Over the weekend, the third annual Brooklyn Comes Alive took over three beloved venues in Williamsburg (Brooklyn Bowl, Music Hall of Williamsburg, and Schimanski), bringing with it a stacked lineup featuring once-in-a-lifetime collaborations, tribute sets, and all-star supergroups. Over one hundred artists were brought together to see their passion projects come to life, honor their musical heroes, and improvise with their friends and peers, with more than thirty-five sets taking place across the festival’s two full days of music.
Inspired by the vibrant musical communities of Brooklyn and New Orleans, Brooklyn Comes Alive pushed the boundaries of a traditional music festival. By taking some of the most talented artists from our favorite bands and grouping them into dream collaborations–almost like a fantasy sports league–Brooklyn Comes Alive succeeded in creating a highly unique and memorable weekend of musical community and camaraderie that proved to be far greater than the sum of its (already fantastic) parts.
Now that the marathon weekend of live music is behind us and the proverbial dust has settled in Brooklyn, we’re taking a look back at each of the vastly diverse and uniformly amazing sets of music played at Brooklyn Comes Alive 2017:
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23rd, 2017
This four-piece group started the festivities on Saturday at Schimanski with singer and pianist Leslie Mendelson front and center. During her set, she performed a new song, “The Hardest Part”, and revealed that she’s been in the studio and that fans can expect a new album coming soon.
Midnight North’s Crosby Stills Nash & Young Tribute
Midnight North’s tribute to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young early Saturday at Schimanski was a highlight of the first day of the event. Classified by spot-on vocal harmonies from Grahame Lesh, Elliot Peck, and Alex Jordan, the group laid out amazing versions of classic songs like “Carry On”, “Teach Your Children Well”, “Ohio”, and more.
Finally, the band capped their set with a spot-on rendition of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” a sought-after cover in the band’s regular live repertoire that spawned the initial idea for their CSNY set at Brooklyn Comes Alive. You can read what Elliot Peck has to say about Midnight North’s “Judy Blue Eyes” and the delicate art of songwriting by following the link below:
Bitch!: Women of the 90’s
Hayley Jane was the perfect songstress to lead this tribute to the female pop icons of the 90’s with her charismatically captivating stage presence. Along with the help of Kung Fu’s Tim Palmieri, who has the ability to play any genre with perfection, the energetic ensemble enthralled the crowd with their renditions of classics like “Zombie” by The Cranberries, “You Gotta Be” by Des’ree, “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks, “Happy When It Rains” by Garbage, “Just A Girl” by No Doubt, and a set-closing “Waterfalls” by TLC.
DJ Logic & Friends
After introducing the band as “some of my best friends,” DJ Logic and live backing band featuring MonoNeon, Marcus Machado, and Daru Jones conjured some of the craziest sounds at the festival. With DJ Logic creating the perfect pocket for the other musicians to riff on top of, the group put on a tight improvisational set that was built around classic hip-hop and funk grooves, such as De La Soul’s “Me, Myself, & I.”
Natalie Cressman and Friends
Natalie Cressman brought together an all-star lineup for her collaborative set at the Brooklyn Bowl on Saturday featuring Louis Cato, James Casey, Nate Werth, Anthony Wellington, Randy Runyon, and Akie Bermiss. Her performance was a jazzy affair, with the Trey Anastasio Band trombonist and vocalist impressing with her wide range of musical talents.
Roosevelt Collier’s Brooklyn Get Down
Roosevelt Collier returned to Brooklyn Comes Alive this year with a highly anticipated reprisal of his “Brooklyn Get Down” set from last year’s event. With Michael League, Bob Lanzetti, and Robert “Sput” Searight of Snarky Puppy backing him up, highlights of Collier’s set included the pedal steel virtuoso’s medley of Beatles tunes including well-jammed renditions “Come Together” and “Get Back” and the debut of a brand new song off his upcoming album
Future Folklore was hands-down one of the most unique sets at Brooklyn Comes Alive. It was clear that the numerous musicians onstage were all having a ball together, with each member of the collective sporting a huge grin on their face as they recreated the sounds of West Africa. With so many musicians on tap, Weedie Braimah and Luke Quaranta did an amazing job curating such a standout high-energy performance that featured impeccable music woven in with theatrics, storytelling, and undeniable showmanship.
Dan Hacker, under the pseudonym MUZZY BEARR, began touring with GRiZ when he was just 17 years old. Now 22, the guitarist has honed his solo performance to exciting effect. He melded soulful hip-hop beats with trill tendencies and live instrumentation for a high-energy dance party at Music Hall of Williamsburg.
