Back to Back Jam Super Groups at Brooklyn Bowl
In lieu of a much needed post-vacation vacation after a week long excursion to Maine and upstate New York, I hopped right back into the swing of things in NYC, barely taking time to unpack before jetting to Brooklyn Bowl for a performance by Sucker Punch featuring Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner of the Disco Biscuits aided and abetted by Mike Greenfield of Lotus and Jamie Shields of The New Deal, playing in his first shows since the dissolution of his main trio shortly after New Year’s. This night was the last of a brief run that also hit the Equifunk and Bella Terra music festivals.
After Brownstein protege Alpha Data warmed up the crowd with his wobble-infused remixes of familiar tunes by the likes of Gotye and the Flaming Lips, the main act took the stage. Whereas the original incarnation of the band included STS9 drummer Zach Velmer, this version was basically Conspirator with Jamie Shields instead of Chris Michetti. The group played some Conspirator material, but the overall sound was primarily dominated by the steadily building synth-heavy tension release jams at which The New Deal was so adept.
The space in between The New Deal and Conspirator was filled with jams ranging from the expected livetronica to more ambient dub, reaching a fever pitch with The New Deal‘s “Home” in the first set and a stellar closing segment featuring the Biscuits‘ “Lunar Pursuit” segued into a crowd pleasing rendition of Pink Floyd‘s “Breathe” and climaxing with The New Deal classic “Gone Gone Gone.” With a near capacity crowd and friendly faces all around, the night was a great end to a long, tiring week.
The following night featured a much sparser crowd, but a more seasoned group. Though billed only by their names, Skerik, Charlie Hunter, and Mike Dillon logged considerable time in various configurations of funk/jazz/whatever combo Garage A Trois. All are incredibly accomplished improvisational musicians, having honed their skills crisscrossing the country’s club and festival circuit with various like-minded associates. This show was almost an afterthought, announced just a week prior, but it was soon apparent that this was one of those sleeper shows that most folks skip while those in attendance are treated to something special.
For starters, the sounds produced by these three men sounded like the work of a much larger ensemble. Charlie Hunter is known for his unique 7-string guitar/bass hybrid and ability to slap out a bass line whilst somehow also shredding through crystalline guitar parts. De facto front man Skerik, dubbed “a rebellious man” by Les Claypool, is one of the more singular individuals at the intersection of jam and funk, prone to fractured saxophone outbursts and truly bizarre banter. Holding down the rhythm was the ever-percussive, always eccentric Mike Dillon evoking Will Ferrell’s wide-eyed George W. Bush. And all three put in some time on marimbas, glockenspiels, and vibraphones scattered about the stage.
The tunes ran the gamut from classic New Orleans funk to smooth jazz to old school hip hop featuring Mike Dillon‘s rhyming skills. At one point, perhaps inspired by an epic take on the song by Phish the night prior, an instrumental veered into the Talking Heads‘ “Crosseyed and Painless,” lingering for a bit before dissolving into the popular showtune, “Whatever Lola Wants.” At another juncture, all three engaged in a mesmerizing percussion jam.
There were guests too. Carley Simon emerged stage center bedecked in knee-high Le Chat Noir socks to augment the trio with her manic trombone work. Erstwhile Beyonce Knowles drummer Nikki Glaspie assaulted the kit for a spell. The collaboration was loose and fun, just like the best jam sessions. This crew would clearly be rocking just as hard for a large late night jazz fest crowd as they were on this late summer Monday for fifty or so lucky music lovers.