BioDiesel, Jeff Bujak Bring Bass, Beats to Brooklyn Bowl
Brooklyn Bowl is no Wetlands. It certainly tries, but sadly the magic captured in lower Manhattan for an all-too-brief spell in the 1990s has faded away in a cloud of smoke and gentrification. That said, the Bowl is no slouch itself, and frequently shows so in sonic ways beyond its stellar food selection. Proof positive to its own eclectic booking patterns, as well as the decidedly divergent paths of the improvisational music from which the venue sprung, last Friday the Bowl featured a double twin bill: bluegrass honky-tonk revivalists Cornmeal and Hot Buttered Rum early, and livetronica stalwarts Biodiesel and Jeff Bujak late.
Beginning with Hot Buttered Rum’s opening set and reaching a crescendo with Cornmeal’s two band encore, a tie-dyed crowd stirred into a hoedown fervor. This was a country jamboree, emphasis on jam, though the standard string instrumentation here exuded sounds transcending the front porch. Banjos and fiddles and speedily-strummed guitars simultaneously evoked bygone visions of Americana past and future. Engrained in the DNA of jam since The Dead’s conception as a jugband, this music maintains vitality today in the lo-fi psych folk of indie rockers like Woods and MV&EE. But the good ol’ time vibe is more often found in the dance-‘til-you-drop ethos of festival circuit neo-hippies like Cornmeal and Hot Buttered Rum.
As the crunchier segment of the throng slowly morphed into crystalized electronic enthusiasts, the energy in the building shifted towards an impending sense of dirty dance floor madness. Disparity reigns supreme especially in the vaguely congruent sensibilities of the jam scene. Perhaps less noticeable in the Wetlands days, an infusion of influences beyond the standard rock spectrum has steadily creeped in over the past decade plus. Many revelers stayed put for the second half of the night, but the subtle demographical shift was both palpable and foreboding. The dark undertones of dance revolution were in the air.
Soon piercing the darkness was the ebullient Jeff Bujak, a one-man band for the digital set. Surrounded by a mad scientist set-up of keyboards and synths and sequencers for the ears backlit with a blinding array of colorful luminescence variously pulsating and flashing in concurrent rhythm, Bujak conducted electronic experiments in layering beats, samples and virtuosic arpeggios that only rarely bordered on clutter. The crowd wasted no time approaching a frenzied state, split between wide-eyed astonishment at the pure visual aesthetics of the performance and the therapeutic benefits of a turbulent foot stomping. Bujak is a man versus many machines and that dichotomy belies the theory that drum machines have no soul. If it can make noise, it can be brought to life, requiring only infusion from an adequately soulful programmer. Equally adept at glitchy posse rap remixes and tweedly jamtronic excursions, Bujak proved himself more than capable of extracting feeling from his machines.
With a moniker literally implying the natural elements of its lifeblood, Biodiesel draws its power from the paradoxically inhuman drumming capabilities of Johnny Raab paired with the low end spectrum of Brothers Past bassist Clay Parnell. Squeaks and squelches may permeate the underpinnings, but at its core the duo is alive with the organic noises of conventional instruments. Their drum and bass combo was abetted at times by resident Disco Biscuits beep boop technician Aron Magner. Rumors of an appearance by fellow Biscuit Marc Brownstein never materialized, but no matter. This was dance music best suited to just such a late night, lending itself to dancing ceaselessly against a progressing haze. While lacking the outright spectacle of Bujak’s solo histrionics, Biodiesel’s prosaic live band EDM soundtracked the able amblings of a dwindling audience, preserving naught but the tenuous ambiguity of enduring electronic ephemera.
Photography by Taylor Harvey.