Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Afternoon at Floyd Bennett Field: Todd P's Unamplified Acoustic BBQ in the Rain at Raptor Point Beach

If our grandmothers were right, we should be dead by Yom Kippur from a fatal cold we contracted by getting soaked down to our socks today. We were among the adventurous souls who made their way to Todd P's annual Unamplified Acoustic BBQ at the beautiful but rain-soaked Raptor Point Beach at Mill Basin Inlet in our old neighborhood.

But it was probably worth it.

As he told us, Todd P may not be able to control the weather, but he did a great job holding everything together (even literally)

as best as anybody could, and the small but hardy band of performers, audience and those who served nobly holding up the tarp over the musicians

had that kind of Woodstock-mud shared-sacrifice camaraderie right here in Floyd Bennett Field.

We were surpised to find out when we checked around noon, that Todd P said the Acoustic BBQ would go on, as it look like the storm had passed. So, after we had lunch, we took the B48 bus to Fulton Street, the Franklin Avenue shuttle and transferring to the Franklin Avenue stop of the 2 train, we got to the Junction in about 45 minutes.

We just missed the Q35 train going down Flatbush Avenue to Rockaway, but then another one came along. By the time we got on, it was raining enough to need our umbrella, but as we drove through our old neighborhood, it really started to pour. A guy on the bus asked us if we knew how to get off at Aviator Sports and we told him to get off at Floyd Bennett Field with us.

We got out just at the worst point of the downpour, a drenching rain, and as we got soaked - he didn't have an umbrella - crossing Flatbush Avenue, we decided just to find shelter and maybe the storm would pass. Under the cover of an outdoor bar (closed), we met members of the band Night Manager and they didn't know what was going on, either. It was 2:30 p.m., when they were scheduled to perform.

After walking around the Aviator Sports complex for awhile - we'd last been there on a sunny Saturday afternoon in May, for the Kings County Fair, but for everyone else, it was a new experience, and the place was crowded with people playing hockey, in from playing soccer, playing basketball, rock climbing, going on the flight simulator, eating in the food court, etc.

When the rain seemed to lighten up a bit, we decided to make our way out to Raptor Point, guided by our somewhat water-soaked map of Floyd Bennett Field. We didn't know what happened to Night Manager and are not sure they ever made it to play. The walk was really, really long on a runway to the north end of the airport. We weren't sure we were going the right way, but after a long time we spotted some people coming out of a car.

They were going to a little shack that had a men's and women's compost toilet, and they were the band Starring - vocalist/guitarist Clara Latham, Mike Gallope (farfisa), Sam Kulik (bass), Matt Marlin (drums) - and at least for the first time we knew there were actually some people at the Acoustic BBQ at Raptor Point.

Finally we saw the crowd. Someone we saw leaving had told us it was really muddy, so we were prepared for the last walk through the wetlands grass. But there were people and there were music and there were umbrellas.

The Brooklyn-based band Starring, who did a beautiful job with their delicious song "Wife of God, is above, and Yellow Ostrich, featuring the hypnotic vocals of Alex Schaaf, is below.

Anyway, we hung around about an hour; it never stopped raining. The beach was really nice, and totally unexpected even to someone who grew up around here. We could look across to Mill Basin Inlet and see our old neighborhood somewhere behind there, and we think we could vaguely make out the Mill Basin Bridge (soon to be replaced).

Floyd Bennett was a working airfield in our childhood in the 50s and 60s, with the city police helicopters, air force and naval reserve, national guard, etc., all having planes here. Sometimes we'd see Blue Angels-types flying in formation, and then in the early 1970s, after it became part of the National Park Service, it wasn't open that much, or we never thought to go here, except for that one weird Avant-Garde Festival in the mid-70s. People flew model airplanes (the remote controlled kind - we saw one on our walk over here) mostly.

Then things changed in the last ten years, especially with the introduction of the private Aviator Sports Complex. So now people come here. But not to Raptor Point. We had no idea it existed. This would have been great for an Unamplified Acoustic BBQ on a beatiful day like last year's was at Fort Tilden Beach. But it was sort of cool today.

We made our way back - in the nicest gesture imaginable, one of the women holding up the tarp gave our walking companion, who'd gotten even more drenched than us on our long way in, her umbrella. She said she was so wet already, it wouldn't help.

We were 18 the summer of Woodstock and remember hearing from friends about things like this. No one offered us a car ride back, though. The walk seemed shorter anyway, and the rain was steady but not too bad. We saw the woman in a Zappos poncho who bicycled back and forth bringing food (and also did haircuts); at one point, she sold empanadas (a little soggy but OK, a guy holding the tarp said) for two dollars.

