As fall arrives we all find ourselves asking one another, “What happened to summer?” “How did the time pass us by so fast?” If you’re like me, you put together a list sometime before Memorial Day marking down which outdoor concerts, movies
and other events you’d attend during the June, July, and August months. Some of them you went to, some you didn’t for whatever reason: weather, lack of interest from friends, or life in general intervening. Every summer in NYC there is an abundance of outdoor concerts to choose from. This year was no different.
I saw shows from bands I really like, bands I am indifferent too, and bands I don’t much care for. To be clear I love summer weather, I love music, and I do enjoy a lot of summer concerts. So I don’t hate summer concerts per se. The summer shows I am really talking about are of bands I really love who I’ve seen play club shows at the top of their game in front of their most die hard fans. It’s hard to have seen a band in a club setting and be satisfied at an outdoor show played to a portion of the audience that may not be there to see that band. Strangely, the summer concerts I enjoy the most are of bands that I like but whose show I’m not that invested in. Go figure.
Probably my favorite summer concert of the season was Belle and Sebastian at Prospect Park. Belle and Sebastian are a retro-dream-pop band from Glasgow, Scotland that have been around since the mid-90′s. I like a few of their records, but I wouldn’t consider myself a huge fan of theirs. They are one of the best indie bands that exist in their sub-genre. A lot of things contributed to my enjoyment of this show. The weather was perfect, the scenery was picturesque, there was food and drink to be had, and I had good company. That’s my experience with what makes a fun summer concert for me. The show itself wasn’t the centerpiece for my satisfaction with the experience. It contributed to my enjoyment of the day along with other factors.
I went to a Walkmen concert at Williamsburg Park as part of the Northside Festival in Brooklyn back in June. The Walkmen are one of my favorite bands. I’ve seen them multiple times in every venue you could possibly think of in NYC. Indoor venues like Webster Hall, Bowery Ballroom, and Terminal 5 with great to moderately good sound. These shows have all been sold out and thus packed with diehard fans of the band. When you get a great concert under these conditions….great sound, perfect lighting, insane crowd participation…that becomes what you expect out of that band whenever they play a show fairly or unfairly. The Walkmen at their Williamsburg Park concert put on a great show but it wasn’t the same event/spectacle as their club shows. I found myself wondering why the audience wasn’t singing the words to We’ve Been Had and asked myself why my ears weren’t ringing with applause after The Rat when the band absolutely nailed their rendition of the song. I’m sure someone who attended the same show, who saw the band for the first time walked away with a different experience, which is great for the band and those people in the crowd. Guess what? That’s what a summer show is supposed to be like. I’d rather have a Walkmen show in June every year than no Walkmen show at all but I’d really really really prefer a Walkmen show in the middle of December at a dark, intimate concert hall with others that share my slightly unhealthy obsession of the band’s music.
I liken the switch from summer to fall concert season to the switch from summer blockbuster movie season to the start of fall sitcom season. Everyone talks about and watches the big budget movies everyone else is watching because that’s what people do in the summer. You watch the latest Will Smith movie, the latest Batman movie, the latest movie in the Bourne series like everyone else does. Some you enjoy, some you don’t, but when fall comes around there’s something more satisfying about starting to watch the new season of that sitcom you’re obsessive about. Order is restored to the universe. A sense of routine and ritual returns to your daily and weekly regimens. You feel more centered now that you can hunker down and sink your teeth into what you want too because that’s your zone, your niche. You’re doing you!
Summer is over. The weather was nice. Some of the concerts were great but I welcome Fall back. I welcome coming home to myself, which for me is music club season.
RIP Summer. It’s been real.