Brooklyn Roads Newsletter

Annika Vitolo, Christine Vaindirlis and Shenandoah & The Night
BACK IN THE DAY: Brooklyn Music Milestones
BACK IN THE DAY: Brooklyn Music Milestones
Brooklyn Voices

Volume 2, Issue 2
Editor- David K. Moseder
Copy Editor- Barbara Krinitz
Publisher- Howard B. Leibowitz

All music…. All Brooklyn !!

Celebrity Interviews! New Artist Profiles! Contests! Brooklyn Music Venue Picks!

Musical Fireworks and Hot August Nights

Kenny Vance & The PlanotonesBrooklyn Roads is looking forward to another lively summer of music, despite a few setbacks on the Coney Island front. After 10 rockin’ years, The Village Voice has pulled its Siren Festival out of MCU Park and, due to a well-publicized lawsuit, Asser Levy Park is no longer a viable venue for the annual Seaside Summer Concert Series. The good news is that the latter has found a new home on Coney Island’s West 21st Street, where the Ringling Brothers circus has performed in recent years. The new site is just east of the Brooklyn Cyclones’ MCU Park, where local legends Kenny Vance & The Planotones will headline Doo Wop in the Ballpark on July 30.

If you want to hear some great gospel, soul and R&B (and who wouldn’t?), Wingate Field is the place to go for the 29th edition of the Martin Luther King Jr. Free Concert Series. The lineup is expected to be announced in late June.

Q-TipOne of the borough’s more recent success stories is the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival, the brainchild of Brooklyn Bodega founder Wes Jackson. The festival, which drew more than 15,000 fans in 2010, celebrates its 7th year in July and once again it will be a weeklong affair of music, dance, art, film, partying and family fun. The format was expanded last year in order to “provide more resources for developing artists and entrepreneurs, more outlets for local business and of course showcase the best and brightest our culture has to offer,” Jackson told Brooklyn Roads.  “We go out of our way to get local acts and artists who don’t usually play Brooklyn.” Past headliners have included the likes of Big Daddy Kane, De la Soul and Lupe Fiasco.Old school, new school, funk and soul artists will converge upon downtown Brooklyn and the waterfront the second week of July.

Dr. JohnOnce again Celebrate Brooklyn! at the Prospect Park Bandshell will feature a mix of internationally renowned artists and local acts. This summer the latter will include the complex, emotive sounds of Animal Collective, the eclectic music of singer/ multi-instrumentalist Sufjan Steven, the neo-disco of Midnight Magic, and the exuberant kid-friendly fun of Grammy winner Dan Zanes, accompanied by the Brooklyn Youth Orchestra and the dance moves of Bed-Stuy Veterans. Among others scheduled to perform are Dr. John, Los Lobos, The Heavy, The Decemberists, Bon Iver, Justin Townes Earle and Court Yard Hounds (Martie Maguire and Emily Robison of the Dixie Chicks). It all kicks off with the June 10 evening gala featuring a concert by whistling singer/songwriter/violinist Andrew Bird. He may not be from Brooklyn, but where better listen to Bird songs than in Prospect Park?

Kim Gordon of Sonic YouthThe music continues in this summer in a number of parks Brooklyn, as Summerstage comes to Herbert Von King Park for a number of music events, including Brooklyn Teen Family Day on June 19th, Ozomotli at Red Hook Park on June 22nd and The Metropolitan Opera at Brooklyn Bridge Park on July 13th – all free of charge.

The Northside Music Festival
returns with Guided by Voices on June 18th at McCarren Park as a benefit for the Open Space Alliance and a kick off for the Williamsburg Waterfront series that includes Death Cab for Cutie,  Sonic Youth and Brooklyn’s own TV On The Radio on September 8th, while the free “Hot Summer Nights” series at Kingsborough Community College kicks off on July 2nd with the Brooklyn Community Wind Ensemble.  The Coney Island Museum hosts an indoor rock and roll film series with classics like “Rock and Roll High School on July 9th and “Purple Rain on September 17th, while the first outdoor film series on the beach in Coney Island starts on July 11th with “Saturday Night Fever”.     

