Columns of well-coiffed music fans streamed into the Howard Gilman Opera House at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on Friday (Apr. 26) for the second night of the Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Festival, produced by BAM and curated by the Dessner brothers of Brooklyn band the National. The venue is the festival's most striking attribute, with plush red seats and decadent beaux-arts interiors that cut a stark contrast with the hallmark picnic blankets and vinyl tents of its counterparts. Audience members were quiet and attentive -- if anyone was carrying illicit substances, they consumed them with disciplined restraint.
Eleanor Friedberger, of indie rock band the Fiery Furnaces, broke in the stage with a new touring band assembled in anticipation of her second solo album, "Personal Record," due out in June. Friedberger is a multi-instrumentalist, but she handed off playing duties to her band, aside from a pair of green maracas. Her deep, even vocals and half-sung, half-spoken delivery, then, served as a focal point. With a backdrop of crisp, grooving and slightly folky indie rock, she evoked a more tuneful Patti Smith or an urbane Lucinda Williams. She played a new song called "She's a Mirror" that sounded like Hall & Oates, and dedicated the somber acoustic number "I'll Never Be Happy Again," to the recently deceased George Jones.
David Longstreth, another artist known primarily for his work within a band (the Dirty Projectors), was the very image of solitude when he strolled out later in the evening. Tall and lean with long brown hair and dark clothing, he carried his guitar in timeless troubadour tradition, accompanied on stage by only a small amp and mic stand. The primary tension in the performance came from the question of whether the vast, black emptiness would swallow him whole. Longstreth played solo guitar versions of Dirty Projectors music, including "Swing Lo Magellan," "Cannibal Resource" and "Police Story." He also played what appeared to be either new or unreleased songs, none of which strayed too far from the stirring guitar and vocal acrobatics for which he is known.
The polite pretense of earlier performances was mostly dispensed with by the time Solange, who headlined the evening, made her appearance. The younger Knowles sister was luminescent in shimmering green pleated shorts with matching jacket and eyeshadow. Throngs of similarly dapper fans, eager to let loose, hung on every sway of her hip or shake of her splendidly afro'd head. With producer and collaborator Dev Hynes by her side on electric guitar, Solange played the entirety of her soul-pop mini-album "True," with a few older gems sprinkled in for good measure. For the first time of the night, a majority of the audience abandoned the comfort of the seats, standing in place or flocking to the pit in front of the stage. Solange prowled and sashayed with enthusiastic vigor; she said she wanted to turn the concert into a junior high school dance. As the crowd jumped up and down, shaking the gilded walls of the Gilman Opera House, she mostly got her wish.