Monday, August 25, 2014

Drake vs. Lil' Wayne: A Success Despite Concert Concerns

by Michael Perlman, Perlman PR

Drake, Courtesy of Suzan Causey
Lil Wayne, Courtesy of Suzan Causey

The iconic Forest Hills Tennis Stadium has hosted “Drake vs. Lil’ Wayne” on August 19, which marked its third concert for the summer 2014 season. It proved to be a success, despite hearing a buzz in prior weeks over a scheduled rap concert, increased noise levels, and rowdy crowds in a residential area.    
Sometime between the August 9th Modest Mouse & Brand New concert and the Drake and Lil’ Wayne concert, a vague email from a small local group addressed from “concerned citizens” was circulated to some stadium neighbors in a vicinity that includes the Forest Hills Gardens and 69th Avenue.

An excerpt read: After the last two concerts, we heard complaints about the noise levels inside peoples’ homes. One person on 69th Ave. told us she was forced to leave her house on the night of the last concert because it was so loud. Others have described their homes shaking from the bass levels. We have conveyed these concerns directly to the promoters, our elected officials, and the city’s Department of Environmental Protection, which is responsible for enforcing the city’s noise code.”

The letter then read: “After the last concert (Modest Mouse), we also received complaints about the sound check that went on from 6 PM to 8:30 PM the day before the performance. We spoke to the promoters about that issue during a meeting this past week. They told us that for Drake and Lil’ Wayne, they will test the p.a. system on Monday, but promised us that it will not be an extended rehearsal like last time.”

In an interview with concert promoters Jon McMillan and Mike Luba, they issued a joint statement after the concert: “Drake and Lil' Wayne are world-class performers at the top of their respective games, and they put on an unforgettable performance. The atmosphere in the stadium was electric. We continue to work closely with city agencies, local officials, community groups, and individual neighbors to improve the overall concert experience for our patrons and residents in the areas surrounding the Stadium. We're looking forward to hosting the legendary Replacements on September 19, and Phil Lesh and Friends on September 21.”

Local residents inclusive of concertgoers also praised the concert experience. “The 10 PM concert curfew is more than reasonable, and we're talking only about six shows a year spread out of over the summer months,” said Pat Lannan. “I walked around our neighborhood not long before the Drake vs. Lil’ Wayne concert, and the restaurants and pubs were packed. Our police department has done a wonderful job to make sure these concerts are orderly, so by allowing them to happen, we’re showing support for our businesses and the neighborhood.”

BarbaraAnn Balzaretti Flannery agreed. “There are no safety issues, and the concertgoers and the cops have been great. The concerts not only bring revenue to the neighborhood, but inspire budding young artists to follow their dream.” She added, “Music is food for the soul, so let’s embrace it!”

“I’m sorry that some people are complaining about noise, but the concert ended at 10 PM sharp,” said Matthew Mandell, who has attended the Zac Brown Band and Drake vs. Lil’ Wayne concerts with his family. He explained, “The concert had a young and high energy crowd. The stadium has a historic feel, it's a good size, and it’s awesome to be able to walk to concerts in our neighborhood. There's nothing like an outdoor concert in the summer, and I am looking forward to next year.”

On the contrary to the predictions by a small group of locals, the performers applied their creative vision to an organized and interactive concert experience. On August 9, Drake’s Twitter feed read, “Everybody coming to the show, download the Drake vs. Lil’ Wayne app free and put the power in your own hands! You decide who STARTS the show, who WINS the show, and of course what side you are on! Just choose your city, and from there it’s on YOU.”

