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NORTHERN EXPOSURE

While Governors Ball is island-bound and CMJ is perhaps too scattered, the Northside Festival homes in on the already established musical centers in the city — read: Williamsburg — drawing big acts like Albert Hammond Jr. and an Animal Collective DJ set, both slated for this evening. The fest’s seven days also include plenty of indie films and talks, but odds are the Pitchfork-curated showcase featuring break-out twee sensation Frankie Cosmos, or the subsequent double hit of woozy psychedelia and harmony-haze that is The War on Drugs and Woods, will draw in the biggest crowd. Week-long badges are available for purchase, but each concert is also its own ticketed event, open to the public.

Mondays-Sundays, noon. Starts: June 12. Continues through June 19, 2014

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Flea or Flee? Food Fairs and Music Fests Are Great Until They’re Not

To the list of “nobody goes there, it’s too crowded” New Yorker lore, add another entry: Don’t go to the Williamsburg waterfront on Saturdays. That’s when, April through November, the foodie heaven known as Smorgasburg descends on East River State Park at the foot of North 7th Street. Started in 2011 by the people behind the Brooklyn Flea, Smorgasburg is a runaway success, to the thrill of food vendors and the chagrin of some locals who must fight the flow of foot traffic to and from the Bedford L stop.

For Williamsburg residents hoping for some quiet river time, it’s still an improvement over last summer, when Saturdays were dedicated to the Smorg and Sundays to the Flea itself. “People can do commercial activities anywhere,” local activist Jonathan Burkan complained at the time. “Why do they have to choose a public park to do it?”

The East River State Park kerfuffle — eventually worked out through the intercession of Assemblymember Joseph Lentol and state Senator Daniel Squadron’s offices, with the Flea now having decamped four blocks north to a gravel lot owned by the city parks department — is just one sign of New York City’s growing pains as an expanding population scrambles for limited outdoor space. For decades, city parks administrators have encouraged people to use parks that were at once seen as desolate and dangerous. Today, they’re confronting the opposite problem: Now that you’ve gotten people into the parks, how do you get them to go home?

“I remember saying back in the ’80s that I couldn’t wait to deal with the problem of overuse,” says Tupper Thomas, the founding director of the Prospect Park Alliance, who now heads the advocacy group New Yorkers for Parks. Yet, even then, she knew the dangers of being too popular. “The Central Park dust bowl was really created by unbelievable be-ins and eat-ins and leap-ins” in the 1970s, she says. “All the reasons that I thought New York was so fabulous when I was here in my twenties, [but] Central Park didn’t ever want to see another event if they could get away with it.”

Partly at Thomas’s urging, Prospect Park became home not only to the Celebrate Brooklyn! music festival, but to numerous ethnic fairs that crop up each summer, usually in the park’s central Nethermead. Any gripes were minimal, though, until two springs ago, when the Alliance agreed to rent the Nethermead to the Great GoogaMooga, a two-day food-and-music festival organized by the founders of Tennessee’s Bonnaroo. More than 30,000 people trampled across ballgames and backed up on long lines for entry — not to mention lines for food inside the Googa gates (in 2012, a fight broke out in the fried chicken tent) — and New York Times columnist Michael Powell, a nearby resident, railed against the city for having denied Iraq War protestors a rally in Central Park while okaying the “cacophonously commercial” food fair. Last fall, the Alliance chose not to renew the festival’s permit, effectively putting it to an end.

The seven-year-old East River State Park, with its concrete slabs that were once the foundations of rail-freight warehouses, would seem to be a less controversial site. Indeed, Eric Demby, the former communications director for the Brooklyn borough president’s office (and occasional Voice music reviewer) who co-founded the Brooklyn Flea in 2007, says the park was in need of both funds and foot traffic when he approached administrators about moving his events there two years ago. “They welcomed us with open arms. They were happy to have some activation on these slabs,” he says, especially because the waterfront concerts that had been held there were leaving.

However, some locals complained, loudly. “I’ve lived in New York for 25 years, so I don’t know that I’m ever surprised,” says Demby, acknowledging he might complain as well if a giant festival landed in front of his house. Still, he argues, the Williamsburg waterfront has “historically been an incredibly underutilized piece of park. It was a state park that no one used, and then suddenly it had been discovered. I think there was a little bit of a sense of loss of this secret spot.”

