NYC Phil in Central Park

I know I owe a lot of post about my trip to London, but here’s a quick one as a warm up…

Last Friday night, the NYC Philharmonic played a free show in Central Park. This is part of their annual concerts in the park series where they play free shows in parks in all 5 boroughs.

I had had this night on my calendar for a long time and was very excited. Getting ready for a night like this required a lot of planning:

1. Blanket (check, AKM brought one from home)
2. Chairs (I found some at Duane Reade for $15 each, score)
3. Wine (AKM: “I’ll get two bottles”. JAX: “we will be there for like 5 hours – we need three at least”)
4. Food (Beyoglu – probably my second favorite restaurant on the UES – perfect Turkish food)
5. Ideal Spot in Park (more strategy here – want to be near speaker, but also near path for easy exit and bathroom runs)

Well, needless to say, AKM and I easily accomplished all of the above tasks and made a perfect picnic in the park. We got there a little over an hour before the show – which was just about right.

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Now for the show … Meh. I’m a classical music fan (especially when it is free and live and on a beautiful summer night), but the Phil picked a terrible set (can you call it that?).

Yes, we were in an ideal sound location (I do work in av) – but we couldn’t hear anything. Yes, the loud dramatic moments were great — but they picked pieces that had way too many quiet moments. No matter how may announcements you make before the show – people are going to chat. I’m fine with that and expected as much. The Phil should too.

After a brief rain scare, the show continued in its muted awesomeness – but I wasn’t going to go anywhere, because the end involved fireworks. I’m a sucker for fireworks — and this night did not disappoint. My only issue was that the fireworks were stages behind the audience, not the stage. It would have been so much more dramatic if the fireworks had started behind the stage while the Phil was still playing … Anyway …. The fireworks were pretty awesome and a perfect cap to the evening…

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Sorry about the street light.

Anyway, perfect night and cannot wait until next year — I just hope they pick more dramatic pieces – maybe some marches or something….

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Beer Here! – NYHS

“Beer Here” – catches your eye, right?

This is the name of a new exhibit that recently opened at the New York Historical Society on the upper west side.  As some of you might know, I have a unique knowledge of this museum having worked on its renovation for the last two years (and some).  I did not work on this exhibit, but it is well worth checking out.

Beer Here has everything I’d expect from a good museum exhibition – a good story, great artifacts, well designed and, of course, a bar.  Yes, a bar.

Beer Here tells the story of New York’s brewing history.  The basic premise is that the recent new-found popularity in craft beer is not a modern trend, but one that dates back several hundred years to the founding of New York.  My neighborhood (UES), for example, used to be dominated by huge breweries such as Hell’s Gate, that were started by the German immigrants that moved to Yorkville.

The exhibit isn’t huge, but tells a very interesting story and has some really cool artifacts — one can easily get through it in 30 minutes or so.

At the end of the exhibit, they built a 30-40 person or so beer hall.  Every week, they feature a different local beer and serve that on tap ($8).  To make the deal even better for $10, you can get a beer and a large pretzel – not bad.  A great excuse to learn and drink.

The exhibit is running through Sept 2nd — so hurry out there and check it out.

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DMB at SPAC

This past weekend, AKM and I took at trip to Saratoga Spring NY for a Dave Matthews Band show at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center – commonly known as SPAC. Any longtime DMB fan knows SPAC as one of their epic venues. SPAC is famous for their long shows and deep playlist. Needless to say, I was very excited.

I have been to a couple other of Dave’s big venues, such as the Gorge, so I was ready for a good time.

Brief digression – Saratoga is a beautiful little town. It’s classic small town America. It has a lovely main street with lots of great bars and restaurants. They are famous, of course, for horse racing (oldest track in America) and their natural springs. Photo below is AKM sampling one of those springs:

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As we were heading back to the train station, our cab driver gave us a huge list of things we have to do, so clearly we have to return.

If we go back, though, and it’s for a DMB show then we must have seats. That’s what I learned during this experience. Don’t get me wrong, it was a great show (though weak set) and we had a great time, but I’m getting to old for the lawn. A big festival is one thing, but the lawn at SPAC is terrible. You can’t hear, you can’t see, you’re surrounded by teenagers that would rather talk than watch. You’re surrounded by kids getting drunk and high for the first time – it is pretty awful.

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Now that I’ve been to so many shows, it is time to pick and choose. I must have a seat in the main venue – while there, you are more likely to be surrounded by people who actually want to watch and enjoy the music. I can skip a show if I have too – not the end of the world.

In closing – Saratoga is great – as is SPAC, if you’re not on the lawn.

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I’m Back!

So, it has been well over a year since I last posted here. Recently, while slammed with work, I decided I needed to get back into doing things for me. I opened old project ideas, started collaborating with friends in others. The idea is to spend a bit of “me time” everyday instead of just work if lazy time.

The final step in this process was restarting this blog. NYC is such a great place and I’ve done so much here over the last year. It’ll be impossible to recap everything, so I am not even going to try. I have been to dozens of shows (some fantastic that I will try to revisit), I’ve been to awesome bars and restaurants – even a trip or two to Brooklyn.