TV on the RadioWe at Brooklyn Roads urge our readers to go out this summer and see a show at one of the boroughs growing number of music venues both large (Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn Bowl) and small (Jalopy and Southpaw, to name just a few) . As always we also encourage you to support local performers. Toward that end we present a special “Artists on the Horizon” edition of our newsletter, shining our spotlight on three diverse and talented women who all deserve a listen.
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Past Issues
 Volume 3, Issue 6
 Volume 3, Issue 5
 Volume 3, Issue 4
 Volume 3, Issue 3
 Volume 3, Issue 2
 Volume 3, Issue 1
 Volume 2, Issue 3
 Volume 2, Issue 2
 Volume 2, Issue 1
 Volume 1, Issue 3
 Volume 1, Issue 2
 Volume 1, Issue 1


Annika Vitolo Takes It to the Streets

Annika VitoloFrom BAM to Broadway, Annika Vitolo’s parents exposed her to a variety of cultural venues, but her favorite musical moments while growing up in Brooklyn took place on the streets of the borough’s neighborhoods. “I loved listening to the man playing violin for spare change on the corner…the band playing in the park with the Verrazano Bridge lit up in the background,” she says. “These multi-sensory experiences fused the music with the city’s landscape and made the biggest impression on me.” They ultimately inspired her to sit down at the piano and start composing.

Although Annika considers herself primarily a songwriter, she recognized the need to perform her own material in hopes that some established recording artists would “stumble across my songs and want to cover them. I figured I’d ‘pitch’ my songs to the public online.” So Annika went to Rockgarden Studio in Greenpoint where she and producer Dean Bohana created the EP No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn. Her video of the EP’s breakout song, Streets of Brooklyn, has garnered some 130,000 views on YouTube since its release last year. A stirring love song to our fair borough accompanied by evocative and iconic neighborhood images, Streets of Brooklyn has proven especially popular among homesick Brooklyn expatriates.

Annika took the YouTube route because her songs could potentially be heard by thousands across the country “without my having to leave my house. With the busy life I lead,” says the wife and mother of three, “that made more sense than playing live gigs,” Happily for her fellow Brooklynites, respectable early sales on iTunes led to her being asked to perform in public. She recently made her live debut at Bayfest in her “home town” of Sheepshead Bay. “My kids were especially excited to see their mom onstage!”

She believe that living in Brooklyn gives her and other artists who call the borough home a leg up on the competition, because, “You learn to be tough and resilient, you rise above being told you suck, and you don’t let others’ opinions define who you are or what you should or shouldn’t be. Brooklyn breeds underdogs and more than talent, image, money or luck, you need a fighting spirit to go after your dreams. What Brooklyn’s got more of than any other place on this planet is attitude -- and that’s what can light a fire under your ass and make you believe in yourself.“ This Brooklyn-bred self-confidence, she adds, “is ultimately what separates the dreamers from the doers.”

Although Annika is rightfully proud of her own compositions, she’d love to go back in time and take credit for Carole King and Gerry Goffin’s  (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman. It’s soulful. Timeless. There’s a reason why it’s been covered by so many great artists over the years.” And, she adds blissfully, “I’m so blessed to have someone in my life that makes me feel that way!”

Christine Vaindirlis: Right at Home a Long Way from Home

Christine VaindirlisChristine Vaindirlis is living proof of our contention that, musically speaking, all roads lead to Brooklyn. Having called London, Milan (where she trained under La Scala supervision) and most notably Johannesburg home, she happily planted her South African roots in Brooklyn soil five years ago. “It's a place where Old World flavor meets cutting edge taste,” she says. “The musical culture is so rich and diverse here ; there's everything you can think of and one act is better than the next.”

