Pool Parties Kick Off in the Williamsburg Waterfront

July 15, 2009 at 8:00 pm 1 comment

So what could possibly replace the pool? The view.

On Sunday afternoon, the young and not-so-young of indie Brooklyn convened along the Williamsburg waterfront for the first of this summer’s relocated Pool Parties concerts. For the last three years the shows were the miracle of McCarren Park Pool, turning a civic ruin each weekend into an instant oasis of loud — loud music, loud fashion, loud shouts from the dodgeball court. But with McCarren booked for a $50 million renovation, the Pool Parties were moved to East River State Park, a seven-acre chunk of grass and concrete flanked by luxury condo buildings. (Kind of like McCarren, actually.) Would they still have the magic?

For the 6,000 or more who came out on Sunday for Mission of Burma, Ponytail, Jemina Pearl and a certain hardcore band from Toronto led by a big bear named Pink Eyes, the prevailing feeling about the new space seemed to be positive. But opinion was divided along two lines: those who considered its view and riverside breeze a delicious improvement, and those who found it nice but lacking the character of McCarren.

“I like this much better,” said Sacha Chernoff, a teacher who lives in Carroll Gardens. “The water, the view — it’s beautiful.”

East River State Park, once a shipping terminal, is pretty raw as far as parkland goes. But that suits the music and Pool Parties tradition. A simple stage was set up at the end of a long concrete slab, and on the way to it you passed what one Twitterer called a “cesspool of youth marketing”: a Mavi jeans tent and a mural in which concertgoers could add color to a grid of Converse sneakers. A second, parallel slab became the beer pen, and all around was grass and gravel pathways. From any spot in the park there is a postcard-perfect view of midtown Manhattan.

The show on Sunday was christened by hot sun, and even an hour after the doors were opened, the line outside still stretched two blocks down Kent Avenue. But not everything went smoothly. The Slip ‘N Slide, one of the most popular sideshows at McCarren, was deemed too dangerous by state authorities. So Jelly, the promoter, got three small wading pools, intended for children. But by the third band the plug was pulled on those too: the water level was too high. “We don’t have lifeguards,” said Rachel Gordon, the state parks’ regional director.

And the bands, warned that too much profanity could endanger the concerts, tried to rein in their banter, though not without some digs. “Shoot,” exclaimed Pink Eyes at one point. “I mean, sugar!”

A concert-goer at the first of this summer’s pool parties in East River State Park.
Jelly has booked eight consecutive Sundays at East River State Park, each of them free; the next show features Dirty Projectors, Magnolia Electric Co. and Crystal Antlers. (White Denim, which had been announced for the show, pulled out, to the aggravation of both Jelly and many fans.) And then that’s it — a new home will have to be found for the concerts again next year.

On Sunday some attendees did not expect that they will ever miss East River State Park as they do McCarren. “It’s lost some of its uniqueness not being in the pool,” said Garrett Shelton, a music marketer who was relaxing by the water’s edge during Mission of Burma’s set. “It was a unique venue in a city full of unique venues.” He also wasn’t crazy about having to drink a beer only in a restricted area.

When asked whether there was anything similarly special about East River State Park, Mr. Shelton turned and pointed to the skyline.

“That is what makes it unique,” he said.

By Ben Sisario
New York Times

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Entry filed under: Brooklyn, Go Coastal, Public Waterfront. Tags: , , , , .

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