Opening the concert in unison, Drake and Lil’ Wayne were ready to energize their fans. “Blunt Blowin” was first performed by Lil’ Wayne, and then a comeback was delivered by Drake with “We Made It” and “Draft Day.” Independent numbers followed, along with a face to face rap battle. A climactic moment was witnessing Drake being hoisted 20 feet above Forest Hills. According to the app, the fans pronounced Drake as the winner, but then the artists proved that the fans made a mid-summer’s night in Forest Hills one to remember.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Zac Brown Band Opens Summer 2014 at Forest Hills Stadium

by Michael Perlman, Perlman PR

Forest Hills knew how to celebrate the first day of summer. On June 21st, the three-time Grammy winner, two-time CMT winner, and Multi-Platinum Zac Brown Band took the Forest Hills Stadium stage, and launched the summer 2014 concert series. The southern country-rock band, known for their albums “Uncaged,” “You Get What You Give,” and “The Foundation,” has sold an excess of six million copies. It was a sunny and mild summer night, and at 5 PM, crowds began filling the venue which accommodates an estimated 16,000 concertgoers.        

America’s first concrete tennis stadium, dating to 1923, has undergone additional restoration work and upgrades which include numbered metal benches on the upper levels, seats with backings on the lower level, improved ADA accommodations, widened aisles, handrails, and easier access to food and beverages. A new stage was transported from a Toronto tennis center, and erected in Forest Hills Stadium in May. To address last summer’s public safety concerns, where concertgoers speculated that the stadium was overbooked, a reserved seating system was implemented and fewer tickets were sold.
In August 2013, the stadium reopened with Mumford & Sons, which became the first major musical act at the stadium since the 1980s. It struck a chord for patrons who recalled the annual Forest Hills Music Festivals of the 1960s through the early 1980s. Memorable summers featured music greats including Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Peter, Paul, & Mary, Donna Summer, Bob Dylan, Barbra Streisand, and the Rolling Stones.

Zac Brown Band specials were offered by local restaurants, and some erected concession stands near the stadium. Among the restaurants which experienced an increase in patronage were Banter, Bareburger, Forest Hills Station House, and Austin Public. Earlier this month, some local organizations played a role in concert promotions, such as the 112th Precinct which raffled front row tickets to their Twitter followers.

Air personality Jesse Addy of Nash FM 94.7 opened the concert and asked, “Has anyone come for a tennis match? Who is here to see the Zac Brown Band?” With much enthusiasm, that was followed by “Country is back in New York City!” A Zac Brown Band documentary was screened around 6:30 PM, and as it approached 7 PM, some patrons chanted “We want Zac!”

The band began performing at 7:30 PM, and then announced, “Everyone who bought a ticket made a donation to help kids with Autism and ADD.” Fans enjoyed a wide range of numbers for two and a half hours. That included “Jump Right In,” “Chicken Fried,” and “As She’s Walking Away.” In between songs, “USA” chants were heard. As the sun set over Forest Hills Stadium on the longest day of the year, fans continued dancing, while laser beams contributed to a dance club feel. The band highly interacted with fans by throwing tennis balls into the audience and stepping off the stage to shake hands.

Concertgoers, some of whom wore country western clothes, mostly commuted from the tri-state area. “I kept thinking, it's really incredible to know some of the big names that performed at the stadium, and how close you feel to the performers,” said Manny Morelli of Jersey City. “I've seen the band before, and they always look like they are having a blast, which the audience feeds off of.”

Amie Valois of Rockland County agreed, and referred to the band as energetic and interactive. She said, “In addition to their own songs, they covered an eclectic range of classics from Billy Joel to Metallica, which I loved. Also, the sound in the stadium was great, as well as the stadium’s history, charm, and size.”

However, she complained about the beer line setup. She said, “It may be the number of taps or the staff, but for $8 a beer, they should be able to offer more and better of both.” Referring to the porta potties, she said, “I am not sure why there are no restrooms.”

“My concert experience was excellent,” said Jeannine Barr of Center Moriches, NY. “Once our train arrived, I was quite taken by the charm of Forest Hills. I could appreciate that this was no modern structure, and I felt safe with the layout. The staff was excellent in showing us our way, and I felt good knowing where the exits were.”

Barr is a huge Zac Brown Band fan, and saw them perform at MetLife Stadium and Mohegan Sun. She explained, “The Forest Hills venue was much smaller and more intimate. One of the highlights was when they covered Billy Joel's “Piano Man” …some way to woo a Long Island crowd!”

Stay tuned for more summer 2014 concerts. Recently announced bookings are Modest Mouse and Brand New on August 9th, Drake vs. Lil Wayne on August 19th, and The Replacements on September 19th. Visit for more information. 

