Brooklyn Comes Alive Does It Again In 2018: Review, Photos & Videos
Words by: Dianna Hank
Brooklyn Comes Alive :: 9.29.18 :: Brooklyn, NY
This past Saturday in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, the fourth annual Brooklyn Comes Alive music festival took place. Hosted by Live For Live Music, Brooklyn Comes Alive is a single-day festival that brings together some of the most talented musicians in the scene to form one-off supergroups, perform tribute sets and features some debut band performances as well. Hosted at three different venues — Brooklyn Bowl, Rough Trade and Music Hall Of Williamsburg — all within a five-minute walk from one another, this exceptional day of music in the city creates a festival-like vibe without the worry of bad weather. This year, over 50 musicians came together to perform over 15 different sets of music throughout the course of a 12-hour period. With this embarrassment of riches, it’s easy to see a plethora of incredible performances during the day but unfortunately, impossible to catch every set.
This year’s festival kicked off at Rough Trade with BCA’s first-ever comedy set by a group calling themselves Wokes With Jokes.This troupe, whose material is mostly related to the jam scene, materialized during Phish’s 2017 New Year’s Run at Madison Square Garden. Comprised of comedians Brett Siddell, Walker Berry, Ariella Wallen, Pamela Mahler and MC Richie Alfson, Wokes With Jokes broke the ice by poking fun at all those quirky, little idiosyncrasies about this scene that we love so much.
Katharsis, a psychedelic funk band out of Denver, Colorado featuring drummer Dave Watts of The Motet, bassist Chuck Jones of Dopapod, keyboardist Todd Stoops of RAQ and guitarist Marcus Rezak made their NYC debut and got things going at Music Hall Of Williamsburg. Playing mostly originals but also covering Led Zeppelin’s “No Quarter,” these guys set the stage for many more funk-rooted, psychedelic jams to come throughout the day. Continuing in the psych-rock vein, The Karina Rykman Experiment (featuring Karina Rykman on bass, Adam November on guitar and Chris Corsico on drums) was joined by special guests Robert Walter on keyboards and Dave Harrington on guitar for Rough Trade’s first musical set of the day. This hour-long improvisation centered around spacey, thematic grooves, as the musicians took turns leading jams and riffing off one another.
Switching gears entirely, Shira Elias’ Soul Tracks at Brooklyn Bowl was a sultry waltz down memory lane for fans of soul and R&B. With the killer combination of Shira Elias of Turkuaz, Lyle Divinsky of The Motet and Nick Cassarino of The Nth Power nailing the vocals on covers of everything from Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye and The Isley Brothers to Michael Jackson, Luther Vandross and D’Angelo, this supergroup brought the heat from start to finish. Joined by fellow The Nth Power band mates, drummer Nikki Glaspie and bassist Nate Edgar, as well as Trey Anastasio Band saxophonist James Casey, Allen Stone keyboardist Steve Swatkins and trumpet player Joe Gonzaléz, this soulful supergroup blew folks away with their rousing renditions of fan favorites.
Back over at Music Hall Of Williamsburg, the Adam Deitch Quartet introduced some jazz funk into the mix. The trio of Lettuce bandmates (Adam Deitch on drums, Eric “Benny” Bloom on trumpet and Ryan Zoidis on saxophone) with Bay Area organist Wil Blades released their first album, Egyptian Secrets, in early-2017 and have only performed together a few times since. Despite their limited touring, the chemistry between these musicians was palpable as they seemed to be having as much fun on stage as the folks in the audience. Deitch introduced one tune, “Fear The Blades,” and explained that the crowd would understand the name shortly, as the genial, modest Blades laughed off his friend’s flattery. An instrumental cover of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel” had everyone singing along and perfectly encapsulated the joyful mood of the set.
Following this quartet, the original Dopapod trio of Berklee College Of Music classmates Michelangelo Carubba, Rob Compa and Eli Winderman reunited at Rough Trade to deliver some high-energy jams to fans. Carubba, the drummer of Turkuaz, had gotten back together with his former Dopapod bandmates, guitarist Compa and keyboardist Winderman, earlier this year for a set at The Ardmore Music Hall. While Dopapod is currently on a hiatus allowing its members to explore other opportunities, the original lineup’s reunion was a cheerful occasion that brought about some serious exploratory improvisation.
