When Venetia said she had an extra ticket for PJ Harvey at Central Park SummerStage, I immediately said yes. I’m embarrassed to say that I was thinking of another singer but realized my mistake and thought that this was someone I’d heard of and read about for some time and it was hole in my rock and roll knowledge so I should go see her. Then I thought she was another person but when she was on stage I realized I was wrong there too. I don’t why I’ve mixed her up with other female singers but there you go.
I didn’t see any SummerStage shows last year and haven’t seen any this year. Even though it was a paid event I didn’t feel badly. I felt I owed SummerStage for all the wonderful free shows they’ve given me.
I got on line a half-hour before the doors were set to open but the line started moving after five minutes. I was texting with Venetia. Her plan was to be near the stage. Her husband was in the crowd with another friend. I found a seat at the top of the bleachers opposite the entrance. While there I saw Mrs. Devereaux with a friend at the bleachers to my right. We waved and texted. Then suddenly violaleeblue and her husband were in front of me, which I wasn’t expecting. violaleeblue chose to sit with me while her husband took a spot near the stage. It was an eclectic crowd and there were a lot of hardcore fans.
At one point a fight broke out in the back. We could see a security person trying to diffuse the situation before other security personnel showed up. The guy sitting on the other side of me had exchanged a few words and he was saying that you wouldn’t expect to see a fight break out at a PJ Harvey show because it was an older crowd. That’s when violaleeblue and the guy realized they knew each other. I wonder if I had walked through the crowd how many other people I would have recognized.
I heard crickets over the sound system and a lot of the crowd stirred and many stood up. It looked the show was about to begin. The band entered like a marching band – banging drums and playing woodwinds.
I realized early on that I didn’t recognize any of the songs – not even the hits. That was okay since it was enjoyable plus I liked seeing the fans having so much fun. Unfortunately, it was an extremely hot and humid evening. I welcomed the slight breeze that came every time I applauded.
Harvey played sax (along with two other saxophonists in the band) and there were several times when I could hear some No Wave. I don’t know if Harvey considers that an influence but she’d fit right in with late 1970s era James Chance.
The Anacostia Union Temple Baptist Church Choir joined the band for a couple songs at the end. Her encore was an interesting version of Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisted.”
For some reason, seeing the name Polly Jean is more familiar to me than PJ. The only time she really spoke to the crowd was to introduce the band members, but I didn’t get their names and can’t find them, which is a shame since they were good. In addition to the two saxes there were two drummers, a percussionist, guitarist/keyboardist, another guitarist, and a bassist.
Brooklyn Vegan has the set list and videos.
By Carene Lydia Lopez