Sunday, July 30, 2006

Bloc Party Rules at McCarren Pool, but the Big Concerts Bite

A couple of songs into Bloc Party's set at McCarren Pool on Saturday night lead singer Kele Okereke looked around the vastness of the pool-turned-concert venue and proclaimed, "So, I guess this is a pool party."

Not quite.

The "pool parties," those would be the community-spirited free events on Sunday afternoons. The Bloc Party concert, well, that would be the corporate-produced concert that a faction within the community bitterly opposes.

In any case, Okereke could be forgiven for not knowing anything about the history of the cool space in which the band was playing, except that he was clearly amused to be playing a former swimming pool.

Bloc Party was wonderful, tearing through a set built around their debut album, that also included some new material from their forthcoming release. (Check out some flickr photos here.) The real issue with the show, however, was the way in which it underscored what an inappropriate venue McCarren Pool is for big-ticket concerts. Five thousand tickets were sold for Saturday night's show and while McCarren can hold that many people, it's way too big a crowd for a general admission show with minimal security--with the wrong band and the wrong crowd it's a recipe for serious nastiness, in fact. (By the way, we're not advocating for meddlesome event security, just making a point about 5,000 people in a general admission setting.) Second, there's the assault on quality of life in the surrounding community--5,000 people coming into the neighborhod and a sound system loud enough to be heard a quarter mile away. GL has always loved our outdoor summer shows, but we also recognize that they do have an impact on those around them who might not want to spend the night, say, feeling their apartment thump to Bloc Party or the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.

(Here's our guess: We can huff and we can puff but what will blow the house down is that there's a wall of million dollar condos going up along McCarren Park that are close enough to vibrate from the bass riffs at live shows at the pool. Ironically, there's a story in today's NY Times about all the people buying McCarren Park condos. We suspect McCarren Pool's life as a mega-concert venue will be short lived, no matter how many skids corporate promoters manage to grease and how much the Parks Department wants to shrug and say it's broke when the subject of turning the pool back into a pool comes up. Oh, and are the buyers really that dumb and oblivious?)

Of course, the other unsavory part to all of this is that the Parks Department has turned over a revenue generating machine like McCarren Pool to a private operator without trying to recapture any of the money for the pool itself. Live Nation, which is producing six shows, stands to gross more than $1 million (not counting service fees) from these shows. (Even after expenses, they're going to make a significant profit from a public space.) Vendors like the Brooklyn Brewery stand to make tens of thousands more getting concert goers drunk. Is there a McCarren Park Trust to recapture some of this money for taxpayers? No. Profits from shows and sales at this public facility are going to line private pockets.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what's your point? Loud shows, bad. New apartments, bad. Making a profit, bad. What exactly do you want to happen? Before these shows happened that pool was not used for anything. What's the big deal if some companies use it to make money? At least there are free shows now on Sundays. And if people are worried about noise on a weekend, they shouldn't live in Williamsburg. For that matter I have no idea why anyone would want to live in Williamsburg.

2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way to make no point yourself, there anonymous.

Here's a clue: the poster rightly points out that the community shows on Sunday are manageable affairs, and what goes into them, goes into the community. Your glib approach seems to ignore the point made nicely here: proper infrastructure for concerts, good, free-for-all for profit shows with no investment, bad. No one is against making money there, but if they are going to make money, some of that has to find its way into the comminity that is shouldering the load.

After the McCarren Park Bloc Party show Williamsburg turned into the Giants stadium parking lot, without the shuttle buses. If we're going to let companies, (major companies like Clearchannel), come in and use the pool and charge a fuckload for tickets, can we not reasonably expect those companies to invest a little back into the venture? I see no sign of that. They may be paying someone, but that money is not showing anything in w'burg.

I'm a music lover, but think the idea of turning the pool into a major, for profit outdoor concert venue is unwise for a residential community that really is ill-equipped to handle it, and i hope it will not take a tragedy to finally illustrate this.

Now, the pool as a non-profit community venue, where local artists and the community all can benefit? All for it. On that scale, the pool becomes an asset again for the city, not for the companies who have put together these poorly thought-out, expensive major performances...

2:51 PM  
Blogger pinkeye said...

The sunday shows and the free movie nights have been so amazing --- fantastic community arts initiatives. So yeah, they prob will be short-lived. The city ruins everything fun.

11:16 AM  

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