Friday, June 13, 2014

Frank Scafuri: Every Waiting Room Is A Stage

by Michael Perlman, Perlman PR

Frank Scafuri

Are you bored sitting in a doctor’s waiting room? You may no longer be, if you are fortunate enough to encounter Frank Scafuri. At 63, this voice and piano teacher from Rockville Centre defines uniqueness. Back in May, he stepped foot into the waiting room of Trylon Vet Care in Forest Hills, but not with pets awaiting treatment. Rather, he offered his singing, acting, and dancing skills, and transformed a visit into a production called “Frank’s Waiting! WFTD Radio.” When was the last time you spotted a 1920s crooner pitching his radio spot live in a Queens vet’s office? 

Frank Scafuri Who's Got Rhythm
Scafuri is perhaps the sole musical comedy producer of doctor’s office videos. “I want to bring some joy and music into the lives of people today,” he said. This summer, he will become a member of IMDb, which is credited as the world’s most popular and authoritative source for movie, TV, and celebrity content. 

His typical medical visit plays out with “laughter as life’s best medicine.” Upon entering, hunched over a walker and wearing a tux and a bowtie, he takes his time sitting. Then he strikes up a conversation with a patient. He explained, “I would ask, ‘How are you doing?’ A woman replied, ‘I am feeling okay. How are you?’ I replied, ‘Not so good, since I found another gray hair this morning.’” After commenting that he looked great, he would respond, “I get through my day. Do you know how?” He then jumps out of his seat, throws off his overcoat, places his walker aside, and bursts into a song such as “I Got Rhythm.”

Thirty years ago, he began to limp and doctors were clueless. That all changed in August 2013, after being referred to a neurologist and experiencing an epiphany in the waiting area. He referred to his motivation as “the patients awaiting an MRI, who were either in total silence or looking at their phones.” It wasn’t long until he began formulating video production proposals to practices for non-serious illnesses.

Scafuri cherishes his musical origins, which he attributes to being raised in a typical Italian household in Lynbrook. He explained, “On Sundays, we would go to church. Then my parents would spin records of Italian and popular singers such as Al Jolson, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, and Jimmy Roselli, and at 3 PM, we would have our meatball and sausage feast.” Jerry Lewis’ telethons were another inspiration. “I would think, someday I want to be a background singer on one of these TV shows. Then I thought, ‘Why don’t I become the singer?’”

During his high school years, he met his first vocal teacher, Jane Robbin Longo and also drew inspiration from his chorus music director, George Breakwell. He pumped gas until passing the audition for Juilliard at age 17, where he pursued a voice major and a piano minor and graduated in 1973. Scafuri said, “NYC was my campus. I got my first job as a tenor soloist in a Presbyterian church near Hotel Ansonia. I would earn $20 and was proud.” At St Helen’s Roman Catholic Church in Howard Beach, he worked as a music director, organist, and choir director, and then landed positions in Lynbrook and Glen Cove churches.

A pivotal moment transpired in 1980. Scafuri sang at a country club and was discovered by pianist Gary Lawrence, who praised his voice for its ideal qualities of a 1930s crooner. Lawrence developed a new style of Big Band and applied a twist on modern favorites such as “Stayin’ Alive” and “Feelings” to resemble the 1930s. “I was proud to become the singer and co-leader of the band, Gary Lawrence and the Sizzling Syncopators. We performed at Manhattan’s Red Blazer Too,” said Scafuri. Their album was produced by Columbia Masterworks Records.

Scafuri reflected upon his career and family life and attributed much gratitude to his supportive wife Mary Ann, his son Billy, and daughter Kristin, who join him in looking into the future.  

“I am extending an open invitation to doctors who wish to contact me, so I can produce a 3 minute video in a light patient waiting room,” said Scafuri. “It is entertainment to patients and won’t disturb the mannerisms of the office. In exchange, doctors will receive free advertising.” His first ten online videos are slated for completion in September, which he will call his first season. “Like” Frank Scafuri’s Facebook page,  and discover him on YouTube.