Reed Mathis, Eric Krasno, Todd Stoops, and Jay Lane debuted their new funky Grateful Dead-inspired cover project, Rooster Conspiracy, and took the crowd on a 90-minute improvisational journey that covered two songs: “Deal” and “Cassidy”. The band weaved in-and-out of both songs throughout the set for a tease-heavy, improv-laden performance. The band’s concept was born from a New Year’s Day jam session in Bill Kreutzmann‘s garage, and while Billy himself couldn’t make it out, Lane availed himself to impressive effect, exhibiting a specifically strong chemistry with Krasno despite the fact that the two had scarcely ever played together in the past. The set even welcomed an appropriately strange and powerful sit-in from the endlessly energetic Hayley Jane. We sincerely hope this project continues to build on their Gratefully out-there concept.
James Casey & Friends
James was scheduled to bring his band Animus Rexx to Brooklyn Comes Alive, but due to a visa issue, one of his band members got tied up overseas and couldn’t make it back to States for the scheduled performance. So instead, the week of the performance, James decided to gather together some friends for a jam session. Here’s what we learned: James Casey has some seriously badass friends.
For the performance, Casey tapped Felix Pastorius, son of the legendary Jaco Pastorius, to fill bass duties, as well as Louis Cato and Randy Runyon to round out the core band. The set also featured guest appearances from Robert “Sput” Searight and Casey’s Trey Anastasio Band cohort Natalie Cressman, who helped James Casey & Friends execute an out-of-left-field cover of “Wildfire” by SBTRKT. With the debuts of two “new” bands, Rooster Conspiracy and Matador! Soul Sounds going on simultaneously, the James & Friends jam session flew somewhat under the radar. But those who were able to catch this set will all agree that it was, without question, one of the best and most interesting of the weekend.
Matador! Soul Sounds
This new band from Eddie Roberts, Alan Evans, Chris Spies, Kevin Scott, Adryon De Leon, and Kimberly Dawson was the shot of funk Brooklyn needed. Characterized by tight grooves, powerful vocals, and locked-in musicianship, Matador! Soul Sounds put on an outstanding debut performance, which also saw sit-ins by trumpeter Nick Atwell and keyboardist Wil Blades. After Eddie joked that “This ain’t no side project,” everyone should make sure to check out Matador! Soul Sounds in 2018!
Chicago rapper, ProbCause played to a relatively small crowd during his set at Brooklyn Comes Alive, but made the absolute most of the situation with his magnetic onstage charisma. As he joked, when he becomes famous everyone there will remember that one time they saw him at a very rare intimate show at Music Hall of Williamsburg. He spent most of the show rapping on the floor with the crowd lapping it up in a half-circle around him. On one track he even allowed two fans to rap their own verses. It was a party, and ProbCause embraced the moment.
George Porter Jr., Mike Dillon, Skerik
If you like “weird”, this was the set for you. Skerik is a visionary, and his atypical approach to making music rubs off on all who play with him. Porter specifically requested this set because he wanted to make “space jazz”, and that’s exactly what this band delivered on Saturday evening. Maurice Brown jumped on stage for a memorable guest spot that saw him blowing his trumpet into Skerik’s heavily effected microphone. After a while, Skerik started gently scraping the insides of Mobetta’s trumpet like a madman, adding an extra layer of strange to this already out-there performance.
The Road Goes On Forever
This set was filled with highlights—one after the other. Scott Sharrard, musical director of the Gregg Allman Band for the past eight years, built an incredible performance, reigning in an all-star group of musicians to create something truly special. Al Schnier and Vinnie Amico (moe.), Bernard “Pretty” Purdie, Joey Porter (The Motet), Nate Werth (Snarky Puppy), and Brett Bass (Gregg Allman Band) rounded out the core band, while guitar players Eric Krasno (Soulive, Lettuce), Roosevelt Collier (The Lee Boys), Rob Compa (Dopapod), and Dave Harrington (DARKSIDE) all filled special guest spots throughout the set. However, there is no debating that the incendiary guitar solo from Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks protégé Brandon “Taz” Niederauer on an emotional “Whipping Post” was the highlight of the set–perhaps even the highlight of the weekend. Harrington took the Bowl way out there on “Dreams,” and Krasno was impeccable on “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.” Porter was the low-key MVP of the set, nailing the iconic organ sound of each classic Allman Brothers tune with ease and precision.
Dave Harrington’s Merry Pranksters
This was a 75-minute non-stop freak-out, with one long, patient jam winding its way towards a climax that few in the room saw coming. Dave Harrington is a rising star for sure, and he continued to plant his flag in the post-jam scene with this epic and memorable performance.
