Saturday, July 24, 2010

Siren Fest - July 17, 2010

Without a doubt one of the highlights of the summer concert season in New York is the Village Voice Siren Fest.

Happening on nearly the exact same date every year (the third Saturday in July) this years festival was loaded with as many great performances as followers of this event have come to expect.

Show opening performers Apache Beat proved to be a very early
standout appearance.

For anyone not already familiar with Brooklyn, New York's Coney Island - there is a rich history here that certainly deserves to (at some point) be investigated.

Parking my car in the safety (if pricey, for me) of Coney Island's minor league Baseball Franchise - the Brooklyn Cyclones parking lot, I ambled down Surf Avenue towards the music festival's two stages.

The world famous and most picturesque original Nathan's hotdog stand was doing is usual brisk business.

The corner of Surf and Stillwell , entry to the first festival stage.

With stagemap and press / photo access squared away, it was over to the Stillwell Stage to hear up and coming band Apache Beat.

The first thing you notice about this band is their stylish, charismatic and attractive lead singer Ilirjana Alushaj.

She had to photo pit all a flutter (with their shutters) while the rest of the band were more than content to drive through a set of unique rhythmic songs.

In particular, the bands drummer/percussionist seemed to be constantly busy, laying out polyrhythms throughout most of their material.

Ilirjana (pronounced Ill-E-Ana) was a most captivating visual magnet, as she rocked out in the fanciest (and best) dress of the event, and did it all barefoot too - which of course completely skewered the imagery (since you'd expect some equally stylish shoes to go with that dress).

Her vocal presentation is more or less out of the wailing banshee style school - which fits perfectly with this band.

Give them a listen.

The band is offering up a free MP3 from their soon to be released album.

And you can listen to more of their music here:

An opportunity presented itself to have a quick chat
and photo with Ilirjana later on.

Quickly scurrying over to the other (Main) stage (a task that would be repeated throughout the day) I arrived just in time to catch another band on my "must see" list - The Screaming Females

The anticipation was worth the wait as the band featured many songs from their impending fourth album release, titled “Castle Talk.” To be released through Don Giovanni records on September 14, the tracks appear positioned to match and possibly even surpass the quality shown on their previous album “Power Move.” On that record, the single "I Do" gave us an anthemic feel by way of a descending chord progression. While the bass and drums throttled forward like a 1980's SST label punk band, guitars chunked over top until the inevitable sinewy guitar solo.

The newer songs here took that same formula but sped everything up a bit. With vocals alternating between a sing and a scream, but still finding the room for well placed background aaaahhhs. Still, the lead guitar solo’s jumped out at you, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to compare this band to a legendary act like Dinosaur Jr. More angular and a tad frantic, what’s clear is the equal interplay of a power trio that thinks like a band. Marissa Paternoster is the flashy focus (and rightly so), however one can sense the band dynamic clearly at work here.

Check out the amazing shredding guitar work Marissa displays here in this clip:

Here you get the total band effect, as they lay down a slinky groove for Marissa to unleash over:

Following The Screaming Females on the Main stage were the much ballyhooed Surfer Blood

When I first heard their album earlier this year (amid a torrent of well placed press and hype) I wasn't all that blown away. Frankly, I had heard all this before and didn't think they were particularly breaking any new ground. However, their live show here on this day was most impressive, and has motivated me to take a second look (and listen).

Nicely done.

The very popular bring-a-drum-into-the-crowd move!

Following Surfer Blood on the Main Stage was a band out of San Diego, California called
Night Marchers

I was previously unfamiliar with their music, but could see why they garnered this more featured placement at the Festival.

They are a tightly wound unit, playing that sneering style California punk rock that brought to mind Social Distortion (a band that pioneered this sound).

However, I could only stay for part of their set as I had to rush over to the Stillwell Stage and catch a band I'd been wanting to see for a while now - Earl Greyhound

Blending sprawling song structures (and chops) of prog rockers with a decidedly 1960's hippie style, they present a live show that is both unique and entertaining.

