Nearly two years after the last BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn concert, the series launched again on Saturday night at the weeks-long festival’s longtime home at the bandshell in the borough’s Prospect Park. As if renaming the bandshell in honor of the great singer-actress-activist Lena Horne weren’t special enough, headliner Ari Lennox brought out superstar rapper J. Cole for a surprise appearance — which sent the capacity crowd into a frenzy. Other performers at the show included Queens-based reggae/R&B-flavored artists Nesta and Brooklyn rapper Kamau (with a guest spot ace bassist Adeline).
Cole made his appearance toward the end of Lennox’s set, performing his verse on her hit “Shea Butter Baby” and showing love to the Brooklyn crowd. Maybe 30% of the capacity crowd wore masks and social distancing was not much in evidence, although there were a fair number of fist- and elbow-bumps instead of hugs or handshakes.
The evening commenced with opening remarks from BRIC’s President Kristina Newman-Scott, Celebrate Brooklyn executive producer Lia Camille Crockett, Bew York City Commissioner Mitch Silver and others, the latter of whom officially announced the official renaming of the Prospect Park Bandshell to the Lena Horne Bandshell.
The festival, organized by the Brooklyn-based arts and media institution BRIC, takes place from Saturday, July 31 through Saturday, September 18th with doors opening at 6:00pm for all shows, except the family day performance. For more information, visit bricartsmedia.org.
Also scheduled to perform at the festival, now in its 43rd year, are: Singer-songwriter Skip Marley, grandson of Bob Marley; Afrobeats star Mr. Eazi; multi-instrumentalist Trombone Shorty with his brass funk band Orleans Avenue; Brooklyn-bred hip-hop artist Junglepussy; folk rock singer and climate activist Buffy Sainte Marie and singer/songwriter/advocate Naia Kete for a special evening dedicated to highlighting the impact of climate change; Latinx alternative multi-lingual quartet Ladama; Haitian born multi-instrumentalist Tiga Jean-Baptiste and a set by DJ Ali Coleman for a family-friendly daytime performance; local jazz artists including rhapsodist Vijay Iyer, vibes innovator Joel Ross, singer and multi-instrumentalist Melanie Charles, and poet/author Mahogany Browne for an evening in remembrance of the impact of COVID-19 on the Jazz community; Philly-based rapper and producer Ivy Sole; Jamaican-born musician Tygapaw; Dominican-born artist Rita Indiana; Attacca Quartet and indie-rock collective San Fermin; R&B musician Son Little; hip-hop/R&B singer Ajo; and singer Yendry.