This summer lends itself to a lot of good things to write about. Next Friday AKM and I are heading to London for a week. So, while there this blog will briefly become JaxLondon – but really, I’ll be writing about London from the eyes of a New Yorker.

Finally, it is interesting that my last post was about a beautiful day in Central Park because here I am today, sitting in the park on a beautiful day working on this blog again.

That’s it for now! I’ll be back soon!

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Beautiful NYC Day

Yesterday was almost a perfect day here in New York.  The sun was bright, flowers were starting to bloom and in the sun, it was almost warm.  Unfortunately, it was still a bit chilly and a bit breezy to be a completely perfect weather day.

We’re getting closer, I can tell.

It’s been such a long winter, I’m just looking forward to being able to spend excessive amounts of time outside.  Since I’m just a 5 minute walk to the park, I plan to spend a good part of every weekend enjoying this amazing piece of public land in the middle of this chaotic city.

I found an area of the park yesterday called, The Ramble, that has so many trees and such that you cannot even see a building.  Awesome.

Here are some photos from AKM and I’s long walk through the park  … see … it’s almost perfect.

From Belvedere Castle looking towards the Great Lawn.

Honestly, I could have spent hours on this bridge watching the people in the paddle boats.

And finally, my favorite spot:  Bethesda Fountain

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La Cage – A Review

This past Friday, I decided it had been too long since I’d seen a Broadway show.  The last one was Spiderman back in February.  Now that I’m here in NYC, I realize how easy it is to not see shows … but you just have to make time!

Anyway, AKM was busy, so after work I headed to the TKTS booth to get a ticket to something … La Cage Aux Folles was near the top of my list, it was available, so I got one…

This Tony winning revival, unfortunately, closes at the end of the month after a little over a year run.  The original cast included Kelsey Grammer and now stars the original book author, Harvey Fierstein.  Oddly enough, I’ve now see Harvey in three very different shows (Hairspray, Fiddler of the Roof and La Cage).

For those who don’t know, La Cage is basically the story of the Nathan Lane / Robin Williams movie The Birdcage (which was based on La Cage).  Gay couple raises son, son wants to bring home fiance who has very conservative parents, thus chaos ensues.

As first, I thought the pacing of the show was a bit slow.  This was two days after the show announced it was closing, so maybe the cast was a little down.  Eventually, though, it started to pick up and the whole audience was drawn in.

The show plays two ways — first, you’re the audience at the cabaret, so the actors interact directly with you and work off of your responses.  (Interestingly, much like the Cabaret revival a few years ago, the front section was a row of cocktail tables for people who paid too much money.)  The second is you’re watching a traditional show with the fourth wall fully in tact.  This never bothered me, but the first few transitions were a bit rough … again, the timing was off.

Harvey is great as the cross-dressing Zaza.  As usual, he can’t sing for shit, but I’ve never seen another production of this show, so I don’t know if I’m missing much.  During Fiddler, for example, he was a terrible Tevye because he couldn’t sing any of his classic songs.  Hairspray, of course, was written for him, so that’s all I can think of when listening to that show (i.e. terrible John Travolta in the movie).

Anyway, I digress…

From what I understand, this was a very stripped down version of the show.  There were only 6 or so dancers (apparently used to be a huge cast) and the spectacle numbers left something to be desired.  The men (Les Cagelles) were fantastic dancers and clearly had their work cut out for them throughout the show.  I could only imagine how cool it must have been with twice the number of dancers …  None-the-less, this one worked.

The story, though well known, pulled me right in.  Harvey’s book scenes are very well written and acted.  Honestly, usually the book scenes in musicals like this make me cringe, but this one worked.  Yes, it was very over the top and yes it was very melodramatic at times, but – for some reason – it worked.  The basic idea comes down to the love between a parent and their kid … simple, but strong stuff nearly anyone can relate to…

The sets and lighting were very simple, but efficient.

The music was pretty much the same throughout — honestly, no numbers or songs standout (maybe because of Harvey’s terrible singing), but I didn’t dislike any of them.  I know that “I Am What I Am” is supposed to be one of the iconic songs from the show, but with Harvey, it fell flat.

Overall — it was a refreshingly well done and solid show.  If you find yourself in NYC in the next two weeks or so, I strongly recommend adding it to your list.

Coming up, I have tickets to Spiderman (version 2.0) in June as well as The Book of Mormon (can’t freaking wait).  Other shows on the list include War Horse, Bengal Tiger and Jerusalem.

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FSU Banner over UF Spring Game

I’m trying my best to keep this blog focused on New York, but sometimes things are just too good to ignore.

This past weekend, the University of Florida played their annual spring game (which included the dedication of a Tim Tebow statue (gross)).  So, during this day of Gator celebration, a group of Florida State University fans decided to get together and pay a Gainesville company $850 to fly a banner over the stadium and around campus.

The banner said, “31-7 Go Noles!”.  This, of course, is a reference to our amazing victory over the Gators last season.

Granted, UF fans are saying, “Oh congrats you one 1 out of the last 8 games” — whatever.  They’re just upset that they didn’t think of it …

You can read more about the fantastic prank here….

Our spring game is this weekend and one has to wonder if any of those Gators are crazy enough to try to top us?

Doubt it.

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