This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001


Who: The Very Best & Heems
What: Free outdoor concert as part of Northside Festival
Where: McCarren Park, Brooklyn
When: Friday, June 12, free with advance RSVP, doors at 2:30, music at 5:30
Why: Tickets have just been made available to the hot double bill of the Very Best and Heems, who will be playing a free Northside Festival show at McCarren Park on June 12. In addition, Against Me! will be taking the stage on June 13. The Northside Festival runs June 8-14 in venues throughout Greenpoint and Williamsburg, featuring art, music, film, and technology talks. Among the more than four hundred participating bands are Zola Jesus, Built to Spill, Neko Case, Sleigh Bells, Best Coast, Ex Hex, Hard Nips, and Life Size Maps.


Large crowds will gather to see the blooming cherry trees at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden this weekend (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Large crowds will gather to see the blooming cherry trees at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden this weekend (photo by twi-ny/mdr)

Brooklyn Botanic Garden
900 Washington Ave. at Eastern Parkway
Saturday, April 25, and Sunday, April 26, $20-$25 (children under twelve free), 10:00 am - 6:00 pm

It’s been a ridiculously cold and long winter, but springtime finally seems to be here, and with it comes one of our favorite annual festivals, the Sakura Matsuri at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The weekend celebrates the beauty of the blossoming of the cherry trees with live music and dance, parades, workshops, demonstrations, martial arts, fashion shows, Ikebana flower arranging, a bonsai exhibit, Shogi chess, garden tours, shopping, book signings, Japanese food, and more. Below are just some of the highlights of this always lovely party, with many events going on all day long.

Saturday, April 25

The Battersby Show: Beginner Cosplay Crafting, with Charles Battersby, Ann Milana, Lady Ava, Mink-the-Satyr, and Uncle Yo, J-Lounge at Osborne Garden, 12 noon

Sogetsu Ikebana Demonstration, with Yoko Ikura and Shoko Iwata, auditorium, 1:00

Dancejapan with Sachiyo Ito, Main Stage, Cherry Esplanade, 1:15

Ukioy-e Illustration Demonstration with Artist Jed Henry, J-Lounge at Osborne Garden, 2:00

Samurai Sword Soul, Main Stage, Cherry Esplanade, 2:15

Urasenke Tea Ceremony, auditorium, 3:00 & 4:15

Takarabune Dance, Main Stage, Cherry Esplanade, 3:15

Hanagasa Odori Parade with flower hat dance by the Japanese Folk Dance Institute of New York, J-Lounge at Osborne Garden, 4:15

Akim Funk Buddha’s Urban Tea Ceremony, Main Stage, Cherry Esplanade, 5:00

Sunday, April 26

Children’s Suzuki Recital, Brooklyn College Preparatory Center, auditorium, 11:30

Awa Odori Parade, with Takarabune Dance, J-Lounge at Osborne Garden, 12 noon & 3:00

The Battersby Show: What Is Cosplay? with Charles Battersby, Aleta Pardalis, Dokudel, Mario Bueno, Uncle Yo, and YuffieBunny, J-Lounge at Osborne Garden, 1:00

Rock and Roll Love book signing with Misako Rocks!, J-Lounge at Osborne Garden, 2:00

Sohenryu-Style Tea Ceremony with Soumi Shimizu and Sōkyo Shimizu, auditorium, 2:30

Japanese Folk Dance Institute of New York performs Minbu dances, Main Stage, Cherry Esplanade, 3:00

Magician Rich Kameda, J-Lounge at Osborne Garden, 4:00

NY Suwa Taiko Kids All Stars, Main Stage, Cherry Esplanade, 4:15

The Sixth Annual Sakura Matsuri Cosplay Fashion Show, with original music by Taiko Masala, Main Stage, Cherry Esplanade, 5:15


Jonathan Slaff reads from HENRY VI at 2014 birthday bash for the Bard in Bryant Park (photo by Claire Taddei)

Jonathan Slaff reads from HENRY V at 2014 birthday bash for the Bard in Bryant Park (photo by Claire Taddei)

