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

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.


4 thoughts on “Siren Festival, Coney Island, July 19, 2008

  1. Oh, these are in order of appearance!
    Broken Social Scene closed, right at 9pm. The Coney Island folks started breaking down the stage RIGHT on time, despite pleas for encores.

    but BSS was a great note to end on.

  2. I’ve been to the Siren Festival once, that was last year. You probably can guess why I went. 🙂 I saw one performer there whom I was just about in love with at the time. But I haven’t been too into guitar-based “indie rock” much in recent years, and my impression of the Siren Fest was that it was almost entirely focused on that stuff…except for that one act.

    It is hot and crowded, etc. But I’ll give them credit for one thing, for providing some of the hottest (no pun intended) acts for free. That M.I.A. show last year was better than most shows that I’d seen for money, and when I remembered that show, it was one of the reasons why I couldn’t bring myself to pay $37 to see her at another outdoor show this year, in ultra-trendy Williamsburg. (Another reason was that my attentions had shifted a little, toward an obsession that was actually influenced by M.I.A., among other things. So I chose to stay at home and watch a Bollywood movie instead.)

    Anyway, if you’re into whatever’s on the bill, the Siren Fest is a very good deal. I bet it helps to have a VIP press badge, though. I mean, I assume it also helps to get you a better spot(?)… Ten years ago, I could have gotten that pretty easily, because I was still writing rock reviews for print publications (albeit not very big ones). In recent years, I don’t even want to be bothered trying (and am not sure if I even want to write about anything connected to contemporary rock – though I still enjoy some punk rock now and then). So, last year, in order not to be stuck in some crushing crowd all the way in the back, I actually stood near the men’s room and watched through the side fence. But at least I had some room to dance there, and it was still a good deal.

    (P.S. Sorry for all the long tangents; a venue can bring each one of us different thoughts and memories…)

  3. Thanks for the additions!
    I have visited yr blog and gotten a lot of great Bollywood tips. I admit I’m much more into the DJ Rekha-style bhangra than the Bollywood, but I enjoy a good jeweled-green-sari epic once in a while.

    re: M.I.A. – I skipped the pay show at the Pool, too. It was cold, rainy, and outdoors – and on priniciple, I object to profiteering at the Pool, which was created by collective artist and neighborhood will, not Live Nation/TicketB@st*rd capital investment.

    the Siren press pass is not for this little blog, either ; )

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