The initial scar of pain that came after the news of hip-hop legend MCA's tragic passing was still fresh to many at the Brooklyn Bowl that fateful Friday night. The drums banged one last time for the fallen as BADBADNOTGOOD, Toronto's next biggest import, worked the crowd into a cathartic rendition of the Beastie's "No Sleep Till Brooklyn." Their encore served as a rallying cry for everyone there as the entire building joined in chanting the Beasties loud enough for the entire neighborhood to hear. Their stripped-down and scaled-up cover maintained the loud and disrespectful spirit of the classic, serving as an overall mission statement on the night of why they are the next big thing to blow up the game.
For the unacquainted, here's the quick rundown (longer form here). Bonding over a love of equal parts jazz and hip hop, Alex Sowinski (drums), Matt Tavares (keys) and Chester Hansen (bass) dropped out of their jazz school to start the band. Two full-length releases and grip of Youtube sessions later, they have completely stuck their foot through the door of both the jazz and hip-hop worlds. Their deconstructive approach to their music allows them to stretch out four-bar loops into extended bass groves and free-flowing improvisations to fill in the spaces between the melodies, giving their music that frantic, mad genius quality to it. The set felt like a window into their jam sessions, each member getting so incredibly busy on their instruments as if no one was watching.
Since their first show in September eight months ago, they have opened for jazz legend Roy Ayers, became Odd Future's band du jour, jamming out with Tyler the Creator in their basement and most recently backing Frank Ocean in front of the thousands of thirsty fans at Coachella this past April. On top of all that, they were also the band in residence at the campgrounds, throwing down six different sets in the desert both weekends. They finally took their show on the road, kicking off their four-date "Just the Islands" tour by batting cleanup at Brooklyn Bowl Friday night. Launching with the Sweatshirt-ed cover "Earl", BBNG took the stage to an incredibly receptive crowd, some getting their mosh on from the first drop. They took the hot and bothered astronaut's song and turned it into a trip down acid lane; the music slowly building momentum and then suddenly crashing down like a house of cards.
Transitioning into slower fare, BBNG showed their versatility with some of their original music off of the new BBNG2. "Vices" starts off with Matt's foggy ethereal minor chords, serving as the pace car for the melody. He continues to slowly chug along as the snare starts to roll out, letting the beat build for a few minutes before launching into an all out assault on the drums. The pig mask had to come off mid-song. It was unreal how hard they played, leading one to wonder how on Earth they didn't break their instruments at different points in the night. As the set moved along, the crowd got more into them and less into their glow-in-the-dark bowling, packing out the space and stomping along to the epic knowledge being dropped.
Their hardest songs came during the set closer of both Kanye West's "Flashing Lights" and the haymaker of BBNG2, the Tyler the Creator / Gucci Mane medley of "Bastard/Lemonade." "This right here is a fuckin Kanye West classic!" Alex shouted out right before they dropped the hammer on that signature synth line. Chester's bass line primed it as the kickdrum pumped along during the chorus before completely delving extremely to the left into an extended keyboard run from Matt. The three of them showcased an incredibly natural ease to their playing, feeling incredibly comfortable to go on improvised riffs and drum patterns knowing they can expect the others to keep up the pace. Once the young Creator's keys go from Odd Future depression to the Bangladeshi ignorance, all hell breaks loose, the three of them all going for broke on their shit, losing all self restraint in the music. It was refined chaos, something to behold live and witness in person. The show served as a complete validation of the praise they have been getting lately. It showed great promise for the band whose ages barely scratch 21. Their sound is bigger than jazz, it's bigger than hip-hop, it's BADBADNOTGOOD.
Photos by Brewster McCann
"No Sleep Till Brooklyn (Cover)"
Follow Jerell Tongson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hollapino