This summer has been a scorcher in New York City and to pack 1000+ hipsters to Coney Island for a long hot Saturday brings out the best, worst and most creative in people. As a slew of New Yorkers ascended to Coney Island on Saturday for the 10th Annual Village Voice Siren Music & Arts Festival, the heat just got heavier and no one seemed to mind. The bands and refreshments kept the crowd going and the legendary park came alive with adventure and excitement as indie rock's finest came to beat to the heat and enjoy the festival.
Through the years the Siren Festival has been a major platform for indie acts like Scissor Sisters, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, VHS or Beta, Mates of State and a slew of others, this year's proved no different. Arriving as early as I could, I got to the festival just in time to see the band that was one of my main reasons for coming out - New Brunswick, New Jersey's Screaming Females. Seeing this band before when they opened for Arctic Monkey's at Terminal 5 last December, I was blown away then and just as impressed yesterday. The best band of the day hands down, even successors of Scream Females gave them praise all day long. The trio which is a punk/garage rock band just know how to shred and get the crowd going. Singer Marissa Paternoster sounds like a British Joan Jett, but is so adorable on stage, acting very timid and shy when she would speak to the crowd, but as soon as she would start strumming she meant business. Screaming Females are going places and start getting into them now!
After that was West Palm Beach's Surfer Blood, a band who's debut, Astro Coast, is one of my favorite's of the year. Surfer Blood sounded just as they do on the record, psychodelic surf rock and Coney Island provided the perfect atmosphere and backdrop for this fun in the sun band. The bands Pavement meets Vampire Weekend style was perfect for the day, yet as they do not have much of a stage presants multi-instrumentalist Marcos Marchesani leaped into the crowd toward the end of the band's set with a floor tom-tom drum and let the crowd bang away as he ran back to the stage to do work.
From Surfer Blood's psychedelic beach odyssey it was Ponytail that we caught next. Ponytail proved one thing to me, anyone with no talent can be in a band these days. I am not a fan of the Animal Collective influenced bands and this was one of them, they sounded like a bunch of rapid animals screaming over old school Nintendo beats. As I could not enjoy their music, the crowd was the highlight. As kids would stage dive, crowd surf and mosh on the hot pavement, it made this bands awful set something to stick around and view.
Once Ponytail finished, it was Early Greyhound who took the stage. Now this was a band worth watching, the trio was a southern rock meets 70's soul outfit that looked like Iggy Pop with a guitar fronting Jimi Hendrix on bass and James Brown on drums. Something to witness and experience, as their classic rock influence brought a new aspect to the avant-gaurde festival. Leaving Early Greyhound a bit early to catch Brooklyn rocker's Pains of Being Pure at Heart was a difficult task but worth it. The Brooklyn band has been gaining all sorts of buzz since last summer and I finally had a chance to catch them. As it was later in the day, it would be expected that more people would arrive and Pains played to a packed crowd. Very early REM influenced, Pains proved they could live up to the buzz and are a band that we will be hearing a lot more of come the next few years.
As Pains would finish out their set more and more people ascended to Coney for the final acts. One of those would be Siren Fest vets Ted Leo & the Pharmacists. The indie hero was certainly the oldest guy at the festival, but he showed the kids how it should be done. Taking his garage sound and kicking it up a notch, Ted Leo and Co. can play any venue to any crowd, hell, the last time I saw these guys was summer 2008 as they opened for Pearl Jam at MSG, now as they were in the great outdoors, Ted just showed off his skills and had a great time doing it.
As the sun began to set, the crowd grew larger and larger and more packed together waiting for headliners Matt & Kim. The Brooklyn duo who have grown large through the years in New York playing everything from house parties to boardwalks to big stages are now headliners in their own backyard. Making the crowd sweat it out and wait, the music of Big Pun's "Lean Back" remix featuring the famous "Where Brooklyn At?!!?" freestyle from Biggie Smalls came on the speakers. As Matt & Kim ran out and jumped on their keyboards and drums respectively, they got the crowd hopping from the first note. In between songs they would play favorites like R. Kelly's "Ignition" and 70's disco classics. They are a quirky duo and represent everything Brooklyn in this day and age is about - creativity, happiness and helping nerds get laid since the renaissance of Park Slope last decade. As they heated up so did the crowd and as their set finished, every hipster ran into the ocean with the band to cool off.
While Matt & Kim broke out into a dance party, those just looking to decline from the day watching ambient electro rockers Holy Fuck. I had to catch their set, or some of it for the fact that I have heard nothing but great things about this band, in fact Rachel Ray is a huge fan. As I stood in awe of the sounds coming from their gear, they were a great way to end the great day. As the sun set over Coney Island, the Cyclone slowed down and the Wonder Wheel would illuminate, Siren Fest came to a close and Holy Fuck gave the soundtrack.
Matt & Kim
Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
Pains of Being Pure at Heart
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