A singer, composer and arranger, Christine creates music that is infused with syncopated rhythms of traditional jazz and South African-style horn and vocal arrangements. Although clearly influenced by jazz, funk and world music, she doesn’t like to think in terms of genres. “What I focus on is writing good songs with strong melodies that stick with you throughout the day, that create a mood and make you travel.”
Christine thrives on the great freedom of expression she has found here, noting that, “Most countries like to identify an artist with a genre, so if you play jazz you're not spontaneously hired to play for a pop or world music event or venue, even if your music clearly crosses over. As an artist in Brooklyn I believe you can build your own identity and people are more willing to accept the diversity, what you stand for and what you have to offer. “

The Brooklyn music scene has also pushed her creative buttons and inspired her to keep honing her craft. “On any given night you can walk out and hear a number of outstanding bands doing their thing, and then I think, ‘I have to go home and write something…or practice.’ That's my inspiration and I'm sure many [Brooklyn] bands have had something to do with my creativity in some way or another.”

Christine likes that Brooklyn is both a gateway to “the incredible dynamic energy and craziness of the city” and a retreat where one can “live in a community setting, at a slower yet youthful pace, where you can take a breather and take advantage of all the happenings” at nearby venues.  

She has "a few favorite spots and a few on my ‘to do’ list, like Barbes, Puppets, Southpaw and BAM Café,”  as well as the many outdoor events including what she calls “last year’s highlight,” the Fort Greene Music Festival. Being from South Africa and “needing a little bit of my own home community in Brooklyn,” her favorite hangout, also in Fort Greene, is Madiba, a unique South African experience replete with history, culture and good food. “It’s a place where people leave their workday behind to have a good time, listen to great music and recharge,” she says. If you can’t make it to Madiba, Dance Mama!, Christine Vaindirlis’ infectious debut CD, is also a great way to “recharge.”

Bright Days Ahead for Shenandoah and the Night

Shenandoah and the NightWhat do bluegrass, jazz and burlesque all have in common? They’re all part of Shenandoah Ableman’s musical influences. Her band, Shenandoah and the Night, also incorporates elements of folk, old school soul, doo-wop and psychedelia to create a sound she describes as “moody, nostalgic and dark…there’s a longing to it.” Bursts of joy and infectious energy also punctuate the group’s music, adding to its appealingly eclectic flavor.

Raised by a bluegrass fiddling dad and mandolin playing mom in northern California, Shenadoah grew up going to music festivals. “It’s kind of in my blood,” she says, adding that from the day she first performed for her parents her career path “was never in doubt.” She was already singing professionally when she enrolled at the University of San Francisco where she honed her singing skills while earning a BA in jazz vocals.

Less than a year later she began an eight-year stint as Sassafras, a singer and burlesque dancer with the Yard Dogs Road Show whose unique amalgam of vaudeville, cabaret and rock ‘n’ roll attracted a loyal cult following as well as critical acclaim. Shenandoah still uses some of the moves she learned from that experience. “There is a bit of dancing throughout our show. When we perform All the Beautiful Ladies, I do a tight little feather fan dance.”

Her songwriting is influenced by “the punishments and pleasures of life on the road,” but tempered with a feeling of “wanting to go home,” which explains her being “pulled,” as she puts it, 3,000 miles across the country. “My grandparents and great-Grandparents are from Brooklyn, so it seemed like I was coming home.” She met her band mates en route to her current home in Brooklyn where Shenandoah and the Night ultimately coalesced and began building an enthusiastic following. In addition to Ableman, the group consists of guitarist Seth Johnson, bassist Miles Mullin, drummer Sean Hutchinson and Kwame Brandt-Pierce on accordion, piano and organ.

Shenadoah and the Night were quick to take advantage of the “access to wonderful people and studios” that the borough provides. While the group produced most of their self-titled debut EP themselves, the achingly beautiful single These Arms was a collaboration with singer/songwriter Rusty Santos, known for his work with other Brooklyn indie artists such as Animal Collective and Gang Gang Dance.

