Bryce and Aaron Dessner of The National brought their 3-day multi-genre music and film festival Crossing Brooklyn Ferry back to BAM last weekend, and it was one of the more pleasant festival experiences in recent memory.
While it was difficult to see all 30+ acts who performed on three stages over the three day period, there were definitely some aspects of the experience and performances that made a more lasting impression than others. Here are some of my personal highlights in no particular order:
Brooklyn Brewery’s Ghost Bottle tastings
– Each day from 6:30-7:30, Brooklyn Brewery offered tastings of their “rarest and most sought-after beers.” I LOVED the Winter Is Coming oatmeal stout and the other dark brew, Black Ops. The Companion was a delicious and flavorful wheat wine, and I didn’t try the IPA because I’m just not a fan of IPAs. Even in small doses, each flavor provided a sufficient buzz that lasted until the headliners took the stage each day. My inner nerd noted and loved that two of the Ghost Bottles referenced my two favorite sci-fi/fantasy shows, whether or not it was intentional.
Food at BAMcafé
The freshly made potato chips I ordered were maybe some of the best I’ve ever had. I can’t eat Kettle chips ever again. Thanks, BAMcafé chefs!
Porcelain Raft – Opera House on Thursday
Mauro Remiddi’s one-man band consisting of lots of synths and samplers, a few amps, and just one guitar crooned beautiful, ambient jams that echoed through the Howard Gilman Opera House. He was the first act to perform on the opera house and kicked off the festival with a mellow cool.
Clare and the Reasons – BAMcafé on Thursday
I had read a lot about Clare and the Reasons but had never seen them live, so I made a note to catch them. The band continued the relaxed evening vibes with their mellow indie rock and smooth, clean harmonies. Frontwoman Clare’s haunting siren-like voice conjured images of dark or trippy fairy tales, but I was distracted by her amazing pants, of which no one seemed to snap a picture! Take my word for it–they were awesome.
Parquet Courts – Opera House on Thursday
Brooklyn punk quartet Parquet Courts seemed a bit uncomfortable on the large opera house stage, but they still filled the halls with their gimmick-free pure rock jams with hints of punk and country. Their guitar player stunned the crowd with his epic solos, command of feedback, and some crazy shit with his mic stand that I couldn’t see properly from my seat.
The Roots – Opera House headliners on Thursday
About halfway through The Roots’ first song, everyone else who performed that day––not just at BAM, but anywhere in the world––seemed like a bunch of timid amateurs. Their 90-minute set included a keyboard duel (something only The Roots could make compelling), a genre-hopping drum-off featuring a challenge where Questlove and Frank Knuckles drummed with one hand and Instagrammed with the other, epic tuba solos, and guitarist Kirk Douglass, bassist Mark Kelley, and Damon “Tuba Gooding Jr.” Bryson dancing in unison while frontman Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter kept the crowd on their feet. The band played all of their familiar hits but also covered classic across decades and genres, including Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby,” Gun ‘N Roses’ “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” and even Led Zeppelin’s “Viking Song,” mashed them up, put their own alternative hip hop/neo-soul twist to them and made them their own. It was a thrilling conclusion to the first night of Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, and I made a mental note to never EVER miss a chance to see The Roots live ever again.
Alex Braverman and Poppy de Villeneuve’s Passage – Rose Cinemas
I only caught a few of the films that screened at the festival, but this heartbreaking time-lapsed short about a father who lost his son was poignant and beautiful. The haunting score written by one of the Dessner brothers (forgot to write down which one) and performed by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus made the film much more moving and unforgettable.
Exitmusic – BAMcafé on Friday
I spent most of the shoegazing chillwave’s band trying to figure out who the lead singer sounds like. It’s still on the tip of my tongue and I can’t quite place it. It’s driving me a bit crazy. Maybe I was too lulled by their frontwoman’s haunting and hypnotic vocals, but seriously, who does she sound like? Help? Anyone?
Solange – Opera House headliner on Friday
Is it too soon to call Solange the First Lady of Indie Soul? Sure, she still has a ton of fans from when she was an R&B starlet, but this laid-back alternative/indie soul vibe she has created is a better direction for her. Her killer guitarist moved in step with Solange, and Miss Knowles danced fiercely and gracefully during most instrumental breaks. I almost lost my mind when she covered Selena’s “I Could Fall in Love,” a nod to another Texas music icon, a tribute that hardly anyone else acknowledged (hipsters!). The way Solange commanded the audience and had them on their feet during her hit “Losing You” were the early signs of a future megastar. Everyone on stage oozed an effortless cool, which is also everything I will never be. Keep an eye out for Solange––this will be her year.
People Get Ready – Opera House on Saturday
I’ve always loved this band. Whether I’m seeing them rock out at a grimy music venue or performing elaborate choreography at a Chelsea theater space, the band knows how to engage an audience and keep your eyes glued to their performance. People Get Ready took advantage of the Opera House space to incoporate both indie rock and dance elements into a truly innovative performance. Their set started with lead singer dancing in a puffy sweater clearly stuffed with something noisey (plastic perhaps?) and two mics in the sleeves to amplify their movement. He then sang into those same mics while he dance gracefully across the stage. They transitioned to a four-piece indie rock but also added two dancers halfway through, making their set even more compelling. People Get Ready never fail to make an impactful performance, and this one was no different.
Here We Go Magic – Opera House on Saturday
Because of a crazy wait for food at the café, I only caught two Here We Go Magic songs, but their rich folk rock filled the halls of the Opera House nicely and looked amazing under their lights. Whoever was in charge of lighting at the Opera House did a superb job the entire festival. He/she deserves accolades.
Japanther – Bamcafé on Saturday
I saw this band at a Williamsburg warehouse many years ago, and the duo still has the same ferocious energy and anti-government ethos that made them so loveable in the first place. From their DIY phone handset microphones to their short, sweet, precise songs to their pure punk spirit, Japanther embodies the notion of punk rock as performance art.
Phosphorescent – Opera House on Saturday
Matthew Houck’s delicate brand of folk rock serenaded the full Opera House. While the set was mostly new material that I didn’t recognize, the band put on a stellar and mesmerizing show filled with introspective rock full of hope and harmonies that will melt your soul. I have to give props to Phosphorescent’s male keyboard player, maybe the liveliest and most engaging piano performance I’ve seen in a while.
TV on the Radio – Opera House headliners on Saturday
I had seen TVOTR play an outdoor music festival one summer and preferred their albums over their live show, but maybe this is band that is better suited for an opera house than a giant field. From the moment the band took the stage and kicked off their set with “Halfway Home,” the crowd was on their feet and blown away by the band as musicians, songwriters, and performers. It was post-punk, it was experimental, it was electronic, it was definitely rock, yet it felt new and fresh, especially live. Frontman and lead singer Tunde Adebimpe bounced all across the stage, producer/guitarist Dave Sitek was shredding and making all sorts of new and intricate noises on guitar, Kyp Malone was rocking a fedora as well as the guitar, the trombone added perfect accents to an already elaborate sound. The band had the crowd properly riled up during the show-stopping “Wolf Like Me,” had everyone clapping along during “Golden Age,” and closed with the old gem “Staring at the Sun.” If TV on the Radio is the future of rock, then I no longer worry about the fate of music.
Overall, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry was a great time with many stellar performances and fun rounds of “Spot The Guy/Gal in the Brooklyn Band.” I’m sure I missed a few good bands so that I wouldn’t lose my short person-friendly spot in the Opera House, but what I did manage to catch was stellar and inspiring.
Review by Rebecca An