Williamsburg does Memorial Day - Residents mark holiday with rooftop barbeques & acoustic sounds at Harefield Road

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Memorial Day was never a holiday I really understood. I remember in high school it meant that I had to march around my small town in New Hampshire in the school band. It meant hot sweaty music in stale polyester uniforms and lots of group pauses in front of flower-covered memorials. It meant closing our eyes or looking down at our feet and pretending to remember war heroes we’d never met.

For some, for the elderly people in my town, this day probably meant a lot more. To them, when they looked down during those moments of silence, no doubt their minds went somewhere else – to memories of a German battlefield, to the all-encompassing sounds of an aircraft flying overhead, to the voice of a nurse they’d gotten to know so well then never saw again.

This year, I wondered if my peers in Williamsburg had similar nonchalant attitudes towards Memorial Day, and whether their plans this past weekend touched upon any of the sentiment the day of remembrance holds to those of older generations.


“Memorial Day does not mean anything to me and my friends,” said Jon, a friend of mine who spent Friday night this past weekend at Hope Lounge. “I think Memorial Day has always been an American pastime holiday. I love it because the city clears out a little bit and becomes more relaxed.” Marks, who lives in Fort Greene, actually spends a lot of time in Williamsburg because it has “good bars.”

I’d have to agree. It also has some pretty interesting abodes, like that of another one of my friends, Katrin Frick.

Katrin and her boyfriend Adam hosted a barbeque this weekend on the rooftop of their apartment building. They live off of the Graham Avenue L stop and have been in Williamsburg for almost four years. Frick recently graduated from the School of Visual Arts. Adam, whom I will refer to as Adam “number one” since there were two Adams in attendance at the barbeque, is a designer.

“For me, Memorial Day symbolizes the start of the summer,” admitted Katrin. “It means barbeques and hanging out with friends.”


Now, I know that my short questioning of Williamsburg twentysomethings fails in many ways to meet official survey standards, I still feel that it’s safe to say that most young en’s feel disconnected to Memorial Day. Judging from the smell of meat on the grill at McCarren Park and the smiles on people’s faces as they chugged down another cold one, I’m not alone in this assumption.

One bar in particular, though, did a great job of mixing the appropriate amount of entertainment with the appropriate amount of melancholy.

On Sundays Harefield Road, at 769 Metropolitan, hosts the musical group The Cangelosi Cards. I came upon them accidentally Sunday night while walking through the neighborhood. From the street I heard a woman yodeling and heard the tinny sounds of a harmonica playing somber chords.

“We play old time jazz,” said group leader and Wisconsin native Jake Sanders. “That’s how I think of it, at least. Maybe the other guys in the group think of it as something different.”

To me, their tunes, all of which I recognized but couldn’t really identify, reminded me of the blues. The group played in the corner of the bar by the window to the street and pulled other wanderers in one by one as the night progressed.

“Sometimes we have clarinet and piano also, or some horns, but this is really the core of the group,” said Sanders, who was referring to Cangelosi Cards members Tamar Korn on vocals, Cassidy Holden on bass, Marcus Millius on harmonica, Karl Myer on fiddle and Marko Gazic on rhythm guitar. Sanders played the steel resonator guitar.

The group plays Harefield Road every Sunday night, and though I can’t promise that their tunes will always match the season the way they did this Memorial Day Weekend, I can promise that they’re unique style will certainly transport you to another period even if you weren’t there the first time to see it for yourself.

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Updated 11:48 am, January 16, 2019
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