Demby is quick to distance the Flea and Smorgasburg from the GoogaMooga, but if there’s one thing the three have in common, it’s that they appeal primarily to out-of-towners. A random sampling of Smorgasburg attendees finds visitors from London, Chicago, and points beyond — “It’s a lot bigger than anything in San Francisco”; “We’ve had a really foodie holiday”; “The best part is the view, I think” — but there’s nary a Williamsburger to be found, which is probably little surprise, since there are only so many $6 fresh coconut waters and hermetic jars of artisanal truffle butter any one person can consume.

Attracting tourists is good for the Brooklyn economy; Smorgasburg puts money in the pockets of local vendors that would otherwise stay on the other side of the East River, if not the Atlantic Ocean, and helps bring some much-needed revenue to the city’s cash-strapped parks. (Albeit not much in the case of GoogaMooga: Prospect Park ultimately netted only $75,000 from each festival, while the NYPD scored four times that much in overtime.) But it also raises a question: In a city with one of the nation’s lowest ratios of usable park space to population, who should get first dibs, residents who want a respite from city life, or visitors seeking one-stop entertainment?

Navigating this conflict will be one of the first challenges for incoming parks commissioner Mitchell Silver, a former planning director for Raleigh, North Carolina, who was appointed by Mayor de Blasio in March. (Parks officials declined an interview for this article, noting in a statement that “we work hard to balance the interests of everyone who utilizes our public spaces.”) It’s doubly fraught, says Thomas, thanks to First Amendment issues: “If you’re running Shea Stadium, you’re allowed to say, ‘We don’t want you here,’ but if you’re coming to the parks department and you’ve fulfilled all of their requirements and they’ve still turned you down, then they’ve discriminated against you.”

Burkan, at least, says he’s now happy with the resolution that relocated the Flea. “I think it’s great to have it just one day a weekend,” he says. “There needs to be a balance.” Demby is less thrilled, noting that the Flea’s new North 11th Street space isn’t guaranteed beyond this year, but seems resigned to more of these battles in the future.

“The changes going on in Brooklyn are cataclysmic, basically,” says Demby. “It brings up lots of issues, and one of these is going to be the use of public space.”

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WATCH THE THRONE

Even the most devoted Game of Thrones fan has to admit that the popular HBO series relies on a number of fantasy tropes: dragons, sword fights, particularly unfortunate weddings. Make the frequency with which breasts are bared and the Lord of Light is invoked work for you by trying your hand at Game of Thrones Bingo. Videology, Williamsburg’s film-student-friendliest bar/screening room/rental store hosts the game, and is making its way through the first season; just put down a chip every time a raven delivers a message, someone travels over the Wall, or Hodor says “Hodor.” It’s free to play and winners can snag a “Winter Is Coming” stein of Ommegang’s Fire and Blood red ale.

Wed., May 7, 8:30 p.m., 2014

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Fading Gigolo: John Turturro and Woody Allen Charm in a Brooklyn Sex Comedy

One of the great pleasures of regular moviegoing isn’t seeing great films. It’s finding the little oddballs, the modest entertainments that miss just as often as they hit, but leave you with the feeling that someone poured heart, soul, and a sense of humor into the work at hand. Fading Gigolo, the fifth feature from writer-director — and, of course, actor — John Turturro is one of those pictures, a three-legged cat of a movie that ambles along cheerfully and sweetly, possibly without ever quite knowing where it’s going. Still, resolute if somewhat off-kilter, it always keeps moving. And where else are you going to see the très adorable French pop star and actress Vanessa Paradis as a Brooklyn lice-picker?

