Weekend Recap: May Day, the Fight for Legal Weed, Blur in Brooklyn, and Wiz on SNL

Photo by Kathleen Caulderwood for the Village Voice
May Day 2015. See more photos from May Day in our slideshow.
American Pharoah and Floyd Mayweather each had a great weekend, even if the latter's victory was as boring as the former's predicted win was thrilling. If you were at home, shelling out $100 for pay-per-view or shopping for the best whiskey for your mint julep, you might have missed these events happening in New York.

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A Disabled Musician Shines a Light on the Accessibility of New York's Venues

Categories: Music

Courtesy Sean Gray
Sean Gray, who uses a walker and sings in the band Birth (Defects), is pissed off about the East Coast's inaccessible music venues.

Sean Gray probably knows more than you do about your favorite music venue.

For the 32-year-old, who has cerebral palsy and uses a walker, knowing the venues inside and out can be the difference between buying a ticket to a show he wants to see and having to wait for the bootleg.

Gray, a veteran of the Washington, D.C., hardcore scene, says that despite the existence of the now 25-year-old Americans With Disabilities Act, finding easy-to-navigate music venues is still a huge pain in the ass.

"To me, it's no different than any other kind of oppression," he says. "What if you're not allowed to go to a venue because you're gay or a person of color? That's what this feels like."

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Terrible Person Allegedly Steals Cash Collected for Beloved Accordionist's Funeral Fund

Kühr as he appears in a photo on the Main Squeeze website
In Dante's Inferno, the eighth circle of hell is reserved for thieves and falsifiers.

If there's any justice in the afterlife, that's where the dude who allegedly stole $650 in cash — from a beloved musician's funeral fund — will end up. At least according to the survivors of the late Walter Kühr.

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Duke Ellington Still Being Stiffed on Royalties, 40 Years After His Death

Categories: Courts, Music

YouTube screen capture.
Duke Ellington, legendary jazz musician, just lost a battle with his publisher.
Duke Ellington has been dead for 40 years, but his record company, EMI Music Publishing, is still playing hardball with the jazz great's cut of the loot.

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New York Jazz Greats Ask City Council to Help Them Win Fair Pay [Video]

Photo by NYC City Council Staff Photographer William Alatriste via Flickr
Jimmy Owens performs for the City Council members.
Many of New York's great jazz musicians are aging into poverty, strained by a lifetime of working in clubs that deny them any benefits, healthcare, or pensions. That was the testimony before a City Council joint committee yesterday from the members of Justice for Jazz Artists , a campaign created to urge the city's legendary jazz clubs, including Blue Note, Iridium, and Village Vanguard, to pay into a pension fund for musicians. One jazz artist, 70-year-old Jimmy Owens, who's been playing trumpet and flugelhorn in New York for the past 60 years, closed his testimony with a heartbreaking and beautiful rendition of "Nobody Knows the Trouble I've Seen."

"This is a spiritual that I play quite often at many of my friends' funerals," he told the joint committee, rising from his seat, flugelhorn in hand.

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50 Years Ago, The Beatles and Their Haircuts Landed at JFK

Wikimedia Commons
The Beatles pre-America, back in '64.
The Beatles are back in New York City! Fifty years ago tomorrow (February 7), four lads from Liverpool, with shaggy brown hair and megawatt charm, arrived at John F. Kennedy Airport, where a swarm of crazed girls greeted them in mass hysteria. "Ladies and Gentlemen ... The Beatles!," which opens today and runs through May 10 at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Fab Four's arrival in the U.S. and delivers an entertaining history of Beatlemania and the influence the band had on music, fashion, art, literature, film, and politics.

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The New York Public Library Is Having a Fire Sale on Duplicate Records

Categories: Music, NYPL

Courtesy of NYPL
Space: 1999, the original TV soundtrack
This is your chance to replace your dad's Scritti Politti 7-inch you broke in 1994 (great album, lousy frisbee). The Rodgers and Hammerstein Archives of Recorded Sound has been collecting donated LPs for four decades. In that time they were bound to wind up with more than one copy of White Snake's Come An' Get It. To get rid of duplicates, and also to make some money, the archive--a part of the New York Public Library--is holding a vinyl sale this weekend. Some 22,000 LPs are up for grabs.

