Toni Dove's Spectropia at Roulette
Spring for Music: Houston Symphony

Crossing Brooklyn Ferry: Saturday

by Gabriel FurtadoBeirut_PC_Mike Benigno
Beirut in the Gilman Opera House (photo: Mike Benigno)

For the entirety of the Dressner brothers' ambitiously curated three-day festival, I was forced to employ a sort of musical triage: overlapping sets on three stages demanded that I trek back and forth, never catching a whole set. By Saturday I was in a daze, but perhaps that was just from getting clocked by Annie Clark's heel as she surfed the crowd the night before. (See here for our coverage of the first and second days.)

Arriving for the final day of the festival just in time for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus' performance, I spent ten minutes people-watching the quirky mélange of Park Slope parents and hipsters in the audience. While the noisy BAMCafé was not an ideal setting, with the choir at times competing with the din of bar banter, it was a pleasant way to ease into a long night. The choice of new works by Missy Mazzoli, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Shara Worden and Bryce Dessner all made for a well-balanced program.


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Bryce Dessner and Missy Mazzoli rehearse with the Chorus (photo: Robert Maass)

Catching the tail end of Caveman's set at the Gilman Opera House, I heard only the final few songs, but enough to note a marked change in the group's performance style since I saw them months ago at Brooklyn Bowl. Perhaps it was the ample stage (incredibly generous by indie standards) and first-rate lighting system.

Hurrying back to the Café for Skeletons, I was intrigued but not totally sold on their sound. They have quite a bit to unpack musically, although stage presence was lacking. They were immediately followed by my favorite band of the night, Janka Nabay and the Bubu Band. Hailing from Sierra Leone, Ahmed Janka Nabay -who really deserves more space than this post allows- has carved out a space for himself as a World Music performer with no need for the marketing crutch and homogenized wasteland that is "world music" (I'm calling you out, Dan Storper).

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Janka talking to the crowd (photo: Mike Benigno)

Coming straight from a recording session at The Bunker, the band was incredibly tight and in sync. Drummer Jesse Lee (also of Gang Gang Dance) played on a cheap electronic kit, producing a signature clipped, ultra-compressed grittiness seeming closer to Flatbush than Sierra Leone. Lee's beats were the backdrop to a very flexible call-and response compositional structure, with the band members all waiting for cues from Janka before moving to the next set of riffs. The resulting energy from this spontaneity turned an initially lukewarm crowd into a total dance party that went on until BAM security shut it down.

Crowd at Janka Nabay & the Bubu Gange set_PC_Mike Benigno
You can't quite tell here but the guy in green was getting serious about his dance moves. (photo: Mike Benigno)

Another highlight of the night was Oneohtrix Point Never. OPN's music is a strange brew made from audio detritus -he fashions a lot of sounds from 80s VHS tapes- that demands an alternate mode of listening. His soundscape was accompanied by video from west coast artist Nate Boyce that was mixed old cartoons with CGI images comparable to an aggressively non-developmental version of Beyond the Mind's Eye.

After his set, OPN stopped to chat for quite some time, covering everything from the song "Nassau," named after the Greenpoint street ("I couldn't exactly call it Manhattan Ave...it's not like I make jazz music") to his struggles over ten years of performing ("I'm from Western Mass. My stuff didn't exactly fit on a bill with the jammy rock that's big there.") He even recommended I check out some Portuguese Ambient Drone Love Music.

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Daniel Lopatin aka Oneohtrix Point Never (photo: Mike Benigno)

While I missed most of Beirut's performance in the opera hall, I was content to see Zach Condon perform "Goshen" on solo piano, his voice warming my heart like good whiskey spiked with nostalgia.

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Condon getting into it. *More Swooning* (photo: Mike Benigno)

Stepping out during the DFA DJ set to catch up with friends over cigarettes, I returned to find a band tuning up. With no mention on the schedule, I asked someone who they were and received almost too casual response of  "Arcade Fire."

While officially dubbed "Phi Slamma Jamma," they introduced themselves as "Les arcades en feu" ("Arcade Fire" in French). Featuring all core members except Win and Régine, they exclusively played classic rock covers from the Beatles to The Clash. I got down to business dancing to what, for a brief moment, was the world's best Wedding Band, complete with shouts from a rather sauced fellow requesting a rendition of "Freebird." 

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Will Butler of Arcade Fire (photo: Mike Benigno)

When the Dessners joined in for a song, it set me thinking about the festival as a whole. Looking back at the past three days, the music flowed almost seemlessly between indie acts and new music, an effective superimposition of two very niche genres. Of even greater import, perhaps, was the mixing of the audiences of the respective niches.

Industry observers ranging from Matt Mason to Richard Russell have all forecast the closing of the culture gap between youths and adults, but I have yet to see a blue haired, skateboard-toating punk at in Avery Fisher Hall, or a distinguished "Friend of the Philharmonic" at 285Kent. I did, however, see both parties in attendance at BAM over the weekend. Could we finally be reaching the tipping point?

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