Kanye West Plays Surprise Brooklyn Set to Close Pitchfork, CMJ Fests
Kanye West surprised hundreds of concertgoers at Williamsburg music venue Brooklyn Bowl early Sunday morning (Oct. 24), performing a five-song set that included highlights from his recent G.O.O.D. Friday releases and a singalong to his self-revealing new single, "Runaway."
West's set, which had been rumored for the better part of the night, kicked off at approximately 2 AM during an anniversary party for the label Fool's Gold Records, which closed out Pitchfork's three-day #Offline festival. The Fool's Gold lineup featured two acts with connections to West: A-Trak, a DJ who has toured with the star and contributed to his "Late Registration" and "Graduation" albums, and G.O.O.D. Music upstart CyHi Da Prince, who guests on many of the songs West has been releasing online in the lead-up to his new album, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy."
Video: Kanye West performs at Brooklyn Bowl
After CyHi Da Prince performed his solo single "Ray Ban Vision" with support from A-Trak, he segued into "So Apalled," one of West's recent G.O.O.D. Friday tracks, and brought out the man himself, to the delight of those who had waited hours for him (and shock of those who hadn't bothered to check Twitter before arriving). CyHi then left the stage all to West, who launched into his scathing verse on the G.O.O.D. Friday posse cut "Monster," followed by the soulful "Devil in a New Dress." Fans then clapped along with the introduction to "Power," for which West switched out his massive Horus chain for one slightly more functional, and assisted the rap star by belting out the chorus of "Runaway."
The surprise gig came just a few hours after the television premiere of West's new short film "Runaway," which features music from "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," on MTV. At a New York screening of the film earlier in the week, West told theatergoers that "the main meaning of the film is to express yourself and don't let people tell you how to think or how to be," adding that it "represents everything I ever wanted to do since I was five -- the colors, the wings, the gold, the sky."
Other performers who rocked the final night of Pitchfork's #Offline festival included New Jersey indie-punk outfit Titus Andronicus, which ripped through tracks from this year's acclaimed "The Monitor," and incited a hipster mosh pit. Just prior to Titus' set, new-era gangster rapper Freddie Gibbs won over a crowd of mostly rock fans with tracks from his "Str8 Killa No Filla" mixtape, leading the room in a chant of "f**k the police" and performing a strange-yet-effective cover of the Whispers' "Rock Steady."
Video: Titus Andronicus performs at Brooklyn Bowl
Brooklyn duo Javelin had hyper-angular dance pop down to a science, managing to get a crowd of last-night-of-CMJ zombies to shake it at the ungodly hour of six in the evening (a full eight hours before West's arrival). Toting a wall of boomboxes and a bizarre loop of videos from the '80s, Tom van Buskirk and George Langford sliced and diced sounds, driven by propulsive drums and smart, snarky, almost tossed off vocals. With a stint opening for Yeasayer behind it and a spot on the Matt & Kim tour starting soon, Javelin could graduate to headliner status in 2011.
The last night of CMJ, which also ended on Saturday night, also included the first East coast stop for the Corin Tucker Band, the new project from the Sleater-Kinney vocalist and guitarist. Fresh off the release of "1000 Years" earlier this month, the group, which includes multi-instrumentalist Seth Lorinczi and stellar Unwound drummer Sara Lund, headlined the early show at Maxwell's in Hoboken, filling the 200-capacity room with more locals and S-K fans than CMJ badge-holders. The band's live show proved more high-octane than the album's somewhat relaxed approach to the songs, with rockers like "Doubt" inspiring plenty of jumping, screaming and unison clapping. As a treat for fans of recently reunited indie rock band Versus, frontman Richard Baluyut contributed vocals on several songs, and lead guitar on "1000 Years". Mascott frontwoman Kendall Meade also joined Baluyut on backup vocals. The CMJ-constrained set lasted less than an hour, but was a motivating teaser for the band's upcoming full-throttle show at Bowery Ballroom on Oct. 26.
Over at the Rock Shop in Brooklyn, singer/songwriter John Shade performed literate, heartstring-tugging tunes on acoustic for an intimate daytime crowd. After opening for Bon Iver in Massachusetts earlier this year, Shade shared, he was invited to the artist's Wisconsin recording studio to lay down his first album, the forthcoming "All You Love Is Need."
Additional reporting by Cortney Harding and Evie Nagy