New York State of Mind Amoeblog #94: AfroPunk Festival, DMC US Finals, Charlie Parker Jazz Fest, Outdoor Movie Screenings

Posted by Billyjam, August 20, 2014 12:38pm | Post a Comment

Back in 2007, I interviewed James Spooner, maker of the 2003 documentary Afro-Punk, about the  AFROPUNK Festival, which was directly inspired by his film. The director/producer told me that he never dreamed that his passionately produced, low-budget documentary would go on to  jump-start a burgeoning cultural movement, inspire the BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) annual arts festival, and name him as its co-curator.

"Afro-Punk was a film about being a black punk rocker in a white world. And we had a really good few screenings at BAM.... that escalated into doing a series with a bunch of other films that evoked the same feeling of black thinking or black rebellion all telling the 'other' black story," Spooner told me at the time, adding that the folks at BAM had the idea of building a whole festival out of it. Now in its tenth year, AFROPUNK Festival has grown exponentially into a much bigger and broader event with a lineup that is off the hook and transcends the subgenre that gave it its name.  

James Spooner's "Afro-Punk" 2003 documentary that inspired the AFROPUNK Festival

Among the myriad of diverse acts scheduled for this year's festival, are Bad Brains and Fishbone - both of whom were in Spooner's documentary - along with such others as  Meshell Ndegeocello, The Internet, Body Count, the Cro-Mags, CX KiDTRONiK, D'Angelo, The Bots, Trash Talk, SZA, Alice Smith, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings King Britt, and tons more. The newly-expanded AFROPUNK festival includes, in addition to punk, lots of DJs and producers performing. This year presents a special Tribute to DJ Rashad - the  influential late Chicago footwork producer who died back in April. Performing will be members of Rashad's Teklife crew, Chicago footwork pioneer RP Boo, Dance Mania ghetto-house originator DJ Deeon, Lit City Trax founder DJ J-Crush, and The Era dance crew from Chicago.  Another sign of the expanding festival is the newly added AFROPUNK AFTER DARK, which organizers say, aims to transform the neighborhoods of Brooklyn into a captivating playground of music and culture events in venues starting at 10:00pm and including the Black Weirdo party and King Britt's celebration of Sun Ra's centennial, The Beautiful Noise.  The AFROPUNK Festival 2014 happens this Saturday and Sunday (August 23rd & 24th) at Brooklyn's Commodore Barry Park and other locations. For full listings and ticket information click here.

On Saturday, August 23rd, the self-described "biggest, most prestigious national DJ battle in the USA" will be taking place in NYC: 2014 DMC US Finals.  And that description is more than fair since the DMC rules all other battles, many which have come and gone in the three decades that the DMC has been around. What makes this Saturday's national US battle so important is that the winner will travel to London in early October to represent the USA in the 2014 DMC World Finals. DJs will be battling on Saturday at Webster Hall where there will be showcase sets from DJ Shiftee, Mista Sinista, and DJ Precision, and Kool DJ Red Alert will be MCing the proceedings. Since I will be in attendance as one of the judges and will have a bird's eye view of all going down, I'll post a review of the battle here on the Amoeblog within a day of the event. 2014 DMC US Finals DJ Battle happens on Saturday August 23rd from 6pm to 10pm at Webster Hall located at 125 E. 11th Street NY. Advance tix $15. $20 at door on day of event.

While the time is certainly limited, with summer officially rolling to a close soon, there are still some outdoor movie screenings happening around New York City, but not for long. The Bryant Park Monday night series ended earlier this week and the other outdoor movie series are also winding down this week. These include the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy's ongoing program of animal-themed outdoor screenings (all shown with Lower Manhattan in the background offering a dramatic cinematic backdrop). Tomorrow (Thursday August 21st) the screening will be Hitchcock's The Birds. Free, all ages. More info.  Also rolling to a close for the summer season this week is The Central Park Conservancy’s outdoor movie program whose focus has been New York-themed movies and for its closer features (another Alfred Hitchcock film) Rear Window which note was set in Greenwich Village but in fact filmed entirely in a Hollywood studio. It screens on Friday August 22nd shortly after sunset. Free. All ages. More info.

Also winding to a close are most of the summer outdoor/park concert programs (some do continue through September), which are always fun. This Saturday and Sunday is a really good one (and it's free!). The Charlie Parker Jazz Festival at Harlem's Marcus Garvey Park Amphitheater from 3pm to 7pm (Saturday only) when The Wallace Roney Orchestra, Lionel Loueke, Melissa Aldana, and Kris Bowers with special guest Chris Turner will celebrate the legacy of Parker at a location that is just a few blocks from the historic nightclub (Minton's) where long ago, along with Dizzy Gillespie, Charlie Parker famously kickstarted the jazz subgenre of bebop. On Sunday the festival will continue but at the downtown location of Tompkins Square Park (coincidentally located across the street from the late great Charlie Parker’s apartment) where performers will include Kenny Barron, Cindy Blackman Santana, Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith, and Brianna Thomas. And on Friday (August 22nd) the festival will be preceded by a panel discussion, entitled The Marriage of Latin Music & Jazz, with Joe Conzo Sr. (father of hip-hop photographer Joe Conzo) at The New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music (55 W. 13th St.) at 6:30pm. Free but limited seating so advisable to RSVP at this email to

In town this summer season only but for another two months is the impressive 1942 Grand Banks schooner Sherman Zwicker, which is anchored at Pier 25 (Hudson River Park at North Moore Street) where visits and tours are free. Through October 31st.  More info here.

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