Bang On a Can at Rite of Summer (A Review)

Bang On a Can All-Stars at Rite of Summer Festival on Governors Island–Photo courtesy of Reilly Grahamrrite4fixed by Reilly Graham

Rite of Summer Festival
presents
Bang On a Can All-Stars
Governors Island, NYC
Saturday, July 13, 2013

I have never been to Governors Island (at least I don’t think I have in many years–something about it seemed familiar to me), and I basically was walking towards the side of the island where I believed the site of the Rite of Summer concert was going on. I felt worried when I saw a tent area that sort of looked like a stage-area with no people, thinking I’d traveled all the way to the island to find a canceled show, but after hearing the strains of a distorted cello in the distance…I KNEW that was our show! I kept walking and found the Bang On a Can All-Stars set underway.

I’m very glad that I was familiar with Michael Gordon’s “Industry”, and Ashley Bathgate being given a rare solo moment in the band’s set was exciting to see. To hear such a furiously-played amplified piece for electro-acoustic cello in an outdoor concert definitely made me think of Hendrix at Woodstock. As the rest of the group took the stage, guitarist Mark Stewart, who was making the announcements between the pieces, wondered aloud “If Jimi played the cello…”

The rest of the prepared first set went equally as well with some more All-Stars classics–David Lang’s “Sunray” (written for his father’s 80th birthday), Julia Wolfe’s “Lick” (designed after a funky James Brown piece in the way Julia Wolfe does it) and Louis Andriessen’s “Worker’s Union” (perhaps its most intense performance ever). The group, even with 2 people subbing for Robert Black and Ken Thomson (Gregg August and Michael Lowernstern, respectively, and did so so effectively that I hadn’t even noticed those guys weren’t there) and the looming threat of a downpour as the sky was only giving us a partly sunny day–on top of this the band was working with generated electricity in the aftermath of the facility’s power source being jeopardized by Hurricane Sandy, and at one point the sound cut out, yet you could still hear them–There seemed to be nothing that would make these guys stop or slow down.

After the break, there would have been a second set where the group was going to feature a Mark Stewart solo, repeat “Sunray” and “Lick” and wrap up the show with Thurston Moore’s “Stroking Piece #1” (Loved hearing that at 2012’s marathon), but during Mark Stewart’s solo performance of Steve Reich’s “Electric Counterpart”–replete with gorgeous looping effects on top of an already gorgeously-played guitar part, the rain creeped up on the event and finally managed to put a damper on it. Probably for the best since safety is the priority over the show (regardless of the “show must go on” credo), but the group definitely made the absolute best out of their circumstances and turned in some effectively executed repertoire for a summer concert.

Even though they only feature a few concerts each summer, Rite of Summer is a really good festival that brings new music performances to both the fans of the genre and the general public with some potential new fans.

There’s a couple more dates of Rite of Summer if you would like to check it out:

Saturday, August 10th 1pm & 3pm (raindate August 11th):
An Homage to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring: Ljova and Friends/Fireworks Ensemble

Sunday, September 1st 12pm-5pm (raindate September 2nd):
RITE-A-THON: Blair McMillen, Pam Goldberg, Tigue, Theo Bleckmann, Classical Jam and more

Bang On a Can.org

Rite of Summer.com

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