Friday, August 22, 2008

Thursday Night in Coney Island/ Brighton Beach: Huey Lewis & The News at Asser Levy/Seaside Park

It was 7:40 p.m. when we got out of the F train at the West 8th Street/Aquarium station last night to see Huey Lewis and The News at the last Seaside Summer Concert of this 30th anniversary season. Due to teaching, we were unable to see earlier shows featuring our role model Brian Wilson as well as Liza Minelli (we know a secret about her and Desi Arnaz, Jr. - unless everyone else knows it by now), Peter Frampton (or, as one of our brothers used to call him, God), Smokey Robinson and others, and last Thursday's salsa concert was canceled due to the monsoon.

But we were thrilled to make it back to the old neighborhood. Now we didn't exactly live in Coney Island/Brighton Beach - the venue for the concerts, Asser Levy/Seaside Park, straddles the border between the neighborhoods - but many of our friends and relatives had apartments there, and we spent most of childhood, adolescence and twenties nearby in southeastern Brooklyn and we feel this is "home."

Also, though our seatmates had heavy-duty body art, they were all at least 20 years too old and 40 pounds too heavy to be hipsters. The audience for Huey Lewis was mostly baby boomers, with some Gen Xers and the cooler senior citizens of the Greatest Generation.

People under 30 who were not children were in short supply, and while we don't subscribe to the rule that you should never trust anyone under 30 - we'd had lunch with a 25yo friend at the Hummus Place on MacDougal Street just a few hours before and texted another before leaving Dumbo Books HQ in the evening - sometimes it's nice to leave the kids home.

After all, we're old enough to have known Marty Markowitz when he was a big macher in Brooklyn College student government - way more than the 30 years ago when Marty founded the Seaside Concert Series as little show at Midwood Field (where we suffered yearly humiliation by running last in P.S. 203 Field Day races back in the Kennedy administration) featuring unemployed local musicians (um, we know one who's now a real estate developer).

So we know Marty, in his signature white jacket - is it a sport coat or a dinner jacket? we've never figured that out - would go on for a while, introducing every Brooklyn pol he could, like City Councilmember David Yassky (running for controller along with 43 other Democrats) and State Senator Carl Krueger (again with the kvelling that Marty would make a great mayor, Carl? you must be angling to be sanitation commmish or something) and all the local business people, Seaside Concert sponsors, community activists (some of whom we recall from our days in the Walt Whitman Independent Democratic Club back in the early '70s). And he did.

But eventually - while we decided to spring for the five dollars to get one of the seats (lots were empty; maybe they should charge three dollars and more people would go for it rather than standing along the railing or sitting in benches on Surf or Seabreeze Avenues) - Paul Thorn, the "very special guest" (read: opening act) - came onstage. We could see him from where we were sitting but mostly watched him on the screen.

Paul Thorn, in case you don't know - Kris Kristofferson called him "the best-kept secret in the music business - is a Mississippian son of a Pentecostal preacher who twenty years ago famously fought the newly-middleweight Roberto Duran in Atlantic City and lasted 6 of 10 rounds in what the New York Times called a "keep-busy" match for Duran.

Since then, he's been one of the South's best singer/songwriters, performing music about love, loss, and trailer-park fornication.

Having spent a number of years in North Florida (i.e., Georgia) and months in Arkansas and Louisiana, we were glad to hear a good Southern accent for a change. We first heard Paul on the radio program we used to wake up to in Eureka Springs, the station where the DJ was mournful the morning of September 11: "They were Yankees, but they were our Yankees." (We couldn't quite get the signal for the Fayetteville NPR affiliate.)

So we like his stuff. As Huey Lewis says in this video, there ain't nothing not to like about Paul Thorn.

We were on a long line for the portable toilet during the intermission while Marty, guess what, talked more and introduced what seemed like every resident of Brighton 8th Court, but he wasn't so interminable that we were about to enter the pee-sanctorium when Huey Lewis and The News came on with "Heart of Rock & Roll."

Unlike Marty, our musical tastes didn't end with the Beatles, but we were close to 30 when we became aware of Huey Lewis via MTV, top-40 radio, and of course the classic hits "The Power of Love" and "Back in Time," from Back to the Future, which we saw at the 83rd Street Quad in one of our Upper West Side '80s summers.

As a respite from our endless self-referential rambling, we'd like to quote someone else at the concert, the prolific and perceptive Listmaker, who actually got to meet Huey, and his friend Jim, who took the pic that proves it:
The Coney Island show on Thursday night was great. He ended with a 1-2-3 punch of Back in Time, a slowed down Do You Believe in Love? and a revved up version of Workin' for a Livin'. I was amused to hear that Brooklyn president Marty Markowitz pronounces Huey the same way that Stoone Groove does - You-ey.

When I was a kid, a friend of the family told me that his friend worked backstage at Merriweather Post Pavilion and that Huey was a dick. I remember being quite upset by that for a long time. I'm proud to say 24 years later that that guy had no idea what he was talking about. Huey was as friendly as I had always hoped. Oh Huey.

Jim:This was a truly special night. Huey was much friendlier than I ever would have expected.

I know Mitch is partial to Power of Love, but Heart and Soul was the highlight of the show for me.

Listmaker:heart and soul was indeed pretty fantastic. hit after hit from this man.

i mean - 2 of the first 3 songs were heart of rock and roll and i want a new drug! pineapple express sounded pretty damn good too i thought. oh yeah, and jacob's ladder! what a show.

And our friend Ray Johnson of a blog we subscribe to, Sheepshead Bites, scored an autographed concert program (which you can see on his complete post) after he hung around to see Huey after the show:
I was happy that a few early-to-bedders left before you had a chance to perform your encore, since it let me move up closer to the stage, where I could see from the great shape you're in why 'it's hip to be square'. . . Best of all was when you, the only headline performer to do so this seaside season, came out after your meet and greets backstage, to say 'hi' to your fence-fans. . . It was so nice of you to reassure all the clamoring autograph seekers that you would give each one of us your John Hancock. Even though, you couldn't put my name on the program cover, you did bring your own permanent marker for the autograph -- I really appreciate that. . . I read that you were born in New York city, and your true born-in-New York spirit has shown through, last night. Please tell me that you, too, are from Sheepshead Bay.

It really was a great show and people near us had taken enough of their arthritis meds (we want a new drug) to be really rockin' out. We were very happy to have gotten to this summer's last Seaside concert, though it filled us with nostalgia - not least because we could see, just beyond the stage, the Trump Village apartment building where, at a New Year's Eve party in the last hour of 1970, we first, um, really messed around seriously with a girl as snow enveloped the streets of Coney Island below.

We were in that apartment again at the start of this summer, at an evening shiva call following a morning funeral at a Russian-owned chapel on Coney Island Avenue. Our friends' father, a Greatest Generation World War II vet, was a much-beloved teacher and assistant principal in Williamsburg for many years. He and his late wife were also our snowbird Arizona neighbors. Their three sons and six grandsons were of course sad that night, but he'd had a good life for 90 years.
As we waited for the Q train at Ocean Parkway after leaving the concert, we felt elegiac. Another summer is ending and we're all older. It's as simple as that.

Before you know it the kids are all grown
And married off with kids of their own
And it's all in the past
It's as simple as that
You've reached the autumn of your life
And all that's left is you and your wife
And a dog and a cat
It's as simple as that

But simple can be wonderful - even if the money goes so fast it ain't funny.

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