KJ Sawka (of Pendulum & Destroid)
KJ Sawka, drummer of Pendulum and Destroid (and formerly of Conspirator), brought new solo show combining live drums with electronic music to Schimanski for a unique, hard driving electronic experience. Widely recognized as one of the best drummers in the world of electronic music, KJ brought his raw, raucous energy to Schimanski as part of an exciting electronic lineup on Saturday night.
DJ Premier & The Badder Band
For anyone that loves 90s hip hop, this was the set to see at Brooklyn Comes Alive. Premier and company touched a wide selection of classic tracks he produced for The Notorious BIG, Nas, Big L, and Jay-Z, while running through medley’s of some of his favorite artists. He also made skilled work of a remix of B.B. King‘s “Chains and Things.” His live band was tight and energetic, led by the efforts of Lenny “The Ox” Reece on drums. Perhaps the most powerful moment of the set, however, came when the band left the stage and Premier paid homage to his fallen brother Guru, the other half of the seminal group Gang Starr that put Premier on the map, with a medley of their most notable songs, including an extended rendering of “Full Clip.”
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23rd, 2017
Jon Cleary Solo Piano
An incredible talent with endless passion and artistry, on top of his distinctively soulful singing voice, Jon Cleary delivered a gorgeous set filled with emotional highlights. The intimate performance saw the powerful vocalist and pianist command the early-afternoon crowd in his finest cocktail lounge singer form, even taking song requests from the crowd. If you closed your eyes, you could feel the New Orleans vibes of Chickie Wah Wah surrounding you.
Joel Cummins Solo Piano
Umphrey’s McGee keyboardist Joel Cummins laid out a rare solo piano set to kick off Sunday’s festivities at Brooklyn Bowl. His performance included a number of songs from the romantic composer Claude Debussy, a cover of “Jesus, etc.” by Wilco, and “Peg” by Steely Dan (which he dedicated to the late Walter Becker). He also performed Umphrey’s classic “2×2” as well as a set-closing rendition of “Jessica” by the Allman Brothers Band, which included a section of the Umphrey’s rarity “Orfeo.”
Skerik / Reed Mathis / Alan Evans / Will Bernard / Wil Blades
This stacked supergroup featuring Skerik, Reed Mathis, Alan Evans, Will Bernard, and Wil Blades tore up Schimanski mid-day Sunday. Alan Evans was grinning from ear-to-ear for the duration of the impeccable jazz-funk fusion set. Throughout the playful performance, the all-star musicians each shined individually, truly flexing their musical muscles with their jazz-inspired improvisations.
A Tribute To Herbie Hancock
This set was unbelievably funky, from the set-opening rendition of “Watermelon Man” to the closing “Chameleon.” A frequently self-professed student of Hancock’s style, Joey Porter managed to do uncanny justice to the vaunted keyboardist and bandleader Herbie Hancock, perfectly channeling the jazz-funk great’s playing and general musical aesthetic. Nate Werth was on fire, building off his Snarky Puppy band-mate Robert “Sput” Searight’s tight grooves to create sonic soundscapes that were rich and full. James Casey delivered solo after solo as Porter slapped at his keyboard with a giant smile on his face. The set also included a thrilling cameo from Maurice “Mobetta” Brown on trumpet–the first of several Mobetta guest spots on the day.
Brownstein / Magner / Cummins / Greenfield / Jalbert / Hartswick / Cressman
This highly-anticipated septet set was plain fun from top to bottom. Dave Watts of The Motet joined the band for their first song while Mike Greenfield dealt with some car troubles. After 20 minutes Greeny arrived and the band dropped right into “Rapture” by Blondie, which Jennifer Hartswick belted with perfection. Natalie Cressman impressed many with her sultry take on “Toxic” by Britney Spears, and the band delivered a spirited take on “Just Stopped In To See What Condition My Condition Was in” that Hartswick dedicated to Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones. It’s beyond rare to find Aaron Magner (The Disco Biscuits) and Cummins (Umphrey’s) onstage together, and this set saw both of them trading off lead and rhythm work on the keys with ease.
Jennifer Hartswick & Friends
A regal Jennifer Hartswick took the Brooklyn Bowl stage on Sunday afternoon with a soulful squad behind her, and delivered song and emotion that was nothing short of mesmerizing. Singing mightily, and playing a majestic trumpet alongside trusty trombone foil Natalie Cressman, the empress they call J-Ha serenaded the ensconced assembly. Hartswick led a charge of collaborators consisting of multi-instrumentalist Louis Cato (Stay Human) on drums, Danny Mayer (Eric Krasno Band), Dezron Douglas, Akie Bermiss, and the Snarky Puppy Horns including Mike “Maz” Maher and Chris Bullock. A spellbinding take on the traditional “I Shall Be Released” closed the tremendous set, as Hartswick threw the lead vocal to organist Bermiss, and the dreadlocked Brooklynite proceeded to take all of the Brooklyn Bowl to a Sunday church service. Yes Lawd!
