Joe’s Pub branches Uptown for some fresh air


By Lee Ann Westover

Joe’s Pub in the Park

Sept. 19-30

The Delacorte Theatre in Central Park

Enter at W. 81st St. and Central Park West or

E. 79th St .and 5th Ave


Since 1957, The Public Theater has given New Yorkers countless free performances of Shakespeare in the Park. Now, the Downtown institution’s baby brother, Joe’s Pub, is bringing ten days of its eclectic and exciting programming to Central Park’s Delacorte Theatre. From comeback star Lesley Gore to Internet breakout Beirut, it seems that every possible genre will be represented in cleverly crafted thematic evenings. “It’s a chance for us to be a little bit more conceptual,” says Joe’s Pub Director Bill Bragin, “and try to make some connections with those artists and audiences who we think will be sympathetic and complimentary … and hopefully win a lot of people over to our favorites.”

Joe’s Pub in the Park actually debuted in 2004, but due to a lack of sponsorship funds over the past few years, the series is only celebrating its second season. This year, about half the concerts will be free thanks to a grant from the New York State Music Fund, an organization dedicated to increasing the appreciation of and access to music throughout the state. Here, a few suggestions of what to stand in line for.

Wednesday, September 19th marks the opening night with a trio of acts who draw from both the classic and the contemporary realms. The New Standards, probably one of the lesser-known groups in the series, will begin the night with their intoxicating blend of modern hits and retro sensibility. Bragin adds of the drumless threesome, “They do these great jazzy takes on classic rock and new wave songs. They recognize these songs as the new standards of our time, whether it’s ‘Hey Ya’ by Outkast or ‘Under Pressure’ by Queen and David Bowie.”

The legendary Lesley Gore appears later in the evening. Bragin gushes, “She really made Joe’s Pub the home of her comeback when she put out her CD, ‘Ever Since.’” At the live show, expect the album’s blend of contemporary songwriting and re-worked Gore classics like “It’s My Party” and “You Don’t Own Me.” Bragin continues, “People forget that she was as young as she was when she started, so although they’ve grown up with her, she’s in the prime of her career — she has an incredible voice.”

Tuesday September 25th will see another set of powerhouses, this time from a world music perspective. Italian singer-songwriter Carmen Consoli, a huge star in her native Italy, will open the night in a rare U.S. appearance. “Last time she played Joe’s Pub she sold out three shows,” says Bragin. “The Italians who come are literally shocked that they can be in a room that’s that intimate with someone who’s that big back home.” Morley will then perform her signature acoustic world-beat sound before Luciana Souza takes the stage. Souza’s technical precision and passionate performances are, according to Bragin, “emblematic of all those multiple disciplines that people expect from Joe’s Pub. She’s a jazz singer, she’s a Brazilian music singer, she’s an interpreter of poetry.”

Wednesday, September 26th will bring twenty-something upstarts Beirut as part of a gypsy-rock bill shared with Balkan Beat Box and NY Gypsy All-Stars. Last year, the utterly unique Eastern European big band cum indie rock sound of Beirut made many critic’s top ten lists. Bragin adds, “They are a phenomenon…I think they are about to explode.”

Downtown fixture Justin Bond will set aside the drag sparkles he sports as half of the cabaret duo Kiki and Herb on Sunday, September 29th. Instead, he’ll highlight his very real skills as an interpreter of song in “Close to you: The Songs of the Carpenters.” From all reports, there will be nary a dry eye in the house by evening’s end. Bond’s mélange of the elegant and profane leads Bragin to call him, “one of these perennial heroes who have made Downtown what it is.”

Beyond these few acts mentioned, other shows include a 40th anniversary performance of “Hair” (which premiered at the Public Theater), a CMA Songwriters Circle featuring some of Nashville’s best, along with many more opportunities to expand one’s musical horizons.

“As much of an institution as Shakespeare in the Park is, there are a bunch of people who have never been to the Delacorte,” says Bragin. “It’s one of the most beautiful venues in the city, with incredible views of the turtle pond, Shakespeare castle and a great sunset over some incredible concerts.”

All performances begin at 7 p.m. Tickets to free shows will be distributed at the Delacorte Theater and the Public Theater box offices starting at 1pm day-of-show. Paid tickets are available now at JoesPub.com.