Folk music. Bluegrass. Country. These are not genres one necessarily associates with the Brooklyn waterfront. Until recently, Dumbo’s previous musical claim to fame was being the backdrop of the 1987 Bananarama video for “Cruel, Cruel Summer.” During the past three years, however, Brooklyn Americana Music Festival founder Jan Bell has worked to change that.
The sounds of fiddles, banjos, mandolins, and lots and lots of guitars echoed throughout Dumbo and Red Hook this past weekend, thanks to the festival, which started in 2015. This year, the 2017 Brooklyn Americana Music Festival consisted of more than 60 acts across seven stages and four days, kicking off with a sold-out gala last Thursday at the Jalopy Theater in Red Hook–showcasing bands from as far away as Kansas (Truck Stop Honeymoon) and Indiana (Tim Grimm Family Band)–and finishing Sunday night with an afterparty at Dumbo landmark Superfine.
Over the weekend, performances took place in the Archway under Manhattan Bridge, at beloved Red Hook watering hole Sunny’s, Red Hook Bait & Tackle, 68 Jay Street Bar, and the picnic tables at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Pier 6. Shows started on Saturday and Sunday around noon and went, in some cases, past midnight. Local performers included 12-year old Little Nora Brown, the Brothers Brothers, the Chapin Sisters, Gangstagrass impresario Rench, and the Defibulators.
The weekend was made possible by a combination of crowdfunding (Bell raised $7,335 on Kickstarter in August) and sponsors that included Superfine, 1 Brooklyn Bridge Hotel, the Brooklyn Bridge Park Conservancy, and Red Hook’s Widow Jane Distillery, with assists from the Dumbo Improvement District and the Brooklyn Arts Council. The combination of the two made it possible for admission to the shows to be free. And while the success of the 2017 Brooklyn Americana Music Festival virtually assures there will be a 2018 iteration, with all the inspiration this weekend provided, don’t be too surprised to hear string music throughout Dumbo in the months ahead.