Grizzly Bear/Beach House/VEGA @ Williamsburg Waterfront, Brooklyn, 8/30


Grizzly Bear's Chris Taylor. Photo by Rezflicks.

At JellyNYC’s last free concert of their NYC Pool Party series on the Williamsburg Waterfront in Brooklyn last Sunday, it seems like the forecasted bad weather was just about the only no-show. Otherwise, the full capacity crowd had to wait in an hour-long line that wound around the surrounding avenues of the tiny East River State Park before getting in. But for those who finally did, what more could a few thousand flanneled music lovers ask for than hearing Grizzly Bear, Beach House, and Vega with a riverside view of the New York City skyline behind them? Nothing — unless, of course, the answer is more free shows in Brooklyn.

And as someone waiting in that long line with the rest of you, I heard the set of the first opening band (disco house rockers Vega) out on the street instead of inside the venue. But, you know what, it’s all good because part of the fun of these free events is checking out who showed up. Asides from the legions of neon garbed, Ray Ban shaded teens and their older, bearded Williamsburg counterparts, the endless stream of people contained everyone from curious pedestrians to celebrities, including Brooklyn rap megastar Jay-Z!

Jay-Z and Beyonce. Photo by Tim Griffin.

But it’s not the sights that brought a full capacity crowd to the waterfront, it was the sounds. So by the time I got in, Beach House came on for their 5pm set. Their slow, booming kick drum became the steady pulse to a superb dreamy, ethereal set – a clear contrast to the frenetic energy of Girl Talk’s DJ set last week. Reverb-saturated vocals of the polka-dotted vocalist Victoria Legrand washed over the crowd, filling the venue with a mellow, relaxed energy. Beach House effortlessly transitioned from one ghostly melody to another, peppered with lightning strike guitar riffs, until their entire set was like one, long opiate-induced haze. Not bad for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

Beach House's Victory Legrand. Photo by Rezflicks.

Then, the title act: Grizzly Bear. There’s no better place for Grizzly Bear to finish off the first leg of their extensive tour for their critically acclaimed third album, Veckatimest, than their very own Brooklyn stomping grounds. Although well-crafted, I usually find Grizzly Bear’s recordings to be too slow, too meditatively self-absorbed for casual enjoyment. But, alongside Beach House’s similarly sedated set, and with the sun slowing setting behind them, there was nothing stopping this show from being anything short of epic.

Grizzly Bear w/Victoria Legrand - Two Weeks [via Brooklyn Vegan]

Grizzly Bear put on a seamless, zen-like set of songs, including most songs off Veckatimest (the rising and falling vocal harmonies of Daniel Rossen fit perfectly this particularly reverby afternoon, with the floating crescendos and decrescendos of “Ready, Able” being a particular high point) and all the best from their old LPs (a transcendent performance of “Knife” included). But that’s not to say Grizzly Bear didn’t rock out. Every time Ed Droste released a fuzzy, ultra distorted riff into the crowd, I could see nothing but a sea of hundreds of people, Jay-Z included, doing the characteristically Brooklyn “zombie hipster headbang” in unison.

Grizzly Bear's Daniel Rossen. Photo by Rezflicks.

All in all, the performances were the perfect way to end JellyNYC’s exceptional lineup of back to back free concerts, and a fitting end to a summer of great music in the city.

Grizzly Bear's setlist
Southern Point
Little Brother
Fine for Now
Two Weeks
Ready, Able
I Live With You
Fix It
While You Wait for the Others
On a Neck, On a Spit