Look, I’m not gonna belabor it, but like most of the rest of us who grew up in the shadow of the Twin Towers, there’re still more than a few raw nerves surrounding so many of the many many things one might think about when remembering September 11, 2001. The weird thing is, I had actually just begun a brief summer love-affair with the Battery. I’d never really been moved to spend much time down there, but friends had started DJing at the Windows on the World bar up top, and so I was down there a little more frequently at night, which drove me to want to explore a little more during the day, and I grew to really enjoy the little spaces you could carve out for yourself in the park as it wound around from the World Financial Center to Castle Clinton as I did.
Fast forward a few months: my brother Danny and I were both at my parents’ house not far over the river into NJ at the same time, for some reason (I think he was still living in an old firehouse in what’s now called “East Williamsburg” back then), and I happened to notice in …Time Out (?) that Hugh Masekela was playing at the World Financial Center in, like, 45 minutes. Hugh and his music has been huge in my life since I discovered his funky, political, afro-beat, fuzzy psychedelic, and very very powerful vocal albums (mostly made after he’d already made a name for himself as a trumpeter) in the early 90s (“Mace and Grenades” was a staple of my early solo shows – me playing along with my own backing tracks I’d recorded to a 1/4″ reel to reel that I lugged around the country), and this would’ve been a big deal for me on any day, but as it was SUCH a beautiful day (only a couple of weeks before that other fateful day), it was something I couldn’t miss. So Danny and I jumped in his car, whipped into Hoboken and took the ferry over – both for time and for scenic value.
But instead of walking to the right from the ferry slip and running into the concert, we went a couple of blocks inland first and couldn’t find it. We walked almost all the way down to the Castle Clinton and back, stopping a park ranger, who had no idea what we were talking about, on the way, and could not, for the life of us figure out where the show was. Well, it was already a really lovely New York afternoon, so the only thing to properly cap it off for us at that point was to sit outside at a little bar and share a whiskey on the rocks; but as we clinked glasses, we heard a trumpet peal from somewhere in the distance.
Glasses: DRAINED!
A few dollars: TOSSED!
We ran in the direction of the sound, and found the atrium where the show was happening. And it was perfect. Up there, in his 70s, KILLING IT, as the kids say today, he played almost everything I could’ve wanted to hear, and I was moved to tears.
MAYBE I attach too much significance to this show, in retrospect, because of what happened next and the decade+ that we’ve spent slogging through the mire since, but I don’t think so. I think it remains so intense and amazing to me as much, if not more, because of Hugh, himself, than any of the meta data clogging up the skies in our memory…
So, anyway, when WNYC asked about doing their new version of Soundcheck there, in the same plaza, in front of a live audience, AND announced that we’d be sharing the bill with the great Antibalas, I hatched this idea of asking them to join us on some Hugh Masekela songs. Our various touring schedules prevented this from happening, and it might be biting off more than we can chew, but we’re gonna take the opportunity to try it anyway* – I just thought it’d be a nice thing to do, in tribute to Hugh and to the City.
Just three songs and some chatting, then Antibalas.
So come, or listen live on the radio, or listen later when it’s (presumably) archived:
Tuesday, October 23, 2012, 8:00 PM**
*(assuming practice tonight, Monday, goes well!)
**(The whole show’s over by 9:00, so you can still listen to The Best Show on WFMU after.)

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