Battle of the bands

for The Brooklyn Paper
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As September nears, the weather isn’t the only thing cooling off. The great competition between Brooklyn’s outdoor concert behemoths has also chilled … for now. Outdoor concerts, once the provenance of string musicians and hippie drum circles, have become big business in the borough of Kings, as old-timers like Celebrate Brooklyn are forced to amp up their programming to contend with the new kids in town.

So which concert series is the best way to get cool and cultured on a steamy Brooklyn night? Our own Yvonne Juris investigates:

Helio and JellyNYC Pool Parties at McCarren Park Pool

Age: Two years

Concerts this season: 9

Biggest draw: TV on the Radio on July 29

That night’s attendance: 7,000

Price of water: $2

Most memorable event: Who didn’t love riding on the slip-and-slide? Rainy days made it even better — but nobody was complaining when the sky cleared up for TV on the Radio’s show. Especially not the diehard fans who had been standing in the downpour anyway.

Final Comment: Without proper seating, a day at the pool can be painful, and between the beer and the sun, we’re often wiped out for a few days afterward. The programming is great, though, so if they build benches and shaded spots, we will come.

Grade: B

Seaside Summer Concerts at Asser Levy Seaside Park

Age: 29 years

Concerts this season: 7

Biggest draw: Hippiefest 2007 on Aug. 3

That night’s attendance: 15,000

Price of water: None sold inside! It was $2 on the Boardwalk

Most memorable event: It’s been almost 40 years since Woodstock, but vintage hippie Melanie didn’t care. The former flower child had the crowd of boomers swaying with candles during her set — but were they remembering the good old days or just trying to light things up for their now-geriatric eyes?

Final Comment: Big acts like the B-52s are definitely exciting, but hauling out to Coney Island on a Thursday night isn’t always easy. Move the concerts to Saturday nights so blissed-out beachgoers can stay stick around for nighttime entertainment.

Grade: B−

Martin Luther King Jr. Concert Series at Wingate Field Park

Age: 25 years

Concerts this season: 7

Biggest draw: Lauryn Hill on Aug. 6

That night’s attendance: 15,000

Price of water: Nothing here either. Local vendors were selling it for $1

Most memorable event: If Lauryn Hill was truly miseducated, it might have been at charm school. The former Fugee kept fans waiting almost two hours, and when she did arrive on stage — in a leather coat and with a heavily painted face — she made excuses for her tired voice and played almost unrecognizable versions of her songs. Not surprisingly, the clearest voices on that evening belonged to the hecklers.

Final Comment: Sporadic programming and production troubles, not to mention the scary security guards, knocked the wind out of the series’s sails. Turn this into a weekend festival and we bet most of those issues will work themselves out.

Grade: C

Celebrate Brooklyn at the Prospect Park bandshell

Age: 29 years

Concerts this season: 28

Biggest draw: The Neville Brothers on June 14

That night’s attendance: 5,000

Price of water: $2

Most memorable event: While sometimes Park Slope feels more like Mayberry than New York, when KRS-ONE took the stage on Aug. 3, the rapper reminded everyone that Prospect Park wasn’t always such a friendly place. KRS told the audience how as a homeless teen he had slept in the very bandshell he was performing in, and dreamed of one day rapping there.

Final Comment: Despite being the granddaddy of the summer concert series, Celebrate Brooklyn had way more steam than any of the others. With more than 20 shows over the summer, it seemed like every time we turned around there was another concert (or klezmer jam session) that sucked us in.

Grade: A

Updated 4:00 pm, November 10, 2010
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Reasonable discourse

yvonne says:
great stuff!
June 20, 2008, 2:33 pm
stella from Coney Island says:
Hi, when is Asser Levy going to have their next battle of the bands this year. This is the most exciting event for teenagers to come and see and be a part of.Thanks.
July 19, 2008, 2:47 pm

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