At opening night of Celebrate Brooklyn! in Prospect Park this past Wednesday night, event organizer BRIC, the leading presenter of free cultural programming in Brooklyn, honored independent club owner, concert promoter, publisher, and overall good guy Peter Shapiro. The man behind Brooklyn Bowl, The Capitol Theatre, Relix, Lockn’ Festival, Jazz & Colors, the Grateful Dead’s 50th Anniversary Fare Thee Well performances, and a myriad of other ventures was being celebrated for all of these accomplishments, but more importantly for his commitment to the arts, culture, and community in continuously working to make such events, initiatives and programs accessible to everyone.
Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings had the honors of headlining the first concert at the Bandshell this summer. It was the groups first time back at the park since 2010, and they did not disappoint. Even at 60 years old and two bouts with cancer under her belt, Jones has more energy than most people in their twenties. Watching her dance around the stage and take command of the entire ensemble, she is like the female version of James Brown, as that uptempo soul-funk just begs for you to get up and dance. After the main stage performance in the Gala Tent, the festivities continued with a special disco-funk dj set from WFUV‘s Rita Houston that kept the evening rolling along in fine fashion.
Prior to the performances, the Opening Night Gala to kick off the 38th season of the BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Performing Arts Festival saw presenters Leslie G. Schultz and Jack Walsh (President and Vice President of BRIC, respectively) along with artists and long-time friends such as Soulive/Lettuce guitarist Eric Krasno and Joe Russo’s Almost Dead/Benevento-Russo Duo drummer and namesake Joe Russo deliver a few words about “Shappy” (as his friends call him), to an audience consisting of musicians Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner of The Disco Biscuits, Almost Dead/American Babies Tom Hamilton, Scott Metzger, moe.’s Al Schnier, Mississippi Allstars’ Luther Dickinson, Jackie Greene, Michael Franti, Lettuce/Soulive’s Neal Evans, Blues Travelers John Popper, DJ Logic, HeadCount executive director Andy Bernstein (Shapiro is a founding board member), along with collaborators from Madison House, Shore Fire Media, and more. Krasno discussed Shapiro’s uncanny ability to make things happen, “Peter is never afraid to take a chance. He is a master connector, and always puts the best people together to make the best events”.
As Shapiro spoke, you couldn’t help but notice the humble spirit and obvious super fan come out in the way he talks about music and these epic events that he has spearheaded over the years. After thanking his wife, Shore Fire Media Vice President Rebecca Shapiro, his two children Roxy and Simon, his supportive mother and two brothers, as well as his entire team at Dayglo Ventures he took time to recognize two people in his life that were responsible for all of this: his father and lawyer David Shapiro and Wetlands Preserve founder Larry Bloch, both of whom have since passed. Without Bloch’s willingness to hand over the club to a gung-ho 23-year old in 1996, along with his belief in Shapiro’s vision, as well as the support and both life and legal advice from his father, we may have not had those last five years (from 1996-2001) of one of the best clubs New York City has ever seen, and who knows if Brooklyn Bowl ever comes into fruition. He did sneak in a third person very important figure, just for the record. You guessed it….Jerry Garcia.
Shapiro went on to discuss the importance of having spaces and events in which people can create, celebrate, and mourn. There are three staples that need to happen for this type of intrinsic success:
1. Good weather
2. Focusing on net worth doesn’t create a good vibe. Make people happy first and foremost, then worry about making a few dollars for yourself.
3. Create magic and memories
People’s memories of you last forever, and going that extra step to achieve the best possible vibe is the “X” factor that Peter Shapiro has accounted for in all of his ventures, and the reason why he is such a successful businessman, organizer, and community leader. Having served on the Board of Directors of the City Parks Foundation Arts Committee for several years, being a founding board member of HeadCount, and his involvement in other non-profit organizations, Shapiro is an example of how you can be a success in business while still doing incredible philanthropic deeds and leaving a positive impact on the community. He left us with a quote that he and his daughter came up with, “The only way to achieve the impossible is to believe the possible, and to do it with others”. Keep on believing, Peter, because we most certainly believe in you.
[all photos courtesy Marc Millman Photography]