UPDATE: Due to low ticket sales, the Music To Know Festival has been cancelled. QRO already did the preview, so consider this a ‘what might have been’:
Festivals in North America usually tend towards a few well-known, if not well-loved, archetypes. There are the hippie jam-band festivals, with unwashed granola types camping down and smoking up to watch Phish & Grateful Dead spin-offs. There’s the Euro-rave knock-off, with glowsticks and hallucinogens. There are the hard rock and metal events in coliseums and racetracks, with muscles and mosh pits. There are ones at the biggest park in the city, toned down and closing early. And there are even the neo-Coachella/Bonnaroo indie festivals, with bands you’ve never heard of, bands you want to see, and bands you’re already sick of (can move between all three emotions about a band over a year, or even over a festival). And none of them are in the Northeast.
Which is what makes the new Music To Know Festival standout. To some degree trying to import the elements of British festivals (QRO U.K. Festival Guide) that haven’t made it across the pond, but also classing up the entire experience (in: wine; out: camping). It’s certainly in a classy spot, The Hamptons, out on Long Island (but still an easy ride on the Long Island Railroad for New Yorkers who never get to go to festivals without flying or a really long drive). It’s even been written up in both The Wall Street Journal (though that was mostly locals thinking it was going to be the next Woodstock – clearly the only festival they’d ever heard of – and ruin The Hamptons) and The New York Times (though that was more about how fashion retailers like the Olsen twins are providing a big chunk of the underwriting by paying to sell their wares there).
With a line-up of hot acts that appeal to indie types and more, plus a whole host of amenities, Music To Know looks make August 13th & 14th at Runway 4 in the East Hampton Airport an interesting experience:
SATURDAY, AUGUST 13TH
Overnight successes the world over should take a lesson from Vampire Weekend (QRO photos at a festival). The band went from opening for the likes of White Rabbits (QRO live review, when Vampire Weekend opened) and Tokyo Police Club (QRO live review, when Vampire Weekend opened) in 2007 to massive success after they opened the following year with their self-titled debut.
This, of course, earned them (QRO live review) legions of haters, often focusing on their preppy look & history, though others just grew enraged at the music from “the whitest band” (according to stuffwhitepeoplelike blog) being called ‘afro-pop’, and the comparisons with Paul Simon’s iconic Graceland. They wisely slipped from view for a while, but returned to Jeff Curtin’s (QRO interview) Tree Fort Studios, faced up to the haters & the sophomore jinx to put out Contra (QRO review) last year, and reached #1 in the charts (only the twelfth independently-released record to do so in the last twenty years). And are playing major stages, having even played Down Under (QRO live review in New Zealand).
|Matt & Kim
Serious, long-time ‘Friends of the Q’ (QRO spotlight on), it’s been great watching Matt & Kim (QRO photos at a festival) blow up so seriously – without losing their infectious cheer (QRO photos). Singer/keyboardist Matt Johnson (QRO interview) and drummer Kim Schifino (QRO interview) bring a self-described “onstage pizza party” with their sugar-filled hyper-pop/rock on stage (QRO live review). Known for spreading their giant, ever-present grins to every crowd they play for (QRO live review), large, outdoor stages (QRO live review outdoors) don’t faze them, and neither do massive festivals (QRO photos at a festival), nor even foreign crowds (QRO live review overseas). They also stepped up their musical game on 2009’s Grand (QRO review), with Sidewalks (QRO review) last fall. So expect them to rock the crowd (QRO photos), from old tracks like “Silver Tiles” (QRO video) and “Yea Yeah” (QRO video) to Grand ones like “Good Old-Fashioned Nightmare” (QRO video) and “Daylight” (QRO video) – as the kids go nuts (QRO photos at a festival), and so do Matt & Kim (QRO live review).
One of the hottest recent breakthroughs has been London’s Ellie Goulding (QRO photos), who went from being unknown to playing the likes of Saturday Night Live and even the royal wedding! She’s already movin’ one up in terms of venue size, so catch her while you can!
