Fitzgerald would have felt right at home. The Dreamland Orchestra put on a jazz lawn party this weekend at Governors Island and the fans of the roaring twenties came in their finest. It was a riot of costumes and characters, and the sunshine in this most beautiful location gave shine to the sequins and celebration.
Access to the island is via ferry just south of the Fulton Street landing – or from Brooklyn on the other side. It only takes a few minutes to cross, but this time was well allocated by passengers getting in character for the party, some donning wigs, sewing the band on an outrageous hat or simply starting to swing. I felt a little underdressed, but there were some cyclists caught completely unawares, thinking they were just off for a ride, and suddenly realising a fedora was the order of the day.
The party itself is in it’s eighth year, but maybe the latest Gatsby film inspired an extra indulgence of attire this year. There were zoot suits and flapper dresses, feathers and wingtips. There were boaters and beads, and even a few maids and military men. These people were out to party and the Dreamland Orchestra set the pace. The music was fantastic. The bandleader, Michael Arenella reminded everyone at the outset that jazz in the twenties was the music of youth. It was rebellious and outrageous, and would perhaps inspire you to act in ways you might regret. This was all the encouragement the dancers needed, as the Charleston and the Hop went into full swing. There was a series of performances between the dance brackets where a top-hatted crooner shmoozed with an armful of follies, and a Billie Holiday lookalike sang the blues. Everywhere you looked there was a photo, or a photographer, with the iconic Bill Cunningham ducking and diving for the best.
Governors Island is open during the summer months and is undergoing a huge restoration program, so watch out for exhibitions, concerts, and the lawn party next year. The island will put you at the closest point to the Statue of Liberty without being on a boat, and the Dreamland Orchestra will put you as close to the twenties as you dare to be…