Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sonic Youth's McCarren Pool Send Off

Next year I’ll have to see Sonic Youth someplace that isn't a large concrete pit.

Saturday August 30th, the No-Wave’s elder States-band sent the McCarren Park pool off like a pig on the wing. The band’s third consecutive summer playing a pool show capped the string of performances at a venue homegrown by the thronging gentrifiers who have settled so fully the East River’s self-same shore.

When Sonic Youth (hopefully) plays yet another end of summer show somewhere I can manage to attend, most of the folk who care about the demise of the premiere faux-guerilla music venue in New York think they'll be swimming, but what seems little known is the puddle itself won't be offering crisp summer refreshment. For that they'll have to wait until 2011, and then only IF the plans for the renovation are approved.

The shows have grown year after year, the Sunday events expanding and attended by all of the young culture-seeking, families with parents cool enough to take their kids to rock concerts, and vendors seeking to feed and libate these attendees. And the Pool’s capitulation was a much debated mystery, with a singularly understood cause replete with ironically clichéd tag line – "it’s all about the music."

As the area around McCarren Park takes shape in the lines and designs of condos rising one after the next, the concerts in the pool –pay concerts on Friday and Saturday nights which fund the free extravaganzas on Sunday – are on some basic level understood to be nuisance. They can be loud and disruptive, and the music, which is not often anything resembling Lawrence Welk, doesn’t always soothe the ears of residents.

Then again, neither do the sirens, the jack-hammers, or the steam-drills which can take up their call at all hours. One recent 1 A.M. had myself and the residents of lower Franklin St. staring down at the end of our block as Con-Edison brought the aforementioned drill to rip open a healthy chunk of the street. If you are wondering what a steam-drill sounds like, take a softball bat and rhythmically beat a garage door with it.

But steam-drills don't bring in revenue. They don't pack cafes, restaurants, and other local merchants. Money moves people, places, and even neighborhoods, and most people tend to view the change as riding on the green wave. The prime suspect is your local neighborhood developers, the builders of the nickname "Condoburg" who have turned the seemingly relentless growth in value of the area into new living rooms and rooftop decks.

On the other side of the money issue, some residents are wondering about their taxes once the new pool goes in and the $50 million set aside for its rehabilitation is exhausted. If the pool's rehabilitation is a genuine city spurred plan, how fully has the ongoing existence of that pool been factored and accounted for.

I’ve marked three years running with a show by Sonic Youth, with two of those shows on Labor Day weekend. Last year’s show I watched from the fence outside the pool, perched like a bird to see over the wall while supping on massamaun from one of Greenpoint’s Manhatten Avenue Thai joints and the liter of crème soda a visiting friend and I had spiked with rum. The year before they played a surprising third fiddle to a less engaging Ween and the wholly vivacious Flaming Lips in front of the decidedly un-metropolitan, un-metrosexual, and unhipster crowd at the New York State Fair.

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