10 Highlights From Williamsburg: Brooklyn Comes Alive 2017 – Recap & Photos
Words by: Dianna Hank
Images by: Scott Harris
Brooklyn Comes Alive :: 9.23-24.17 :: Brooklyn, NY
This past weekend, Live for Live Music put on their third annual Brooklyn Comes Alive music festival in New York City. With over 100 different artists performing more than 35 sets over the course of two days at three separate venues, this year’s event proved to be a musical marathon of epic proportions.
The three venues to host the event were past BCA hosts Brooklyn Bowl and The Music Hall of Williamsburg, as well as the relatively newly-opened Williamsburg nightclub Schimanski. All three venues are within a five minute walk from one another, making movement between the spots incredibly convenient and painless.
While previous years of this festival have only been one day, this was the first year L4LM spread the event over the course of two days, selling both two-day passes and single day tickets. As a result, crowds at all three venues were much more tolerable than in previous years and attendees were treated to intimate shows with sufficient room to boogie.
Both days had jam-packed lineups, with sets starting as early as 12 p.m. and going straight through into the early hours of the morning. While I would have liked to have been able to catch a little bit of everything, that just wasn’t humanly possible. I did end up checking out nine different sets on Saturday followed by an additional nine on Sunday for a total of 18 different sets of music throughout the weekend.
Here are some of my highlights, listed chronologically:
Midnight North Performs The Music of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young At Schimanski
Performing in the second slot of the day on Saturday, the quintet made up of guitarist Grahame Lesh, multi-instrumentalists Elliott Peck and Alex Jordan , drummer Nathan Graham and bassist Connor O’Sullivan delivered a solid 90 minutes of folksy goodness filled with incredible vocal harmonies and an impressive level of musicianship. Their set was comprised of a number of CSNY fan favorites such as “Wooden Ships,” “Teach Your Children,” “Long Time Gone” and “Woodstock” as well as rarer tunes like “Almost Cut My Hair” and even a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Free Man in Paris.”
The highlight of their set that really stood out to me was “Carry On,” which the band extended into a long, psychedelic jam. They also gave some extra love to “Ohio” and “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” remaining true to form but adding their own flavors to the classics.
Future Folklore At Brooklyn Bowl
While my attendance at Roosevelt Collier’s Second Annual Brooklyn Get Down kept me from catching this whole set, I was lucky enough to be able to enjoy the last half hour of “Future Folklore” at Brooklyn Bowl. Though a Google search of this group’s name will yield no results, I can tell you that this incredibly spirited group brought the West African vibes all the way to Brooklyn and had the crowd moving and grooving along with them.
Comprised of many members including Luke Quaranta of Toubab Krewe and Weedie Braimah on djembe, former Prince collaborator Dywane Thomas Jr., (also known as MonoNeon) on bass, Nate Werth of Snarky Puppy on percussion, Raja Kassis on guitar, Yacouba Sissoko on kora, as well as many, many more, this group definitely threw down the most interesting and lively set of the weekend.
Matador! Soul Sounds At Brooklyn Bowl
The two hour slot between 7:30 – 9:30 p.m. on Saturday night was an embarrassment of riches. The choice was between James Casey & Friends at MHOW, Rooster Conspiracy featuring Eric Krasno, Reed Mathis, Todd Stoops and Jay Lane at Schmanski and a new group Matador! Soul Sounds at Brooklyn Bowl was a tough one. In the end, my love of California funk band Orgone led me to follow their lead singer Adryon de León to the Bowl, and I’m so glad I did.
This new supergroup made up of de León, Eddie Roberts (The New Mastersounds), Alan Evans (Soulive), Kimberly Dawson (Pimps of Joytime), Chris Spies (Honey Island Swamp Band) and Kevin Scott (King Baby) was performing together for only their second time, after their debut opening set at Ardmore Music Hall the night before. However, based on the tightness and precision of their playing, you’d never know the band hadn’t been around for ages.
The amount of sheer funk from Roberts, Evans, Spies and Scott combined with the undeniable soul from frontwomen de León and Dawson was a winning combination that had me grooving and smiling from the get-go. The band was also having a great time and was super appreciative to everyone who came out and got down. They were selling $5 signed 7-inch records of their first two singles and promised an album by early next year. I cannot wait to check these folks out again!
Brandon “Taz” Niederauer Shredding “Whipping Post” At The Road Goes On Forever: Celebrating The Music Of The Allman Brothers Band”
This supergroup tribute was arguably one of Saturday’s most anticipated sets, headlining the festivities with Bernard Purdie, Al Schnier and Vinnie Amico (moe.), Scott Sharrard and Brett Bass (Gregg Allman Band) and Joey Porter (The Motet) with special guests Eric Krasno (Soulive), Rob Compa (Dopapod), Roosevelt Collier, Dave Harrington and Brandon “Taz” Niederauer playing songs of The Allman Brothers Band at Brooklyn Bowl. With the amount of incredible musicians onstage it’s hard to pick a highlight of this set, however young Brandon “Taz” Niederauer’s fiery solos and absolute shredding during “Whipping Post” were particularly memorable.
Skerik, Reed Mathis, Alan Evans, Wil Blades, Will Bernard At Schimanski
Kicking things off at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, this supergroup transported me from Williamsburg right back to Blue Nile or d.b.a. in New Orleans. I’m not sure any group had more fun playing together than these five guys did. The smiles on their faces as they traded solos and looks of approval with one another were contagious. Perhaps the highlight of this set aside from the fun-loving nature of it all was Skerik absolutely crushing it on sax, interspersing his solos with moments of demonic garbling, in a way that only he can.
