Red Bull Music Festival Gets Its Wings

From androgynous art-pop to immersive soundscapes to documentary film, RBMA presents the cutting edge of culture throughout May.

Since its inception, the Red Bull Music Festival has worked with some of the city’s best curators, venues, and artists to book an interborough lineup of cognoscenti-pleasing events that toe the line between of-the-moment cool and timeless chic. This year’s genre-diverse bookings for the multiweek festival prove the Red Bull Music Academy hasn’t lost a step. What Should We Do?! music expert John Seroff picks his top five best of the festival’s shows.

Red Bull Music Festival

Harry Belafonte: In Conversation
Saturday, May 5

Still kicking in his 90s, the inimitable Belafonte is one of the most important artists and political activists of the 20th century. This rare and long-ranging one-on-one conversation will touch on his relationship with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his social justice work with his organization, SankofaCUNY’s Main Theater at Hostos Community College, 450 Grand Concourse, Bronx; $20

Tristan Perich: Drift Multiply
Wednesday, May 9

Contemporary classical composer Perich gives a whole new meaning to the concept of “musical minimalism” with his self-invented one-bit speakers, which present notes at their lowest possible fidelity. He’ll be taking advantage of the amazing acoustics of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine to present a piece written for 50 such speakers, supported by 50 violins. Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, 1047 Amsterdam Avenue (between West 110th and 113th Streets), Morningside Heights; $20

Fever Ray
Saturday, May 12 + Sunday, May 13 

Swedish art-pop virtuoso Karin Dreijer made a name for herself with her first band, The Knife. Her Fever Ray alter ego is a more gonzo, politically and culturally forward-thinking project that explores gender fluidity and some definitively kinky topics. Expect the unexpected and don’t wear anything you don’t want to get stained. Brooklyn Hangar, 2 52nd Street, Sunset Park; $35

Red Bull Music Festival

Oneohtrix Point Never: Myriad
Tuesday, May 22–Thursday, May 24

The last time I saw the electronic experimental producer Daniel Lopatin (aka Oneohtrix Point Never), he was playing beautifully ambient, slowly cresting songs in a cathedral. I can’t wait to see what he does with the even more gargantuan space of the Park Avenue Armory, where he’ll be joined by a full backing band and a ton of site-specific videos and lights. Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue (between East 66th and 67th Streets), Upper East Side; $40

Betty Davis: They Say I’m Different
Wednesday, May 23 

It says a lot about Betty Davis that the fact she was Miles Davis’s wife is far from the most interesting thing about her. She was a pioneering voice in Afrocentric funk and fashion throughout the 1970s who has mostly been ignored by present-day music critics and historians. Documentarian Phil Cox’s new film about Betty, They Say I’m Different, will look to settle the score when it premieres—appropriately—at the newly reopened Billie Holiday Theater. Billie Holiday Theater, 1368 Fulton Street, Crown Heights; $20

Have an Upper East Side day like no other when you see Myriad at the Park Avenue Armory.

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