Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Evening at Fort Tilden Beach: Hipsters Invade the Rockaways for Todd P's Acoustic BBQ 2009

After spending much of yesterday in Rockaway for the Rockstock & Barrels fest, this evening we went back over the Gil Hodges Memorial Marine Parkway Bridge to secluded, gorgeous Fort Tilden Beach for Todd P's annual unamplified Acoustic BBQ.

You probably know about the famous music promoter Todd P. We got regular email updates from him. Here's what he said on his website:

As beautiful and innocuous as the Acoustic BBQ is, it’s easy to forget that there’s a small political statement involved in what we’re doing out there. The Acoustic BBQ was envisioned as an artistic musical event stripped of every element that could be threatening or dangerous. Here’s what I mean: It’s not amplified so it’s so quiet no-one could complain that we’re disturbing their peace. It’s out in the open air so there can be no fingerpointing about “fire safety.” We don’t charge admission & we won’t be selling anything, so there’s no commerce to regulate. It’s in a public place so we’re not trespassing. We vigorously clean up and pack out our trash afterwards, so we’re not littering.

The reason for reciting all of the above is this: the Acoustic BBQ is always an experiment. We’ve reduced a show to its basest parts, just great music and an audience, with no amplification & no money changing hands, in a beautiful open air setting.

Todd P's 2008 Acoustic BBQ on Roosevelt Island

We spent the afternoon in our old 'hood, variously called Flatlands, Old Mill Basin, and Kings Plaza after the shopping center whose opening day in September 1970 we attended.

(Our family's women's clothing store The Pants Set, had a branch here, occupying a space now rented to Frederick's of Hollywood.)

We fortified ourselves for the Acoustic BBQ with dinner at the Kings Plaza Diner, just like in days of yore - and, yes, we know, our yore is probably not your yore.

Then we cut through the now-vacant-except-for-Capital-One-branch little shopping/office plaza to the Q35 bus stop on Flatbush Avenue. There once was a Bowery Savings Bank branch here, along with other stores and our first girlfriend's orthodontist. She wore full metal braces, and so did our first boyfriend, leading us to forever think that 18yo's with their teeth wired up look adorable.

Down Flatbush Avenue the Q35 went, past Toys R Us, the Marine Parkway golf course, the traffic-clogged Belt Parkway and Floyd Bennett Field - where a guy got off, mistakenly thinking there was some kind of ethnic festival going on - and over the bridge and offa da bus. Although we practically grew up in the Rockaways and know from Far Rock to Neponsit troo and troo, we don't head this far west so much.

We once were in Fort Tilden in the early '70s when our pal's National Guard unit had weekend maneuvers there. We drove out with a girlfriend to meet them, and Mark told us later a buddy had said after we left, "Wow, those two girls were cute," leading us to think he could have found a better way to avoid Vietnam than joining the Guard.

A few years later, one of our fellow Brooklyn College MFA students decided one night to ditch his old car by driving it on the deserted beach and into the water. It wouldn't go in and sink, so we set it afire and ran. An hour later, he got a call from the police: "Do you know your car is on fire on the beach at Breezy Point?" He feigned being shocked, but the attempt at insurance fraud failed. (Our own family, a bit smarter, had more success, like when our dad moved to Florida and didn't want to take his green Cadillac. Ya gotta know the right people.)

We walked down Beach 169th Street with two girls from Elmhurst who didn't realize that they should have taken the quick Q53 Limited bus to Rockaway and so went into Manhattan to get the A train and then the shuttle to Beach 116th, stretching a 45-minute trip into three hours.

Todd P's directions: "walk down Beach 169th St to the ocean, turn right at the 'Unsupervised Beach - no lifeguards' sign, walk along the beach past 5 breakwaters. We will either be there or will have a sign posted there saying where to go from there."

The other way is Riis Park, or Grease Park as we locals call it. Ask any gay man who grew up in Brooklyn before, say, 1970, and he can tell you about Bay One. Although that beach was not unprotected, our friends did a lot of unprotected stuff there back in the pre-AIDS years.

Walking down the five breakwaters, we stuck near the smooth dark sand close to the water. The two girls from Elmhurst said, "Wow, this is far."

Finally, we were there, in a crowd of several hundred hipsters, each and every one of them younger than us by at least 20 years. But, hey, all you need is a guitar, a drum, a human voice . . . and an audience not deafened by going to forty years of concerts like us.

A very beautiful topless woman walked over to the Acoustic BBQ with us but we didn't want to invade her privacy and objectify her, so we missed a nice pic. Some other girl sarcastically yelled out at her, "Take off your shirt!"

Everyone was having a good time, and we got that peace/love/Woodstock/flowers sentimental feeling. You can see better pics by more adept photographers at work 'n' progress, at Wasting Time and at bajapuntos' Flickr stream.

Our vote for best dressed goes to The Trashicist:

The bands started moving down to the water as the day waned. As far as we could hear, nobody introduced anyone, and when bands alternated, they sometimes passed on their instruments (we saw one exchange of prescription drugs, too). Anyway, here was the schedule for the time we were there:

–8:00pm :: Ninjasonik
–7:50pm :: Hospitality
–7:40pm :: Extra Life
–7:30pm :: Kurt Vile ———— from Philadelphia, PA
–7:20pm :: Aa aka BIG A little a
–7:10pm :: Talk Normal
–7:00pm :: Dinowalrus

This year's event was dedicated to the family of Kill Rock Stars artist Jeff Hanson.

Towards the ocean, once in the middle of a charmed circle, these three musicians used their heads and placed their audio over them.

These guys were particularly excellent. The maracas were a great touch, but castanets could have made their sound even better.

It's getting late, and people are starting to head home. Some take the beach route. . .

We noticed what we think was Todd P talking to the park rangers back by the rise where the beach begins (or ends). On our way out via the concrete path, we asked the park rangers if we could take their photos. No dice, not even for an alter kocker wearing a blue Rockaway Beach Surf Shop t-shirt. But the rangers, who tolerated the nude beach back in our day at least, said they enjoyed the day and had no trouble.

Thanks to Todd P, many people made new friends today. And some still hope to make friends with those spotted there, like this young lady posting on Craigslist's Missed Connections:
Todd P. Beach Show - Guy With Sunglasses, Boner - w4m - 23 (rockaway)

Below is the hipster remake of Buñuel's Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. No, we're just heading home, taking the non-beach route. We spotted some guys taking a whizz in the cattails, but we found a porta-potty at the end of the road.

We're not sure what these cats we saw on the way out were up to, but some guy was filming them . . .

Brooklyn hipsters waiting for the Q35 bus, this pair used as beach mats the yellow ones from last year's McCarren Pool concerts, courtesy of TopShop. Is there McCarren Pool party nostalgia already? Were these guys spending the day sitting on what will one day be expensive collectors' items?

As you can see, the bus stop is just down from where near the cover of our book was shot. Sorry about the plug about this furshlugginer volume about when we were the age of most of the people at Acoustic BBQ, but you can read it at Google Books or Scribd without paying us a cent.

Whatever. The bus came on time, with the same woman standing next to the driver as our way over to the beach. We eventually got back to Dumbo Books HQ in Williamsburg, tired but grateful for our weekend in Rockaway. Muchas gracias for today to Todd P!


wren said...

Very nice! I see the back of my head in one of your pics.

Nick said...

This is what those goth cats were up to: