Monday, August 20, 2007

Sunday at the McCarren Pool: Ghostland Observatory

This appeared on Richard Grayson's MySpace blog on Monday, August 20, 2007:
Sunday at the McCarren Pool: Ghostland Observatory

The L Magazine practically told readers to avoid the last McCarren Pool Sunday concert of the summer because of what it called "the retarded electro-pop sounds" of Ghostland Observatory, but I'm just an old man so what do I know? I stood in the rain (under an umbrella, but still got wet) for over an hour blissfully enjoying Ghostland Observatory's sound, which practically compels you to start dancing, or at least swaying.

I got familiar with them a few months ago via National Public Radio, which said of the Austin-based band at SXSW:

"Ghostland Observatory is a duo, made up of singer Aaron Behrens and producer/drummer Thomas Turner. Formed to indulge a love of rock 'n' roll, the band blends new-wave electronics, danceable beats, disco guitars and Behrens' uncompromising vocals for a sound that recalls Daft Punk and The Clash in equal measure. With a vocal presence not unlike that of Freddie Mercury, there's a grand sense of ridiculousness about Ghostland Observatory — but it's a fun ridiculousness that knows how to party."

Despite the steady rain, people -- mostly 30 years younger than I am -- clearly knew how to party. I watched the dancing, the soccer game at the south end of the field, the volleyball game at the north end, the crowd's tossing around a big blue-and-white beach ball, the tall blue JellyNYC (concert presenter) inflated stick man swaying in the wind, the VIPs dry under the Helio tents at the back of the pool, kids getting their beers at the Brooklyn Brewery stands (dayglo wristbands required), others getting Sparky's All-American eats -- you know, hipsters williamsburgis in their element. (Okay, I know how cheesy and corny that is, but I published in People twenty years ago and am still recuperating.)

Obviously, at my age I'm far from being part of this scene -- although the summer of 1969, when I turned 18, will always be my favorite NYC summer (yes, Woodstock was 38 years and 2 days ago), believe me, over 55 is a lot, lot more fun than under 30 -- but I've enjoyed going to the McCarren Pool concerts these last two summers. I haven't seen anyone being arrested, vomiting, passing out, fighting out or doing illegal drugs (I'm an elderly attorney, so I do look for this stuff). All I saw were people enjoying themselves and all I heard was loud music, much of which was very, very good. And I also never saw anyone give me or any other older person a second glance as an unwanted insider. Anyone can pretty much walk in to the Sunday concerts at any time.

It's not clear what the McCarren Pool's future will be. Recently declared a landmark and perhaps scheduled to return to what was its mid-20th-century glory as one of Robert Moses's classic WPA New York City pools, there may a change in the water by next summer. Some people have criticized using the pool merely for one segment of the community -- the newly-arrived hipsters -- rather than catering to Williamsburg and Greenpoint's older Latino, Polish, Italian and other longtime residents. Diversity would be a plus, as would other uses of this amazing structure.

The New York City Parks Department wants people's opinions on the pool's future. There are three guidelines that the new pool design will follow:
The bathhouse and entry arch must be preserved.
There must be a pool.
There must be a year-round recreation center.

Give your opinions at the survey here.

Thanks to JellyNYC and everyone connected with this summer's free Sunday concerts.

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