Who: The Drilling Company, with artistic director Jonathan Eric Foster, managing director Sarah George, and more than fifty actors, including company members Kyle Acheson, Sam De Roest, Nyssa Duchow, and Corley Pillsbury
What: Second annual Shakespeare Birthday Bash
Where: Bryant Park, 40th to 42nd Sts. between Fifth & Sixth Aves.
When: Wednesday, April 23, free, 12:30 - 2:30
Why: The Drilling Company, those creative folks behind Shakespeare in the Parking Lot and who brought Hamlet to Bryant Park last year, will celebrate the Bard’s 451st birthday with a free party in the park on Thursday afternoon. At 12:30, a flash mob of actors will be roaming the area, presenting “Wonderful Words,” consisting of famous speeches, sonnets, and lines. At 1:00, folk band Thicket & Thistle will perform original music based on Shakespeare sonnets on the Fountain Terrace. At 1:30, anyone can join the festivities by reading a speech from a Bard play to win a T-shirt. Finally, at 2:00, banners will be raised, filled with quotations that people have been adding to all afternoon. The Drilling Company will be back in the park later this spring and summer, presenting Two Gentlemen of Verona May 15-31, followed by Romeo and Juliet July 10-26 and The Taming of the Shrew September 4-20; they will also perform As You Like It July 9-26 and Macbeth July 30 to August 15 in their new parking lot home on Norfolk St. behind the Clemente Soto Velez Cultural and Educational Center.


recital series

Who: Charlotte Rampling and Sonia Wieder-Atherton
What: Recital Series: The Night Dances
Where: Park Avenue Armory, Board of Officers Room, 643 Park Ave. at 67th St., 212-933-5812
When: April 22-26, $75
Why: New York City’s most diverse and captivating space, the Park Avenue Armory, will host the U.S. premiere of “Recital Series: The Night Dances,” what should be a mesmerizing performance that features the one and only Charlotte Rampling (The Night Porter, Swimming Pool) reading the poetry of Sylvia Plath, accompanied by cellist Sonia Wieder-Atherton (Little Girl Blue, from Nina Simone; Vita Monteverdi Scelsi) playing suites by Benjamin Britten.


Who: Courtney Barnett
What: Three-night stand in New York City with Chastity Belt and Darren Hanlon
Where: Bowery Ballroom, 6 Delancey St. between Bowery & Chrystie St., 212-260-4700
When: May 19-21, $20, 8:00
Why: Courtney Barnett might have a new song called “Pedestrian at Best,” but there’s nothing pedestrian about the twenty-six-year-old Australian guitarist and her breakthrough debut full-length, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Mom & Pop Music, March 2015). Barnett’s rep has been growing with the critical success of her EPs I’ve Got a Friend Called Emily Ferris and How to Carve a Carrot into a Rose, but she’s absolutely exploded with the record, a diverse collection of indie rockers and intelligent ballads with complex arrangements, featuring such tracks as “Elevator Operator,” “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York),” “Debbie Downer,” and “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party.” However, you’re likely to care if you miss this three-night party at the Bowery Ballroom May 19-21. “I’m not what you’re looking for,” Barnett might claim on “Boxing Day Blues,” but she’s exactly what you need. (For Record Store Day on Saturday, Barnett will be releasing “Kim’s Caravan” backed with a cover of John Cale’s “Close Watch.”)


