Todd P’s acoustic BBQ show gets rained on.
I missed the memo that the BBQ had been postponed, just like I missed the impending clouds clutching at the city Sunday morning on my way to the F-train. And the sign at the gate of Roosevelt Island’s southernmost park, after all that travel, could not deter me. And so I was one of the handful watching the storm hunch in over Manhattan to whatever last, desperately excited strains of music could be tossed into rising wind before we were all swept away. Todd P’s yearly Roosevelt Island Unamplified Accoustic Summer BBQ will still happen some time in the coming weeks. This felt more like one of those rooftop hurricane parties.
Just missing, I’m told, a surprise performance by Arcade Fire to a crowd of approximately ten people, I wandered into the park to see an impromptu uptempo joint effort of the Eskalators and the Vultures, rolling on guitar, harmonica, and saxophone. I think seven people were playing, and three besides myself watching, two of whom were seated against the far fence. Soon, though, Todd P reappeared on bike, bringing drinks for the few who remained and — maintaining Roosevelt tradition — playing the single song he knows, favorite Neutral Milk Hotel b-side “Engine”, of which all recordings seem tantalizingly insufficient.
Ezekiel Healey biked in right about then, the sky behind him staining from sullen ash to brooding black. As his fingers plucked an impressively technical early-century folk from a his 1931 resonator guitar, lightning began to dance across the Brooklyn skyline over his right shoulder. Plans were laid in case of strikes on the island — “don’t touch the body!” — but no one moved to leave just yet. Fittingly, Famous Amos guitarist and frontman Jason’s single solo selection — time was running out — was a tale of a physically and metaphorically storm-tossed cricket.
Finally, a mysterious amp (where would it plug in?) standing nearby and untouched up to that point, proved to be battery powered and ready to go. As great smears of black detached from the mass hanging over downtown Manhattan (like smoke descending from the clouds in reverse), our final guitarist, whose name I’ve forgotten or didn’t catch, plugged in and cast his own electricity up against that which was appearing increasingly all around us. He’d just packed and disappeared up the road when the first drops reached those of us who were left, drops that quickly amplified to biblical downpour.
I hastened back up towards the hospital complex dominating southern Roosevelt, seeking a doorway to shelter in. But when I reached the park gates, there was Todd’s mint green van with sliding door flung wide. I climbed in, then all of the last stragglers, Eskalators and Vultures mainly, headed out through the rain to the G train, listing bands with U.S. states for names and attempting to sing along with acoustic renditions of 90s favorites no one quite remembered.