Fans show gratitude to the Beastie Boys at Brooklyn Bowl’s Beastie Bowl party
The Beastie Boys are a New York City icon. Born and raised in Brooklyn and Manhattan, the three Jewish punk rockers turned smart-assed rappers wore the city as a badge of honor for their entire career, making countless lyrical references in their songs, and revolutionizing the genre of hip-hop, one of the fair city’s numerous inventions.
Upon learning of Adam Yauch’s death on May 4, fans across all five boroughs were distraught but dealt with their grief through celebration rather than despair. The weekend following his passing, many DJs and bands payed tribute to our fallen hero both here and elsewhere playing Beastie Boys songs in clubs and at concert. Among the city’s many venues, Brooklyn Bowl was first to respond with a whole night dedicated to MCA, Mike D, and the King Ad-Rock.
Beastie Bowl, which took place last Thursday night, was a smörgåsbord of Beastie Boys fandom. With the doors opening at 6 p.m., guests were welcomed to slabs of the Beastie discography, with entire albums playing in full while patrons gulped down $5 Brass Monkeys. I arrived as the soundsystem was about three tracks into “Check Your Head” which played to its completion while fans congregated around the stage for the main event. As I walked around, I could see a wide cross-section of people of all different ages sporting “RIP MCA” shirts and hats, while others vibed out to the band’s underrated 1992 masterpiece, singing and rapping along to tracks like the sinewy punk rocker “Time For Livin'” and the funky “Live at P.J.’s.” Images of the group’s several hilarious skits, including “A Day in the Life of Nathaniel Hörnblowér” starring David Cross, played across the many projection screens interspersed throughout the alley.
Around 9:30, remix group Eclectic Method member Jonny Wilson took the stage for a visual and audio warm-up that whipped everyone into a frenzy. Cutting up videos and fan favorites along with interview clips, Wilson stirred the pot of MCA appreciation with a set that ran through the band’s entire career with a focus on the late musician, singling out his pro-women verse from “Sure Shot” and at one point looping the section of “No Sleep Til Brooklyn” where he yells, “They call me Adam Yauch but I’m MCA!” to which the crowd went wild.
Wilson’s set abruptly cut off during “So What’cha Want,” its sudden extinguishing stinging the crowd much like the pain felt by everyone in the room when they heard the terrible news of Yauch’s own abrupt departure less than a week earlier. After a few minutes, though, the Beasties were back on for the main event, a screening of the group’s fan-shot concert film, “Awesome, I Fuckin’ Shot That,” which played on every screen in the building while its soundtrack pumped through the P.A. system. Fans danced and rapped along with the movie, and even cheered after every song as if that 2005 night at Madison Square Garden was taking place right there and then.
The Roots‘ drummer and bandleader Questlove was scheduled to spin at Brooklyn Bowl for his recurring Bowl Train series long before news broke of Adam Yauch’s death, so there was a momentary uncertainty as to whether the Beastie love-in was over or not. It turned out the Boys meant just as much to Quest as they did to the rest of the crowd, his set ripping through the band’s catalog in a continuous and adventurous playlist. Dropping in extended remixes left and right, Quest essentially did the group the most justice, going beyond singles and throwing in deep cuts and rarities like “Electrify,” “Boomin’ Granny,” “Stand Together” among dozens of others. He also ventured into some of the samples that certain Beasties songs were based in, like when “Hey Ladies” morphed into “Machine Gun” by The Commodores and bounced back in without missing a beat. It was a joyous and celebratory set, one that no one wanted to end.
Earlier, between the film and Questlove’s endless playlist, Neal Usatin, one of the editors from the film, came out on stage and gave a speech thanking the crowd for their appreciation and love for the work of Adam Yauch and the Beastie Boys. The extreme emotion the crowd and the entire Oscilloscope team harbored was palpable; we all felt the loss and we were channeling our pain through fun and expressive music, which is what the Beasties did repeatedly through their three decades of music. And while there was little opposition, we all fought valiantly that night for our right to party, and it was a sure shot victory.