This man knows good summer entertainment: Ian Noble, director of SummerStage, shares his top ten events of the summer, highlighting the best of SummerStage’s vast offerings plus other music and theater must-see special events.
By Ian Noble, Director, Arts & Cultural Programs, City Parks Foundation
I joined the City Parks Foundation as executive producer of SummerStage — New York City’s largest free performing arts festival — in April 2014.
I have been working in the live entertainment business in New York 18 years now — most recently at Metropolitan Entertainment — so I have booked or attended hundreds of events in the city over the years.
This new gig has reminded me of everything great about New York: its vast cultural diversity and virtually unlimited entertainment options.
Next year is SummerStage’s 30th anniversary, which we are already starting to work on. As for what it will entail, here is a hint: Come to SummerStage — Travel the World.
Since all our programs this year were booked prior to my arrival I am able to look at our season with some objectivity. Here are some of the shows that I am personally looking forward to at SummerStage, as well as a few other events around the city.
Top Ten Events in NYC This Summer
I had the pleasure of working with Pete Seeger in 2012 on a concert to
raise awareness for the imprisoned Leonard Peltier. This guy — at 90+ years old — was passionate, engaged, and full of life. He was testimony to our human potential so a tribute to this great man and
his music is a most fitting way to honor his legacy.
2. Mobb Deep
SummerStage, Queensbridge Park, Queens
Part of SummerStage’s mission is to reflect back to New Yorkers who and what they are. This show is a perfect example of that as hip-hop group Mobb Deep are from the Queensbridge area of Queens —so this show could be called “Homecoming Queens!”
3. Fania All-Stars Benefit Concert
SummerStage, Central Park
Fania Records is a Latin music record label that I have became familiar with in the last few years due to being brought in on a project with them. When I joined City Parks Foundation I was very pleased to see we were celebrating their 50th anniversary together. I can’t say I grew up with their music but I am now a big fan of all things Fania.
The Fania All-Stars show is truly a case of “putting the band back together” and it is certain to be a historic night. It happens the 41st anniversary to the day of when the All-Stars played at Yankee Stadium, so that gives you an idea of how big this group was. Performing that day were legends like Celia Cruz, Héctor Lavoe, Justo Betancourt, Ismael Quintana, Cheo Feliciano, Ismael Mirando, Pete “El Conde” Rodríguez, Bobby Cruz, and Santos Colón.
4. Urban Bush Women
SummerStage, St. Mary’s Park, Bronx
This is Urban Bush Women’s 30th anniversary celebration and is something that City Parks Foundation is proud to be a part of. There is common ground in their mission and ours in that they use art — dance in their case — to bring together diverse audiences to encourage community collaboration and artistic leadership development.
5. Urban Theatre Movement: Handball
July 29 to Aug 2
SummerStage, Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem
Another fine example of what SummerStage does best — bringing shows about New Yorkers to New Yorkers. Urban Theatre Movement’s Handball is “an explosive take on gentrification in New York City.” But its appeal goes beyond the five boroughs as the theater work really is a story about modern-day urban America and the people struggling to find their way in it.
6. Charlie Parker Jazz Festival
August 23, Marcus Garvey Park, Harlem
August 24, Tompkins Square Park, Manhattan
Like the famous film title, what is better than “jazz on a summer’s day?” [Tip: Noble is referencing the documentary made at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.] I’m a drummer, so personally I am looking forward to seeing drummer Cindy Blackman Santana perform live on August 24.
7. Shakespeare in the Park
Delacorte Theater, Central Park
The first thing my wife asked when I told her about this job was if I would oversee Shakespeare in the Park. The answer is no, but SummerStage is happy to share Central Park with a world class institution such as the Public Theater. This year they are presenting Much Ado About Nothing (through July 6) and King Lear (July 22 – August 17)
July 11,12, 13, 2014
I’ve seen Phish numerous times but the best time was at this festival called The Great Went in Limestone, Maine in 1997. Like that event, this one is outdoors on Randall’s Island – a NYC Park – and that is the
best environment to experience this stellar live act.
I spent last New Year’s Eve at an EDM show I was involved with called Winter Galactic at Hammerstein Ballroom and it was one of those moments where I felt I was in the center of the universe. Electric Zoo should have the same spirit. Right now these events are the best reminder of the fact that human beings are communal by nature. Come celebrate life.
10. Tedeschi Trucks Band
Sept 19, 20, 26, 27, 2014
This comes in just under the wire of being a summer time event, but it is worthy of inclusion. I booked this show while still at Metropolitan and they are pretty much my favorite act on the road today. It’s a
potpourri of rock, soul, and R&B and in concert they are like a freight train rolling. Two drummers, Hammond organ, a horn section, with Derek Trucks’ stunning guitar work and Susan Tedeschi’s gritty
vocals on top. Unparalleled.