Jesse Miller of Lotus and Eli Winderman of Dopapod teamed up with Charlie Patierno for a proper Brooklyn throwdown with their electronic-side project Octave Cat. Known for their infectious grooves, the fusion trio started after Miller and Winderman realized they shared a mutual appreciation for vintage keyboards and analog synths. The passion was obvious, and with Dopapod taking a break in 2018, it was especially exciting to see Eli’s fierce commitment to the project. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the project continues for years to come.
Metropolitan Jam Grass Alliance
Andy Falco of the Infamous Stringdusters, Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth, and Jacob Joliff of Yonder Mountain String Band brought together friends and family from the modern bluegrass scene, including Patrick Falco and Ryan Cavanaugh, to form the Metropolitan Jam Grass Alliance—a group of New York-area-based bluegrass musicians who know how to throw down! Having only performed a few times previously, their BCA set took a proper course down jamgrass lane, keeping fans on their toes as they all yearned for more.
The Russ Liquid Test
Redefining the possibilities of modern music, The Russ Liquid Test fuses the raw vitality of classic funk and the inventive sound design of electronic production. Songwriter/producer and renowned brass specialist Russell Scott heads up the New Orleans-based band, while guitarist Andrew Block and drummer Deven Trusclair round things out–each provided a distinct musical background deeply rooted in the New Orleans jazz scene, the perfect fusion for Brooklyn Comes Alive attendees.
SunSquabi (with Jason Hann)
SunSquabi continued to break down and analyze the expectations of what a “live electronic” band should be during their set at Brooklyn Comes Alive, showing utmost dedication to their ever-evolving live stage performance. The band’s electronic hydro-funk experience was only intensified by the special guest performances from String Cheese Incident’s Jason Hann. Having only collaborated in rare instances before, the SunSquabi + Jason Hann set was satisfying beyond measure.
Pow! Pow! Power Trio
Rob Compa was so excited to light the fuse on the Pow Pow Power Trio that he and his Dopapod partner-in-crime Chuck Jones and Kung Fu drummer Adrian Tramontano kicked off the show early! The walls of the Music Hall Of Williamsburg rang with feedback laden guitar, drenched with renditions of tunes from Black Sabbath, Cream, Jimi Hendrix and The Police. The Dopapod love was in full bloom as Compa’s bandmate drummer Neal Evans jumped behind the kit for AC/DC‘s “TNT.” It’s always a pleasure to see the musicians enjoy themselves as much as the fans and judging from the ear-to-ear grins from the guys on the stage and the cheers of the crowd, the feeling was clearly mutual.
Jon Cleary/John Scofield Duo
When two musicians as talented, decorated, and beloved as Jon Cleary and John Scofield come together, the results are sure to be memorable. But this keys/guitar collaboration managed to exceed the already lofty expectations many had for the set going in. Both of these men are absolute masters of their respective crafts, and hearing them tackle everything from NOLA staples like “Tipitina” to early American R&B classics like the timeless “Fever” with their own stylish flourishes was just as satisfying in practice as it sounds on paper.
George Porter Jr./ Henry Butler/ Johnny Vidacovich
Seeing these three bonafide legends share the stage was a surreal experience. The blind yet still impeccably dressed Henry Butler performed with an unteachable cool in his red silk suit. The decorated Johnny Vidacovich kept the rhythmic pocket so tight that you could barely see his arms move. And the one and only George Porter Jr. was his typically charismatic self as the band worked their way through a smattering of NOLA classics, including perhaps the best of the several very different versions of “Tipitina” that would pop up across the festival during the Sunday schedule.
Todd Stoops and The String Cheese Incident’s Jason Hann‘s raucous drum-and-keys project made its return to Brooklyn Comes Alive on Sunday evening, as the two left it all on the stage with their jacked-up performance. Adding to the strangeness, special guest Hayley Jane and her backup dancers/singers April Pittman and Emory Campbell helped add a layer of extraterrestrial theatrics to the set, performing a satisfyingly weird alien choreography complete with costumes and space-age goggles to augment the enormous sounds being created by Stoops and Hann.
