Outdoor concerts are by far the best thing about summer for any music enthusiast, and who doesn’t love ones that are free? The River To River Festival was founded in 2002 with the aim of using the arts as a tool to revitalize Lower Manhattan and, since all the shows are free, diversify and develop new audiences. The series takes place every summer from June to August in a variety of public venues that span all of Downtown New York. This summer’s festival kicks off at the World Financial Center Winter Garden on May 31 with the 12-hour Bang On A Can Marathon.
Bang On A Can isn’t a band in the truest sense of the word, but are self-described as a “multi-faceted musical organization.” It began in 1987 with composers Michael Gordon, David Lang, and Julia Wolfe striving to create, record, and perform exciting and innovative new music. Those composers still remain at the heart of the project, but have since recruited virtuosic and passionate performers to construct what is now the Bang On A Can All-Stars, who regularly perform together. The band is equal parts rock group and chamber orchestra, and the goal is to “blur the lines between classical and pop ensembles.” Clarinets, cello, keyboard, electric guitar, bass, and drums are the core instruments, but the All-Stars frequently collaborate with well-known musicians and commission and perform their works.
Bang On A Can is best known for their marathon concerts, and the River To River show is no exception. This 12-hour extravaganza will bring together more than 30 performers and composers, including Ryuichi Sakamoto, Bill Frisell, Tortoise, and Wu Man.
With a relaxed setting, the ability of being able to come and go as you please, and free admission, there’s no excuse not to experience all that River To River and Lower Manhattan have to offer. Other must-see shows coming this summer include Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, Jenny Lewis (of Rilo Kiley), Ian Hunter, The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart, Superchunk, Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens, and more.
The Bang On A Can Marathon will take place at the World Financial Center Winter Garden, which is in the heart of Battery Park City in Lower Manhattan. The event starts at 12 p.m. and will end at 12 a.m. Admission is free to everyone. To learn more about Bang On A Can, visit bangonacan.org. For more information about the River To River Festival showcases, including a full list of dates, go to rivertorivernyc.com