Zoe Kessler, pictured at the First Avenue/14th Street intersection on a typical day earlier this spring, says she was inspired in part by the community and the city.
By Sabina Mollot
For this self-taught musician, the city is her muse.
The evidence is “These Streets,” an album of folk rock music released by Zoe Kessler, a recent Harvard graduate and lifelong Stuyvesant Town resident.
The album was a result of four years of experience learning to play guitar and write music, though she became even more focused on it after graduating last year. Kessler, now 23, never had any formal training in music, but taught herself to sing and play guitar in college. Not wanting to annoy her roommates, Kessler got her first audiences and her earliest practicing in at once when she’d play guitar at a courtyard not far from her dorm. Encouraged by the response, she soon moved on to playing her own music at a local Starbucks.
“I felt like it was a good place to play, because it was very low-key,” said Kessler. “The only people who were there for me were my friends, and if they weren’t, it was no offense. I was paid one latte per show. It was literally coffee house music.”
By Sabina Mollot
Following two concerts that were held in Stuyvesant Town last week, including one by alternative rock group Better Than Ezra, local elected officials are calling on CWCapital to keep the noise level down during future events.
While noise complaints from residents living in Oval buildings following concerts or other big events on the lawn are nothing new, this year there apparently were more complaints than usual.
This was noted in a letter sent to CWCapital Managing Director Andrew MacArthur, which was signed by Council Member Dan Garodnick, Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh and State Senator Brad Hoylman. The letter was dated Tuesday, July 29 and in it, the politicians noted that “people complained from as far away as 272 First Avenue and 524 East 20th Streets,” about the loud music, “despite their efforts to tune it out.”
The letter added that there didn’t seem to be a way for frustrated tenants to complain to “resident services,” and recommended that management figure out a direct way for tenants to be able to reach someone with their concerns.
“On this, and other issues, we would welcome a more user-friendly mechanism for tenants to raise a concern with management,” Hoylman, Kavanagh and Garodnick said.
A spokesperson for CWCapital didn’t respond to a request for comment by T&V’s press time.
The concerts, part of Stuy Town’s returning Music on the Oval series, were limited to just the two concerts this year. The Better Than Ezra concert attracted a crowd of 700 people, according to management’s figures. Last year, the series included a performance by Soul Asylum, known best for the 90s alternative hit “Runaway Train.”
Upcoming events in Stuyvesant Town include film screenings, which are running most Wednesday nights through August 13 for residents and their guests. The next film to be shown is “The Sound of Music” on August 6 at 6 pm. On August 13, “Lego Movie” will be shown at 5 p.m. followed by “Fast and Furious 6” at 7 p.m.
UPDATE: The Tenants Association also released a statement, via email to neighbors, about the noise concerns.
Several free, outdoor concerts are scheduled for this week. Read on for details.
The Rutkowski Family Trio at a concert last year at Stuyvesant Cove Park
The Stuyvesant Cove Park Association 2014 Concert Series continues with Paul Sachs, Amy Allison and Dave Murphy on Monday, July 21 from 6:30-8 p.m. Rain date is July 22. Later in the week on Wednesday, July 23, the Rutkowski Family Trio (pictured), joined by friends and vocalist Lisa Gary, will perform a repertoire of traditional jazz from 7-8 p.m. The rain date is Thursday, July 24. All concerts in the series are free and take place in the park at 23rd Street and the East River.
Better Than Ezra
Music on the Oval has returned to Stuyvesant Town. All ST/PCV residents and their guests are invited to attend two concerts on Wed., July 23 and Thurs., July 24 at 6 p.m. both evenings. On July 23, Better Than Ezra will perform. Big Wake will open the show. On July 24, Ed Kowalczyk will perform. Sylvana Joyce + The Moment will open.
The Madison Square Park Conservancy presents Mad Sq. Music: Oval Lawn Series, featuring award-winning performers in a range of genres such as jazz, soul, R&B, funk, folk, world, Americana, and bluegrass. On July 23 from 7-8:30 p.m. Jon Cleary will perform. Concerts take place on the Oval Lawn of Madison Square Park.
Waterside Plaza will conclude its summer concert series, “Music Under the Stars” with a performance by Nu D’lux on July 23 at 7 p.m. There will be a beer and wine bar, with snacks available at the concession stand or hardier fare at the Robbins Nest cafe. Seating is limited. Lawn chairs and blankets are welcome.
For information on even more concerts and other events taking place in the community, see Town & Village’s Around & About page. For information on free events taking place this week throughout the city, see Cutting Corners.
