On Sunday amidst the tall ships of New York’s South Street Seaport the New York community gathered to listen to a group of underground bands at the free East Village Radio Festival. The festival, which was streaming live on the internet, marked the 5thanniversary of the internet radio station and was MC ed by hip hop legend KRS One. John Oliver of The Daily show also showed up to do his stand up routine. The event was originally scheduled for Saturday but was rained out by Hurricane Hanna and was moved to its Sunday spot.
The line up was as eclectic as the crowd watching the show. The crowd encompassed everyone from young hip concert goers, to people out for a Sunday stroll with their families. The crowd was swaying to the sounds of the Hypnotic Brass ensemble, a group from Queen’ s New York. The group’s music combines jazz and hip hop to create a progressive jazz sound. The members of the ensemble dance together while they blast out their infectious brass beats. The crowd’s energy was boosted when one member yelled “You get the party started.” To which the crowd replied “You get the party jumping.”
One man in the crowd declared. “This is music!” He also said that “This[concert] is great now because they’re taking this out of the schools We need this.”
Baji, one of the members of the Brass ensemble praised the festival. “We love the fact that they get out into the community of New York.”
The organizers hoped that they would bring the people of New York together with this event. One of the elements that helped to unify onlookers was KRS One, the electrifying MC of the event. He too was excited to be a part of something that was accessible to the community.
“This is phenomenal. Free to the public and outside music blasting.” He also said , “This is not a rap concert. This is not a rock concert. This is not a reggae concert. It’s just a people’s concert.”
He went on to talk about the brave spirit of the event. “The heart, the audacity, the courage, is what draws me to the table.”
The station itself was groundbreaking as they originally started as a pirate radio station 5 years ago. The station, which started in a room above Frankie’s restaurant, was shut down 5 months after it began in 2003, by the FCC. The station made the move to internet radio starting with only a few listeners and has grown to be a popular forum in the city for emerging artists. The station has many sponsors and is greatly supported by Frankie’s restaurants, the caterer for the event. Now the station is located in a store front in the East Village and runs live with such famous DJs as Mark Ronson, who spins on Fridays when his schedule allows. Celebrities such as Q tip and other great hip hop artists drop by to contribute to the station’s shows.
When the station began on the internet in 2003 the concept of internet radio was still a new one. The station strives to be innovative even today.
Marc Cohen the Station manager said, “We all embody this thing. To push on in the adventure. To try to do something tomorrow that was different from what you did today.” The concert is an extension of their push for innovation as the organizers hope to create a music experience that is interactive with people.
“I felt like we really needed to put the show in someone’s hands that could create a dialogue with the audience. Because a lot of these shows are missing that.” Cohen said.
MC KRS One created a dialogue by jumping into the audience at one point in the concert to join the fans as they danced and sang to his music. Later KRS One pointed at sections of the crowd while yelling, “The real hip hop is over there. The real hip hop is over here.” The crowd became energized as he asked, “Do you want to go higher?” When the crowd shouted, “Yes” he spun out more lyrics about the history of hip hop and the right for citizens to have a direct democracy. The crowd also became excited when KRS One began free styling to the DJ sounds of Flying Lotus. KRS One was joined on stage by Hakim Gray. The duo busted out a retrospective of KRS One’s work
The independent courage and spirit of the station is reflected in the eclectic mix of indie bands that the event organizers chose to perform at the festival. These same bands can be heard regularly on the station.
The crowd was moved by the soft melodies of Icelandic star Olaf Arnalds. People watched transfixed as she sang lullabies in her native language while playing the guitar and the ukulele. Other acts included the Brooklyn duo High Places that use sampled sounds and special effects to create a mesmerizing sound that combines steel drums, sampled acoustic guitar, percussion and trance beats. Also in the line up were rock bands Awesome Colour and the Vivian Girls. Rapper Devin the Dude also made his way onto the stage.