SummerStage staff face the music after mishaps

At SummerStage, the show must go on, even when unforeseen circumstances – like a spaceship – threaten to shut down the music.

Workers at the famed outdoor concert series — which hosts nearly 90 free and benefit shows in Central Park and 12 local parks across the five boroughs this season — are always ready to swing when a sour note hits.

On July 23, when temperatures hit the 90s in Central Park, the staff decided to hose down the crowd at the Everyday People show.

“We asked them before we did it and they said, ‘Go ahead!’ Then they burst into joy and it became a big dance party,” said general manager Larry Siegel, who has been with the program for four years.

P-Funk landed a spaceship on stage, drawing a huge crowd.
P-Funk landed a spaceship on stage, drawing a huge crowd.
WireImage

During the city’s blackout in August 2003, folk rock duo Indigo Girls decided to continue rocking Central Park using SummerStage’s generator.

Josy Dussek, director of artistic operations, who has worked on the outdoor concert series – officially titled Capital One City Parks Foundation SummerStage – for two decades, was the designated driver for her colleagues after the show ended.

“We stuffed the car like a clown car and drove slowly because there were no traffic lights,” she said. “I think there was only one other venue that had shows that night in New York. We tried to finish it at a decent time so it wouldn’t be dark the whole way to knock people out of the park.

The stage packed with spectators this summer.
The stage packed with spectators this summer.
Stefano Giovannini
Josy Dussek has worked at SummerStage for two decades.
Josy Dussek has worked at SummerStage for two decades.
Stefano Giovannini

Things got a little funky in July 1996 when George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic performed on the 20th anniversary of their Mothership Connection album and landed a spaceship on stage, drawing a huge crowd.

“They decided to bring the mothership back, so for two nights they played four hours a night, huge crowds, people were pushed back to Fifth Avenue, trying to get into the show,” Kahlil said. Goodwyn, room manager at SummerStage. concert venue at Rumsey Playfield in Central Park, who has worked there for 30 years.

When it came time to reshape the scene a few years later, the producers drew inspiration from that distant experience.

SummerStage regularly attracts legends like Patti Smith.
SummerStage regularly attracts legends like Patti Smith.
Valerio Berdini/Shutterstock
The concert still drew crowds during the 2003 blackout, thanks to a generator.
The concert still drew crowds during the 2003 blackout, thanks to a generator.
PA

“They put a round roof on it to make it look more like a mothership landing and since then we’ve had a round roof on our stage,” Goodwyn explained.

Due to the pandemic, SummerStage aired live shows in the summer of 2020. It returned in 2021 with a shorter in-person season at four parks.

In Central Park, Goodwyn took on the additional role of COVID compliance officer and had to swab punk rocker Patti Smith, who wanted a COVID test before performing in September 2021.

Kahlil Goodwyn took on the role of SummerStage's COVID Compliance Officer in the wake of the pandemic.
Kahlil Goodwyn took on the role of SummerStage’s COVID Compliance Officer in the wake of the pandemic.
Stefano Giovannini
SummerStage staff are always ready to rotate at any time.
SummerStage staff are always ready to rotate at any time.
Stefano Giovannini

“It’s about as close to an artist as you can get,” he said with a laugh. “She said I had a soft touch.”

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