Artists Who Lit Up Our Radar Screen in 2017
Over the course of the past 12 months, Brooklyn Roads interviewed a diverse group of Brooklyn-based artists, some fairly new on the scene and others who have been grinding it out for many years. They all have two things in common that lit up our radar screen: exceptional talent and a deep appreciate of how our fair borough has influenced and inspired their music.
We started the year by getting reacquainted with Johnny Pisano, who was one of our very first featured artists back in 2010. We chatted with him in January shortly after the release Johnny Pisano’s Punk Rock Pizzeria – his first solo effort after a few decades of playing bass for Bruce Springsteen, Deborah Harry, Joan Osborne and Willie Nile, among many others. The album was funded by a wildly successful Pledge Music campaign, which, Pisano told Brooklyn Roads, supported his belief that, “The community of people that come out to see us play are the coolest people on the planet.”
Omega Sirius Moon
Spring found us visiting the musical garden of Bed-Stuy-based multimedia artist Omega Sirius Moon, who told us that, “Brooklyn is a place where you can unzip yourself and let your colors run all over the sidewalk.” She also advanced the theory that, perhaps, “artful aliens dropped a dopeness vortex on Brooklyn’s precise coordinates … to see how highly developed our art forms can become.”
While preparing for a May concert at Sunnyvale, T.C. (aka Travis Tyge) of The Roofer’s Union commented about the influence such other Brooklyn artists as LCD Soundsystem, St. Vincent, Dirty Projectors, Grizzly Bear and TV on the Radio had on the band. He also lauded the borough’s creative environment, noting that Brooklynites “have a pretty open mind when it comes to music, so every splintered-off sub-genre has the potential to gain some sort of following.”
Just prior to the June release of his debut album, Outerboros, multi-instrumentalist folkie Dougmore said, “I’m always awestruck by how much there is to learn, and how Brooklyn is a garden for growth beyond compare. I’ve been finding some pretty fantastic new spaces and vibrant communities, like [Bushwick’s] Unit J.”
In July we went behind the scenes to learn how Park Slope-based producer and programmer Danny Kapilian transformed a lightly attended world music and jazz-oriented outdoor concert series into the highly successful BAM R&B Festival at Metrotech. “By 1998 it was clear that black American music in all of its forms was attracting the biggest and most enthusiastic crowds,” Kapilian explained to Brooklyn Roads. He booked such top R&B and soul artists as Percy Sledge, Rufus and Carla Thomas, the Stylistics and the Chi-Lites that first season alone, and the event has continued to draw the best of the best.
Later that month, singer Jan Bell, founder and artistic director of the Brooklyn Americana Music Festival, talked about her musical odyssey from Yorkshire, England, to Dumbo, and gave her impressions of some of her favorite performances at the festival. Said Katherine Etzel of local folk quintet Bobtown: “Of all the festivals we play, this one stands out as a highlight for us. It’s a true labor of love by the organizer, Jan Bell, whose focus is … on community support.”
Just last month we hooked up with Benjamin Cartel, who marveled at how “great musicians from all over the country and all over the world come to perform [in Brooklyn] all year round.” Cartel came here several years ago…and stayed…now calling Ditmas Park home. His new album, Flickering Light, distills folk, rock, punk, reggae influences – with a dash of Brooklyn.