Last night I had the opportunity to see Borahm Lee, a keyboardist known for being half of the electro-hip hop duo Break Science, perform a solo show at The Knitting Factory in Williamsburg. The fact that he had a drummer and a guitarist accompanying him apparently does not stop this from being billed as a solo show, but okay. What do I know, anyway?
Break Science, you surely recall, was on my top 10 favorite shows of 2014, and even though Lee was without his other half (amazing drummer Adam Deitch), I was excited to see what he could do on his own, all while having no actual idea as to what to expect.
We arrived at the venue at the start of hip hop group Technicolor Lenses’ set, and decided shortly after to wait the set out in the other room as we weren’t really in the mood for rap (one of the great things about The Knitting Factory is the bar, where you can sit and have a drink and watch – but not hear – the concert room through a large window in the wall).
At the stated start time for Lee’s set we headed back into the crowd, and were greeted with yet another rapper. Only this guy was much less pleasant than the first one. It was a whole lot of, “PUT YOUR MIDDLE FINGERS IN THE AIR! LET ME HEAR YOU SAY ‘FUCK THE PO-LICE!'”
I wasn’t feeling particularly angry and a lot of the crowd wasn’t either. Break Science is on the Pretty Lights Music label, and so a significant portion of the crowd to check out Borahm Lee were the same as you’d see at a Break Science or Pretty Lights show. That is, hippies. The anger seemed really misplaced in this peaceful, tie-dye-clad Brooklyn audience.
When Lee finally came on stage, even he seemed to be unsure about his opening acts, and he told us he would start off with some “palette cleansers.” His music had an ambient feel to it that really did fit with the idea of trying to clear away all the negativity of the last performer, and the crowd went nuts when he finally weaved in the Break Science hit, “Who Got It?”
After 15 or 20 minutes, Lee was joined by the drummer and guitarist, and the mellow vibes continued. I wasn’t really sure what to make of the set, because it seemed to continue with the palette cleanser theme; I felt like I was continually waiting for something to begin, not in the thick of a set in progress. A friend clarified what I had apparently missed from an earlier announcement – the set was all improvised.
The improv nature of the show explained to me why there weren’t really complete songs or even a stronger character to the music, and while I continued to be impressed by the talent of all the musicians up there, it never seemed to get into a rhythm for me. It was a little hard to dance to, a little hard to follow along with, and a little hard to focus on. As the set went on, the crowd began to thin, and my friends and I were among those who left, retreating to the other room to watch and actually be able to talk.
I won’t say I was disappointed by the evening, but I was certainly a little confused by it. The music was decent and the skill level was high, yet something didn’t feel completely right. Despite this, I’m still excited to hopefully catch Break Science next month and get to see Lee back in his element.