Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Marty Markowitz Must Go

Can’t somebody please dig up some dirt on this guy? It doesn’t appear that it would be a difficult task. If there was any justice in the world, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz would get the boot just for getting into bed with nefarious luxury housing developer Bruce “Ratso” Ratner. Fortunately, Ratso’s plans to seize private property in Brooklyn in the name of eminent domain so he can bring his NJ Nets to town appears to be dead in the water. Because of fierce resistance from the community, Ratso’s latest, revised scheme for the Atlantic Yards neighborhood has been drastically scaled back: much of it is now slated to become simply a giant parking lot, ostensibly to keep the property off-limits til he can flip it to other luxury housing developers with deeper pockets than his. Markowitz has been a supporter of the project from the start, even though its intended seizure of private property for the sole benefit of a sleazy developer and his cronies is blatantly unconstitutional (the case goes to New York State court later this year).

 

Last night at Wingate Field, Markowitz had the nerve to shill for the project in front of an all-black crowd (ok, there were two white people there) who will be the first to suffer when plastic-and-sheetrock luxury highrises start to pop up in Crown Heights. If he wasn’t so old, one would have thought that he’d just mainlined an ounce of coke. The guy would. Not. Shut. Up. On and on he rambled, kissing the ass of every local politician he could think of, shilling shamelessly for the corporations who sponsor his pet project, summertime outdoor concerts. Held at Asser Levy Park in Coney Island and at this big outdoor track field, most of them suck, a parade of has-been top 40 acts whose heyday was decades ago. This particular series is named after Martin Luther King, but if Dr. King was alive today he’d be marching against it. What the good people of Crown Heights have to go through to see a free live show is unconscionable. The Nazis who made Central Park Summerstage impassible and impossible until recently have relocated here. Either you have to get here when the gates open at 7:30, or later around 9, or you won’t see anything. In order to get inside the space, you have to walk a labyrinth of wire fences that runs the length of an entire block and then back again in the opposite direction. Then, you get felt up rigorously by not one but as many as three security goons. Lucid Culture’s correspondent’s virtually empty backpack was also searched not once but twice, its contents saved from being dumped haphazardly onto the sidewalk only by quick reflexes (although it was possible to sneak a recording device inside: we’re putting the best songs up on our favorite file-trading site today. Take that, Markowitz!).

 

Markowitz had an interminable list of people to thank: Evangelina at the hair salon at the corner, Lucy at the local Golden Krust, Ernesto from the flatfix, George who is a fireman and lives around the corner, Armand who teaches school a couple of blocks away, Delroy who also lives in the neighborhood and worked to fix the Queens blackout for Con Ed, Hassan at the deli and also Laquan from the weed spot. Then a local preacher came up, on a mission to ask for blessings for people. To his credit, he began with Barack Obama. Then he asked for blessings for Evangelina at the hair salon at the corner, Lucy at the local Golden Krust, Ernesto from the flatfix, George who is a fireman and lives around the corner, Armand who teaches school a couple of blocks away, Delroy who also lives in the neighborhood and worked to fix the Queens blackout for Con Ed, and Hassan at the deli. And also Laquan from the weed spot.

 

To be truthful, Markowitz and the preacher didn’t give shout-outs to these folks, although they should have, because these people – or their real-life counterparts – are who keep the community vital. Instead, the politician and the preacher wasted a good half-hour kissing ass. Markowitz’ brazen arrogance is equaled only by his absolute cluelessness about how slimy and dishonest he appears.

 

The preacher ended his shout-outs and a mini-sermon with the album version of the Lord’s Prayer, i.e. the one with the Genesis-length litany of Biblical names before the outro. And he dragged that out, too, before the final “amen.” And he did this on public property! Markowitz is a Jew, for g-d’s sake. Whatever happened to the separation of church and state?!?

 

Oh yeah, there was music too. Finally, after 9 (nine) speakers, the politician and the preacher included. The Manhattans were first, a black top 40 act from the 70s. Backed by a band heavy with synthesizers and a heavy metal guitarist who took gratuitously garish, completely out-of-place solos whenever he could squeeze one in, the four singers opened with Ain’t No Stopping Us Now (wasn’t that an Ashford and Simpson song?) and then an endless series of bland, formulaic songs that were apparently urban radio hits thirty years ago. Nobody really payed any attention, perhaps since this band plays here every year: the taxpayer-subsidized gig must pay well. Finally, they energized the crowd with a cover of Change Is Gonna Come, and although frontman Gerald Alston isn’t a bad singer, he’s no Sam Cooke. And then they did their big hits Shining Star and Kiss and Say Goodbye. The latter is a really pretty pop song, and they stretched it out with a trick ending and a long outro capped predictably by a grotesque metal solo from the guitarist.

 

Between sets, Markowitz came onstage again for some more shilling. Hasn’t this moron ever heard of silence? Pity the parents who had to put up with that child. Finally, the O’Jays came on, the three original singers backed by a stripped-down band driven by electronic keyboards instead of the lush strings on many of their impossibly catchy 70s hits. Frontman Eddie Levert got the crowd roaring when he went over to the edge of the stage and humped a monitor – while holding his left hand tightly to his lower back. “Bet you thought someone my age couldn’t do that,” he grinned afterward. Soberly, he added, “I think I might have hurt myself.” 

 

Perhaps given the heads-up about what would happen after the show – more about that later – they did Love Train as their second song. It’s next to impossible to keep your signature song fresh, especially if you’ve played it a million times, and it wasn’t all that good. Nor was the rest of the show. But it would have been naïve to expect otherwise: both of these bands were top 40 acts, neither had a whole lot to say or any particular artistic vision. They were only up there onstage because there’s still an audience with generally positive memories of a long-gone era when pop songs released by major record labels were occasionally quite good. Backstabbers, I Love Music and Give the People What They Want among them: the band delivered competent versions of each along with a lot of other pretty forgettable stuff.  

 

When the singers left the stage, the band played on, but it was clearly time to dash for the exit: as it turned out, there was only one. Five thousand people in the place, and the cops were only letting people out, single file, the way they came in, through the labyrinth, down the block and back again and finally out onto Winthrop Street. Needless to say, you really have to be a diehard fan – or be completely conditioned to being treated like a prisoner – to see a show here. If this was a white neighborhood, you can bet things would be whole lot different. But that can be said for just about any poor neighborhood in this country.

July 15, 2008 - Posted by | Live Events, Music, New York City, Politics, Rant, Reviews

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