James L. Dolan, the owner of the Knicks and the lead singer of the blues band the Straight Shot, took the stage at Williamsburg’s Brooklyn Bowl on Sunday night. Unlike most events there, this concert was free – interesting, because revenue sharing will affect the N.B.A.’s next collective bargaining agreement.
The sight of a league owner strutting on a stage during what could be a long labor struggle was one to behold. The correlation between the current financial squabbling between players and owners and much of Dolan’s spending over the past decade rendered the reality of a free concert all the more fascinating.
The low-key atmosphere before the show was hardly befitting of Madison Square Garden’s executive chairman. Children played tag on the dance floor while adults relaxed around a bar that offered six varieties of beer from Brooklyn Brewery as Dolan, wearing a black shirt and blue jeans, strummed his guitar in relative anonymity.
Barely anybody at Brooklyn Bowl seemed to care that Dolan was Madison Square Garden’s chairman. One of the few patrons near the dance floor mentioned the guest performer Robert Randolph as a primary reason for attending.
A woman seated on a green couch knew next to nothing about the Straight Shot and had no idea Dolan was in the band. Knicks paraphernalia was nowhere to be seen, and the people plopped on couches in the waiting area were there to bowl.
There were no half-drunk, early-arriving hecklers still mad that the Knicks might have been able to sign Carmelo Anthony without sacrificing a large chunk of the roster.
The band Tauk (short for Montauk), featuring Dolan’s son Charlie, opened for the Straight Shot. Dolan critics and Knicks fans might revel in the name of Tauk’s debut album, ”Brokedown King.”
The Straight Shot’s cover of ”Stay Up Late” by the Talking Heads drew noticeable applause from the crowd of about 50 to 70 nonbowling patrons.
That Dolan, who was animated throughout the performance, would choose to play in a hipster bowling alley might have been as head-scratching to some as a five-year, $30 million contract for Jerome James.
Some N.B.A. owners were at the Basketball Hall of Fame ceremony earlier in the weekend in Springfield, Mass., while the Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stopped briefly at Dyckman Park and Rucker Park to check out the New York streetball scene.
Dolan was catering to an in crowd that is accustomed to seeing under-the-radar acts mixed in with fashionable indie bands, Questlove of the Roots spinning records, and Kanye West rhyming up a storm.
Dolan is known to avoid contact with the news media, but he and his band often perform in public. No other sports owner communicates almost entirely through song lyrics. And aside from ”Fix the Knicks,” which Dolan first played at Jones Beach Amphitheater in late July, it is hard to ascertain what lyrics may relate to basketball.
Dolan belted out the lyrics to ”Fix the Knicks” in Brooklyn, a borough one year from welcoming the Nets as its own.
”Yes, we are getting them fixed,” Dolan said after the song. He then paused, and finished the thought, ”I think.” It was an interesting statement, especially because one of his band mates made an awkward noise into the microphone when Dolan mentioned Isiah Thomas in the song. The lyric: ”Doing my best, yes, that’s my promise. I check with my friends, call Isiah Thomas.”
As for the song, its rhythm and sound are more suited to the ’62 Mets than anything current in New York sports. And short of rhyming ”what my mission be” with ”offensive efficiency,” Dolan will probably not be winning over many savvy fans with his lyrical prowess.
After the Straight Shot exited the stage, Brooklyn Bowl planned to close for two days for renovations, according to its Web site. Given that it had just hosted a man who likes to sing, ”Beyond the horizon, behind the sun, at the end of the rainbow, life has only begun,” perhaps that was fitting.
This is a more complete version of the story than the one that appeared in print.
PHOTO: James L. Dolan, the chairman of Madison Square Garden, performing with his blues band Sunday at Brooklyn Bowl. (PHOTOGRAPH BY MICHAEL NAGLE FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)