had ended. Here’s hoping that prospect stays with the park: with Central Park’s Summerstage (QRO venue review) caught in a wide and high-minded net of artsy and world acts, and Brooklyn’s McCarren Park Pool Parties (QRO venue review) playing their swan song this summer, its great to know that Celebrate Brooklyn! is going to keep on delivering the music to the people.