Thursday, October 13, 2016

Dancing The Night Away at Forest Hills Stadium's FOLD Fest!

Nile Rodgers with CHIC at FOLD, Photo by Michael Perlman

 Dancing The Night Away at Forest Hills Stadium's FOLD Fest!

by Michael Perlman

It was history-in-the-making, as Grammy award-winning songwriter, producer, and guitarist Nile Rodgers coordinated and presented the “Freak Out Let’s Dance” (FOLD) Festival at Forest Hills Stadium on October 8. It was the penultimate concert of the 2016 season, which turned America’s earliest tennis stadium and a restored and renovated concert venue into a 5-hour outdoor disco party. 

The heavens must have shed tears of joy, as citywide concertgoers and out-of-towners danced and sang, refusing to allow intense downpours to place a damper on their plans. It was largely a celebration of the soul of the 1970s and 1980s, followed by a few more recent hits. Decades have passed, but the vocals were very much in tune and complemented by rich instrumentation.

The prediction of concert manager Jon McMillan, who said that the evening would be “the party of the year,” came true. He explained, “We’re used to having one legend on stage at a time, but in this case, we're ecstatic to have four on one night.”

Nile Rodgers at FOLD, Photo by Michael Perlman
The lineup featured Nile Rodgers & CHIC, the band which he co-founded in the 1970s, with showstoppers such as “Le Freak,” “Everybody Dance,” and “Dance, Dance, Dance.” 

Bette Midler in the moment, Photo by Michael Perlman
Bette Midler, a special guest, performed with Nile Rodgers. Her set included her classics such as “Wind Beneath My Wings” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” and marked her return engagement following her August 1983 concert. Midler said, “This is only the second time I’ve ever been to Forest Hills. It is so gorgeous and glamorous up here.” She exchanged witty banter with the audience and said, “When Nile invited me, I was confused and knew it was going to be ‘Ahh… Freak Out,’ and he looked at me. I was going to break out my platform shoes from the old days, but I realized I’d fall from that height and end my life.” 

Village People, Photo by Michael Perlman
The high energy, elaborately costumed 6-member Village People’s performed their most memorable number “YMCA,” “In The Navy,” and “Macho Man.” 

Earth, Wind & Fire, Photo by Michael Perlman
Earth, Wind, & Fire energized the stage with a multiplicity of genres with hits such as “Shining Star,” “Let’s Groove,” and “Fantasy.” The festival also featured Alex Newell, Studio 54’s DJ Nicky Siano, a most successful DJ of his time, and the iconic DJ Cassidy, who mastered works in front of a 24 karat gold mic and ornate table. 

DJ Cassidy, Photo by Michael Perlman
Alex Newell, Photo by Michael Perlman
Among the crowning moments was “We Are Family,” where Nile Rodgers was joined by the multitude of musicians and numerous dancers. This topped off his vision for the festival, where he explained his goal as “to demonstrate the evolution of dance music as defined by his own life and the spirit of collaboration.” He called FOLD “a fun, open, and wonderful experience with real people and real music.”

Miri Malach flew in from Boca Raton. As part of her VIP package, she met Rodgers. “I enjoyed getting a minute alone with Nile, who is friendly, affable, and warm, and I had a photo-op.” She continued, “The Village People instructed us on the proper way to do the ‘YMCA’ at weddings and Bar Mitzvahs. Bette Midler has been one of my favorite stars for decades, and I was thrilled to finally see her.”

Bette Midler, Photo by Michael Perlman
For New Jersey resident Sandy Goldbeck King, the festival sparked a recollection of Midler’s 1983 concert. “The incomparable Bette Midler is fun and energetic, but also moving. I have distinct memories of when her backup singers, the Harlettes were dressed as mermaids.” 

A concert ticket from 1983
The most memorable moments for some attendees related to music’s impact and the diversity of genres. Forest Hills resident Evan Ginzburg, who regularly features varied genres on his Net TV show, “Evan Ginzburg's Legends TV,” said, “Hearing what was voted the happiest song of all time, Earth, Wind, & Fire’s ‘September,’ a mere two weeks after my beloved mom Barbara Ginzburg passed on, was uplifting for me, as music is always therapeutic.” Another local attendee, Alicia Venezia explained, “When Nile Rodgers said he found out he had cancer, he wrote more and sang more, and then went on to perform ‘Get Lucky.’”

Catherine Joyner, a Bronx resident, who was raised during the disco era, attended with her friends from the High School of Music & Art, and the concert was a continuation of her reunion. “We were vocal majors and sang along to most numbers such as ‘Good Times’ by CHIC, which wakes me up each morning. If it wasn’t for our reunion, we wouldn’t have seen this concert, and now we hope to see more in Forest Hills.”

Manhattan resident Halli Moskowitz recalled intriguing moments. “I’m a huge fan of old school hip hop artists Grandmaster Melle Mel and Doug E Fresh (who made an appearance), and back in the day, I actually danced with Felipe Rose of the Village People on the dance floor.” Also from Manhattan, Kyle Supley of the web series, “Kyle Supley’s Out There,” said, “The trip was quick and the architecture of the stadium and surroundings is a historical throwback that everyone from Manhattan should experience.” 

Concertgoers dancing the night away! Photo by Michael Perlman
The concert became a family affair for many including Kara Hailey, who commuted from Brooklyn Heights. She commented, “I was incredibly impressed with how tight Nile Rodgers and his band were, and of course how Philip Bailey of Earth, Wind, & Fire can still hit those high notes!” Praising the stadium, she said, “It is intimate, which is rare for an outdoor venue.” 

Where the magic begins - Photo by Michael Perlman
"America's 1st tennis stadium" & a foremost concert venue, Photo by Michael Perlman

Note: A similar version of this feature story was published in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column:

Additional photos are available upon request.