The best NYC concerts and music festivals in August
Arcade Fire, St. Vincent, Eminem and Rihanna highlight our recommended NYC concerts this month
Photograph: Krista Schlueter
’Scuse us, what year is it, again? Though both Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden have comeback albums to promote—the impressive Hesitation Marks and the disappointing King Animal, respectively—you know you're going to hear plenty from these alt-rock icons' signature discs, NIN's The Downward Spiral and Chris Cornell & Co.'s Superunknown, which dropped on the very same day in March of ’94. Replacing recently disbanded hip-hop provocateurs Death Grips in the opening slot are esteemed local dronesmith Daniel Lopatin, a.k.a. Oneohtrix Point Never (Aug 1 at Jones Beach) and mathcore visionaries the Dillinger Escape Plan (Aug 2 at PNC Bank Arts Center).
John Legend—who will forever have a place in our hearts for his performance in a bat mitzvah scene on Curb Your Enthusiasm—gives vintage soul a respectful tweak. We're tearing up just thinking about the inevitable encore performance of the gorgeousness that is "All of Me."
The year isn’t half over, but it already looks like 2014 belongs to St. Vincent, née Annie Clark: Fresh off a tour with David Byrne, she immediately churned out her new, self-titled record. The album contains the kind of self-confident musings that have made St. Vincent the reigning queen of indie rock, including the gem “Oh what an ordinary day / Take out the garbage, masturbate” on the single “Birth in Reverse.”
- Celebrate Brooklyn! (at the Prospect Park Bandshell) Prospect Park West, at 9th St
The indie-rock stalwarts of Modest Mouse haven’t released a full-length album in more than seven years (the last was 2007’s We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank), but the Portland, Oregon based band hasn’t been resting—a new album is in the works, featuring guest appearances by Big Boi and Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic. For a group that started out playing tiny clubs, bingo halls and dive bars, Modest Mouse fills larger spaces remarkably well, offering up a slightly frenetic live show anchored by Isaac Brock’s distinctive singing, full of yelps and shouts. Co-headlining are Long Island alt-rockers Brand New, who also have a fresh album in the works.
Cupid Deluxe, Devonté Hynes’s second record as Blood Orange, is a complex, swirling affair—packed with R&B, pop, blues and even jazz, it’s an upbeat ode to dance one moment and a soul-searching dirge the next. Formerly the man behind Lightspeed Champion, Hynes knows his way around a switchboard, producing unexpected, robust combinations of sounds. At SummerStage, he’s sure to lean on the more sexual numbers, sending the masses into the humid August night soaked in sweat.
Rihanna guested last year on Eminem’s tune, “The Monster,” the duo’s fourth blockbuster collaboration. This tour was the next logical step. The two headliners strike a nice balance—Em’s crass, harsh hip-hop countered by Rihanna’s stylish, poppy R&B. And no doubt about it: Both of these self-proclaimed Monsters possess an indisputably wicked edge.
The tristate area is in for a doubleheader of hip-hop superstars, as rapper, crooner and hitmaker extraordinaire Aubrey Drake Graham cobills with the man who helped make him famous.
Ryan Leslie, a triple-threat singer-rapper-songwriter in the Drake vein who famously graduated from Harvard at age 19, trades in what you might call retro-future soul. His songs are sleek, forward-looking, synth-driven productions; vocally, however, Leslie’s presentation evokes the dignified showmanship of the Motown era.
The Clean first appeared on record with 1981’s “Tally Ho,” a near-perfect rallying cry anchored by an organ drone straight out of the Modern Lovers’ playbook. The humble single launched an eminent record label (Flying Nun) and led to a stream of like-minded music by both Clean offshoots and stylistic progeny (Yo La Tengo, Pavement). At this gig, you'll be able to pick up Anthology, a new 4-LP reissue of the New Zealand indie-rock heroes' early recordings.
“I’m not a dork,” Win Butler told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “I’m a fucking rock star.” The jury is still out on that one, with half the music obsessives we know lining up to saint the towering frontman and his fantastical, shamelessly dramatic art-rock battalion, and the other half coming down firmly on the "dork" side of things, or worse. No haters at this trio of supergigs, though—just several arenas' worth of disciples, likely dressed in "formal attire or costume," according to the band's stated wishes, and swooning in time to old favorites and sleek, dance-friendly cuts from last year's James Murphy–assisted Reflektor.
Known for its divisive inversions of old-school black metal nihilism, the justly buzzed-about Liturgy headlines this noisy cross-genre event with its first appearance as a quartet in three years. (That means prodigious drummer Greg Fox is back in the fold—a very good thing, indeed.) The crew has taken its share of flak for leader Hunter Hunt-Hendrix's lofty philosophizing, but anyone attempting to brand Liturgy as passionless will rapidly dead-end when confronted with the group's explosive live presence. Dystopian noise-rock crews Wreck and Reference and White Suns round out a killer bill.
This annual Fort Greene fest—a celebration of black music in all its many forms—presents its finest lineup yet, encompassing forward-thinking R&B (D'Angelo, Meshell Ndegeocello), cutting-edge hip-hop (Shabazz Palaces, the Internet), riff-happy metal (Body Count; Unlocking the Truth, pictured), mosh-fueling punk (Trash Talk, Fishbone) and a whole lot more. See afropunkfest.com for ticket info.
Once again, the city becomes a movable ode to Bird for a weekend in August. On Saturday, Harlem’s Marcus Garvey Park welcomes a host of jazz luminaries, including Wallace Roney and his orchestra. (Roney’s former associates include a fellow by the name of Miles Davis.) Sunday the fest heads to the East Village’s Tompkins Square Park, which Parker used to overlook in the 1950s from his apartment on Avenue B; NEA Jazz Master Kenny Barron takes the headlining slot.
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