In Fading Gigolo, set in a vivid and instantly recognizable New York, Woody Allen plays Murray, the owner of a rare-books store who’s being forced to close up shop. He needs money: He lives with a woman, played by Tonya Pinkins, who may be a wife, friend, or girlfriend, and is helping to support a family of four kids. (The relationships aren’t quite clear, but his benevolence and sense of responsibility are.) As it turns out, Murray’s dermatologist has mentioned that she and her girlfriend are interested in setting up a threesome — might he know a suitable, good-looking candidate? (The movie’s casual acceptance that dermatologists in New York ask these sorts of questions is part of its intentional, go-for-broke absurdity.) Murray immediately thinks of his friend, Fioravante (Turturro), a part-time florist who’s been helping out at the shop. Fioravante at first demurs, but relents because he needs money, too — and, as he comes to find out, Murray’s “clients” turn out to be sultry hotties played, with gusto, by Sharon Stone and Sofia Vergara.

Turturro’s casting himself as a sex symbol in his own movie is probably intended as a bit of a joke, though it isn’t one at all. Turturro’s Fioravante is sexy. That has less to do with the specifics of his face — that shy, snaggletoothed smile, for example — than with his carriage and demeanor, and his casual kindness. Fioravante puts on polished shoes and a dashingly tailored overcoat and steps out on Fred Astaire legs to meet his clients; he’s got so much class that he heats up any joint he walks into. It’s little wonder that when Murray connects him with a lonely and heartbroken Hasidic widow, Paradis’s Avigal, she responds as much to his friendly warmth as to anything so banal as his touch.

For her, of course, that touch is forbidden. Murray meets Avigal when he brings one of his little charges to her home in Williamsburg to be de-loused. (No matter how you feel about Woody Allen, the unmitigated horror that animates his face when he hears the word “lice” is something to behold.) Avigal is observant and chaste, her hair covered by a scarf or wig, her dark dresses and coats reaching safely past her knees. No matter how comically saucy or ribald Fading Gigolo gets, the romantic friendship that blossoms between Avigal and Fioravante is the core, and it’s believable in large part because of Paradis’s gentle radiance. She’s a quietly expressive actress, largely under-appreciated in this country, though not, thank God, by Turturro.

Fading Gigolo is a breeze, enjoyable both for its sweetness and its unapologetic silliness. If you’ve seen Turturro’s 2005 infidelity musical Romance & Cigarettes, you know he has a knack for finding the right song for every occasion, even the zaniest, and he doesn’t fail us here. (One of the gems he turns up is the rich, buttery Canadian Sunset, by under-recognized tenor saxophonist Gene Ammons.) Much of Fading Gigolo takes place in Williamsburg, but it’s the Williamsburg of payot, not PBR. That in itself is an interesting choice on Turturro’s part, one that cuts to the heart and eternal mystery of living in New York.

Because no matter how we residents think we know the city, there’s always some corner that has somehow eluded us. For example, in Fading Gigolo, Liev Schreiber shows up in a small but finely wrought performance as a lovesick Hasidic patrolman. His badge and squad car read “Shomrim,” an organization of neighborhood watchmen that work in tandem with the NYPD. Perhaps you are aware of this group, but all I could think was, Who knew? When cool young people say, “I live in Brooklyn,” or “I’m moving to Brooklyn,” neither they nor we necessarily think of this Brooklyn, though it’s as much a part of the city as yellow cabs, fire hydrants, and bagels. Fading Gigolo wraps even this semi-hidden New York in its embrace and whirls it around the dance floor. It’s a beautiful and quietly vibrant, if cloistered, part of the city, and Turturro and cinematographer Marco Pontecorvo (son of Gillo) reveal it to us as if in a whisper. It’s as far from a T-shirt with an ironic slogan as you can get.

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IN THE RECORD BOOK

It’s another Kickstarter fairy tale gone great. Just a few years ago, vinyl enthusiast Eilon Paz was adrift on a sea of Williamsburg couches, checking out the many record collections Brooklyn had to offer. With a bit of funding, he turned his hobby into a full-time gig, and after trips to Cuba, Ghana, Argentina, and many varied locales in between, Dust & Grooves is now complete. The massive photography book is essentially a collection of collectors, profiling 130 record aficionados from around the world and their impressive stacks. Tonight, on Record Store Day no less, 20 of the DJs featured spin their vinyl favorites at a launch party and gallery exhibition, including locals such as Jonathan Toubin and Jeff “Chairman” Mao. A book signing and raffles for limited edition vinyl sets will follow. Arrive early for a special edition of Classic Album Sundays — a weekly series of listening sessions —featuring the Quincy Jones album Walking in Space.

