Gigs Up: Brooklyn Is Alive!

It was 4am and the resonance of Brooklyn Comes Alive lingered. Murmurs of non-stop-music; who was playing where and when – and who had the better set, filled the air. The city was engulfed. Corey Henry, Adam Deitch, Nikki Glaspie, “Benny” Bloom, Chris Corsico and Adam November, to name a few, made their way out the main doors post-jam-room.

We all  indulged in the ‘best-of’ BCA, over the past twelve hours of musical-mayhem, outside the Music Hall of Williamsburg. Musicians had become fans, inspired by the greats they idolized onstage. We were all woven by this musical-web, spun in one ear and still grooving to in the other. Gigs Up. Brooklyn is alive!

The second set of the Jam Room, hosted by Karina Rykman and Turkuaz guitarist Craig Brodhead, was proof enough. The days efforts massed to a ten-minute cover of “Killing In The Name.” Over a dozen musicians crowded the stage, in uproar with the crowd, cursing out all of Brooklyn. Trading solos and dragging new musicians on, who were stockpiled side stage, was the norm. Rykman hopped from bass, to guitar and ended the set buried between three other keyboard players.

Earlier on Rykman debuted her new endeavor, The Karina Rykman Experiment at Rough Trade. The hour long jam drifted from funky bass-driven licks to full-out psychedelic rock shredding. Corsico’s off-meter explosions on his china/tambourine stack challenged special guest Robert Walter on Keyboards. Adam November and Dave Harrington explored foreign sounds though their endless loop-pedal and effects rigs. Rykman just grooved and smiled, anticipating each change. This listening exercise surpassed all expectation.

Adam Deitch’s set at Music Hall of Williamsburg was a contrast between soulful jazz, impromptu horn melodies and laid back funk. Deitch was not bashful, letting loose on a syncopated drum solo that stood toe-to-toe with Lettuce comrades, Eric “Benny” Bloom on Trumpet and Ryan Zoidis on Saxophone. Bloom’s energy couldn’t be tamed; calling out horn-riffs on the spot, unveiling the music’s raw energy.  Wil Blades completed the quartet for a track off the groups 2017 album Egyptian Secrets, “Fear The Blades,” in addition to a heartfelt rendition of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.”

Fifteen-year-old Brandon “Taz” Niederauer fronted the jaw-dropping Col. Bruce Hampton, Butch Trucks and Greg Allman tribute. The set paid homage to late-innovators like Aretha Franklin, Hendrix and Allen Toussaint. Bassist George Porter Jr. kept eyes locked on “Taz,” feeding on the guitarist’s youthful spontaneity and musical wisdom. Greg Allman organist Peter Levin, Lettuce guitarist Adam Smirnoff, drummer Jeff Sipe and vocalist Elise Testone rounded out the eclectic group. Past, present and future lie at this crossroad. Fans overfilled Brooklyn Bowl to witness the beauty of Brooklyn Comes Alive.

While Brooklyn Comes Alive boast an incredible lineup and close proximity of three venues within six-blocks, it felt impossible to peel yourself away from the magic on-stage. As each set began, we were convinced, it was better than the last. The Steely Dan Tribute power-ensemble taxed every bit of the two-hour set, the second longest of the festival. A mashup of Turkuaz, Snarky Puppy, The Motet and The Nth Power bandmates joined with Hayley Jane for an unstoppable set. Fans grooved with the band from left to right in unison. The band gave praise to leader and keyboardist Joey Porter, who also led the Herbie Hancock Tribute at last years’ Brooklyn Comes Alive.

Corey Henry blessed the Brooklyn Bowl with a fired-up quartet, featuring beat-conductor Nikki Glaspie, Almost Dead’s Scott Metzger, Grammy Award-winning Mononeon and saxophonist Skerik – enough said. Hype-man, Corey Henry, pierced the hearts of fans with his words in between infectious solos. The keys spoke tenfold. It was all too much to absorb. The baffled audience shouted “Freedom,” to the top of the Bowl’s rafters, in honor of Aretha Franklin.

Torn between Prince’s Purple Party Tribute at the Bowl and George Porter Jr.’s welcoming to the Jam Room at the Music Hall, fans were divided. The daunting Prince Tribute lineup featured Turkuaz frontwomen Shitr Elias and Sammi Garret, Robert “Sput” Searight, Mike Maher, Chris Bullock and Date Werth of Snarky Puppy, Casey Russell, Will Trask and Megan Letts. Prince was reborn with covers of “Controversy,” “1999,” “Kiss,” “Head” and “Uptown.”

From New Orleans to Williamsburg, Brooklyn Comes Alive stands on its own. The fourth annual festival was a near sold out success, featuring the booming and vibrant artist twined throughout the city. It is a place veterans will return and newcomers merge in their proving grounds. In the end, it is – and always was – about the music. Who knows what 2019 will bring, but beware: the streets of Brooklyn are alive.