Thursday, August 20, 2009

Thursday Night in Williamsburg: Summer Starz movie "Wall-E" at East River State Park with music by The Backroad

On a hot and humid night, we stayed in the neighborhood and are happy about that after seeing (for the first time) Wall-E at the kid-friendly SummerStarz Thursday evening film series at East River State Park.

We arrived a little after 7 p.m. and got to hear The Backroad, or anyway two the members of this Pennsylvania experimental/folk rock/jam band. Their set was a really pleasant way to watch the sun set over Manhattan and try to catch any breeze. We're predisposed to like anyone from the Harrisburg area (in Autumn in Brooklyn, our forthcoming book that takes place in 1978, there's a lot of back-and-forth between Brooklyn and Harrisburg) but The Backroad were really good.

It's not the high-profile, cutting edge of the Pool Parties, but at SummerStarz, the park becomes an intimate space by virtue of the much sparser, more-spread-out crowds and the family-oriented atmosphere. We actually spotted more elderly people at last Sunday's pool party, but there were a good number of young single couples here for a free date night. On the way out we walked with some twentysomething bikers from the Southside who apparently discovered the movie and the park while riding by, and actually heard one tell the other (all dialogue guaranteed verbatim), "Dude, this place is fantastic."

Little kids were running around a lot, oblivious to the sultry weather, and families spread down blankets, as did some young couples. Evidently they loosen the rules about bringing bottles into the park that are present during the pool parties because we saw families with water and soda bottles as well as picnic food.

The Backroad duo reminded us a little of Simon & Garfunkel and one song was clearly a tribute to Paul and Art. We've been thinking a lot of the summer of 1969 this summer - the 40th anniversaries of Stonewall, the moon landing, Woodstock - and we vividly recall from August 1969 driving up the old West Side Highway in the West Village and Chelsea four years before it collapsed. We were in the Mustang of a new umfriend from Marine Park we met from the East Village Other personals as he took us to the Cloisters for the first time (he'd later become a Catholic priest).

When "Scarborough Fair" came on the radio, he said, "I have a Simon and Garfunkel obsession." Then, when "Lay Lady Lay" came on, he said, "I have a Dylan obsession." We were only 18 then and liked obsessives. Anyway, some of The Backroad's songs - we particularly liked "Gone to Ohio" - made us feel 18 again for a little while. There were faint old-school Dylan echoes in some of The Backroad's songs, and a little Leonard Cohen too.

We think the two members of The Backroad whose music we got to hear tonight were Kyle Morgan and Alex B. Smith. Anyway, we're grateful they came. When their set ended and we were encouraged to give them a big Brooklyn sendoff, we watched them load the Alex's drums and other equipment into their van with a couple of friends, take some pics of the skyline, and start the drive back to PA.

Neil Diamond singing at a July 4 celebration on CBS was used as a sound check for the new sound system, we were told, and this sound was a big improvement over the old one, as we heard everything very clearly. (Admittedly, Wall-E goes for a long time without any dialogue. . .)

Susan Alexander of Town Square came on briefly to tell something about the series, about Town Square, to thank The Edge and the other sponsors of SummerStarz, etc. Tonight would have been the last night, but the first two weeks were rained out, so next Thursday, August 27, they'll show Babe and the following Thursday, September 3, Nim's Island. Sounds good to us.

There's not much we can add to what other people have said about Wall-E,
which won last year's Oscar for best animated feature and should have been nominated in the best film category (it would have been, too, if the Academy had gone to the new ten-nominees rule in 2008).

Hey, as one of at least three boys at Meyer Levin Junior High in the early 1960s who sat listening to Jerry Herman musicals in their parents' "finished" basements - our favorite's still Milk and Honey, which we saw on Broadway with Molly Picon in '62 - we're really easy to please.

We enjoyed the evening a lot and are thankful for SummerStarz. As we end our long vacation, it was a really pleasant interlude and as it cooled off slightly with nighttime East River breezes (thankfully, no storms), a nice respite from the current dog days. A few people stopped for ice cream on the way home.

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