Saturday, July 19, 2014

4Knots Fest - July 12, 2014

Saturday July 12, 2014 was about as perfect a day for an outdoor music festival as you can get. Under clear blue skies dappled by the occasional puffy white cloud, an array of diverse rock music acts filled the air for some seven plus hours in New York City. Although there were a number of events happening on this day, you’d be hard pressed to find a better one than the fourth annual 4Knots Fest at South Street Seaport.

With the event securing its best headline act ever, the whole day served to build towards a grande finale monstrous show from legends Dinosaur Jr.

The full recap of "Mascis-Fest" closes out this blog, however there would be plenty of great music (and other things) to check out throughout the entire day.

Joining me for the 4th consecutive year (if you also count The Ravonettes at Beekman Beergarden show) was fellow music aficionado (and sport cycling enthusiast) Rob/drid.

First band up was good friends Dead Stars

Who hit the ground running (as they say) and kicked off the early afternoon in glorious style.

And a lovely afternoon it was.  Like I said, perfect blue skies with just a hint of cloud cover for a splash of color.  Those early to arrive were treated to a set of perfect music.

The boys throttled out tracks from their latest release "Slumber"

Someone told me later on that none other than J. Mascis was listening to the set from a hidden location, and nodded his head in approval of what these guys are doing.

Things I've previously written about Dead Stars:


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Had to go grab my credential, if I was going to have any fun at all on the party boat.

Which was a thoroughly re-energizing experience with all the complimentary food and beverages.

All served up with a smile and in style!

Delicious sandwiches with exotic sauces on top

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The first band on the Main (Pier 16) Stage was the three piece brother act from St. Joseph, Missouri called Radkey.

Dee, Isaiah, and Solomon are all self-taught musicians who are still teenagers.

They point towards bands like the Misfits (who’s Danzig-like vocals very much reflect their own) as well as classic punk and rock bands like the Ramones and Who as inspiration.

Check out their song "Feed My Brain"

This photo stream with an alternate song can also be found posted by yours truly Here on Dingus as well.

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Next up were Northampton, Massachusetts' Speedy Ortiz

Frontwoman, Sadie Dupuis added the first bit of feminine touch to what had been (up to this point) at complete dudes-only fest.

I had caught one of their shows earlier this year at Brooklyn Night Bazaar, and although they came off very well at the time - here on this much bigger stage (and soundsystem) they sounded HUGE.

Speedy had the crowd jacked up and going, and the view (and sound) from the boat was super sweet.

Get to know more about this band via their Bandcamp link (above) and their Facebook page here

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Already familiar with members of the next bands prior work in noted Canadian band Women, the set delivered by Viet Cong presented a more evolved and experimental sound.

Having had the opportunity to get to know a number of tracks via their debut EP release titled "Cassette," I found the live delivery of these songs even more impressive.

"Throw It Away" drives along an oscillating bassline, while extended guitar breaks recall the early math-rock structures of Yes and the late great Peter Banks.

“Unconscious Melody” builds around a straightforward drum pattern, as angular guitar structures pierce through falsetto vocals.

The incorporation of keyboard synths at points throughout the performance added the right amount of diversionary textures to an otherwise predominantly guitar-bass-drums approach.

An impressive live set, and definitely a band to watch for future releases.

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The dual female fronted roots-rockers Those Darlins made the most of their prime time slot.

 Taking the whole festival to an even higher level, they chunked out raw rock'n'roll that felt at times like Exile On Main Street Rolling Stones.

Vocals delivered alternately in tandem or individually captured the right vibe for this stage and venue.

Particularly tasty was the tone and texture of the guitar leads.

This track captures their sound as good as any.

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It's been a relatively quick rise from obscurity to the level that one-time image manipulating Mac DeMarco  now inhabits.

Positioned in the just-prior-to-headliner slot, there certainly appeared to be more than a few "DeMarco heads" in the audience.

Back in October of 2012, I had previously caught his act during CMJ at Pianos and wrote These Observations

His shtick now appears to be considerably more laid back and slacker than that more entertainingly dynamic show during CMJ.

Though some might applaud the "bold move" of attempting to bring back the bucket hat as the ultimate in casual hipster attire - one wonders if greasy gas station attendant pants might be taking the I-really-don't-care attitude just a bit too far.

Props must be given to his-Mac-ness for popping a trucker hat on over the bucket hat - when someone tossed it up to him from the crowd.

The most exciting thing DeMarco did all afternoon was to dive into the crowd on his last song.  (Unless someone actually thought his mellow synth tunes were thrilling).

Bright red sneakers (now there's a positive fashion statement) bobbing up from the crowd - while angry security men look on with concern.  Hopefully nobody attempted to Iggy Azalea him!

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Finally it was time for the legends to take the stage.

The music of Dinosaur Jr has made the kind of indelible imprint on my life that truly cannot be overstated.

The fact that this band is now more popular than ever (getting back together in the mid-2000's after many years of solo projects) is a testament to the universe getting at least some things right.

My long-time perception of J Mascis has always been one of wonderment, worship and apprehension.  It has been well documented over the years (and especially in their early days) that he could be difficult to interact with.

Though to be fair, at a show in the early 1990's a friend and I chatted with him out front before he played - and although it was somewhat strained and awkward - he did attempt to converse with us in a friendly way.  A recent encounter with him a few months ago presented an even more personable experience. My sense of it all is simply that J has a low tolerance for nonsense.  Which is why he'd mess with industry types (who's motivation for interaction weren't entirely sincere) while being more accommodating to actual fans.

Founding member and long-time drummer Murph is an amazing, accomplished percussionist.  He has managed to not only cope with the difficult task of playing in a band where the principal songwriter also writes all the drum parts - but has actually excelled in that scenario.

On this afternoon Dinosaur Jr played a set that spanned their entire career that as one would expect included some personal all time faves.

The high point of the show (for me) was the inclusion of "Out There" - probably my all time favorite songs of J's - from 1993's brilliant Where You Been

“Out There” encompasses everything that is so brilliant about music. From the rough distorted guitar tones of the intro – with J riffing madly out of the gate – displaying a dazzling skill and multiple note dexterity all the while establishing this unforgettable melody. How can one be “jam band” and alterna-slacker at the same time? It’s in the lyrics. And what amazing lyrics these are. A universal song to “everyone” – “out there” – out in the world. Trying to get by and cope with every single day. The need for friendship - but – at what cost?  J delivers the words in a conversational manner. “You can’t say that’s fair” – “can’t you be wrong?” and “maybe you weren’t on my side all along” – yeah – it’s kind of on the downside. But isn’t this life so often filled with sadness and disappointment?  Yet – we’re still all “out there.”  “You’re still a case, it’s still the place – weren’t you invited?”   Ultimately “it’s what you can spare.”  “Whatever’s left just hide the rest” – and then “bring it right in.”  However far too often it’s all just “sick.” “A game – a trick” 

Musically, one incredible hook leads to another. The bridge buildup leans hard on drum accents, while the chorus is a swirly headtrip uplift into Maestro Mascis guitar solo ecstasy.   In the end its about sharing – or not sharing. About caring – or not caring. Or wondering if anyone actually truly cares at all. The balance between knowing that everything is ultimately pointless – and our human need to carry on like it isn’t.

Or maybe its all about the delirious euphoria of crowdsurfing

Or the power of Lou Barlow's bass

We live to rock one more day

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