With moe. off the road as a result of bassist Rob Derhak’s ongoing battle with cancer, .rons got their fix of guitarist Al Schnier & drummer Vinnie Amico with a side of Aqueous. Made up of Mike Gantzer, Dave Loss, Evan McPhaden, and Rob Houk, the rising stars from Buffalo got to make one of their dreams come true by playing a set with their hometown heroes. The band opened the show with a run from moe.’s “Head” into Aqueous’ magnum opus “Origami,” before going back into the end of “Head.” The band also worked out a fun version of “32 Things” that featured a transition into “Bertha” by the Grateful Dead. The standout moment of the set, however, was an emotional take on “Plane Crash”, one of Derhak’s most well known songs. Schnier dedicated the song to him, and had a visible smile on his face as Mike Gantzer started singing the song. After hundreds of performances of the song with Derhak by their side, it must’ve been weird for Schnier and Amico to hear someone else sing “Plane Crash,” but that’s just the point of Brooklyn Comes Alive: unique situations that may only happen one time ever. This set was a dream for fans, but also for the bands, as the two Buffalo bands got to pay homage to each other in a way few get to do.
A Tribute To Jamiroquai
Joey Porter, Dave Watts, Garrett Sayers, Ryan Jalbert, and Lyle Divinsky from The Motet, Todd Stoops, and Jen Hartswick & Natalie Cressman all dominated this set. It was a powerhouse performance that brought the biggest crowd of the weekend to Music Hall of Williamsburg. Jamiroquai hasn’t toured America in years, and this was a great opportunity for any fans to celebrate the music of this amazing yet reclusive group. Lyle was a force to be reckoned with on lead vocals throughout, and the band was responsible for setting off the biggest and most virtually insane dance party of the weekend.
After a weekend of jams, there wasn’t a better way to close out the festival than 90-minutes of punk and rock songs. Mike Gantzer is a true star on stage, with awesome vocals and impeccable guitar playing that spans genres. In the second-ever voyage of this endlessly fun tribute project (following this year’s Summer Camp Music Festival), he linked up with Ryan Stasik and Kris Myers of Umphrey’s like they’ve been playing together for years, recreating the sounds of Green Day, Weezer, Ween, and The Ramones with perfection.
Eric Krasno & Friends
On Sunday night, Eric Krasno reconvened his long-dormant former band Chapter 2–comprised of himself, Nigel Hall, Louis Cato, and Chris Loftlin–as the house band for a star-studded jam session to close out the Sunday lineup at Brooklyn Bowl. The reunion of this particular quartet on this particular stage as the culmination of a incredible two-day lineup of music at the fan-favorite held a considerable emotional weight for all involved. As Hall commented from the stage, the Brooklyn Comes Alive Eric Krasno & Friends set marked the first time the four had played together since the first-ever night of music at Brooklyn Bowl, at its soft opening in 2009.
After beginning the set as a quartet, and making their way through classics like Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” (featuring some “Fire On The Mountain” teases from Kraz), and The Beatles’ “Get Back” (featuring Wil Blades), the band welcomed the singular Mr. John Scofield. With his “personal hero” onstage with him, Krasno gracefully stepped into the rhythm role as Sco lead the way for a pair of extended tunes, including a “Hey Joe” masterfully sung by Nigel and a genre-bending rendition of Scofield’s A Go Go instrumental, “Hottentot.” All the while, Jon Cleary, who had opened the day’s lineup with a solo piano set at noon and played a duo set with Scofield in the afternoon, was smiling in the front row, dancing and witnessing the magic with the rest of the festival’s crowd.
Once Sco finished, and Nigel had finished praising him as “the greatest of all time,” he and Krasno began to welcome more guests onto the stage…and more, and more: New Orleans legends George Porter Jr. and Cyril Neville. A horns section featuring Mike “Maz” Maher and Chris Michetti of Snarky Puppy, Jennifer Hartswick, Maurice Brown, and more. As Neville and Porter led the band through The Meters’ “No More Okey Doke” and “Africa,” Blades rejoined the jam, Cleary came up from the audience to hop in on keys…
By the time all was said and done, the number of artists onstage was pushing 15, while Scofield and countless other artists who played throughout the weekend looked on from the crowd. As Kraz mused while the guests accumulated, “They told me that I could bring some friends, but they had no idea how many I’d actually bring!”
Whether they were onstage or in the crowd, nobody in the room that night will soon forget the Brooklyn Comes Alive Eric Krasno & Friends set. Artists playing with their heroes, reuniting with old friends and bandmates, creating one-of-a-kind musical memories…Brooklyn Comes Alive was conceived to provide moments like these. With help from a crew of veritable music legends, Eric Krasno & Friends put an exclamation point on an unforgettable weekend of collaboration in Brooklyn.
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