Article by Jackson Rogow, photos by Kyle Miller of Saucy Monster
Williamsburg was thrust off orbit and into another solar system last weekend as the combined expression of the musical souls gathered poured forth, uplifting all in attendance. With rare passion and true love for their craft, these musicians connected with one another on a deep and often spiritual level, keeping our feet moving and evoking powerful moments we all got lost in together. Some of our favorite seasoned musicians came together for never-before-seen superjams like the back-brace inducing Breaking Biscuits set and The Earth Wind and Power tribute, delivering the kind of metaphysical healing the Nth power are known for. With bottomless artistic energy, many of the players hit the stage over and over delivering pristine performances for huge chunks of time throughout the festival. This was a serious treat for us because as I’m sure you’ll agree, you can never get enough of your musical heroes.
The one day festival of superjams kicked off at The Hall at MP where we caught one of our anticipated sets, Tim Palmieri and Friends, laying down their funky twist on a great set list of old rock and funk tunes. Dan Edinburg crushed it on the bass for Zappa’s “Fifty Fifty” and the band hit a home-run with an awesome rendition of “Upside Down” featuring Elise Testone on vocals. Tim shredded tastefully throughout the set and Alan Evans nailed the Latin percussion on Santana’s “Everybody’s Everything”, with a killer drum breakdown that we never wanted to end. Their finale set the tone for great things to come as we headed to The Music Hall of Williamsburg.
Going in we knew it would be dope, but the J Dilla Tribute really blew us away. Taking us on a head-nodding trip through live arrangements of Jay Dee’s music, the allstar band comprised of Borahm Lee, Adam Deitch, Adam Smirnoff, Stu Brooks, Nate Edgar, Maurice Brown, Ty Coomes and Chuancy Yearwood brought down the house. A fitting tribute to the late great beatsmith, they skillfully displayed Dilla’s awesome sonic legacy. Reminding us continuously through sexy shuffling grooves and delicious melodies of the musical genius behind one of hip-hop’s greatest. Chauncy rapped as Adam Smirnoff kept the groove locked on guitar and Grammy award winner Maurice Brown ran his trumpet through guitar pedals to recreate Dilla’s sounds on classics like A Tribe Called Quest’s “Scenario” and “E=Mc2”. With Stu Brooks and Nate Edgar on bass and Adam Deitch on drums, the band weaved through the challenging tight knit rhythms with a liquid flow that couldn’t be stopped. Proof of this came as they crushed one of Dilla’s most memorable productions and one of my all time favorite hip-hop songs, “Runnin’” by The Pharcyde. Borahm Lee’s laptop took a grim looking fall all the way off his stage keyboard onto the general admission floor! But as the crowd collectively winced in pain, Lee smiled, laughed it off and kept shredding off into the stratosphere on his Prophet 6 synthesizer.
Next, the All Brothers Band debuted their brand-spankin new psychedelic jazz flavor to the Hall at MP. Oteil Burbridge’s smooth basslines filled the hall with his signature rich tone as his brother Kofi layered keys and sexy jazz flute on top. The keyboard synergy between Kofi and Neal Evans was especially on point. They played as one, blending and layering lush tones to create a union of reverberation that satisfied the soul, complementing their brothers’ rhythmic foundation. The reggae jam they played 2nd to last was one of our favorites of the set and really made the band shine. At the core, Alan Evans always kept the grooves rolling forward on the drum kit, leaving space for laid back funky jazz to bubble up naturally. The whole band was obviously having a great time making magic with family, a feeling they passed to all of us.
In one of the most popular sets of the festival, Marc Brownstein and Aaron Magner of the Disco Biscuits combined forces with Adam Deitch and Borahm Lee of Break science to debut their supergroup Breaking Biscuits. With the Music Hall of Williamsburg packed to the brim, these four musicians found common ground and delivered a jaw dropping set that opened with a head banging cover of Daft Punk’s “Robot Rock”. The sound was overall more Biscuits-like, with lots of jams where Deitch showcased his capacity for disco house breaks that synced up perfectly with Brownie’s pulsing basslines. Right from the first note the band was impressively tight, with Lee and Magner harmonized continuously with one another in epic coordination.
It wasn’t at all like two bands trying to mash their sounds together and make something work, they formed an entirely new entity that just felt right. I never expected them to play one of my favorite songs, “La Femme d’Argent” by the french band Air, bringing that cold groovy vibe alive for us all to bask in, climaxing with an incredible keyboard solo from Borahm. They also closed out with a great cover of RJD2’s “The Horror”, immediately driving the crowd nuts as we heard the infectious synth line. We really hope this was not a one time thing; we are craving more and fans of both groups really need to see this combo for themselves.
At this point Brooklyn Bowl really dropped the ball, stiffing guest list and GA ticket holders alike in the cold outside for over 30 minutes as we were told they were “at capacity”. This was utterly ridiculous as we counted literally hundreds of people leave the venue and were still refused entry with the same excuse. Eventually the manager took some consideration and let us into what was then a half-empty Brooklyn Bowl.
Earth Wind and Power immediately made up for all of the waiting. Heating us up, the giant superband featured The Nth Power, Shady Horns, the Burbridge brothers, Taz, Skerik, and Farnell Newton to take everyone on a spiritual journey through Earth Wind and Fire’s musical genius. Nikki Glaspie drove the dancing with her world-class focused funk drumming as Nick Cassarino’s showed us the almost blinding light on lead vocals and guitar. With sensual and holy vibes the performance brought a feeling of deep love and gratitude as we experienced EWF classics together like “Got to Get You Into My Life”, “Shining Star”, “Devotion” and “Serpentine Fire”. On “Serpentine Fire” 12 year old rock guitar prodigy Brandon “Taz” Niederauer hopped on stage to completely obliterate our expectations and leave us shocked and bewildered. Ripping the absolute best guitar solo of the entire festival with a delicious fat tone, Taz milked every note and showed us the bright future of rock guitar.
After an extremely long setup, DRKWAV ended the fest at Brooklyn Bowl with some serious genre bending weirdness. In what must have been his 4th or 5th hour of playing, Adam Deitch continued to deliver his tight funky break beats as Skerik wailed and Medeski Martin’s analogue basslines shook the room.
Overall the festival was a reckoning of musicianship and collaboration set in one of the most musically productive places in the world. The acoustics were the best at Brooklyn Bowl, with Music Hall of Williamsburg sounding great as well and The Hall at MP sounding pretty muddy and unclear towards the back of the venue – probably due to the long hall shape of the room. We wish this festival were longer than one day, but we will be catching all of these fantastic musicians at as many festivals and shows as possible while we patiently wait for next year’s Brooklyn Comes Alive!