War Tears Up the SummerStage at New York’s Queensbridge Park

Forty-three years after their original 1969 formation, the legendary band War can still rock a stage with the best of them and provide a funky good time for audiences of all ages. Of course, the only original member still in the lineup is keyboardist and current lead singer Leroy “Lonnie” Jordan, but since the band has cycled through more than 25 members since its original inception, this is no surprise. The band, in its current seven-piece configuration, played a free show at Queensbridge Park in Queens, New York, last night as part of City Parks Foundation’s annual SummerStage series. Probably about 400 people, ranging in age from toddlers to elderly folks, were in attendance, and War played an excellent two-hour set full of positive energy and musical prowess.

After an hour-long warm-up from DJ Felix Hernandez’ Rhythm Revue, War opened their set with the funky, upbeat “Me and Baby Brother,” from their 1973 gold record “Deliver the Word,” and the already dancing crowd really began to get down. Jordan is an exceptionally charismatic frontman who really commands the stage even when boxed in behind his keyboards, but he stepped out early on in the show to lead an audience sing-along to the 1972 hit “The Cisco Kid.” He joked that if anyone in the crowd could tell him how many other War songs contained the word “wine,” he would let that lucky fan buy him a glass of wine.

Jordan then slowed the upbeat set down a bit with the more serious jam “The World Is a Ghetto,” from the 1972 album of the same name, taking time to speak off-the-cuff about changing the world for the kids in the audience. He referred specifically to an adorable toddler dancing near the stage, of whom he couldn’t quite identify the gender, saying, “They don’t know when they’re that age anyway. Let ‘em worry about all that when they get older.” The band also catered to an unexpected fan request by playing the gorgeous, tempo-shifting instrumental “City, Country, City,” also from the “World Is a Ghetto” album, which really gave saxophonist Fernando Harkless and harmonica player Stanley Behrens a chance to shine.

Though the overall set was mostly very up-tempo and danceable, War took time for a couple of slow love ballads near the end. Jordan took a lengthy vocal and keyboard solo for the beginning of the beautiful 1973 title track “Deliver the Word” before letting the rest of the band join him to jam it out, and drummer Salvador Rodriguez sang a love ballad of his own before War broke out their two biggest hits. On “Why Can’t We Be Friends,” from the 1975 album of the same name, each of the seven members of the band sang one two-bar verse, except for percussionist Marcos Reyes, who relegated the last small verse to an audience sing-along.

They closed with the iconic hit “Low Rider,” from the same album, and of course the crowd loved it, many of them begging for one more song. Unfortunately, the free outdoor show had a strict ending time, but it is a testament to War’s energy, vitality and long list of beloved hits, that a two-hour set could still leave us wanting more.

  

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2010 Ultra Music Festival – World’s largest electronic music festival hit Miami for the 12th year

As the colossal stage loomed ahead, I knew that Host Damien Pintos’ Facebook claim of world’s largest techno stage wasn’t a pitch line, but almost an understatement. It loomed over 200 feet skyward and 1000 feet wide in the late afternoon Miami sunshine, an immense structure of lighting, speakers, projection screens and contraptions that I’ve never seen the likes of. The event was a remarkable feat unto itself – the 18th annual Ultra Music Festival hosted here in Miami, Florida.

This remarkable showcase took place from March 26-27, bringing together the world finest DJs and musicians in the electronic music field, and 2 sold-out days proved its success and global importance. My lovely Czech model assistant Zuzanna wrote about all of this to my Facebook in-box months ago, as she was coming to the USA from Prague to ‘perform’ in LA and wanted my help for her to attend. I was more than happy to parade her about and was most glad she brought this all to my attention.

Part of the tail end of the Miami Winter Music Conference, Ultra offers a massive showcase of top global electronic music live acts and DJs, with superstar like the Black Eyed Peas, The Cure, The Killers and more hosting the main stage in years past. This year a more old-school flavor was represented on the marque: The Crystal Method, Global sensation Teisto and overwhelming Ultra music festival hero Dead Mau5 bringing their collection of the sickest grooves and fattest beats to the Miami Bicentennial park once again.

