Where: New York City
Venue: South Street Seaport / Pier 17
"This never happens," proclaims Marnie Stern after proclaiming profusely to the audience. It wasn't surreal fan ship or a spectacular surprise, it was the sound of Stern's electric guitar - well, lack thereof. Yes, the sound technician royally ballsed-up during Stern's 30-minute performance, but it still didn't make up for Stern's disappointing performance during The Village Voice's own music festival in New York City.
We expected rain and thunderstorms to disrupt the final Saturday in June, but a sudden change in weather left the sun burning down on the thousands of thrift seekers from New York and beyond. Complaints were high, the Fahrenheit was high and most of the audience were high. Stern, among 10 other bands braved the heat for seven hours of non-stop music. Arriving at 1.40pm, we caught the up and coming Heliotropes. They sounded like most alternative rock bands with My Bloody Valentine influences, or, nu-gaze. Having just released their debut album, Heliotropes were hot out of the bullpen. Playing hazy sounds to a welcoming audience through an average sound system. The guitars sounded great; however the same can't be said about vocalist Jessica Numsuwankijku. She was the first to fall under the scrutiny of vocal criticism.
Hunters were exceptionate in outlining present Brooklyn D.I.Y punk. They looked atrocious, but sounded fabulous. The quartet were on the same page as Britain’s newest media molecule - Savages. Guitarist Derek Watson literally shredded in the New York sun. Whereas vocalist Isabel Almeida owned the stage with her pink hair, panda t-shirt and animal-print trousers. They deserved to play the newly built CBGB's bathroom at the MET. It was fresh-sounding, obviously punk and not at all over the top with their stage presence, appearance and persona. Signed to up and coming label Mom + Pop, Hunters will release their debut album soon; some excited faces.
The day progressed and the punk rock continued with White Lung. The pitiful and unnecessary mosh pit dampened White Lung's less than memorable performance. Strange occurrences forced the older generation to turn around and walk away, leaving young males in Japandroids shirts to go buck-wild. To be fair to White Lung, it was day time and they quite clearly a late night angry band. The members never seemed on edge or possessing noise rock / punk rock albums under their belts. Their studio albums are definitely better than the dreary youth-filled punk they offered 4Knots.
Parquet Courts were impressive on the main stage. Last year’s Light Up Gold was a punk / D.I.Y highlight that re-occurred during their set. Like most bands, Parquet Courts were allotted 30 minutes for their set; however this wasn't the case in the Parquet Courts camp. We left five minutes before the half hour mark to head over to the small and strangely placed second stage, though things didn't turn out as expected. Marnie Stern was up and raring to kick off, but Parquet Courts potentially unaware of their lateness kept on playing for an additional seven minutes. This seemed to grill the festival organisers who up until that point followed a very strict time schedule of non-stop music. Stern was eventually given the go ahead, with Parquet Courts still playing in the rear. The combination of bands created a horrific clash, like standing in-between two stores at a shopping centre. So Stern began to play her math rock turned alternative rock music to a more than frustrated waiting audience. It was clear Stern's guitar was far too quiet, something I pointed out many times over the first five minutes of her set. Her set turned to gold towards the final few songs, but the poor standards will be remembered more than anything. The other noticeable feature was Stern's croaky vocal. Instead of her typical high-pitched tweaks, she sang from the throat and shouted more than the punks that flooded 4Knots Music Festival. There was still enough time to hear The Men before the heat took its toll. Brooklyn's punk rock quintet pulled out some blinders including a cover of The Stooges "I Wanna Be Your Dog". It was a pleasant cover that put The Men above the others. The audience loved every moment of their set.
For a free festival, The Village Voice sure put on a great day. Bands from all over came and played to a relaxed but also sweaty audience. We were thankful, as was the staff who consistently offered freebies to the festivalgoers. Some on-lookers were annoyed by the blow up beach ball included with the freebie, but most seemed to enjoy the occasional smack on the head. The festival didn’t' end until 8pm, we missed the headline act Kurt Vile due to hunger, thirst, and exhaustion. I'm sure he pulled it off, just like The Village Voice had been doing all day. New York offers the best in free concerts, such as the Central Park SummerStage concert series over the summer. The location, South Street Seaport, has some of the best views of Brooklyn and downtown Manhattan, perfect for music.