Decades on the Green

Cool Summer

The summer concert season on New Haven Green got off to an unofficial and unusual start May 30, with the sight of three young musicians from out of town sitting at the memorial fountain and blazing on acoustic instruments through their punk/grunge anthem “Tear You Up” and other original tunes.

The band Decades had played the free Wednesday rock show produced by Manic Productions in the back room of BAR the night before. Thursday, they enjoyed the glorious weather by arranging themselves at one side of the fountain, a couple of guitars, a couple of drumsticks, and a cardboard sign which read “HELP A TOURING BAND GET HOME.”

For Decades, home was Lansing, Michigan, a good 750 miles away. They took advantage of the nice afternoon in Connecticut to practice a bit, meet some people, and share their music.

Such busking is technically frowned upon by the Proprietors of the Green (the committee which sets the policies and the tone of this central city park area). Local musicians know to keep to designated busker-friendly areas like the corner outside the Yale Center for British Art.

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Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven

But Decades’s artistic impulse certainly fit the downtown mood last week—wanting to sing and shout on a bright, sunny afternoon following days of cool rain—and the impromptu set was a signal post for a slew of concerts scheduled for summer 2013.

Many of them are on that selfsame New Haven Green. During the second half of June, dozens of musicians are brought to the Green courtesy of the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. Besides major outdoor concerts featuring nationally known acts on the weekends, the festival also books local bands to play on the Green on weekday afternoons and evenings. You’ll be reading more about A&I in Daily Nutmeg in coming weeks.

One festival which has hewed closely to the dates of Arts & Ideas, the grassroots festival known as Ideat Village, won’t be happening this year, ending a decade-long tradition of underground and alternative entertainments which complemented (and occasionally confronted) the big international festival.

Market New Haven recently announced two concerts they’ll be holding in July as part of the organization’s annual Music on the Green shows. The city and local sponsors have been staging concert series on New Haven Green in various forms for decades, dating back to the well-remembered New Haven Jazz Festival which in the 1970s and ’80s was good for half-a-dozen separate concerts. This year, Music on the Green promises two shows. On July 20, it’s the New Haven Symphony Orchestra (which, years ago, used to produce its own summer park concerts in Edgerton Park), with a show themed “Dueling Divas” and featuring operatic arias led by conductor William Boughton and backed by one of the nation’s oldest orchestras. The second Music on the Green concert, July 27, will draw divas of the disco variety, whom KC & the Sunshine Band will tell to “Get Down Tonight” because “That’s the Way…,” uh huh, uh huh, they like it. Both Music on the Green shows are at 6 p.m.

Meanwhile, the New Haven Jazz Festival regrouped a few years ago and perseveres under the aegis of Jazz Haven, a local non-profit dedicated to, well, jazz in New Haven. The organization has already announced its five-hour outdoor slate for Saturday, August 17, on the Green: the Wayne Escoffery Sextet, the Curtis Brothers with Natalie Fernandez, the Hawkins Jazz Collective and the Neighborhood Music School Jazz Band. The jazz fest begins at 4:30 p.m. that day, but in another fashion it will have already been happening since August 12, because in recent years the organizers have arranged over a dozen club shows at local bars and restaurants as part of the festivities. A key event among those indoor shows will be “vocalese” interpreter Giacomo Gates performing at Firehouse 12 on Crown Street.

But, you may ask, what about this weekend? It’s hot out, it’s nice out and there’s music in the air. Indeed, there are several gatherings Saturday, June 8, but not on the Green.

The Arts Council of Greater New Haven is holding its annual Arts on the Edge festival, where Audubon Street between Whitney Avenue and Orange Street is closed to traffic. Featured performances include the Suzuki program from Neighborhood Music School (12:30 p.m.), the ACES/ECA Dancers (12:55 p.m.), storytellers from New Haven Free Public Library (1 and 3:30 p.m.), a “Folktales from Around the World” presentation (1:15 pm.), Alisa’s House of Salsa (1:55 p.m.), the ACES/ECA Jazz Ensemble (2:25 p.m.), New Haven Ballet (3 p.m.), the Cooperative High School Jazz Combo (3:25 p.m.), Caldwell Dance Center (3:55 p.m.) and the Thelma Ladeira & Ginga Brasileira Dance Company (4:20 p.m.). Oh, and a juggler, and a stiltwalker who also hula hoops. There are also community art projects, hands-on museum displays (such as the Neighborhood Music School’s “petting zoo”) and info booths.

Arts on the Edge lays the groundwork for other big community arts happenings run later in the summer by two organizations with events of their own this Saturday: Arts & Ideas and the Orange Street gallery Artspace. A&I is sponsoring a neighborhood festival in Fair Haven from 2 to 8 p.m. outside Christopher Columbus Academy on 255 Blatchley Street. Artspace is hosting a Family Day in conjunction with its current comic-themed exhibit ’Toonskin, at which the exhibit’s parenthetically surnamed curator Kenya (Robinson) will lead special workshops for kids aged 7-12 between noon and 5 p.m.

The band Decades has a song called “Piling It On,” which starts:

I spent the summertime
Fighting my wandering eyes
Biting on my tongue to pass the afternoon.

That may be the way it is around Lansing, but no risk of that here. Get out to a show.

Written and photographed by Christopher Arnott.

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