TV on the Radio, Phosphorescent Shine at Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Festival: Live Review

Tawni Bannister

The Brooklyn Academy of Music buzzed with the commotion of a couple thousand local music lovers who pushed the stately venue to capacity on the last night of Crossing Brooklyn Ferry festival. The crowd, now well accustomed to the environment, diffused through all three venues at BAM -- the Howard Gilman Opera House, BAM Rose Cinemas and BAM Café -- like blood cells in a body.
Upstairs at BAM Café, where brisket sandwiches and chicken kabobs were served with $7 locally brewed beer, the Austin band Pure X played an early set while the sun still streamed in through the windows. The music was appropriately dreamy, with languid licks of distorted guitar that went on for what seemed like minutes. Lead singer Nate Grace wore his long hair in the sort of hippy braids that usually signify peace and love. But he sang with real pain and passion, as if he were straining to exorcise inner demons. Pure X release a new collection of slow, hazy daydream rock called “Crawling Up the Stairs” via Acephale May 7.

Solange, Dave Longstreth Highlight Crossing Brooklyn Ferry Fest: Live Review

In the Opera House, Matthew Houck of Phosphorescent held a packed crowd captivated with his delicate voice and sweeping, elegant folk rock. The songs were given extra heft by a six-piece band that included organ and keyboard players and an extra percussionist. Phosphorescent’s latest single “Song for Zula,” from acclaimed new album “Muchacho,” was a crowd favorite, eliciting whistles and cheers at the end of a mesmerizing six minutes. The performance as a whole was rich and varied, at one moment picking up to a rollicking pace and at another slowing down to an intimate crawl.
The festival built to crescendo as closing night headliner TV On the Radio took the stage. The hometown band had a massive banner printed with a galaxy of stars as its backdrop, and it glowed and flickered with changes of the light. At the start of foot-stomping opening track “Halfway Home,” the building itself hummed with kinetic energy. And the performance didn’t let up from there. Lead singer Tunde Adebimpe darted across the stage, adopting a serpentine shimmy that made him seem like a man possessed. Producer Dave Sitek’s hands were a blur as he shredded his guitar, filling the room with a cacophonous drone that was occasionally punctuated with blasts of trombone. During barnburner “Wolf Like Me,” the normally soulful and pensive co-songwriter and vocalist Kyp Malone jumped up and down and whipped circles with his dreadlocked hair. At the end of that song, Adebimpe did a somersault and landed on his back. He laid there for a beat, staring up at the stars, taking in the moment and catching his breath.