Neil Young lets it all hang out in Jonathan Demme concert film (photo by Larry Cragg)

Neil Young lets it all hang out in Jonathan Demme concert film (photo by Larry Cragg)

NEIL YOUNG TRUNK SHOW (Jonathan Demme, 2009)
IFC Center
323 Sixth Ave. at Third St.
Friday, April 17, 12 noon, and Monday, April 20, 8:00

In April 2005, Neil Young underwent brain surgery for an aneurysm. Four months later, he gathered together friends for two special nights at Nashville’s historic Ryman Auditorium, captured on film by Oscar-winning director Jonathan Demme, who has previously helmed such fab music docs as Stop Making Sense and Storefront Hitchcock. Neil Young: Heart of Gold was an intimate portrait of man who looked death in the face and survived; the film featured acoustic songs primarily from Young’s beautiful Prairie Wind album. But the Godfather of Grunge wasn’t about to let a little thing like a brain aneurysm stop him from rocking in the free world. As he continued his long-term project of reaching deep into his past for his archival box sets, he released Chrome Dreams II in October 2007, a sequel to an unreleased 1977 album that was rumored to include such future Young classics as “Pocahontas,” “Like a Hurricane,” “Homegrown,” and “Powderfinger.” For Chrome Dreams II, Young strapped on the electric guitar and held nothing back, joined by longtime partners in crime Ralph Molina on drums, Rick Rosas on bass, and Ben Keith on guitars and keyboards.

Young took the show on the road, playing small clubs across the country, where each song was announced by a live painting by Eric Johnson. Demme captured two searing performances at the Tower Theater in Pennsylvania, filming them guerrilla-style with eight cameras, mostly handheld, that get right up in Young’s face. While the actual concerts were divided into two separate sets, first solo acoustic, then electric with the band, which also featured backup vocals by then-wife Pegi Young and Anthony “Sweetpea” Crawford, Demme mixes them up in Neil Young Trunk Show, an exhilarating music documentary that limits behind-the-scenes patter and instead concentrates on the powerful music. At the time, Young had been at the game for nearly fifty years, but he plays with a young man’s abandon in the film, his eyes deep in thought on such gorgeous acoustic gems as “Harvest,” “Ambulance Blues,” “Sad Movies,” and “Cowgirl in the Sand” while really letting loose with extended jams on the new “Spirit Road” and “No Hidden Path” before tearing everything apart on “Like a Hurricane.” The sixty-two-year-old Canadian legend even includes an instrumental from his high school days with the Squires, “The Sultan,” complete with Cary Kemp banging a gong. As with most Young concerts, Trunk Show is not about the greatest hits; to truly enjoy it, just let the music take you away – and make sure the theater has the volume turned up loud. The movie is screening in a DCP projection April 17 & 20 as part of the weeklong IFC Center tribute “The Bernard Shakey Film Retrospective: Neil Young On Screen,” with the latter showing introduced by Demme, who also made Neil Young Journeys about Young. The series runs April 17-23 and also includes Rust Never Sleeps, Year of the Horse, Muddy Track, Journeys Through the Past, a double feature of Solo Trans and A Day at the Gallery, and other adventurous Young musical odysseys.


Neil Young / Bernard Shakey on the set of GREENDALE

Neil Young / Bernard Shakey on the set of GREENDALE

GREENDALE (Bernard Shakey, 2004)
IFC Center
323 Sixth Ave. at Third St.
April 17-23

Greendale, Neil Young’s “musical novel” about a small American town encountering a few troubles — including drugs, corporate greed, extramarital doings, the murder of a police officer, and a little red devil — is simplistic, amateurish, silly, and a lot of fun. The music, especially “Falling from Above,” “Devil’s Sidewalk,” and “Bandit,” is awesome, featuring Young’s soaring guitar and the solid backing of Crazy Horse. There’s no dialogue in the film, just the characters lip-synching to Young’s singing. With Greendale, Young has created his own little world, and for nearly ninety minutes, it’s a pleasure to be a part of it. The direction is credited to Young’s alter ego, Bernard Shakey, who is enjoying a weeklong retrospective at the IFC Center, consisting of a 35mm print of Greendale, a digital restoration of the director’s cut of Human Highway, the twentieth-anniversary of Dead Man (with director Jim Jarmusch participating in a postscreening discussion on April 23 at 7:00), a high-definition digital projection of Journey Through the Past, a 35mm print of Year of the Horse (with Jarmusch at the IFC Center for the 9:45 screening on April 23), and other musical journeys starring Young, who continues to make vibrant music as he heads toward seventy.