Friday’s show was remarkable and not the least of which were the sounds. With a wild 14 full time stages operating over a diverse collection of fields, tents, band shells and temporary trailer stages, there was an unlimited about of beats and grooves to enjoy. House, trance, big-beat, acid jazz, dubstep, electropop and more were there for you to match your own mood with your own groove. Wandering about the rolling fields of Bicentennial Park along the shore of Biscayne Bay, you were sure to find what ever you might want, need or desire, music or otherwise! On the omnipresent main stage, Carl Cox, house trance legend from the UK, got the 50,000+ in attendance really going with a remarkable mix of beats, then David Guetta took the stage for hugely popular tracks, including of his recent global hist: Sexy Bitch (aka:Sexy Chick) and One Love. It certainly didn’t hurt when Black Eye Pea front man Will.i.am joined him as sidekick, putting the packed general admission crowd into a frenzy. The Crystal Method, the duo team from the USA, cut major tracks as the day grew into night, bringing new mix interpretations to their hugely popular tracks, such as the ethereal Busy Child. Closing out the night was Tiesto and the unbelievable stage show took on a even more unreal spectacle.

Every known stage special effect was used to it maximum capacity here, and for thrilling results. 8 syncopated fire cannons shooting flames 40 feet high into air?..check. Massive banks of argon lasers shooting off of the main stage onto Miami skyline buildings…yup. Computerized Video projection screens surrounding the main stage portal, 40 feet wide 200 feet high on all 3 sides?… fo sho. Fog blasting cannons the width of the stage looking like the titanic at full steam?… sure. Confetti explosions over the crowd creating a 5 minute myler shower of 1000 feet wide…oh yea. Explosions not unlike concussion bombs…natch. Inflatable stage props ala Pink Floyd, rising 50 feet high..done. Cheery pickers for the performers…yes sir. Fireworks shooting off hundreds of feet into…and , well you get the idea…you could be legally deaf and enjoy the visuals alone for a lifetime! Kudos must go out to the production technical staff who put on the largest, most technically and visually elaborate outdoor concert experience ever created in the history of the city of Miami, or the entire state of that matter. Without the restrictions and confines of say the local NFL Dolphin (Landshark) Stadium, the creative stage production crew had near free reign to present a visual blast unlike any other. It also helps when the over 100,000 in attendance pays over $125 per day, you can do the math and realize no expense was spared for this show. The sound mixes were as superb as well, and not only from the main stage but from the others, creating grooves and beats so fat that they almost took on a 3rd dimension of their own.

Several things are to note about this remarkable gathering. First and foremost was its “modern day” Woodstock-like experience for all, with much positive energy and vibes throughout. Scantily clad girls skipping about in micro shorts, fish nets and bright trippy colors made things festive to say the least……. practically zero aggression was to be seen. The virtual complete lack of a police presence within the actual festival, maintained a harmonious environment that fostered good will and love. These Ultra fans are not the kind that bring bad vibes, logic goes, so let them be and we’ll just hang way on the perimeters. This was mellow gathering, and the chill-out areas created within, such as the spacy Sonic Forestgave a nice trippy alternative to the norm. This year, as in the past, 2 VIP areas were set up to give a somewhat more civilized approach to the fest, with hammocks, couches and quick service bars set up on grassy knolls looking over the main stage field. My only complaint was the woeful lack of rest rooms in some areas, leading to frightful lines for what seemed like hours!

Saturday brought the biggest crowds and ever better weather! Global sensation and genre founder Paul Olkenfold dug deep for some amazing sounds, but as per usual, Deep Trace and House phenomenon Deadmua5 closed the show with arguably the fatest, sickest beats ever to hit Miami, all to a visually mind blowing light and sensory stage experience. Damian Pinto hosted the 2 day event as per usual, keeping the crowd on the main stage at their maximum party potential, and presenting these amazing acts together with the energy that only the most experience host can do. Damien Pinto once again set the stage for the world best electronic music showcase. Kudos!

  

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