Brooklyn Comes Alive is a breeding ground for once-in-a-lifetime musical experiences. The eclectic festival forces musicians to think outside of the box, often centering on a theme, a tribute, or a set of choice covers. Plus, musicians love to play Brooklyn Comes Alive because it gives them a chance to play music they don’t often get to play with friends and other musicians they don’t normally get to play with.
In 2016, The Disco Biscuits‘ Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner came together with Break Science’s Adam Deitch and Borahm Lee to debut Breaking Biscuits at Brooklyn Comes Alive, which packed the Music Hall of Williamsburg and was a sure highlight of that year’s event. For 2017, Brownstein and Magner delivered another amazing lineup, bringing together a who’s who of the modern jam scene for their set at Brooklyn Bowl.
Brownstein and Magner were joined by Joel Cummins of Umphrey’s McGee (a scandalous choice in light of the growing, albeit playful, tension between the two bands), Mike Greenfield from Lotus, Ryan Jalbert from The Motet, and Jennifer Hartswick and Natalie Cressman of Trey Anastasio Band. The result was a fun and funky set that focused mostly on R&B songs and pop classics, such as “Just Dropped In” by Kenny Rogers & The First Edition.
When the supergroup took the stage, Magner and Cummins’ dual-keyboard approach would pay off in a big way. The two players traded off solos throughout the set, and it was clear that the duo was having a blast onstage. Brownstein and Jalbert provided the ideal groove for the rest of the band to play off of, and Hartswick and Cressman showcased why they are two of the most talented and versatile performers in the improvisational music scene, taking turns playing their respective horns and trading vocals throughout the set.
Hartswick’s standout moment came early in the set, as she kicked the band into second gear with a confident take on Blondie‘s “Rapture”. Cummins really let loose during the number, delivering an out-there synthesizer solo as the rest of the band clicked on the song’s famous groove.
When it was Cressman’s turn to take the lead, she shocked the room with her patient and soulful approach to the Mark Ronson arrangement of the classic Britney Spears song “Toxic”. Cressman’s vocals and the fun and unexpected nature of the cover commanded the attention of the room. The band sounded particularly funky on this track, matching the song’s 1960s vibe while Cressman delivered her on-point, intoxicating vocals.
It’s not often that members of The Disco Biscuits, Umphrey’s McGee, Lotus, The Motet, and Trey Anastasio Band all grace the same stage. These rare collaborations, unique covers, and once-in-a-lifetime moments are what makes Brooklyn Comes Alive such a special event, and Brownstein / Magner / Cummins / Greenfield / Jalbert / Hartswick / Cressman surely delivered on all fronts.