photos by Dominique Taylor
If you came to see a jazz band playing covers of rap songs, you were in the wrong spot at BadBadNotGood’s third ever US show at Brooklyn Bowl last Friday. After backing Frank Ocean at Coachella and playing another gig in Los Angeles, the Canadian trio officially kicked off their US tour in New York City–and with it their quest to defy genre categories and pigeonholes of all types.
If anything, the roughly 150 avid blog-readers witnessed a performance that was punk in spirit. Combining a mixture of impossible-to-classify original songs with covers ranging from James Blake to Gucci Mane, the leitmotif of BadBadNotGood’s set was the uncompromising assault of their respective instruments. With Chester Hansen pounding his bass and Matthew Tavares hammering the keys, most eyes were arguably on drummer Alex Sowinski, who accounted for the biggest ruckus in the whole scenario. Unleashing the fury on his kit in proper Zach Hill-fashion, he quickly lost his oxygen-restrictive signature pig mask after a lively opening jam.
Despite leaving out many of their most well-loved renditions (this one dude kept yelling for them to play Waka Flocka’s“Hard In the Paint”), the young Candians managed to enthuse their audience by impressively maintaining a balance between meticulous playing and raw energy throughout their one hour-set. Their go-to-formula of building a tune up to a crashing crescendo, then quieting down again for some virtuoso soloing–only to wreak havoc once again–could use some polishing. But the crowd obviously approved of the recipe. When the set reached its preliminary climax on Kanye’s “Flashing Lights,” the roaring reception did not let the band get away early.
For their encore, Alex once again donned the pig mask for an atmospheric performance of the “Bastard” intro, which was followed by an aptly announced “fast, scary and dangerous” interpretation of “Lemonade.” BadBadNotGood’s very last song of the night was of course inspired by the shattering news of MCA’s passing. Surely hundreds of bands were paying homage to the Beastie Boys that night all across the world. But this all-out rendition of “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn” must have been among the most dedicated dedications of the night.