It’s not often that I go to a show not knowing what to expect and end up being pleasantly surprised by what transpires, but such was the case with Thursday’s installation of the URB ALT Festival at Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn. The Underground Railroad Broadcasting Alternatives Festival, celebrating diversity on the indie/alternative music scene, marked its fifth anniversary in New York this week.


First up on Thursday’s bill was a compelling performance by indie-electronica artist Oh My Goodness, singer/songwriter/keyboardist Therese Workman, from Portland, Maine, who performed with collaborator and Brooklyn-based percussionist, Tyler Wood. With Workman on lead vocals (a smooth, mesmeric alto) as well as a variety of keyboards and additional percussion, the duo’s spunky drum and synth-driven songs revealed hints of pop, funk, and drum-and-bass influences, paired with witty and often poignant lyrics. The lively set included “Money,” “Rollerblading in the Everglades,” “OMG OMG,” and the delightful “Everything All.” Oh My Goodness is set to begin recording their debut album next week.



Second on the bill was Brooklyn act Twin Shadow, whose melodic, upbeat songs blend Krautrock, new wave and pop with an ‘80s bent that at times recall Kajagoogoo, Naked Eyes and even very early Prince. Songs included “Castles In The Snow” and “I Can’t Wait.” Twin Shadow, aka, George Lewis Jr., will release his debut EP in the fall on Terrible Records (founded by Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor).


One artist on Thursday’s bill that I was familiar with was London-based American expat, singer/songwriter Art Terry, whose performance was thoroughly engaging. With frequently humorous lyrics that drew chuckles from the audience, and musical influences from the Beatles and Beach Boys to Sun Ra, Terry’s songs play out like little vignettes recounting stories of relationships, journeys and self-discovery, often with a rock opera vibe, as on “Playa” and “Bible/Koran.” Starting out on piano, and later switching to guitar, Terry performed a few songs from his recently released album, Anutha Kinda Brotha (Frizz Records), as well as non-album tracks “Fela” and “Black Bohemian,” and was later joined onstage by Ibrahiym Ross (from MuthaWit Orchestra) on drums for a few songs.


Thursday’s show ended with an outstanding set by the avant garde MuthaWit Orchestra, who, in addition to a few of their own songs, performed a set of Miles Davis covers in a tribute to the legendary album Bitches Brew. Led by composer/guitarist/singer (and URB ALT founder) Boston Fielder and displaying a wealth of talent, the eclectic nine-person ensemble marries classical, jazz, rock and a bit of old-style R&B, with instruments ranging from piano and guitars to violin and horns and a myriad of percussion.


Friday’s URB ALT festivities at the 92nd Street Y in Tribeca kicked off with set by singer/composer/pianist Leila Adu, accompanied by a percussionist and bass player. With critics drawing comparisons from Nina Simone to Bjork, Adu’s songs reflect influences from jazz, classical and experimental rock. In addition to her solo project, the London-based, New Zealand-bred artist has also written compositions for, and performed with, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Friday’s set included “Ode To The Unknown Factory Worker” and “Dark Joan,” from her third solo album, the Steve Albini-produced Dark Joan (Frizz Records).

Once again, MuthaWit Orchestra finished off the evening, this time with a generous set focusing on original material but with one notable cover, an Isley Brothers song, in tribute to the late great Marvin Isley, who recently passed way. –Teresa Sampson, Photos by Teresa Sampson

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