Review: A Night of Comedy & Music to benefit Haiti
There is no shortage of fundraising events to support Haiti relief efforts. Everyone in NYC seems to be doing something to support the cause–including schools, restaurants, bars, and concert venues. So why did I end up at this particular benefit at Music Hall of Williamsburg Saturday night? Justin Vernon. I admit, it’s hard to pass up a performance by Mr. Skinny Love himself, and, hey, if the cost of my concert ticket ends up helping the people of Haiti, then even better. Apparently I was not alone in this thinking.
When we arrived around 9 p.m. (I know, I know, it started at 8, so we missed a few people, but you’ll excuse me when I tell you there were arepas involved). Anyway, I arrived to find the most jam-packed Music Hall of Williamsburg I’ve ever seen. So my only option was to hang out in the back as Britt Daniel of Spoon took to the stage. He only played a few songs, which were enjoyable but it got me concerned that all the sets were going to be too quick.
The night continued with comedy by Janeane Garofalo. She discussed her love of fat babies, survival tactics on the L train, the latest trends in teen-speak, and by the way have you seen her beaded jewelry? Between sets, comedians Leo Allen and Bobby Tisdale came out to kill some time. It was odd because I thought Zach Galifianakis was the host. Turns out he just made one (very loooong) appearance. He was quite funny as he paced back and forth, looking down under his baseball cap blurting out random funny lines. Then he invited Just Jess and her Just Boots onstage and it took a turn. He admitted he was out of material and kept asking how much time he had left. It was funny the first time, but then you just wanted to get back to the music.
The music lineup didn’t disappoint. St. Vincent played some covers, including The National’s “Mistaken for Strangers.” Justin Vernon brought his best friend and bedmate Brad Cook (of Megafaun) out for a few songs including Bon Iver’s “Flume.” I figured this would be a Skinny Love-free event, but I still found myself wanting to hear “Blood Bank.”
Next was the special guest, Shara Worden (of My Brightest Diamond), who came out and wowed the crowd, which she has a way of doing (see my Dark was the Night review). She played with her friend Colin Stetson and his oversized saxophone. And they played a song they had recorded earlier in the day for his upcoming album. Then Worden played a solo version of Prince’s “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore.”
And just when you thought the night was nearing an end (but kind of thought it was too early for them to call it a night, right?), Songer Singwriter debuted. This is the band formed on Saturday by Justin Vernon, Annie Clark (St. Vincent) and Brad Cook, and it’s a good example of the surprising bonus performances that you get at shows of this kind. The supergroup played Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon”, Tom Petty’s “A Face in the Crowd” and an all-out version of Dolly Parton’s “Jolene” that left a few of the musicians on the floor by the end. The evening ended after Justin Vernon broke out his Annie Lennox voice for the Songer Singwriter’s performance of “Why.”
In the end, the anything-goes environment, interesting covers and new collaborations made for a good night of comedy and music for a good cause.
ps—If you were holding out for the N.6th for Haiti benefit at MHOW, featuring The Roots, Kaki King, and Matisyahu, just an FYI that it’s been canceled due to scheduling problems.
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Tags: bon iver, megafaun, music hall of williamsburg, st. vincent, zach galifianakis