Reviews

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry: 5 May 2012 - New York

My Brightest Diamond
Photo Credits: Mike Benigno

Festival’s closing night jams into the wee hours of the morning.


Crossing Brooklyn Ferry

City: Brooklyn, NY
Venue: Brooklyn Academy of Music
Date: 2012-05-05

By the third night of the new music festival, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, everyone at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) seemed more in sync, from staff and musicians to the many indie music fans. Although since the final night was sold out, there were plenty of newcomers to the scene as well. The BAMcafé filled up early with family members of the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, a project of Bryce Dessner (curator of the event with his brother Aaron Dessner). This group works closely with the composers of their performance pieces, many who were in the audience. Bryce Dessner played guitar with a trombone section for his lyrical composition, “To the Sea”, as the young voices blended easily.

Caveman - Photo Credit: Mike Benigno

Over in the Opera House, the New York City quintet Caveman opened the night with a solid set of old and new songs. They began with the percussive intro of “A Country’s King of Dreams” from last year’s well-received debut, CoCo Beware. Singer Matt Iwanusa wore a colorful shirt and white pants, busy with a floor tom, guitar and tambourine. He thanked the crowd and said how he actually saw one of his first concerts at BAM. He came to see Arlo Guthrie with his aunt and still remembers the glow in the dark T-shirt fondly. The band launched into their break out single “Thankful” until dissolving into the next song, “Decide”. Flashing white lights blasting at the audience emphasized the full throttle wall of sound, however dynamics within the music existed with haunting melodies and other tunes that bounced along. New songs “Easy Water” and “Where’s the Time” fit in nicely to the band’s fuzzed out aesthetic.

My Brightest Diamond + yMusic - Photo Credit: Mike Benigno

Next My Brightest Diamond presented a theatrical set of songs pulled mostly from last fall’s release, All Things Will Unwind. This is the latest musical project of singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Shara Worden, who blends her classical training and love of avant garde music. She just returned to her native Detroit area where she was brought up in a family of “musical evangelists”, leaving to study opera and composition while discovering experimental artists. With a drummer and the acclaimed yMusic chamber ensemble supporting her stage show, Worden wore a colorful costume that looked like deflated balloons with bright pink tights to complement her vocal flourishes. She played ukulele and keyboards with measured precision, yet let loose in an interpretive dance frenzy during a drum solo. For “Be Brave”, Worden released a fury of soprano lashes in the ending. Older songs “Dragonfly” (from 2006’s Bring Me to the Workhorse) and “Apples” (from 2008’s A Thousand Shark’s Teeth) also made appearances to round out the set.

Atlas Sound - Photo Credit: Mike Benigno

The Opera House stage was then cleared off for Brandon Cox of Atlas Sound. PopMatters covered his intimate concerts last fall at the Orange Peel in Asheville, North Carolina during Moogfest as well as the KEXP session in the lobby of the Ace Hotel. Here Cox also performed as a one-man band as well, playing an amplified acoustic guitar and triggering foot pedals to layer the music yet allowing his vocals to float over the elegant, expansive space. He began by saying to the crowd, “Well hello!” He added how it was such a privilege to be playing at such a beautiful venue. With no set list or other musicians to consult, Cox played a selection of songs that flowed one into the other. Cox began the set with “Te Amo”, off of last year’s release, Parallax, with playful arpeggios resonating from his guitar until rocking out at the end. Other songs from this collection were the crooning “My Angel is Broken” and the steady strumming of “Mona Lisa” in almost total darkness. The song “Walkabout” (from 2009’s Logos) brought a vehement attack in the lyrics, “What did you want to see? What did you want to be when you grew up?”

Beirut - Photo Credit: Mike Benigno

Zach Condon led his headlining band Beirut on stage, smiling to acknowledge the raucous cheers from the fans. “Happy Cinco de Mayo,” he wished them, later adding “I hope you’re enjoying the super moon”. (Clouds around the New York City area obscured this phenomenon anyway.) The New Mexico native has found his niche creating homegrown world music, after dropping out of high school to travel with his older brother in an unexpected research mission. Condon plays the trumpet, flugelhorn and ukulele to encompass elements of mariachi, Balkan folk music and jazz, all under the guise of indie rock. The set list covered many songs off last year’s release, The Rip Tide, from the opener “Vagabond”, plus “East Harlem”, “Port of Call”, and “Goshen”, which featured Condon on piano. He introduced the popular single “Sante Fe” saying, “This song goes out to old Mexico!”

Beirut - Photo Credit: Mike Benigno

Condon comes off as mild tempered troubadour, clapping and dancing along. He conducts his band with a simple snap of his fingers or holding his trumpet high to indicate a pause in the music. With eyebrows raised to emphasize a point while singing, Condon stroked back his floppy brown hair as his wrinkled dress shirt and black jeans indicated a casual approach to life. However, Beirut’s plentiful musicians on stage presented complicated arrangements and vocal harmonies of their group ensemble. Older songs rounded out the night, such as the single “Elephant Gun” and “Postcards from Italy” from Gulag Orkestar (2006) as well as “Cherbourg”, “Nantes” and “A Sunday Smile” from 2007’s The Flying Club Cup. The encore featured a mellow song with Condon on stage solo with his ukulele but things would soon heat up again at BAM. Nancy Whang and Pat Mahoney of DFA (and formerly of LCD Soundsystem) were upstairs readying the BAMcafé for a dj set to last well into the wee hours.

Atlas Sound - Photo Credit: Mike Benigno

Benjamin Lanz - Photo Credit: Mike Benigno

Bryce Dessner performs with Brooklyn Youth Chorus - Photo Credit: Mike Benigno

Caveman - Photo Credit: Mike Benigno

DJ Set by Pat Mahoney and Nancy Whang - Photo Credit: Mike Benigno

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