A giant pair of eyes attached to what looks like a sea of tinted foil. A cutout heart, also with a pair of eyes. Foil clouds and disco balls hanging from the ceiling, reflecting the brightly colored spotlights. Briston Maroney’s Paradise, an annual festival that is now celebrating its second year, is certainly named appropriately. The entirety of Brooklyn Bowl was decked out for the occasion, complete with a pastel balloon arch and a decorated table encouraging attendees to leave notes for their favorite performers.

The festival was a three-night event featuring artists such as Olivia Barton, Hannah Cole, Charlie Burg, Skullcrusher, and others, with Briston Maroney closing out each night. The lineup for October 10th, the opening night, included hey, nothing, Jack Van Cleaf, Samia, and, of course, Maroney and his band.

hey, nothing, an indie folk duo from just outside of Atlanta, opened the show. Their set was simultaneously captivating and liberating, a collection of lyrically descriptive songs backed by a unique harmony of heavy acoustic and electric guitars, with supporting vocals that ranged from conversational to unbridled. Between songs, they cracked jokes and expressed their excitement for the artists that would follow them onstage.

Jack Van Cleaf, a folky singer-songwriter, was second to the stage. He sang about moving to Nashville and falling in love, his poetic lyricism supported by a four-piece band and brought to life in nostalgic two-part harmony. His set intensified as it progressed – peaking toward the end of a powerful rendition of “Wild Roses” – but mellowing out for the final few songs.

Jack Van Cleaf performing a set at Brooklyn Bowl, Oct. 12th, 2023.

Samia, the third performance of the night, was electric in her performance. Her band entered to a mashup of LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” and MUNA’s “Silk Chiffon”, pumping their fists in the air excitedly. The rest of the performance was equally as energetic; during instrumental breaks, the band would drop to their knees or thrash their heads as Samia danced around them, hopping on one foot and shaking her limbs wildly. As she neared the end of her set, Samia invited Briston Maroney to join her onstage. The pair, who have been dating for two years now, performed a cover of Alex G’s “Miracles”.

“I have a crush on him,” she admitted, giggling. “We’ll see how that goes.” Her set concluded with a lively performance of “Honey”, the title track of her most recent album.

In the final performance, the peak of the night, Maroney and his band played their own set. They opened with a dissonant mix of instruments, which resolved into an emotive rendition of “Body”. As the first song concluded, Maroney leaned into the mic, his eyes sweeping across the crowd.

“Welcome to paradise.”

Maroney performing at the first annual Paradise Festival at Brooklyn Bowl, Nov. 4th, 2022, courtesy of The Alternative.

The rest of the set featured Maroney-originals such as “It’s Still Cool If You Don’t”, “Sunburn Fades”, “Small Talk”, and “Caroline”. The band was vigorous in their performance, running across the stage and jumping up and down as they played their instruments. Their energy was contagious; the crowd was wild with excitement, screaming the words to every song. The performance itself was uniquely crowd-focused, with the spotlights often darkening on the band and brightening on the crowd, allowing attendees to see the unabashed dancing and unbridled joy around them.

The festival concluded on Saturday, October 14th, but Maroney plans to return to Nashville next year with a more genre-diverse lineup. If Paradise sounds like your idea of a good time, keep an eye out for tickets!