Carubba, Compa & Winderman – Freight Train Captured by Zak Radick
Another tribute set billed as, “In Honor Of Col. Bruce Hampton, Butch Trucks, Gregg Allman, & Those We’ve Lost,” was next up at Brooklyn Bowl. Led by 15-year-old guitar prodigy Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, this supergroup covered classics from late, great legends including Allen Toussaint’s “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley” and Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire” before the double-header of The Allman Brothers Band’s “Don’t Keep Me Wonderin’” and “Dreams” in addition to Aretha Franklin’s “Rock Steady” and “Think.” The band rounded out by legendary The Meters’ bassist George Porter Jr., Lettuce guitarist Adam “Shmeeans” Smirnoff, founding drummer of Aquarium Rescue Unit Jeff Sipe, Gregg Allman Band organist Peter Levin and vocalist Elise Testone did justice to each and every tune they selected, including a chillingly beautiful rendition of Cream’s “I’m So Glad.”
The spirit of New Orleans was alive and well over at Rough Trade, as the one-of-a-kind Johnny Vidacovich took to the drum set, accompanied by keyboardist Robert Walter and Eric “Benny” Bloom on trumpet. The trio completely transported attendees to The Maple Leaf Bar with the familiar NOLA late night set vibes and jazzy grooves. Vidacovich addressed the crowd in his usual jovial manner proclaiming, “Thanks for coming and being part of the music! Without you, it’s totally impossible.” Grammy Award-winning trumpet player Maurice “Mobetta” Brown joined the trio for a few tunes before the group closed out the set to rousing applause from the appreciative audience.
One of the most highly anticipated supergroups of the evening took the stage next at Brooklyn Bowl. Funk Apostles’ organist and general enthusiasm-bringer Cory Henry made his Brooklyn Comes Alive debut alongside BCA veterans drummer Nikki Glaspie, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead guitarist Scott Metzger, Prince bassist MonoNeon and “The Dark Lord of the Saxophone,” Skerik. Led by Henry, these heavy hitters took turns sharing the spotlight, showcasing the sheer magnitude of talent and diverse musical backgrounds present on the same stage. A slowed-down, extended cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Living For The City” had folks grooving before Maurice Brown took the stage, once again stunning the audience with his solo skills. Henry declared that it was “time to pay tribute to The Queen Of Soul” before breaking into Aretha Franklin’s “Think” (the second version to be played at the festival that day) which had a packed Brooklyn Bowl chanting “FREEDOM!” in unison. Ending the set with a powerfully poignant cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler),” this ensemble met and far surpassed any expectations fans may have had for this one-off occasion.
Closing out the night at Music Hall Of Williamsburg was the debut Jam Room sets presented by Jam Cruise. This fundamental feature of the festival-at-sea allows artists the ability to improvise together in a casual, laid-back setting while fans watch giddily with delight. The first of these two sets was introduced by Annabel Lukins, Jam Cruise’s MC and director of artist programming. Hosted by George Porter Jr., this hour-and-a-half-long jam session saw more and more musicians itching to be a part of the action and ultimately, joining the stage as the groove went on. Concluding with an extended “Fire On The Bayou” jam, GPJ unplugged and passed the torch to fellow bassist and subsequent Jam Room host, Karina Rykman who picked up right where he had left off. Along with co-host Craig Brodhead, Rykman welcomed myriad of guests, including bassist Divinity Roxx and saxophonist Kat Rodriguez, both known for touring with Beyoncé. Wrapping up the night in an aggressive fashion, the band threw down a compelling cover of Rage Against The Machine’s “Killing In The Name” that energized the crowd to a point of forgetting it was nearly 4 AM.
Over at Brooklyn Bowl, the final set of the night was the ultimate dance party, dubbed “Purple Party: A Tribute To Prince.” This all-star lineup including Prince’s own bassist, Mononeon, featured Snarky Puppy’s Robert “Sput” Searight, Nate Werth, Chris Bullock and Mike “Maz” Maher, Steve Swatkins, The Motet’s Ryan Jalbert and Lyle Divinsky, Turkuaz’s Shira Elias and Sammi Garett, Great American Taxi’s Will Trask, Mama Magnolia’s Megan Letts and Magic Beans’ Casey Russell. With Elias, Garett and Divinsky taking turns on vocals throughout the set, the group treated the crowd to an excellently jammed out “Controversy,” which let almost everyone on stage strut their stuff. Closing out the set with fan favorites “Head,” “Uptown,” “Kiss” and “1999” — it was a perfectly funky ending to an absolutely incredible day of tunes in Williamsburg.