exactly makes something “a classic?” Within artistic
outlets: film, music, art, and literature, the classics stand
out with elements of creativity and uniqueness. In the case
of Big Summer Classic, it’s an outstanding array of
music and partying geared toward a timeless, diverse audience.
The concert also featured a food drive and plenty to explore.
|With a tour across the nation,
the Classic came to Prospect Park in Brooklyn with an all-star
lineup: New Monsoon, Umphrey’s McGee, Michael Franti
and Spearhead, Keller Williams, the Yonder Mountain String
Band, and the String Cheese Incident. The music ranged from
hip-hop to bluegrass with as few as one person entertaining,
and as many as a few dozen.
||The party began in the early
afternoon as crowds danced and drank wine. The lawn was full
of people from your every-day Brooklyn dwellers, to costumed
hippies lifting the spirit of the crowd with wandering dances
and ornate, sparkled face paintings. A giant inflatable sumo-wrestler
and a “karma-wash” (soul cleansing) stood out
among the tents of food, drinks, party favors, drum circles,
face painted, and other festivities.
Besides doling out consistently great music,
the Big Summer Classic was armed with a force of people specifically
there to make the place festive. Concert-goers were encouraged
to have fun with drum circles, hula hoops, glow stick bracelets,
giant balloons with projected visualizations, and much more.
|The music was a virtually
perfect blend of genres and creative ideas; it started with
the up-and-coming New Monsoon, an eclectic blend of rock/jam
music, tribal percussion, and the more acoustic bluegrass-styles
of mandolin and banjo playing. They served as an excellent
opener for Umphrey’s McGee’s rip-roaring hour
set, which featured their album’s title track, “Anchor
Drops”. The party continued when Spearhead hit the stage.
The hip-hop filled the bandshell with funk as the afternoon
turned to evening.
||The next performer stole
the show, and he tends to do that. Keller Williams blended
his acoustic songwriter style with a mass of looping effects,
beat boxing, bass, computerized midi guitar, and a dozen or
more random percussion instruments including the Blue Man
style PVC pipe drumming. Keller’s performance became
even more enjoyable when members of the Yonder Mountain String
Band slowly join Keller on stage to jam straight into their
set with a particularly interesting rendition of “Fly
Like an Eagle.” That’s when the bluegrass set
The sun set and the String
Cheese Incident took the stage for the finale, which included
one of the trippy-est background visualizations I’d
ever seen in concert, and the iridescent bandshell made
for a good frame. String Cheese was tight as always, though
they are a mellow band. Their bluegrass influence is as
prevalent as their rock influence at many moments, and it
makes for a blend of lyrical songs and morphing jams. They
ended the show by bringing up dozens of musicians and assorted
costumed dancers on the stage to rock “No Sleep til’
The exposure for each band was never
overbearing, and at some moments even seemed short, but
such a diverse audience got a taste of everything, and each
person surely found something to enjoy. It was an atmosphere
of joy, a party of epic proportions, and a memorable show.