GOWANUS — A year to the day after the death of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, fans will gather to celebrate his music and legacy at a Gowanus performance space on Saturday.
Littlefield on Degraw Street is hosting MCA Day to honor Yauch, who died at age 47 after a three-year battle with cancer on May 4, 2012. The free event will feature five DJs spinning Beastie Boys tunes and a display of art inspired by the hip-hop pioneers.
A few celebrity guests are expected, but organizer Mike Kearney declined to reveal who because he wants fans to experience the same thrill he had on the first MCA Day in 2012, when he met Beastie Boy Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz.
Kearney threw together last year's MCA Day as an impromptu response to Yauch's passing. He was in Boston studying for grad school finals when he got a text about the rapper's death, news that left him shocked and numb.
Kearney, 33, grew up with Beastie Boy albums shaping key stages in his life. He remembers hearing "Licensed to Ill" as a child, and using "Check Your Head" to fuel his foray into skateboarding.
As a teen, "Ill Communication" — which sampled Tibetan monks on two songs — opened his eyes to the larger world around him.
After spending days devouring news coverage of Yauch's death, Kearney felt a "dire need to create something physical." He grabbed a boombox and some batteries, jumped in his car, and drove to New York with the intention of playing the Beastie Boys' entire catalog to anyone who would listen. He also brought pads of paper and easels where fans could write remembrances.
A crowd of 400 or 500 gathered at the makeshift memorial in Union Square and eventually Horovitz showed up, a moment where Kearney's face "went ghost white" with shock. The outpouring of emotion left Kearney stunned, and he's hoping to recreate that vibe at this weekend's event.
“This amazing day transpired," Kearney said. "I didn’t know if 20 people would come, or 2,000, but I knew it had to be done. It’s almost indescribable the feeling of what was going that day.
"I’m not a religious person, but there was something bigger than all of us going on," he added. "It was just gratitude. It was nothing short of magical."
Though Yauch and his fellow Beastie Boys gained notoriety early in their career for obnoxious lyrics and stage antics that worried some parents, in later years Yauch revealed a more thoughtful side. He was a devout Buddhist and advocate for Tibet.
Yauch was known for catchy rhymes in iconic Beastie songs like 1992's "So Whatcha Want," in which he sang about being "as cool as a cucumber in a bowl of hot sauce." His will stipulated that his music and likeness could not used for advertising, and Kearney said he's respecting Yauch's wishes by only printing Yauch's silhouette — not his face — on T-shirts and posters.
Saturday's MCA Day isn't the only Brooklyn event honoring the late Yauch. On Friday May 3, a Brooklyn Heights playground will be rechristened after Yauch.