Back at Aviator Sports, we had a slice of pizza (it was hell finding someone to wait on us, as everyone disappeared) and got to the Q35 bus stop just as the bus to the Junction pulled up, the 2 train came right away, and we sat down and took a breath and only then realized just how wet, how wet, how totally wet we were.

Still, for someone of our advanced age, today was the kind of day that reminded us what it felt like to be young.

We were, we guess, hippies in the age of hippies, and you'd be walking around and run into a friend of a friend you'd met at a party weeks before and she'd tell you about some cool event somewhere and other people would join you and you'd go to some basement or park or bar in Staten Island or Red Hook or Woodhaven and you'd follow some drunken girl from Vermont with a sheepdog and license plates that said BOGIE and giggle with your friends and totally sober as always, you'd bang your car into a pole at a Jack-in-the-Box in Long Island City or something, and it would seem to be a disaster but you'd always remember it as great fun with great people. (Totally unrelated pic of Clara Latham from Starring below:)

It's Monday afternoon now and we just discovered a professional writer's take on this, Georgia Kral's in the Village Voice. She explained for us who some of the people in the pics we took are, the two shirtless guys playing when we got there - they had their shirts half-on when we saw them, although she didn't know the name of the girl who did a Beyonce cover while we were there, either. We hope they don't mind us reprinting Georgia's piece, but the Voice used for a blog our pic of Mayor Bloomberg at the McCarren Pool dedication and we worked for the Voice as a messenger in display advertising in 1974-75 for $2 an hour so we're family.

This is from Georgia Kral, who got there after we left:
Todd P's 2010 Unamplified Acoustic BBQ
Raptor Point
Sunday, September 12

Better Than:
Being dry.

When two shirtless men playing bongos tell you to clap, you clap--even when the sky is pouring rain, even when you're all the way out in Jamaica Bay, even when you're one of only 25 or so people at the show. Yes, Todd P's second annual unamplified, acoustic BBQ took place in the rain. We all know that Brooklyn's most prolific promoter likes a challenge (MtyMx, anyone?), so his decision yesterday to forge ahead--and say to hell with what was forecast to be a 30 percent chance of rain--was not hugely surprising. But the earth does what it wants: It rained a ton, pretty much all day long.

We arrived at Floyd Bennett Field just as the downpour was letting up, and after getting lost in the maze of abandoned army barracks and defunct runways, we finally came upon a small group of young people. They were hanging around, and not minding the rain at all. A couple of bands had already played, including Gobble Gobble and Skeletons. Just beyond the large parking lot was a small clearing, and beyond that a rocky beach on Jamaica Bay. In the clearing were the shirtless bongo players:

Etienne Pierre Duguay, who plays drums in Real Estate, and Sasha Winn from the band Blissed Out, who was also barefoot. They were drenched, but drumming. A female singer joined them for one song, adding that they had "written" it just a few days prior. (Duguay announced the band was called, at this point, "anonymous.")

The two are part of an increasingly popular school that's popping up in parts of DIY Bushwick, largely surrounding the Market Hotel and its inhabitants. Let's call it "urban hippiedom." Adherents aren't interested in food and farming but rather psychedelia, visceral experiences, yoga and the like. This was their kind of scene. The aptly named Blissed Out played next, under a tarp. They had small electronics that could not get wet. Go figure. Their first song was a "cover," if you could call it that, of Jay-Z's monster hit, "Empire State of Mind." A sample of the song played quietly in the background while the band employed keyboards and Tibetan prayer bells to alter it and make it their own. We were in New York City, but the whole experience felt very far, far away.

Later, both 9/11 Thesaurus and The Blow showed up, the latter closing out the show. No one really seemed to mind the rain too much. One woman said, "I'm too drunk to notice!" Still, afterward Todd P tweeted that the show would continue next weekend-- a literal rain check.

The Scene: Wet, underdressed hipsters reveling in "nature."

Notebook Dump: Ever noticed that once everyone around you has to deal with the same pain, or annoyance, (i.e, rain and cold), the pain is easier to deal with?

Overheard: "These keyboards, if they get wet, might electrocute and kill us all."

Thank you, Georgia. The shitty pics here are all ours. Our cellphone got wet, and now it turns off after fifteen minutes, but we probably really should get a one with a keyboard anyway. Yesterday was like that.

(Video courtesy KrissyRubbles) We actually had a lot more fun at this year's Unamplified Acoustic BBQ than we did at the dry and pretty one at the beach last year. We're totally grateful to Todd P and all the musicians for today's event and to nature for the downpour. For the only sixtyish person there, it was perfect.

1 comment:

Frances said...

Aside from flight simulators, there are also sports simulators offered at websites such as which you might want to try out.