Sunday’s extravagant seven-hour presentation on the steps of the Public Theatre, sponsored by NY PopsUp, wasn’t supposed to be quite so momentous.
“Originally,” Justin Vivian Bond tells us, “It was only supposed to be me and the band on the roof of the Parkside Lounge, but that didn’t work out.” Bond approached the Public, where she frequently performs at Joe’s Pub and they agreed to turn the front steps into a stage.
Bond then turned into a curator, a role she has inhabited before – notably for the Spiegel Tent at Bard – as NY PopsUp decided to make a day of it, giving Bond free reign to choose the performers.
“I was thrilled that they let me do a whole afternoon, ” Bond relates. “I wanted to get people I knew and loved and give them the opportunity to perform there.”
“I never thought I’d perform at the Public,” admits Celeste. “I am so grateful to Viv for asking me. It was a one-of-a-kind experience.” For the multi-talented Heather Litteer, who performed her spoken-word piece ‘Manhattan’ with keyboard accompaniment by Paul Wallfisch,
“It was like a magical family picnic. Everything aligned for the first time in a long time,” she continued. “Performing on the steps of the Public, I felt that there were ghosts and angels surrounding us. Viv did such a wonderful job putting everyone together. It was electrifying.”
The performers covered a lot of territory, from drag to comedy to opera to poetry to Christeene who is, well, Christeene.
“Christeene is my new favorite rock star: feral, ferocious and sublime!” exclaims author Julie Turley, echoing the opinions of many others, including her 19-year-old daughter Stella. “Christeene and Justin Vivian Bond were my favorites because they both had great presence and important things to say, which was to connect with each other, get off our phones, and treat each other better. And to love ourselves,” said Stella.
Bond, who handled the MC duties as well, couldn’t have been happier with how it all worked out. “It was mind-blowing!” she says. “Everyone brought their ‘A’ game, every performance was fully realized. It made me appreciate how brilliant everyone was. ” Continuing, she notes that the whole day was “stress-free and fun”, giving credit to the NY PopsUp staff for being, simply, “the best.”
Bond certainly brought her ‘A’ game, but then, she always does. Closing out the day with her regular musicians – Matt Ray, Nath Ann Carrera and Claudia Chopek – her mix of covers and originals culminated in a moment of transcendence during Bowie’s ‘Rock and Roll Suicide’. Not the tune that you might expect to uplift, but hearing Vivian proclaim, “No love, you’re not alone” over and over felt like a group hug.
Julie Turley, who was there for the entire day, summed it up like this: “I’ve been buying tickets at Joe’s Pub for years to see Justin Vivian Bond perform shows that embrace history and community with incredible style, so I knew that an outdoor, all-day event curated by Viv would be spectacular. And it was.”
Most of what you need to know about Justin Vivian Bond can be found at www.justinvivianbond.com/ She can be followed on Instagram at @mxviv
NY PopsUp is at www.nypopsup.com/ and on Instagram at @nypopsup
Ex-Brit turned Manhattan resident since 2008.