Ten years had gone by since I visited the Big Apple. Ten years since I had walked the streets that always seem to be under construction and in constant motion. Last time I voyaged to New York City I had just graduated from college and my family, including my best friend, celebrated that milestone along with my cousin’s high school graduation. We saw Jersey Boys, visited many Sex and the City spots, and stayed out late drinking. At age 33, I knew this trip was going to be different – in a good way. My mother and I were taking a trip together that, although it included lots of family and friend time, was about the two of us and the music we were traveling across the country to experience.
It’s common knowledge that NYC has strong music roots – in fact some of the most influential bands in rock and roll have come out of that city: the Ramones, the Beastie Boys, Blondie, Kiss, Run-DMC, and of course, the New York Dolls, just to name a few. Additionally, iconic NYC venues like CBCG, The Tunnel, and Studio 54 helped launch these acts and, although those venues no longer exist, their significance still runs deep.
In 2017 music still plays a prominent role in NYC. The window displays in Fifth Avenue shops demonstrate that retail stores still understand the power of music – especially with the resurgence of vinyl. Stores from Coach to Barnes and Noble to Urban Outfitters are using record players and album covers to sell their products which is both interesting and exciting for the music fans of the world.
On a mission to take full advantage of our time in NYC, we started our music journey at Carnegie Hall for a tribute to Aretha Franklin. Thank you to another cousin for letting us know about the event in the first place. Although the Queen of Soul was not present, it felt like she was there. Hearing her history through the voices of artists like Melissa Etheridge, CeeLo Green, Living Colour (who made their name gigging at CBGB), Kenny Loggins and G. Love, the show was acoustically and musically spectacular. Benefiting youth music education programs like Grammy in the Schools, The Center for Arts Education, and Little Kids Rock, the event covered a multitude of genres including rock, soul, funk, pop, and blues. Some of the artists were even ballsy enough to go a Capella. For the finale, the group of over 20 artists came together to sing and pay homage to Aretha by collaborating on “Respect.” Witnessing so many types of musicians coming together was truly amazing.
The next night was the big show– the initial reason we traveled to NYC. Hamilton on Broadway. Ten months in the making, the show did not disappoint. Three hours of singing, rapping, and hip-hopping around onstage at the Richard Rodgers Theatre was definitely as exciting as advertised. A charismatic cast sang through a well-written, fun, thoughtful, and exhilarating script with a soundtrack that has become a modern classic. My mother pointed out that she usually prefers the old school shows like Sunset Boulevard or An American in Paris, but noted that this new spin on our forefathers was something great. Thank you Mom for the tickets and thank you to the cast of Hamilton for putting on a show that lived up to all the anticipation. Times Square never looked so bright.
Rounding out our music trifecta was the Rolling Stones exhibit in the West Village. Even though I wrote about this event in November (https://lauralieff.com/its-rolling-stones-season/), I totally forgot that it would still be showing in NYC during our visit. We saw the exhibit on March 8 and on March 12 they will shut it down and pack it up to head to Chicago. I’m thrilled the timing worked out because this was an exhibit that most likely will not happen again. Comprised of spiral notebooks with song lyrics, master recordings of some of their biggest hits, an array of guitars, costumes, and even a mockup of Mick and Keith’s messy apartment in their early years, the exhibit was something to see. Videos of the Stones from 40 years ago, concerts filmed in black and white, and Martin Scorsese talking about the films created about the band over the years provided the soundtrack and the backdrop. Colorful, exciting, and rich with music history from one of the biggest bands in the history rock and roll, Exhibitionism was educational and full of anecdotes. Stories like the history behind their iconic logo, their drug arrest, and quotes from the band members that have most likely never been seen anywhere else, made this exhibit very special.
NYC is obviously known for its art, music, and culture, and seeing it in person for the first time in a while was really fun. Thank you to the Big Apple for taking good care of me and my mother and for making our experience so memorable.