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Gypsies about Their Summer at Onderdonk House

 

 

 

The Brooklyn Music Society’s Bohemian Festival opens its third day of music to a crowd that basks appreciatively in this suburbia-esque setting, in these last days of summer. The Historic Onderdonk House sets a tone of green, cropped grasses, white picket fences, and drooping hydrangeas, specimens that could have recently enjoyed a grooming by one of the neighborhood soccer moms. We can end our comparison to the American ‘burb here, however, as artsy hippies, bedecked in fairy wings and draped silks swoop and pose around the hydrangeas. A belly dancer, whose attire chimes with every nubile step, entertains the locals in their lawn chairs, while stage hands scuttle over the main stage in preparation for Los Mas Valientes.

There are burgers and beer, blow-up kiddie pools and face-painted children, but Fall is in the air. The sun is decidedly gone by half-past seven and I’m finally not sweating my tits off in a summer swelter. As Brooklyn-native lead singer Jessica Valiente mounts the stage, I sway to her Latin gypsy flavor and reminisce. What were the highlights of my summer?

Niko and Olivia, true American gypsies, man the only vendor’s table at the fest. They have spent the summer in and around Brooklyn, selling their wares (osseous hand-made jewelry and chai lattes) at events around the neighborhood. I ask them what their favorite shows of the summer were.

“Oh, the Gowanus Ballroom.”  Olivia names her favorite music venue of the summer. She also mentions the Acheron on Waterbury Street.

Niko speaks up from under her black blanket (also a harbinger of Autumn), mentioning that she liked a show at the Vice Gallery in Williamsburg. But her highlight of the summer was the Bushwick Block party.

Los Mas Valientes have switched out to welcome The Grand Masters of Gypsy, house band of the cosponsor of the event, the Mehanata, a nearby Bulgarian Bar. I’m captivated by Yuri Yunakov on the Alto Saxophone, my own weapon of choice when the mood strikes.

Raffael, a DJ at the Mehanata, smiles knowingly at my expression, “Yuri is a living legend in his own country.” He scrawls in my notebook. Raffael’s friend Lucho agrees. Lucho says his favorite show of the summer was the Gypsy Tabor Fest at the Mehanata. The two gypsies point me in the direction of their manager, who says fairly, “I’m drinking,” when I inquire about asking the living legend a few questions.

Instead, I’m happy to run into the beautiful, the exotic, Gamze Ordulu, lead singer of The Grand Masters of Gypsy. The student laughs when I tell her I didn’t understand anything she said on stage, but understood completely. Her first name means “dimple,” and I’m intrigued by her taste in music. Gamze’s favorite show of the summer was at the Millenium Theatre in May (Okay, so technically it’s not summer, but I was definitely sweating in May), where she saw Israeli vocalist Sarit Hadad.

The crowd is warm and smiling after the Grand Masters of Gypsy leave the stage, and the gypsies of the Mehanata have by now convinced me to take another shot of tequila. The women are dancing and the men are smiling, and I must jig in the grass before this Labor Day weekend is over.

 

 

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