Published July 30. 2009 4:00AM
If, theoretically, August represents the finest opportunities to bask under the stars, dance, and soak up killer music, then surely the August Nights in the District concert series, held in New London's Hygienic Art Park, promises to be one of the finest events in the city's annual calendar.
It kicks off Saturday with the Roadside Attractions, the Rivergods, and James Velvet and the Lonesome Sparrows.
It's a natural and inspired group of acts. The 'gods are perpetual local favorites, and Velvet is a long-time force on the New Haven scene. And the Attractions recently completed recording a debut EP of their swirling pop and swing.
Other scheduled shows include definitive barroom rock from Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles and the Reducers (Aug. 8), jazz saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa's IndoPak Coalition (Aug. 22), and Grammy-winning zydeco wildman Terrance Simien & the Zydeco Experience (Aug. 27).
The Mahanthappa and Simien coups in particular represent an adventurous approach, each show boasting extremely respected artists gaining global attention. It's all made possibile through the cooperative booking efforts of the Hygienic's Rich Martin and Ken Kitchings of Kitchings Productions, an outfit increasingly noted for visionary Garde Arts Center concerts.
"We try to create a diverse line-up that exposes people to as many different genres as possible while providing entertaining summer nights of fun and, with any luck, a little dancing," Martin says.
He adds that the goal of turning people onto new talent while providing instant crowd appreciation is a delicate balance that reflects musical learning experiences for himself and Kitchings.
"I was first exposed to Rudresh Mahanthappa through an interview with Terri Gross on NPR's 'Fresh Air,'" Martin says.
He was sufficiently inspired to contact the saxophonist and, after a series of conversations, the booking ensued.
"Mahanthappa's work is groundbreaking," Martin says. "He's got a lot of Coltrane and (Charlie Parker) in his playing but then throws you for a loop by tapping into Indian ragas and the like. The result is spellbinding."
Similarly, Kitchings was mainly responsible for bringing Simien to New London. A huge fan of Louisiana music - Kitchings brought the Neville Brothers, the subdudes, and BeauSoleil to the Garde - he was blown away by Simien at the recent New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
"Ken is first and foremost a music lover," Martin says. "Our conversations tend to be far-ranging, as we share new discoveries and dreams for acts we would love to see gracing stages here in New London. I think we'd both like to see that palette of offerings expand over the coming years, and our partnership in the August Nights in the District series is an important step in that development."
in the District, 7 p.m. Saturday, Hygienic Art Park, 79 Bank St., New London; the Rivergods, the Roadside Attractions, and James Velvet, free; 857-6337, hygienic.org.