Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tuesday Night in Red Hook: Lisa Lisa at Red Hook Park

We've gone to so many great free concerts at parks this summer, but tonight's Lisa Lisa show at Red Hook Park was one of the best and the bounciest.

The CityParks Foundation has done an amazing job in putting on a lot of these shows, and Lisa Lisa took us and many others back to the '80s tonight when Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam had their greatest freestyle hits. Para nosotros, ella cantó las canciones más bailables de esa época. Seeing and hearing her again made us blissfully lost in emotion, all of it positive.

The fabulous G train got us to Smith/9th Street where we waited down below for the B77 bus. A fortysomething man from Manhattan asked us how to get to Red Hook Park. "To see Lisa Lisa?" we said. "Yeah."

Then a lady from the area explained directions and said she would like to go too but had to go to her job as a health care aid. But she started singing some of the old Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam hits and a couple of other people joined in, sort of.

We were last here when we gave a reading an art gallery in the summer of '07, pre-Ikea, but Red Hook was one of those neighborhoods we didn't know well despite having spent our first 27 years in Brooklyn. Mostly we came here during college, to pick up a friend (OK, girlfriend) who, along with other friends from Brooklyn College, tutored junior high kids here. Each college student was assigned a particular kid and got to know their family. But driving around, we'd sometimes get lost in Red Hook back in the day.

On the way in to the event, we got handed a card containing other great free events at Red Hook's parks. The recreation center and pool is just across the street from Red Hook Park, but there's also Coffey Park, Valentino Pier and the Bush-Clinton Playground (named for the streets, not the political dynasties).

A guy from McDonald's was giving out free fans, much used by everyone, and coupons to try a McCafe latte, mocha or cappuccino.

When we got there the chairless had taken most of the seats in the bleachers, but we were happy to stand. "Sitting is your enemy," our Phoenix physical therapist used to tell us.

The fabulous DJ Lucho, whom we've enjoyed before, was there, and he's always fun. He did shout-outs to various groups in the crowd. "Where my white people at?" DJ Lucho cried. "White people, make some noise!"

We tried, but it was nothing compared to the blacks or Latinos and especially Puerto Ricans. Hey, we white people didn't even make as much noise as "ladies who left their husbands home with the kids," to whom another DJ Lucho shout-out was given. "People over thirty," however, were pretty loud, and got to hear a sample of "Rapper's Delight" a a reward.

Hey, we may not be Puerto Rican, but we have evidence that we spent some of the summer of 1960 (yeah, 49 years ago) in San Juan:

We knew Doña Fela, the mayor, and still have some letters from her. One dated 1965 says she hopes we will one day become a mayor, too. Except for that one lapse, she was a wise Latina.

David and Aishia from CityParks Foundation came up to talk about other great events sponsored by CPF, etc. (If we weren't at the Lisa Lisa show, we'd be in Highbridge Park to see Andy Andy. Yes yes.) We've been so impressed with what they've done in the parks this summer.

Finally, what we'd been waiting for: Lisa Lisa. A little bit older, a little bit more of her to love. . .and this concert was all about love.

She had two excellent and really hot dancers performing with her. Sorry we don't know their names.

Of course, everyone was kind of hot last night. During the show, Lisa remarked on the heat several times. But she clearly felt joy in being at Red Hook Park. Appropriately, she started with "Can You Feel the Heat?"

"Brooklyn, I'm home!" she shouted. She acknowledged her family, who were sitting to her left with the rest of us.

When she sang that she loved "you" from head to toe, we felt she was talking about us in the crowd, and that she meant it.

"She's real," a woman standing next to us said. For sure.

Lisa said at one point, "It's because of you that we old-schoolers still have stages to perform on."

As an old school writer, we know how she feels.

All the classic Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam videos are blocked from embedders at YouTube, but a fan caught her last year in Tampa doing "All Cried Out":

And you can see her back in the day on your own: "Lost in Emotion" and "Can You Feel the Beat?" and "Head to Toe" and the rest.

But to our mind, her performance of these songs tonight was even más dulce y más sentido.

She needed to sip water during the show, and we were glad we got some strawberry-flavored Dasani at the grocery on 9th Street. Lisa reminded moms to make sure to give their kids water, too.

Before she sang "Lost in Emotion," Lisa said, "Does anybody remember where you were when this song was on?" Yeah, listening to HOT 105 as we drove down I-95 from Fort Lauderdale to Little Havana, where we were doing teacher training on Apple IIe computers at Coral Way Elementary, the first bilingual public school in the United States.

She did most of her greatest songs, but the show was too short to do all of them.

Lisa reached out into the crowd to shake hands with people. We really felt the love.

When Lisa said, "It is so hot" at one point, a guy behind us yelled, "Take it off!" Instead, her now-shirtless male dancer came with a white towel and bottle of cold water.

She's got a new album out now, Life 'n Love - "excuse me, but I have to promote myself" - and her woman DJ gave out some CDs.

Lisa Lisa got a tremendous ovation at the end of the concert, and she stayed to talk to people and to sell some CDs and sign autographs. It was a truly great evening.

As we walked out of the park, a woman on a cell phone next to us was telling her friend about the concert and how amazing Lisa Lisa was. "But you got to live in Long Island," the woman said, affecting a fancy accent for the suburban countes. "We got free concerts every night here. Brooklyn is where it's at."

Yeah. It was a little cooler, we still had water with us, so we walked all the way to the Carroll Street G train station to go home, tired and kind of sweaty but still in thrall to Lisa Lisa and her still-fine music.

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