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The Stepkids Concert Review

The Stepkids
July 8th, 2015
Madison Square Park - New York, NY

People in chairs love The Stepkids!
Welcome to SHUTTLECOCK Concert Reviews: Vacation Edition. I recently visited New York for five days to see family and hang out. One the first full day of my visit I had an excellent time full of musical fun in Williamsburg and Manhattan.

After seeing an article posted online about it, my brother and I decided to go stand in line in front of a Williamsburg storefront to meet Canadian slacker rock singer-songwriter Mac DeMarco. DeMarco requested that you bring canned food to donate in exchange for a hot dog he was grilling on a small grill on the sidewalk along with a short meet and greet. We stood in line for about an hour when my brother (who really should get outside more) began to feel bad. One of Mac's assistants who was walking around the line took notice and rushed him up to the front in the shade to rehydrate and rest. Shortly I was called up to the front as well to skip the hot dog and just say hello and get a picture with Mac, as to get my brother out of the sun. I told him to come play Kansas City soon, so if that happens, you're welcome.

Mac DeMarco signs an autograph
Later, after reaching my aunt and uncle's apartment between Chinatown and the Financial District, a few of us decided to venture out last-minute for a free concert at Madison Square Park. It was quite the walk, but I'm only in New York once a year, so why not.

We reached the park right as a lady was finishing introducing the night's act, The Stepkids. The Stepkids are a psychedelic, funk-pop group signed to Stones Throw Records. The Connecticut group quickly realized who they were playing to. The crowd was mostly middle-aged white people who had brought their lawn chairs in hopes of a night of soothing music at the park, and while the concert may have been a little louder than some may have wanted, a good handful of them were pretty entertained by the end.

Bassist Dan Edinberg and guitarist Jeff Gitelman both walked onto the park's rented portable stage wearing large, shiny capes that they soon drew off simultaneously with their backs turned to the crowd. The duo spent about half-an-hour playing their original songs of funky, shimmering rhythms for the somewhat enthused audience. Some people were excited enough to stand in front of the stage and dance, but most still opted to sit at this point. One thing I noticed was that I'm pretty sure I heard synth parts to a few songs, while there was nobody standing at the synthesizer the whole night. Odd. Another small turn off was the faint, off-key singing of the two frontmen. I'm sure it sounds better on the records, but I'm sure I wasn't the only one wishing for more from them.

It was now time for the group to pause and introduce their first guest of the evening's short show. Indie pop sweetheart Kimbra, who the group has toured with in the past, made her way up to the microphone. The Stepkids danced through another song while Kimbra accented different notes by shrieking out of time with the band and modulating her vocals with a set of dials connected to her microphone cord. While seeing Kimbra pop up was fun, she really didn't add anything exciting to the music.

The next guest was less of a celebrity appearance and more of a music lover's treat. New York afrobeat band Antibalas took the stage to back up the band. While I have not listened to any of their original music, I have seen clips of them performing Fela Kuti songs for the Broadway musical as well as an interview with Questlove talking about how he "fears" them as a band. The group's horn section proceeded to blow me away and leave me wanting more. After playing an extended jam with the group, the concert seemed to be over.

Pharoahe Monch enters
I could not have guessed what would happen next. The whirring, horn-filled instrumental track to Pharoahe Monch's '90's banger "Simon Says" played over the PA. House music to send us out? A quick instrumental jam by The Stepkids? Neither. A full-fledged appearance and performance by Monch himself was taking place. I ran up to the front of the stage along with every other hip-hop fan within earshot and threw my hands straight up. Monch seemed a little wary about shouting the lyrics "get the fuck up" and "rub on your titties" to people at a public park, but he performed energetically just the same.

Seeing the New York rap phenomenon perform his hit song wasn't something I anticipated, but I sure did enjoy it. After the song, the dust settled again, and the show really was over. A free New York treat for your hometown boy.

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