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After 46 Years of Business, Bleecker Bob's Finally Closed This Weekend

John Surico
It was the record store enshrined in West Village fame; a place where Bob Dylan and Kramer found their favorite vinyls in the dusty clearance bins that sat out front. The landmark from an era of the neighborhood that no longer exists, driven out by high rents, high spenders and, in this case, frozen yogurt stores.

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Millennial Music: A Look at How DIY Technology Is Changing the Game Forever

Max Schieble of Pharaohs 

Open. Click. Send. In a matter of seconds, Max Schieble's pre-recorded vocal track from America appears in the e-mail inbox of his bandmate Danny Lentz, who is abroad in Paris. Lentz receives the file, pulls out a violin and plays his part from memory. The file is sent back over to Schieble, who then puts it through the mixing grind of free software programs including Logic, GarageBand, and ProTools (all downloaded in "the glory days of MegaUpload"). 

Once on iTunes, an upload to SoundCloud and Band Camp -- all free sharing programs that link to social media -- is a token of victory. At a remarkable speed in a "more or less cost-free process," Pharaohs -- a jazz-pop group that Schieble and Lentz co-founded, along with other rotating band members, two years ago -- have created a song.

Enter Converse's Rubber Tracks. The famous Americana shoe manufacturer of Chuck Taylor's opened a free studio in Brooklyn last year in an attempt to brand the DIY movement and bands within it, like Pharaohs. And the company did this by appealing to a cost-sensitive demographic: According to Keith Gulla of Converse in a press release, the company wanted bands to "help overcome one of the biggest hurdles in their career: affording studio time." Converse provides the gear, the audio engineers, and the space to create; all a band has to do is apply and show up. 

That's it -- no strings attached or sign-up fees necessary. And as an option, a band can choose to let Converse have publication rights to the produced music in order for them to pump it through their website and social-networking presence.

Like Converse, the once-online, now-in-Brooklyn clothing company Mishka offers their brand name as a free platform for artists soaring in the blogosphere. By releasing mixtapes online with Mishka's name and insignia on them, local New York rap acts like Ninjasonik and Mr. Mutha****in Esquire have gained fame and success without either party shelling out the big bucks.

As with many of today's hopeful recording artists, Pharaohs have circumvented the shackles of money, time and distance by knowing their way around a MacBook. Although Schieble points out this isn't his preferred way of recording (in his opinion, "Pharaohs' music loses its essence a bit" with a lo-fi sound), the DIY process represents the extraordinary synergy that now exists between the Internet and a band. But someone, or something, has been left out of the mix: the presence of a middleman, a/k/a the venerable record label. Long one of the pillars of the music industry, labels are going the way of MySpace: ignored and outdated.

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Hip-Hop Mogul Chris Lighty's Death Deemed a Suicide

Categories: John Surico, Music
Before he was found in his Bronx apartment last Thursday dead with a head gun wound, Chris Lighty was the force behind some of hip-hop's greatest acts in the past twenty years. From Diddy to 50 Cent, Lighty helped manage the no-names that became icons, pushing hip-hop into its permanent spot in the mainstream. 

So, when the music industry received news of his death this past week, mourning extended across genres.

However, behind the fame and fortune, the owner of Violator Record's life ran a darker path; with a divorce in process and accumulated financial problems (some $300,000 owed to the IRS, according to the Daily News), medical officials believe that the hip-hop mogul was severely depressed, thus leading them to believe that his gun wound was self-inflicted.

When the story hit the press on Thursday, many believed that the death came after a fight between Chris and his wife, Veronica, who was about to move out of his house in South Riverdale. But details of whether or not they were fighting that day are vague; now, with these financial facts in mind, the events on that fateful day in Lighty's life might have been spawned from a different motive.

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