A Good Year for Discerning Ears – and It Ain’t Over Yet!
Among the hallmarks of the winter holiday season is the spirit of generosity, and we here at Brooklyn Roads are proud to declare that, musically speaking, Brooklyn is the gift that keeps on giving. Here’s a look back at the first 11-plus months of 2016 to illustrate our point. We’ll also unwrap some winter holiday musical treats coming to our fair borough this month.
Celebrate Brooklyn! once again presented a diverse summer line-up of outstanding talent, including the likes of inimitable multi-instrumentalist Herbie Hancock; punk rock icons Violent Femmes; indie rockers Beirut, Dr. Dog, Tame Impala and The Lumineers; singer-songwriters Ray LaMontagne and Josh Ritter; and Brooklyn-based artists Aoife O’Donovan, Red Baraat, Angelique Kidjo, Gregory Porter, Wood Brothers,Digable Planets , with a moving season finale from Andra Day .
The opening gala was headlined by local sensations Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Jones’s bravura performance was followed in July by the release of the award-winning documentary Miss Sharon Jones! and an August show at the 10th Annual Afropunk Festival. Sadly, she lost her heroic battle against pancreatic cancer on November 18, shortly after the film was made available on DVD and iTunes.
In July, the 12th Annual Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival included such home-grown talent as NAS, Fabolous, Talib Kweli, Torae and host Uncle Ralph McDaniels. Likewise our borough was well represented at Afropunk by TV on the Radio and Living Colour, who shared the bill with Ice Cube, CeeLo Green, George Clinton and Janelle Monae, among others.
More recently, local faves The Hold Steady made a triumphant return to Brooklyn with three sold-out shows at Brooklyn Bowl.
Perhaps the most highly anticipated event of the year was the opening of Brooklyn’s newest music venue, the Ford Amphitheater at the Coney Island Boardwalk. Among the many top acts who graced the stage there were Bryan Adams, Counting Crows, Willie Nelson, Don Henley, The Beach Boys, Ziggy Marley, Sting & Peter Gabriel, Jane’s Addiction, Boston, Erykah Badhu, Kool & The Gang, Avett Brothers, Culture Club, Phil Lesh & Friends, Public Enemy, Ice T, Kurtis Blow and East New York’s own Maxwell.
Making Their Mark
Breakout Brooklyn artists in 2016 included Lake Street Dive and Lucius, who proved they were not one-album wonders. The former’s sophomore effort, Side Pony topped Billboard’s Alternative Albums chart while the latter’s Good Grief soared to number 13. Sunflower Bean released their first album, Human Ceremony, to almost universal critical acclaim, while American Nomads’ first single, “A Revelation’s Gonne Come,” reached number six on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart and has made it through the first round for a Grammy consideration in the Best American Roots Song category. And Norah Jones released her long-awaited sixth studio album, Day Breaks, which debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 in October.
In the Holiday Spirit
Of course, the year isn’t over yet and December has its share of holiday treats. “Brooklyn’s Own” Joe Cause and other WCBS-FM DJs host “Holiday in Brooklyn” at Barclays Center, December 9. On the bill are James Taylor, Sarah McLachlan and Jimmy Buffett.
The Kings Theatre — which presented such performers as Wilco, Chaka Khan, Morrissey, Dion, Ronnie Spector and Bob Weir earlier this year — hosts “R. Kelly Presents The Holiday Jam” on December 17. Kelly’s Kings County connections include collaborations with Jay-Z, Nas and The Notorious B.I.G.
Two Brooklyn groups bringing holiday joy to The Bell House are The Sweetback Sisters, with their “Country Christmas Singalong” on December 18, and Puss N Boots (Norah Jones, Sasha Dobson and Catherine Popper), who present a “Christmas Extravaganza” two nights later.
Animal Collective will ring in 2017 by DJ-ing at Brooklyn Bowl, with special guests to be announced. Other New Year’s Eve shows include local Ethiopian-influenced groove-and- funk band Anbessa Orchestra at Barbés, and Guided by Voices and The Moles at Music Hall of Williamsburg.
Darlene Love, who wowed the crowd at the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts around Easter time, brings her Christmas show to BB King Blues Club in Manhattan December 17, 23 and 26, and January 6. Check out our interview with Ms. Love here [LINK]. It should be noted that her most iconic holiday song, “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” was written by Brooklyn songwriting legends Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich.
Another reason to cross the East River is the release party at Mercury Lounge for Johnny Pisano’s Punk Rock Pizzeria, the Bensonhurst-born bassist’s first solo album, December 16.
What would the winter holiday season be without Sleigh Bells? The Noise Pop duo has just issued their fourth album, Jessica Rabbit. Other recent releases by local artists include Annie Keating’s Trick Star, Greg Cornell and The Cornell Brothers’ Come on Home, and the EPs Calabash, from Every Flavor Weather Machine and Pulling Teeth by Lucius.