Tuba Gooding Jr. of the Roots, photo by Alex Eriksen

What a crazy night! CMJ showed up and there was easily 1,000 people lined up to see DJ Vice, the Hold Steady and the Roots rock the Intrepid. We were beginning to think we’d need one of the helicopters up on the flight deck just to make it to the stage, but after some finagling, we made it past the gate. The free event sponsored by Pandora and State Farm went down on the deck of the aircraft carrier, with drink tents on top and food trucks down on the pier. Those in attendance were given red light up shutter shades, making the deck look like a hive of glowing fire ants from above.
Up on deck, DJ Vice was already spinning. The DJ booth was fronted by 12 glowing bars, like a battlement, projecting all kinds of weird stuff: explosions, city skylines, white and black bars. The things could even sync with the beat and light up in time. Partygoers sipped their five dollar cups of wine as secret service-looking dudes watched and waited for someone to get just a little too close to the edge of the ship. Good thing there’s a guardrail on deck.
The Hold Steady didn’t take off until 8:00 on account of rain. Once the stage was cleared of protective equipment (garbage bags, duct tape) the dudes lit the candle and blasted into their set. Frontman Craig Finn was in true form that night, flapping his arms around as if trying to achieve liftoff. The set did soar, and the crowd fed off of all the fists, waves and fingers Finn was chucking at them. Lead guitarist Tad Kubler strapped on his double-necked Gibson EDS-1275 toward the end and let rip. We’ve never seen fingers so fast. Properly primed, the audience was ready for rock of a different breed.
Blurts from a sousaphone (think wearable tuba) heralded the coming of the Roots. Damon “Tuba Gooding Jr.” Bryson burst on stage brandishing his sousaphone so violently we half-expected something to pop out of it. Brassy bass notes backing up Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson’s drums wafted out of the beast of an instrument, as Black Thought launched into “How I Got Over.” The MC asked, “Can I get some help?!”—the answer from the audience was an overwhelming yes. The energy was well-divided among the Roots, compared with Finn taking on the collective weight of the Hold Steady. There was plenty of movement, with synchronized dancing and Bryson at one point waded into the crowd, going from front to back, the bell of his sousaphone poking above a sea of heads.
All photos below by Alex Eriksen
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