The inaugural Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (better known as BAM) wrapped up this past weekend and ended with a dance party and a cover band - two things I usually avoid at all cost, but more on that later. Curated by Bryce and Aaron Dessner, one of the two sets of brothers from the group, The National, BK Ferry Festival proved to be a magical 3-day event that brought together some of the best acts in music right now.
Day 1 kicked off with a solid line-up of Jherek Bischoff, Twin Shadow, Sharon Van Etten, and ended the night with The Walkmen. Right off the bat, Jherek Bischoff, who was accompanied by the amazing classical group, yMusic, brought out Amanda Palmer and a personal favorite, David Byrne. DAVID BYRNE, PEOPLE. Needless to say this was a definite highlight for me, but it was also seeing Bischoff, who solos and also plays with the band, The Dead Science, orchestrate a gorgeous set to open the night with. The event continued with Van Etten and her dreamy, swoony voice performing songs off her latest album, Tramp followed by indie pop’s answer to Prince, Twin Shadow, playing some new material off his album which drops this July.
Second night started off with a bang – literally. SO Percussion, the Brooklyn-based quartet, brought out their brand of experimental music complete with drums, bongos, and a whole number performed with tuning forks which went on for what felt like hours, but was impressive to watch. Another longish set followed from Tyondai Braxton, formerly of the band Battles. The night picked up with two outstanding performances from two of my favorites, The Antlers and St. Vincent. Annie Clark doesn’t always sound great to me on a studio album, but watching her live blows my mind every time I see her. Not to mention she does some bitching stage dives.
Caveman, My Brightest Diamond (again, with yMusic), Atlas Sound, and Beirut rounded out the last night along with a late night DJ set with Pat Mahoney and Nancy Whang, both former members of LCD Soundsystem. My Brightest Diamond and Atlas Sound were two acts I had not seen before, but both brought their A game and musical ingenuity to the fest. Factoid about the person writing this, I hate to dance and it’s mostly because I’m incredibly awkward. However, Whang and Mahoney’s set was phenomenal and I found myself breaking out my version of the robot and, well, it only got worse from there. Mid-way through the DJ set, 4 out of the 900 members of Arcade Fire, called Phi Slamma Jamma, showed up for a surprise performance, covering songs from the Beatles, Flying Burrito Brothers, Devo and others.
Tonight I sit here typing this and I’m still basking in the experience. New York’s festival scene has taken some hits recently which is somewhat bewildering, given the rich music scene we have. And even though I missed out on the other performances and events during the festival, I walked away feeling a strong sense of a musical community. This was by far the most pleasant and cushiest music festival I have ever been to. There was no heat stroke, dehydration, or “mud”. Nor was I continuously crushed in packed crowds by inebriated dudes wearing knock-off neon colored Ray-Bans. A classy affair indeed. Dessner Bros., if you’re reading this, thanks for the good time and reminding me why I love festivals so much.