These are highly sophisticated muscians who have developed a sound (and image) forged on a blueprint few other bands could pull off.

Portrait of the "wide stance" bass player.

Tribal facepaint instead of traditional makeup.

Heavy riffs frame out intricate rhythms, with vocals often sung in tandem.

Unapologetic, flamboyant, prog rock and roll. Blistering guitar solos, muscular drumming and a tribal warlord on bass -- it's Earl Greyhound

If you like that sort of things, you'll love their album.

Back up onto the boardwalk, heading over to the main stage again.

On the way I ran into this:

How could I pass up one of these?

Hitting the seriously primetime moments of the day now, it was time for

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart

Having become casually friendly with various members of the band over the last few years, I remain impressed with their ability to not only hold on to the popularity they've already achieved, but their overall continued steady improvement as well.

Check out this live performance of their single "Say No To Love"

With an impeccable sounding debut album and steady touring schedule all contributing to this band's rise, it should be no surprise to anyone at this point, why this band is presently positioned where they are.

Songs like "Teenager In Love" (presented here live) perfectly illustrate the pop melodies in frontman Kip Berman's songwriting.

Peggy is a front and center star. Image, voice, personality and essential keyboard hooks.
The complete package.

What I find most impressive about TPOBPAH is how Kip & Co. continue to write one hooky pop tune after another.

Listen to their brand new song "Heart In Your Heartbreak"

Hand scrawled setlists make the best keepsakes

With a few minutes to kill before the next act, I decided to soak in some of the local ambiance that can only be Coney Island on a hot summer Saturday

The Parachute Drop Tower (and actual ride from 1941-1968!) looms majestically over everything. It has been called the "Eiffel Tower of Brooklyn."

Yes, I just had to stop and gawk at the spectacle that can only be Shoot The Freak

Breaktime over, it was back to the Main Stage for

Ted Leo and The Pharmacists

Ted Leo is a longtime veteran of the local rock music scene, gaining accolades far and wide for his band's punk rock sensibilties.

The tunes are rip-fast, the lyrics quick and witty.

Listen in here:

Bolting from the Ted Leo show across the boardwalk (one more time) I wanted to make sure to catch Cymbals Eat Guitars over on Stillwell Stage.

Having already experienced multiple CEG shows over the past year, I was looking foward to seeing what they might be presenting today.

The band has an appealing sound that incorporates at times, frantic guitar strumming, impassioned vocals, a variety of blended keyboards - moving from quiet passages to all out blustery jams - all within the same song. They have no apparent inhibitions about incorporating alternately noisy and/or atmospheric passages within their mostly traditional song structures.

Focused on the songwriting, vocals and guitar of frontman Joseph Ferocious, the band opened with a number of brand new songs and told the crowd they were a test audience. I'm happy to report the tunes sounded excellent and were very well received.

Listen in to their clean, impassioned sound.

While two guys named Matt locked down the rhythm section via bass and drums, special mention goes to keyboardist Brian Hamilton, who adds rich textures and clean piano lines to the overall sonic stew. It's quite appealing.

With the festival nearing it's conclusion, I made one last traipse across the boardwalk, to possibly catch a bit of hometown faves Matt & Kim. However, the crowd was beginning to get stifling and a bit unruly (yes, even in the photo area) and after nervously agressive security forces pushed me into the girl in front of me to "maintain the barricades" I knew it was time to go.

Back up on the boardwalk, the night was closing in and mood appeared to be changing somewhat.

The rides looked magnificent, however - up against the setting sun.

Clean modern (and safe) "parachute drop" juxtaposed against the original.

The crowd and the rides blend together as dusk approaches.

I couldn't pass up an opportunity to capture this, as the Dean Wareham/Luna song ran through my head.

Girlie Freak Show - everything you could ever want, all rolled into one.

Siren Fest - Wouldn't miss it for anything.


Anonymous said...

great review,dave~!

DaveCromwell said...

How can you not love Coney Island, anouk!

Anonymous said...