Singer/guitarist M. Ward (QRO photos outdoors) might still be best-known for his work with others – first as guitarist for Bright Eyes (see below), then with actress/singer Zooey Deschanel as She & Him (QRO live review), and then with Bright Eyes & more as alt-folk super-group The Monsters of Folk (QRO album review) – but is an accomplished artist on his lonesome (QRO photos at a festival), most recently with 2009’s Hold Time (QRO review).
|Tom Tom Club
While on a break from the legendary Talking Heads, husband-and-wife team of Tina Weymouth and Chris Frantz started up their own new wave outfit, Tom Tom Club, and have kept it going for over thirty years now.
|We Are Scientists
The Brooklyn-by-way-of-Claremont, California act (QRO photos at a festival) has had a habit of appearing & disappearing, like after hits like “It’s a Hit” (QRO video), but returning in 2008 with Brain Thrust Mastery (QRO review), then disappearing again, but are back again, with last year’s Barbara (QRO review). The band’s powerful indie-rock (QRO photos at a festival) has won PhD’s across the country and beyond, and their live show (QRO live review) is known for humorous between-son banter and audience participation (QRO live review).
Francis & The Lights
SUNDAY, AUGUST 14TH
Welcome back, Conor Oberst. As Bright Eyes (QRO photos), Conor Oberst won legions of hearts (including Summer’s on The O.C. – QRO Music of The O.C.), but after 2007’s Cassadega (QRO review), he dropped the name and strayed into unfortunate country terrain (QRO live review). However, not only is the Bright Eyes name back, but also the Bright Eyes (QRO photos at a festival) sound on The People’s Key (QRO review).
|Cold War Kids
After a string of EPs, Fullerton, California’s Cold War Kids (QRO photos) blew up in 2006 with their full-length debut, Robbers & Cowards. While 2008’s Loyalty to Loyalty (QRO review) suffered something of a sophomore slump, this year’s Mine Is Yours (QRO review) lifted things, and their live show (QRO photos) is still electric, especially outside (QRO live review outdoors), as they still ring with singles (QRO photos), from the more recent “Mine Is Yours” and “Audience” (QRO video) to their break-outs “We Used To Vacation”, “Hospital Beds” (QRO video), and “Hang Me Out To Dry” (QRO video).
There are combos and then there are combos: Montreal’s Chromeo (QRO live review) are the electro-funk duo of Dave 1 (David Macklovitch) and P-Thugg (Patrick Gemayel) has been best friends since childhood, billing themselves as, “The only successful Arab/Jewish collaboration since the beginning of time” (but what is their stance on Québécois independence?…). And their electronica works outdoors (QRO photos outdoors), day or night, even at a festival (QRO photos at a festival).
|Ra Ra Riot
Oh, how they’ve grown! In the less than four years since their self-titled EP (QRO review) and the death of singer/drummer John Pike, this Nor’easter collective (QRO photos) has not only rebounded but exploded (QRO photos at a festival), embracing life even more on 2008’s excellent The Rhumb Line (QRO review) than early single “Dying Is Fine” (QRO video) could have predicted. Ra Ra Riot’s live show (QRO live review) sees everyone but the new drummer running around on stage like kids on candy (especially singer Wesley Miles – QRO interview), but they’re also relative road ‘veterans’, from near-immediately after Pike’s death (QRO live review) to outdoor festivals (QRO photos outdoors at a festival) to in-stores (QRO photos) to industry showcases (QRO photos at an industry showcase) to bigger & bigger rock clubs (QRO photos) to opera houses (QRO live review) to fashion launch parties (QRO live review) – and even the occasional basement show (QRO photos). They’re also building in songbook, from early numbers like “Can You Tell?” (QRO video) to Rhumb single “Ghost Under Rocks” (QRO video) and the Pike-penned “St. Peter’s Day Festival” (QRO video) to the new “Too Dramatic”, from last year’s follow-up The Orchard (QRO review). Note: do watch out for a tight pack of males (QRO photos at a festival) in front of everyone’s indie-rock crush, Alexandra Lawn (QRO interview)…
An up-and-coming Americana indie outfit (QRO photos) that’s come up, Dawes (QRO photos at a festival) hail from Los Angeles’ Laurel Canyon (QRO photos outdoors), and just put out sophomore release Nothing Is Wrong.
|Fitz & The Tantrums
While acts like Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings (QRO album review) revive the soul sound, Los Angeles’ Fitz & The Tantrums are reinventing it with an indie-pop twist.
|The Naked and Famous
From the other side of the globe comes The Naked and Famous (QRO photos). The New Zealand act (QRO photos) turned heads last fall with debut Passive Me, Aggressive You, and haven’t looked back (QRO photos).
The Limousines – QRO photos at a festival
For festival website, go here: http://www.musictoknow.com/