Natalie Cressman Covering Britney Spears’ “Toxic”
Toward the end of this set at Brooklyn Bowl, members of the Disco Biscuits, Umphrey’s McGee, Lotus, The Motet and Trey Anastasio Band began a slow funky groove that was incredibly familiar yet at the same time, still a little foreign. I started singing the words but still couldn’t place the tune. I think it wasn’t until the first chorus before I was able to recognize that the song Natalie “Chainsaw” Cressman was wooing the crowd with was none other than Britney Spears’ 2003 hit, “Toxic.”
While at first it seemed like a joke, I quickly realized that Chainsaw was not messing around and was going to perform this song with all her heart and soul. Watching her knock this throwback pop song out of the park with fellow TAB bandmate Jennifer Hartswick standing next to her, smiling and laughing while slaying on trumpet was easily worth the price of admission.
After this sultry serenade, Hartswick took the mic to introduce the next song, explaining that every time she hears or performs this song, she can’t help but think of the late, great Miss Sharon Jones. She then continued to explain that when she thinks of Jones, she can’t help but think of the Screaming Eagle Of Soul himself, Mr. Charles Bradley, and dedicated the following rendition of “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)” to the two of them.
George Porter Jr., Henry Butler & Johnny Vidacovich At Schimanski
One of the funkiest, most soulful sets of this weekend came from the trio of living legends, George Porter Jr., Henry Butler and Johnny Vidacovich, at Schimanski. This group had me feeling like I was at The Maple Leaf at 11 p.m. for a Jazz Fest late night show. These seasoned veterans of the jazz scene played with such ease and comfort with one another, you could hardly believe how something that sounded so fantastic could look so effortless. Trading solos and showing off their chops, everyone in attendance was aware of the greatness they were witnessing. This was one of the sets I was most looking forward to all weekend and it definitely delivered.
moe.queous At Brooklyn Bowl
The blessing and the curse of Brooklyn Comes Alive is that, while you tell yourself you’ll just check out half of a group’s set and then head to another venue to catch the tail end of another, oftentimes the music is so good that you can’t tear yourself away from it. This is what happened with the Porter, Butler and Vidacovich set, causing me to miss the beginning of the moe.queous performance which opened with a mashup of both bands’ tunes, “Head” > “Origami” > “Head.”
I did, however, get to rock out to the rest of their set which included both moe. and Aqueous songs, alike. They even threw a Grateful Dead cover in for good measure.
Before “Plane Crash,” Al Schnier dedicated the tune to his fellow bandmate Rob Derhak who is currently undergoing treatment following his cancer diagnosis this year. The band then played Aqueous’ “Don’t Do It” followed by a killer version of moe.’s “32 Things” with the Dead’s “Bertha” sandwiched in between. Having covered a lot of moe. in the past, the guys from Aqueous were more than prepared to deliver a rocking set of moe.queous tunes to a packed and happy Brooklyn Bowl crowd.
A Tribute To Jamiroquai’s “Canned Heat” Set Closer At Music Hall Of Williamsburg
While the moe.queous set kept me from catching most of the Tribute to Jamiroquai, I was able to make it over to MHOW and get down to the last few tunes, including one that became one of my favorite standalone moments of the weekend.
The supergroup of Joey Porter, Dave Watts, Garrett Sayers, Ryan Jalbert and Lyle Divinsky of The Motet, Todd Stoops of Electric Beethoven and TAB’s Cressman and Hartswick was throwing down some seriously danceable funk, keeping the energy up, and making sure everyone was still having a good time as we neared the end of this incredible two days of music.
Before they began their last song, lead singer Lyle Divinsky asked everybody to put their fists in the air and take a moment to remember the legendary Charles Bradley. He remarked on what a massive loss this was and suggested that Charles would’ve wanted everyone to keep dancing and keeping the spirit of the music alive.
He asked us if we could do that, and with that dedication, the band burst into Jamiroquai’s 1997 smash hit, “Canned Heat.” The entire place went crazy, breaking out their best Napoleon Dynamite impressions and usually-reserved-for-living-room-dance-party moves in order to properly thrown down for The Screaming Eagle Of Soul.
Dookie: Kris Myers, Ryan Stasik & Mike Gantzer Perform “Dookie” & More
Closing out the unbelievably awesome weekend of music, Kris Myers and Ryan Stasik of Umphrey’s McGee’s along with Aqueous’ Mike Gantzer took all in attendance back to 1994 and celebrated what is undoubtedly one of the most seminal albums of the era, Green Day’s Dookie. After playing the album start to finish (including a rousing rendition of the Dookie hidden track “All By Myself,” sung by Stasik), the band filled the rest of their set with other ‘90s punk rock classics such as Ween’s “It’s Gonna Be a Long Night,” Weezer’s “Sweater Song” and “Say It Ain’t So,” Nirvana’s “Breed” and Green Day’s “Geek Stink Breath” and “Brain Stew.” I actually witnessed a small but spirited hippie mosh pit break out. (It didn’t last for long but everyone involved looked like they were having a good time.) After one of the hard, fast rockers, Stasik joked, “Man, does it feel nice to play two-minute long songs!” Band and crowd alike had a great time belting out the nostalgic tunes and everyone left with a smile on their face.
All in all, I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend of music. Throughout each day’s 12-straight hours of music, both local and visiting musicians were given a platform to perform sets spanning multiple different genres of music with both their friends and musicians they admire. And I was able to listen and dance along to all of it. And it was awesome.