Siren Festival, Coney Island, July 19, 2008

Siren Music Fest Coney Island, NYC, 7/19/08
Current mood: content
Category: Music

Where to begin? first, the Village Voice’s Siren fest at Coney Island has been around for 8 years, but I have never been there. It gets a bad rap for being stupid crowded, super hot, managed like Bush running a laundromat, and generally a bad time is had by all.

but . . .NOT – I went on Saturday, and from 2pm to 9pm, saw 7 great bands, many new, in a well-run showcase that went off like clockwork. Yes, it helped that I had a VIP press badge that got me in and out of the narrow crowd pens onto the boardwark quickly. Yes, it helped that my water and those damn energy drinks were free.

But LOTs of peeps had a good time,

mainly cuz the Voicers in charge made the shows run super-tight.

first up, we saw Brooklyn’s own Parts and Labor w/pal Kerry, who’s hubby’s currently playing w/the Mendoza Line. Very fine. Many pix are up on This Week in New York’s photostream on Flickr – but not here.

then Film School, Times New Viking (fave band name of 08), and the Annuals.

both Times New Viking (a rather TV on the Radio-like sound)

and the Annuals (from Raleigh, NC, sporting a somewhat generic indy south pop tone)

featured a hot chick keyboardist and sweet guitars.

But the “new” (at least to me) band standouts were Ra Ra Riot and Islands.

Ra Ra Riot of Syracuse, had a gorgeous blond singer, who looked like he should have been homecoming king but decided to be really cool instead,

and two female strings virtuosos, on electronic violin and cello,

plus bass, lead guitar, and drums. Their anthemic, strings-laced sounds were drenched in swooping pure rock joy, and roused the crowd from its late afternoon torpor to Cyclone-style heights.

The quirky Islands, from Montreal, Canada, had some serious star power, from the weirdass fascination of the lead singer, whose entrance was canned
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to the hotties on violins, who looked suspiciously like brothers — one of whom sported an ultracool look worthy of a Johnny To movie villian-hero

to the surprise appearance of Despot, a rather small but fast rapper from Queens, who upheld the american way and seemed to be doing some sort of July 4 celebration about two weeks too late.

Riot and Islands built the momentum just right for the featured artist Mr. Twi-ny and I chose to see, having the choice between the excellent Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks and Broken Social Scene.

I urged Mr. Twi-ny to check out BSS, whom I love; he responded “Are they one of those dancey things. . .they aren’t too techno, are they?”

of course they are NOT. Hailing from Toronto, Canada, BSS is in the vein of Arcade Fire — a collective of musicians who are a band as much as a bunch of loosely associated people who play together a lot. Feist was one of them. Brendan Canning is one of their guitarists. They have horns, about 4 or 5 more guitarists, and a rotating band of female singers and one main male one.

They are SO MUCH FUN. They did a fantastic version of Ibi Dreams of Pavement, and Fucked up Kid, and Fire Eyed Boy. And their sound swoops like the Cyclone, too, and they stump for Obama, and they bring ecstasy and joy and lots of rhythm and GUITARS, horns, percussionists, random female singers in cool dresses . . .they are known for playing with the musicians who show up. And they do it right.



it was night, it was done, we went home happy. check out ra ra, islands, and bss.

See Coney Island before its gone.

I’m glad I saw it one more time,like this.

Dizzee Rascal, Highline Ballroom, New York, July 18, 2008

British hiphop, rap, grime — The future of Hip Hop — genrefy him anyway you want, but 21-y.o Dizzee Racal is something else, esp live.

Friday night in Manhattan at the small Highline Ballroom, with its impressive soundsystem and functional, comfy vibe, Dizzee arrived about 10 mins before showtime — my concertgoing companion, the lovely Leyla, spotted him entering, with a posse of two and trademark Cap Back.

Bouncing on stage, with DJ Aaron LaCrate and his backup singer, Dizzee gave props to the proper authorities in an RUN DMC black t-shirt and smoking red-and-black hightop Nikes.

He tore into the trademark high-energy highspeed lyrics of Where’s Da G’s, and the show was heavy on more material from his third album, Math + English, including Bubbles, Wanna Be, GHETTO, and a joyous Flex, which got a number of the ladies doing exactly that.

Dizz’s relation to the crowd was a lot more relaxed and playful than that at his May 08 show, just two months ago at Webster Hall.

Probably cuz the crowd at Highline was
1) a lot more knowledgeable bout his music
2) a lot more British (he shouted out to ‘the Brits’ on several occasions, to massive response from at least 1/2 the crowd)
3) a lot more mixed, in age, race, and style
4) a lot better dancers.

Dizz’s formidable intelligence (c’mon, those lyrics are INSANELY smart) is balanced by is impressive confidence and knowledge of and true respect for his forebears. Midway thru the show, a blistering rendition of his first US hit, Fix Up Look Sharp, got good response, but it was his show closer, Dance with Me, that brought down the house. (He was accompanied on stage for the last two songs by three mysterious eminence grise of rap — old guys, one with massive flash and a fine, fine, silver skull-headed cane. Wish I knew more! any IDs from the more knowledgeable are welcome.)

Was a privilege to hear what has topped the British charts for the last 5 weeks, cuz Dance with Me is Dizzee’s mega hit — it got the girls flexing, the bodies bumping, and the Brits cheering.

The crowds don’t show up in NYC for Dizzee like they should – but we’re lucky to get him in small venues. We’d never get near him in Britain!