Last Friday, one of the most iconic music venues in Brooklyn played host to a musical homecoming of sorts. Hometown heroes Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds put their unique blend of soul, funk and rock on full display to a sold out room. As an added bonus for their loyal and local fans, the group announced they would cover one of ten legendary rock albums in its entirety for this special show and would allow the final selection to be voted on by the public. With Led Zeppelin IV emerging as the winner after all votes were tabulated, this was guaranteed to be a noteworthy affair.
Another local product of the thriving Brooklyn music scene started things off shortly after 8 p.m. Zongo Junction, an up and coming eight-piece Afrobeat band, delivered several smooth flowing instrumental songs highlighted by some impressive percussion work and a mustachioed bassist who resembled a young and spry Frank Zappa. The opening act later brought on a female vocalist to add another element to their steady groove based music.
Then it was time for the main course in the form of Arleigh Kincheloe (Sister Sparrow) and her seven Dirty Birds which includes her brother Jackson on harmonica who complemented the group’s blaring brass section all night with a string of rousing harmonica solos. Amidst the sounds of nearby 7-10 splits and a hungry Brooklyn Bowl crowd, the group first went through a number of originals that served as a showcase for Kincheloe’s powerful singing voice that rested on top of a bed of aggressive and cohesive funk rock.
Once the originals were out of the way, a certain distinctive “Hey, Hey Momma” followed and The Birds were off and running with their ‘dirty’ take on Led Zeppelin IV. The rest of ‘Black Dog’ was played to perfection and ‘Rock and Roll’, which followed, gave the three piece horn section another chance to shine in this uptempo rocker. One of the true highlights of the show was the justice that the band did to perhaps the most well known song on the album, ‘Stairway to Heaven’. The group moved deftly though the slow, emotional beginning sections and seamlessly progressed to the frenetic finish that’s the signature of this classic number. In doing so, the group managed to mold the song into something different by spinning it with their version of soulful and heartfelt rock.
Sister Sparrow and her Dirty Birds continued to go through each track on the album and give the increasingly rabid Brooklyn Bowl crowd a new taste on some old classics. The group continued to show off their musical chops with a fun take on the ending of Paul Simon’s ‘Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes’ that was placed right in the middle of a memorable ‘Misty Mountain Hop’. With a legendary full album cover now in the books, the Zeppelin tribute carried on with ‘D’yer Mak’er’ serving as an encore of sorts before the group left the stage to a hearty standing room only ovation.
With a total set time of just over 80 minutes, there were hopes that another set of music would follow but it was not to be this night. An informal dance party of sorts soon began on the dance floor and once Sister Sparrow herself joined in, it was clear that the rock and roll portion of this evening was now done. Sister Sparrow and The Dirty Birds had accomplished their goal of delivering a memorable night of music that served as both a showcase of the group’s infectious big band sound and a tribute to one of the most collectively revered rock albums of all time.