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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Are You Ready to Rock… at BAM?!

by Louie Fleck

A BAM ad from 1969

Rock music has been a big part of BAM—in stand-alone concerts, and as essential elements in multi-genre productions. With this week's Crossing Brooklyn Ferry festival, inquiring minds need to know more!

Mention BAM and you might think of groundbreaking Robert Wilson productions like Einstein on the Beach. But consider that his collaborator Philip Glass created his ensemble on a rock band template. And of other Wilson productions, Time Rocker's score was created by original New York rocker Lou Reed. What about The Forest? The name of that composer is David Byrne! We should also mention the three Tom Waits/Robert Wilson productions: Alice, Black Rider, and Woyzeck.

If you think of BAM as a home for dance, you may recall that Trisha Brown tapped the Grateful Dead's "Uncle John’s Band" for her piece, Accumulation, and Bob Dylan’s "Early Morning Rain" for Line-Up.

Twyla Tharp worked with David Byrne's music to create The Catherine Wheel (at BAM in 1981 and 1987). In a 1979 show at BAM, Tharp choreographed and presented songs by Randy Newman, and also from the ultimate rock musical, Hair!

In October 2012, the Howard Gilman Opera House saw a number of electric guitars paired with modern dance when it raised the volume—literally and decibel-wise—with Political Mother, the powerful performance piece by Hofesh Shechter Company.

BAM has also hosted many blues and R&B shows, such as the 1968 concert featuring Solomon Burke, The Delphonics, and Patti La Belle & the Blue Belles. On acoustic guitar, solo, Richie Havens was able to rock BAM on April 20, 1968.

Program from 1968 Richie Havens concert


Off-campus, BAM has presented the R&B Festival at MetroTech for 18 years, and will have featured more than 200 acts after this summer's festival, June 6—August 8.

Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton was real rock ‘n’ roll royalty. The composer of "Ball ‘n’ Chain" (made famous by Janis Joplin) and the first artist to record "Hound Dog" (Elvis Presley’s breakout hit) appeared twice at BAM in one year (February 10 and October 20, 1974).

In 1968, BAM also experimented with a series called: Jazz/Rock/Bach to make musically diverse evenings. New York native, Michael Kamen, who later played with everyone from Pink Floyd to Bowie to Rush to Metallica, appeared with his genre-defying New York Rock & Roll Ensemble.

Tarot program
Tarot program inside
Back in 1970, the Grateful Dead’s first keyboard player, Tom Constanten, left the band to compose the Chelsea Theater’s epic production of Tarot. It looks like he even convinced guitarist Jerry Garcia to play a few shows at BAM.

Tarot program detail


There was even a soundtrack LP released. Listen to Tarot’s psychedelic "The Chariot Voyage/The Star" here.

Amazingly, right in the middle of the big 1987 Gershwin tribute, Bob Dylan stole the show when he walked on stage to brilliantly sing the 1927 Gershwin brothers tune “Soon.”



A 1988 all-star tribute show to Les Paul at BAM was recorded and released on video and featured B.B. King, David Gilmour, Steve Miller, The Stray Cats, and many others. From that show, here’s the incredible Eddie Van Halen rocking out at the Harvey Theater:



In the fall of 1989, BAM presented a multi-venue festival in New York called New Music America. While it showcased a wide variety of jazz and avant-garde music, rock was well represented with performances by David Byrne, Butthole Surfers, Eugene Chadbourne, and Lenny Kaye.

Consider this BAM appearance by Pete Townshend on August 7, 1993, featuring The Who songs, his solo hits, and the entirety of Psychoderelict.



“Artists in Action” was a fascinating collaboration with conceptual artist Vito Acconci and post-punk British Rockers the Mekons, presented by BAM at the Dia Arts Center in October 1995.


Vernon Reid
Even Prince’s music has been featured at BAM. The Joffrey Ballet’s “Billboards” featured an entire evening of ballet choreographed to Prince songs in 1995. Party at the End of Time: 1999 Live with The Roots and Vernon Reid featured a large group of guest stars performing the classic album.

Patti Smith (November 30—December 1, 2005) featured Tom Verlaine (Television) and Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers) performing her beloved album, Horses.

Vernon Reid has had a special relationship with BAM, appearing with various projects including his band Living Colour; his highly influential Black Rock Coalition; and in A Magic Science, a tribute show to Jimi Hendrix in 2000 and Rhythm and BAM in 2005, which also featured George Clinton & the P-Funk All-Stars and TV on the Radio.

Marianne Faithful
Over the last 15 years, so many rockers have graced BAM’s stages… Jeff Mangum, Dr. John, Paul Simon, Grizzly Bear, Alice in Chains, Marianne Faithfull, The National, and Vampire Weekend, to name a few. Can you remind us of some you’ve seen?

Stew and Heidi told us we needed sitar in our lives with 2010’s Brooklyn Omnibus, but in fact they delivered an original rock opus to rival their Broadway work. Here’s a provocative rocker that brings it all back home… to Brooklyn!


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