Brooklyn Comes Alive!
Rushing out the door at noon for 14 straight hours of funky live music is a rarity I associate with New Orleans during Jazzfest, not Brooklyn on the cusp of autumn.
That was the entire idea. And as at Jazzfest, I didn't regret a minute.
None of us were quite sure what to expect from the inaugural Brooklyn Comes Alive festival; the final schedule wasn't even released until a few days beforehand. But that didn't stop tickets from selling out weeks beforehand on the promise of an Eric Krasno-curated, New Orleans-inspired all-day music throwdown at both Verboten and Music Hall of Williamsburg (https://fans.com/events/4805388). And it worked. The logistics were fine, the music was great and I can't wait for BCA next year.
So I got to Verboten around 12:30pm, in time to catch the second half of Maurice Brown's "Jazz Brunch" set. It was a little weird at first to be in a windowless nightclub so early in the day, but Brown's funk and soul quickly got me oriented. Holly Bowling's solo piano renditions of Phish songs was more eating than dancing music, which was just fine in the natural light of Verboten's cabaret room. Billy Martin with Kato Hideki and Chris Cochrane then put the actual jazz into the "Jazz Brunch" - jazz of the avant garde, even slightly challenging sort.
By the time the jazz set finished up, around 3:45pm, Verboten had started to fill up. It was pretty clear that a lot of people decided to start their day with the first "Superjam," featuring three members of Trey Anastasio Band led by Natalie "Chainsaw" Cressman on trombone and vocals.
That's pretty much when the dance party started that wouldn't end until the wee hours of the morning. Natalie stayed on the main stage and was joined by a fourth member of TAB, Jennifer Hartswick, for the next big jam with a different backing lineup that brought more R&B and soul back to the table.
At about 7pm, my friends and I relocated from Verboten to Music Hall of Williamsburg a few blocks away, just in time to be blown backwards against the venue's walls. That is because Russell Batiste remains one of the most explosive, devastating, sick nasty drummers around. Much love to Nigel Hall, Andrew Block and Eric Vogel in that lineup, but the top attraction there was Russell laying it absolutely down. It's just too bad the venue didn't fill up till their set was almost over.
And of course the place was filling up for the festival's main man, Eric Krasno, joined by Marco Benevento, Nigel Hall and friends. As usual, the stage was stolen by 12-year-old (or is he 13 now?) guitar prodigy Brandon "Taz" Niederauer. His playing doesn't yet have the depth and range of the adults he is routinely invited to play with, but his intensity, technical chops and the emotion in his playing are truly astounding.
For me, the biggest surprise of the day was the next lineup, featuring Roosevelt Collier on steel guitar, Doug Wimbish on bass and Russ Lawton on drums. Russ is yet another Trey Anastasio Band alum, and he propelled this set with a infectiously flat sort of backcountry rhythm. My friend from rural North Carolina said it made her feel right at home. (Taz once again owned the crowd.)
Marco Benevento and friends took stage around 1am to close the night at Music Hall and he brought all the energy you would expect. This time of night was perfect for Marco's flamboyance and groove, not to mention his chops, and I was lucky enough to get some pretty intimate video, including a duet with Holly Bowling (who had been playing Phish covers at Verboten 12 hours earlier). Nicole Atkins on vocals killed it on "I Just Want to Make Love to You," the Etta James classic.
Marco finally closed it down sometime around 2:40 AM and if I had been a real trooper, I would have made it back to Verboten to catch the end of Orchard Lounge, who I really like. But I have to admit I was pooped by then - 14 hours is a lot of dancing! - and pulled the ripcord for home.
All in all, had a great time at the first Brooklyn Comes Alive. Congrats to the promoters and producers. Now I can sleep till Jazzfest!