Looks a great event, I fancy a trip to Coney Island..I could bring Boris Johnson along, that dribbling Albino toffe nosed half wit would make IDEAL fodder for 'Shoot The Freak' ..In fact I'll compile a list ! ;)

DaveCromwell said...

Ha, ha!

Now theres a madcap response I had not anticipated.

Load up your guns, people - it's going to be a long night at the "Shoot The Freak" booth ;-)

Anonymous said...

Hold on a minute... I've just read it and the amount of information, music, pictures and all the stuff is just mind blowing.. Fantastic!

I don't even know which band to praise. Each one of them speaks with a totally unique voice even though there are similar elements. I think I would choose Cymbals Eat Guitars as those who managed to have the best sound this time, a very colorful and intense performance from what I can see and hear.

Gee, that's a lot of stuff here. But that's the thing about festivals, right? It's the ocean of music in which we're supposed to drown. And drown you did, Dave!

Thank you for bringing us the news from under the waters of sound ;)

Fantastic job. Absolutely mind blowing.

DaveCromwell said...

I agree eagle, that the Cymbals Eat Guitars sound recorded the best on my device. They were not as bass heavy as the others, and so the fidelity is much clearer.

So true that it is an "ocean of music" in one day, and I did my best to cover nearly all of it.

the sunshine factory said...

Fantastic job, love all the pictures and the pin point commentary. Makes me want to be there next year and I am going to try!

DaveCromwell said...

If there is any justice at all, The Sunshine Factory *should* be playing Siren next year.

That would be amazing.

Mr Smork said...

i know you read this every time, dave, but great review.
i like that you include, both - band sort of reviews and your impressions from the place and some your comment about that. it made reading much easier and fumier to red. :)
like the media thing (pics and videos) and i like that you showed some public, not only the band - for us - non visitors of that place it was quiet entertaining.
and i got to confess from all the bands you wrote in here i liked TPOBPAH (had to copy and paste the name, cause it is way to long to remember). i like their easy pop, indie or mainstream style - catchy. oh yes and because i like their keyboardist..... :)
as for the next year - the sunshine factory should rock the stage with all their visualizations and things! :) well i hope i'll read about it next year. ;)
feel the free everybody! :)

deadmandeadman said...

One of the highlights of any festival or gathering of souls (for me anyway) is people watching. Often times the music & the visuals complement each other to such a degree its eerie. Its always an amazing spectacle to see how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall, or any other venue.
Your prose & photos put me right in the action, but the one video I sampled had sound muddy enough to be served in a mess hall. But it was an impressive line-up & it appears you had a good time. I know I had a good time reading your post.
Rock On you crazy diamond

DaveCromwell said...

I think any "reporter" of an event *should* include a bit of local color as well as the band stuff. It's what makes that particular event unique.

Good to read I've made a fan of TPOBPAH out of you, Mr. Smork. Their music is definitely as you describe it. Worth further investigation.

Yeah, I know its getting to be that time for some recording equipment upgrades, deadman. My device can no longer handle any kind of forceful bass notes. I guess I've fried the thing from so many show! ;-)

I love the Beatles and Pink Floyd song lyric references, by the way. I can see you carry that stuff around in your head, much the way I do.

Davey said...

Awesome review Dave. I'm been interested in a few of those bands myself. Some, gotta wonder where you even hear of them. As for COney Island...never been, but definitely feel the need to go. Thanks again for the review, pics, and clips!

Anonymous said...

Good stuff, Dave. I thought the same thing about Surfer Blood: nothing special on tape, but awesome live. Good presence and energy. Love POBPAH... Have their whole Cleveland set on my blog,, in black and white, of course. I'll have to keep a couple of these other groups on my radar.

Kat said...

Hello Dave!
First of all, thank you very much for following my blog. I really appreciate it. :)
You're such a shameless self-advertiser! ;-) But yeah, your blog's extremely interesting. I'm following!
Oh and the bands you write about in this post seem to be really interesting, I'll definitely check out some of them.

P.S. So you've been to that uber-epic SY show? I'm really really envious. :P