“I too lived—Brooklyn, of ample hills, was mine; I too walk’d the streets of Manhattan Island, and bathed in the waters around it.” So goes Walt Whitman’s “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” the poem that the National’s Dessner brothers, Aaron and Bryce, named their three-day festival at BAM after. Were they to chose another passage to use for the event, they could do worse than, “You’re the reason why I’ll move to the city/Or why I’ll need to leave.”
OK, maybe that message would be a tough sell to advertisers (and calling it the Give Out Festival might be confusing), but there’s a truth in that sentence, about risking everything you have on a literal person or a figurative goal, that’s hyper-specific to New York. L Magazine cover icon Sharon Van Etten, who wrote the line, she moved to Brooklyn for her music, and hasn’t needed to leave. Same with Aaron (via Cincinnati), who joined Sharon on stage last night to play two or three songs, including “Magic Chords,” during her 45-minute set. She was engaged, focused, and determined while making her way through her excellent album Tramp, even with a jag-off heckler bothering her throughout her time on stage. It was occasionally haunting, often tender, sometimes even volcanic (fuck, that voice), always great.
The Walkmen, too, are from out of town (Washington), yet made their name here. They headlines night one, and with good reason: Hamilton Leithauser & Co. have the unique ability to make every show of theirs at seem special. His red-in-the-face singing style, which filled up the entirety of the massive Howard Gilman Opera House, only works if he gives it his all (he does), and the other four members (two of whom, after a decade, finally got to sing harmony for a new song that will appear on their upcoming seventh record, Heaven, due out May 29) are uniquely talented, able to make their songs sound rough around the edges, yet actually keep things tightly composed.
Wonderful start to a wonderful festival in a wonderful city.
Photos by Nadia Chaudhury of Sharon and the Walkmen, as well as Jherek Bischoff and Twin Shadow, are below.
Jherek Bischoff, Ymusic, Amanda Palmer and David Byrne
Sharon Van Etten (with Aaron Dessner)