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Boredoms With 77 Drummers In Brooklyn

The image that stuck wasn't the 77 drummers arranged in the coiled shape of a snake but rather the straight line of people, small as specks but recognizable as more than mere passersby, stretched across the deck of the Brooklyn Bridge. There were hundreds of them, stood stock still, craning to see the band below. Lines were the order of the day: The queue to get in went on for blocks and blocks--one report from a guy who would know said 17,000 people RSVPed to an event geared for more like a quarter of that. Inside, lines curled for bathrooms and beer, teeming with chatter of early arrival times and scam stories and friends who gave up to go elsewhere. The lines were worth it. New York hasn't seen many events like Boredoms' "77BOADRUM," an amassing of a Japanese noise-rock band with 77 drummers to mark the occasion of 7/7/07. Boredoms once played CBGB with four drummers and those of us there counted ourselves lucky; this was something else altogether. The setting was rich. Few spots in the city are more electrifying and serene than Brooklyn Bridge Park, which comprises a welcome stretch of grass beneath two stately bridges across the river from Lower Manhattan. Boats buzz by and the water itself always seems surprised to be so integral to a city typified by glass and steel. The crowd inside sat on blankets in the sun, looking at each other and looking around. Boredoms started portentously, with the drummers tapping just their cymbals. It went on like that for a while, slow and patient--atmospheric. Then the crash came. It was loud. It was loud, but the result of 77 drummers drumming is as much a sensation as a sound. Thuds were thuds, onomatopoetically, and the finer points of rhythm got washed out in a smear of what could be seen and what could be heard. There wasn't a stage--the spiral alignment of drummers sat flat on the grass--so the only visual cues were flailing arms, shivering metal, and Boredoms leader Yamatsuka Eye conducting it all from a slight elevation. He also banged on things, mainly a series of pads that triggered "rock" parts: swells of noise and synth sounds and what sounded more or less like guitar chords on occasion. The piece had a free improv feel within different movements, but the pacing spoke to compositional logic that played through rises and falls. It breathed. And seethed. And sighed. Hundreds (if not thousands) more gathered outside the gates, on cement steps where the river crashes on quasi-wild rocks. They looked mesmerized, as people from a distance do. But it was the crowd on the bridge that stuck. The hundreds up there had ditched the line to get in and deferred to their resources, which happened to be one of the more impressive structures ever built by man. The mass looked haunted and heavenly, unmoving observers of a spectacle that was all about action. It was hard to see their eyes, but it wasn't hard to imagine what went on behind them. The things that all of us saw were but one small part of what was on display.