Garland Jeffreys, now on tour, in Stuy Town Photo by Sabina Mollot
Crowd-sourced project also raised cash for program helping elderly neighbors
By Sabina Mollot
Stuyvesant Town singer and songwriter Garland Jeffreys has quite a few things to celebrate.
The now 70-year-old rocker – his birthday was on June 29 – is releasing a new album, with some of the material just performed at a packed birthday show at the Highline Ballroom, and he’s raising funds for a program to help some of his elderly neighbors.
Jeffreys, who said he’s close to releasing his 14th album, has gone the independent route in its production. Like with his last release, “The King of In Between,” in 2011, this album (yet to have its name released) is being produced sans label. But unlike in the past, this time the funds were raised by fans and friends. Jeffreys used the crowd-sourcing website PledgeMusic to raise the money, which has a policy of having users donate 10 percent of the funds, after the artists’ goals are met, to charity. Since Jeffreys has been looking for ways to help seniors in ST/PCV, he opted to give that money ($400 so far) to Favors for Neighbors.
That program, which is run by Stuy Town management as well as Beth Israel hospital, provides services to resident seniors like social worker visits and matching them up with young neighbors who can run errands and do other services for them.
Based on publicly viewable information, 157 percent of the album’s goal amount was reached, a result of 283 pledges. Those who donated were promised goodies that ranged from a free digital download of the album to dinner at Jeffreys’ home near the Oval. “My wife, Claire, is a pretty good cook,” he wrote in a May blog post. It’s worth noting that Claire is also his manager, while teenage daughter Savannah, an aspiring singer herself, has performed with her father many times.
Jeffreys, who’s shared stages with Lou Reed and Bruce Springsteen, has been performing for decades and has produced albums under labels such as RCA, Epic and A&M. But, as he told Town & Village recently, at this point in his career, he has no interest in working with a label.
Using the crowd-sourcing method, “you have to hustle,” admitted Jeffreys, but, he added, “It frees you from the grips of the record business. When you go with a label, when you use some executive’s money, you pay a price. It may come sooner, it may come later. They dictate to you what kind of album to make and they are often mistaken in their selection about what is good music.”
Besides, through PledgeMusic, Jeffreys said he’s only doing what he does normally which is engage in an interactive way with fans. “I love this Pledge thing because it brings the fans into the picture,” he said.
Those who donate will also get sneak peaks at behind-the-scenes work, which is going to be part of a documentary-style video. Jeffreys is putting the video together alongside the album, which is slated for release in September.
“It’s almost done,” said Jeffreys, though he opted to remain mum about the recording’s title and even song titles. Musically, the style will be different from past rock songs he’s written, he promised, though once again he declined to reveal how.
But, he added, “In my mind, this album is some of the best stuff I’ve ever done, so I’m pretty excited about it. It’s very strong emotionally.”
His most recent album, “The King of In Between,” was the first one he released after a 13-year-break from recording albums, though he still contributed to others. One recent feature is on 2012’s “Occupy This Album” by Music for Occupy. Meanwhile, older hits have remained selling, like the song, “Wild in the Streets” (from 1973) which was used in a bar fight scene of the video game, “Max Payne 3.”
In the past, Jeffreys’ style has been influenced by his own background — he’s a Coney Island, Brooklyn native who’s racially mixed (black and Hispanic) and many songs have revolved around themes like race, conflict, poverty and a desire to bring people together.
Additionally, for the past couple of years, Jeffreys has been trying to come up with ways to help lower-income elderly residents ST/PCV, in particular women, with things like medical expenses and just having those who live alone checked on.
The singer has said he was turned on to the idea of starting some sort of organized outreach by some of his older neighbors, including those in his own building. They don’t always discuss their problems with him, but then, he’s said in the past, they’re often obvious enough where they don’t have to.
Last year, he mentioned in an interview with T&V how he noticed an elderly woman at she sat near the basketball court in Playground 9.
“She was really debilitated and could barely understand me,” he recalled, but he noticed that she still seemed to appreciate that he’d struck up a conversation.
Since then, he’s been making it a point to reach out to older neighbors, and with a tour schedule that sometimes offers him months free at home, he’s become more aware of things like when neighbors he sees around are suddenly not there, sometimes having been taken away for medical care.
“There’ll be more to come” for Favors for Neighbors, he said, adding that he’s open to the idea of holding benefit concerts.
Jeffreys, who performed in Stuy Town last year, won’t be performing on the Oval again this year, since he’s been touring and will be doing shows throughout Europe as well as in Canada. “I would definitely play another time, though,” said Jeffreys.