Shenadoah also has high praise for several of Brooklyn’s performance venues, singling out Zebulon for its “intimacy and great sound.” If you missed the group’s shows there, at Brooklyn Bowl or at Red Hook Bait and Tackle earlier this year, or their Memorial weekend EP release party at Spike Hill, you can catch them across the river at Bryant Park on July 13.

Brooklyn Music Milestones

BT ExpressJune 6. 1981: Neil Diamond’s America becomes the third top 10 single from his phenomenal album The Jazz Singer, which on this same date is enjoying its 28th week in the top 25.

June 18, 2005. Wes Jackson launches the first Brooklyn Hip Hop Festival. Among those taking the stage at The Brooklyn Brewery in Williamsburg are local favorites Medina Green, Ge-ology and Amir.

July 17, 1967: Arlo Guthrie’s performance of Alice's Restaurant Massacree at the Newport Folk Festival gets the attention of Warner Bros. Records, which signs him to its Reprise label. The Coney Island native’s first album, Alice's Restaurant, debuts two months later.

July 22, 1968: Brooklyn-born Al Kooper, late of Blood, Sweat & Tears, releases Super Session featuring Mike Bloomfield (Electric Flag) and Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield). Although he jams separately with the two guitarists, the album is widely credited with ushering in the “super group” era, with the likes of Blind Faith and Crosby, Stills & Nash soon to follow.

Al KooperAug. 15, 1965:  WABC radio DJ “Cousin” Bruce Morrow, a native of Sheepshead Bay, draws the honor of introducing the Beatles at their historic Shea Stadium concert.

Aug. 15,  2008: Grizzly Bear gets a huge boost when, at a concert in Toronto, Radiohead lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood steps forward to thank “my favorite band in the world” for touring with them. The following August, after a Grizzly Bear show at the Williamsburg Waterfront, audience member Jay-Z calls them “incredible" and “inspiring.”

Aug. 19, 1972: Brooklyn Tech alumnus Harry Chapin’s performance of Taxi is one of the musical highlights as the pilot for The Midnight Special airs on NBC. Two other Brooklyn natives are heard throughout the series’ eight year run: announcer Wolfman Jack and a prerecorded Johnny Rivers singing the title song.


Garland Jeffreys and Lou Reed

On his forthcoming release, The King of In Between, Sheepshead Bay’s Garland Jeffreys proudly flies the Brooklyn flag with tracks such as Coney Island Winter and Roller Coaster Town. Lou Reed guests on the album…Lest anyone doubt where she’s coming from, Natalia Zukerman leads off her latest CD, Gas Station Roses, with a song set in and titled Brooklyn. The album, partly recorded at Butler Plaza in Prospect Heights, deftly blends musical genres, anchored by Zukerman’s unique slide guitar playing and seductive vocals...Bed Stuy-born Charles Bradley has paid his dues, now he gets to sing the blues. The 62-year-old’s raw and poignant debut album, No Time for Dreaming, produced by Dap-KingMaya Azucenas guitarist Thomas Brenneck and recorded at Dunham Studios in Bushwick, is another smash from the Daptone juggernaut…Flatbush native Maya Azucena, one of Elmore Magazine’s “11 Artists to Watch in ‘11”, is planning a late-June release for her newest CD, Cry Love. Azucena, who has been compared to Roberta Flack and Chaka Khan, has earned numerous accolades for her support of humanitarian causes…Other recent releases worth noting include Nicole Atkins’ Mondo Amore, featuring the hit single Cry, Cry, Cry; The Pains of Being Pure of Heart’s Belong, the follow-up to their eponymous debut album; The S.O.U.L. Tape from  Fabolous; Neil Diamond’s The Bang Years: 1966-1968; and Sweet Soubrette’s sophomore offering,  Days and Nights, with  Ellia Bisker now fronting a full band. Notable Quote: “Sometimes I feel like my only friend is the city I live in, is beautiful Brooklyn.” – from Brooklyn by Mos Def.

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