Joe Rosenberg and Randi Gordon
Prospect Park Bandshell
July 27, 2019
As long-time Brooklynites, what have you noticed about the community through the years?
J: We’ve been living in Brooklyn since 1989 and we’ve seen dozens and dozens of changes … for the better! When we first moved in, we thought it would be a community and we see Brooklyn as astonishingly diverse and interesting.
R: For us, and what historically it has been, Brooklyn is these bedroom communities where you would go to work by ferry and come home and sleep. In the beginning, if we wanted to work or play we were on the subway. Now, you don’t have to leave Brooklyn.
J: Here’s an example: we used to go to BAM, and when we’d walk back to Prospect Heights past the Long Island Railroad, we were by ourselves, walking south—desolate. So, the borough has changed, in pretty remarkable ways. But it still has kept its diversity and its sense of identity, which is wonderful.
What do you love most about the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival?
J: People talk about Memorial Day being the beginning of the summer, but we always feel it’s the first night of the Festival. We’ve been coming since 1989. It’s changed, but the talent and the emotion on stage throughout has been exhilarating. The programming is always so inventive—I mean, last year you had Toshi Reagon and Michelle Dorrance, and before that, The Bill Withers Tribute.
R: The venue is really special. They said that Olmsted and Vaux who did both Central Park and Brooklyn felt like they corrected their mistakes when they did Prospect Park. We used to go to SummerStage in Manhattan—good acts, but you come here and you’re comfortable. World class entertainment, and a sense of discovery, seeing something new.
J: And when people come here for the first time, they’re stunned! Before the music starts, they’re stunned at what you’ve put together here. It’s probably one of the most remarkable outdoor venues in the country. And the performers seem to indicate that too.
When did you become members, and why?
J: I think it was after the Maceo Parker / Prince encore Gala.
R: Alexa, our daughter, was small, but she was more independent. We felt safer in the venue and we were coming almost every day.
J: I like being close to the action. We would come to the African Mondo Festivals and sit on the lawn, but being close to the stage was a different kind of experience, which I really treasure.
R: We used to be on the back hill, where we would let Alexa crawl and enjoy the concert from farther back.
J: We average around 20 concerts a summer, and we get such a huge kick out of the difference between, for example, the Burna Boy concert and the I’m With Her concert the night before.
Describe your concert-going ritual.
J: We never want to miss the opening acts. That is one of the great joys here, because we just never know what we’re going to see. As great as Broken Social Scene was as a headliner, Nilufer Yanya was amazing as an opener. We get here 40 minutes before the show starts. Might split a beer and have a sandwich, but we rarely miss an opening act.
What have been your favorite concerts so far, and who would you like to see? What are some memorable moments?
R: There’s too many.
J: The Trombone Shorty concert, Jon Batiste—they were like giving everyone a group hug, the way they interacted with the audience. So charismatic. I was telling Randi, I was remembering the Bastille Day showing of The Triplets of Belleville, and the French composer announced that that day there was a terrorist incident in Nice, and that his mother and his infant son were there but they were ok. The crowd started singing La Marseillaise.
R: Keb' Mo'. It was a rainy night, and it wasn’t a big crowd. One man, with a guitar and a stool and a spotlight on him. Bare bones. It was hypnotic. I was high from the music.
J: The first gala I went to here was Los Lobos, but every year there are great concerts. St. Vincent closed a few years ago; she was astonishing. We came to see Sylvan Esso on the lawn/ This year though, Chucho Valdés, he brought on Regina Carter, that was great. Salif Keita, Ibeyi…
Are there artists you’d like to see play here?
J: I don’t know what they’re doing these days, but Balkan Beat Box. That’s a group that would be great to have back. You had Henry Butler here too—the New Orleans acts are always great. Robert Glasper, always love to see him. I know They Might Be Giants haven’t played here in a long time, they’re a lot of fun. It’d be great to see them.
Anything else you’d like to add?
R: This has actually kept us sane this summer. We’re having all this work done at the house, there isn’t much space where we can be. We can come here, in this magnificent venue, and hear music, and have a mini-vacation from the drilling and the banging and the dust. It’s just been, for us, a retreat.
J: Sometimes, the performances are so remarkable, it feels like we’re walking on air on the way home. That happens a lot. And it’s happened a few times this summer.
Thanks to Joe Rosenberg and Randi Gordon for their long-time support as Members. Learn more about BRIC Membership on our website.