Sat., April 19, 6 p.m., 2014

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JOE COOL

What do you do when you can’t have a world tour? Have a “mini world tour,” naturally. Parks and Recreation writer Joe Mande, who first made a name for himself with his blog, Look at This Fucking Hipster, is releasing his debut comedy album, BITCHFACE (Greedhead Music), and Brooklyn has made the exclusive list of five locales where he will perform. No stranger to the spotlight, the L.A.–based comic has a slew of Comedy Central gigs on his writerly résumé — Kroll Show, Delocated, NTSF: SVU — as well as his own stand-up special on The Half Hour. We’re looking forward to more of his opinions on Williamsburg tattoos (some of which involve fake Braille), picking Twitter fights with NBA players, and the creepiness of milk when he performs selections from the album.

Thu., March 27, 8 p.m., 2014

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GEEK OUT

The fourth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones doesn’t premiere until April 6, but those familiar with the lands and legends of Westeros and Essos have already found their way to Over the Eight in Williamsburg. Every second Sunday since January, Thrones aficionados have gathered for a trivia tournament as epic as George R.R. Martin’s fantasy series. The competition is organized by Thrones ultra-nerds Upjumped Sellswords, and features five-person teams with cheeky names like Cripples, Bastards, and Broken Things vying for bar discounts and a mystery grand prize by answering obscure questions about Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire books. TV-only fans should be wary of spoilers, and though the live event lacks the show’s signature mix of gratuitous nudity and violence, the atmosphere is reportedly lively, with craft beer and cocktails offered at happy hour prices throughout the night.

Sun., March 2, 6 p.m., 2014

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HOODIES ON

In February 2012, Earl Sweatshirt returned to the U.S. from his forced sabbatical at a Samoan boarding school, only a few weeks before the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin. These two events are linked not just by their timing, but also by the shared image of the sweatshirt as a symbol for the young black male, its hood protecting his vulnerability from outside scrutiny while also making him an easy target for racial profilers. Earl’s strong full-length debut, Doris (2013), can, in fact, be listened to as a 
commentary on post-Trayvon America, with its ambivalent ruminations on family, fame, violence, and race. All of this is woven together by a deep lyricism and a preternatural talent for assonant rhyme, which, when supported by eerie beats 
that strike a balance between melody and texture, welcome repeat listens. This week he performs twice: Tonight at Webster Hall and on Saturday at the Music Hall 
of Williamsburg. With Rat King.

Thu., Feb. 20, 8 p.m., 2014

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BACK ON TRACK

Can you believe that once upon a time there was only one annual record fair in Williamsburg? Thankfully it wasn’t long before the ’hood that harbors an equal affinity for music, shopping, and nostalgia demanded more. Nowadays Brooklyn Flea hosts two vinyl blowouts a year, with the Mini Record Fair premiering today at its indoor winter location. This “bonus” fair will feature the top 10 most popular vendors from its parent events, including favorite local labels like Cakeshop, Mexican Summer, and Other Music. Whether you’re searching for some rare discs to add to a collection or just looking for a deal on some new apartment decor, you’ll surely strike gold flipping through the crates. Special guest DJs provide the tunes, and partner market Smorgasburg serves some choice local fare.

Sat., Feb. 8, 10 a.m.; Sun., Feb. 9, 10 a.m., 2014

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Maria Minerva

“We’re witnessing the end of Williamsburg right here, right now,” Maria Minerva told 285 Kent last month, at what was rumored to be the Brooklyn art space’s last show ever. So it’s oddly fitting that the 25-year-old Estonian electronic songwriter will play her very next show in Manhattan. Minerva, who lived in London before making New York her home last year, released her “Bless EP” in 2013 after several records with LA experimental label Not Not Fun and its dance-focused imprint 100% Silk; this month, she has a collaborative EP with Estonian producer Ajukaja out on Porridge Bullet/Pudru Kuul. On Friday, Minerva is joined by Lyons, France-based avant-pop songwriter Lia Mice.

Fri., Jan. 31, 7:30 p.m., 2014