Outdoors in New York

<div><a href="features/features/outdoors_in_new_york/"><img src="/images/stories/outdoorsinnewyork.jpg" alt="" /></a> <br /></div><p>This summer, there's gonna be a lot of great outdoor concerts right inside the biggest city in the world, New York.  What's more,...

Friday, August 31: River-to-River Festival @ South Street Seaport, downtown Manhattan
 

 Battles

 

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The River-to-River Festival went out with a bang, thanks to Battles.  This electronica-meets-post-rock-meets-experimental-meets-noise-meets-a whole lot else act had South Street Seaport shaking, in its final show of the summer.  The thick crowd varied from mature scenesters to moshing minors, the the latter sometimes pulling out a crowd-surfer.  That did bring the security guys many a-time, so much so that, for the last few songs, they had to kick the photographers out of the well, so they could better keep an eye on things.  Damn kids…

 ~

 Deerhunter

 

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Only two days prior, Deerhunter's guitarist Colin Mee quit, but this, the band's second show since then, was still impressive (even if singer Bradford Cox, now on guitar duty as well, could no longer smear himself with fake blood…).  They opened with some well-received new songs, but it was pieces like "Fluorescent Grey" and "Cryptograms" which really got the crowd – also surprisingly heavy with under-18's – going full-bore.

 ~

Friday, August 24: River-to-River Festival @ South Street Seaport, downtown Manhattan

 Camera Obscura

 

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Unlike the prior week, the weather was warm – which almost seemed unsuitable for Glasgow's Camera Obscura.  But just like last week, South Street Seaport was packed for the band's sad, touching alt-country.  The set-list wasn't particularly inventive, as the band hit every song but one on their last record, 2006's Let's Get Out of This Country, and they played their last eight singles, from  2007's"Tears For Affairs" to 2001's "Eighties Fan" as the closer (the night's only piece from their debut, Brightest Bluest Hi-Fi).  But Get Out of This Country is great album, and so are Camera Obscura's singles – and so was the show.  The only flaws were the two songs they picked that weren't Get Out or singles, the not-as-exciting-as-it-sounds "Suspended From Class" (off of 2002's Underachievers Please Try Harder) and their too-sad, too-quiet cover of ABBA's "Super Trooper", and a few too-psyched (read: too drunk) super-fans (read: hollering before & after every song) up at the front, constantly demanding they play "The Last Song".  That might be why the band skipped the great "I Need All the Friends I Can Get" on Let's Get Out of This Country – those were friends they didn't need.

 ~

Sunday, August 19: Pool Parties @ McCarren Park Pool, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

 YACHT

 

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I didn't quite know what to expect with YACHT (a.k.a. Jona Bechtolt), but I certainly didn't expect what I got: a spastic indie kid playing sounds off his computer while singing and busting some of the craziest goofy white boy dance moves, kind of like an indie rock Napoleon Dynamite.  At first, it seemed really affected, and I wondered whether he could keep my attention up.  But then, Bechtolt sat down at the edge of the stage and asked if anybody had any questions.  As the first of three acts at McCarren, and during a wet, sprinkling day, the crowd wasn't that big, but that made the whole thing more like an intimate show than a 3,000-person capacity ex-community pool.  The Q&A was lively and extensive, but then things got even more one-on-one as Bechtolt jumped into the photo well, over the barrier, and right amongst the crowd, mike cord trailing behind.  The best straight-up music, however, was on show at the end of the set, as Bechtolt's girlfriend joined him when he returned to the stage, for some of the best tracks off of this year's release, I Believe In You.  Your Magic Is Real (QRO review), including "See A Penny (Pick It Up)" and "I Believe You".

This was also the last McCarren Park Pool Party of the summer, and it will be greatly missed, from the free beer to the great bands to giant venue to the free beer.  But unlike the big & free & in Brooklyn Village Voice Siren Music Festival, there's definitely going to be another year of the Pool Parties.  While there are efforts underway at City Hall to turn McCarren Park Pool back into an actual community pool (and we all know you can't fight City Hall), that ball's moving might slowly.  Thank god for government inertia and bureaucracy (though it might be cool if it was a pool, but they still had shows, with all the fans in the water…).

 ~

Friday, August 17: River-to-River Festival @ South Street Seaport, downtown Manhattan

 The National

 

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Like with TV On the Radio at McCarren Park Pool a few weeks ago, the threat of rain hung over The National's show at South Street Seaport.  In fact, it did more than hang, it fell, during opener Takka Takka.  By the time it stopped, Takka got back on stage and finished, there was only enough time for like three songs by middle band, The Forms.  Yet somehow, despite all that, the crowd for The National was thick and large, and they rewarded with an incredible, rain-free performance (just like with TV On the Radio), one of the best free shows I've seen all summer (aided, though, by the no-song-limit photo well and lesser stage elevation, putting me really close to the band throughout it all).  The National's sound does veer into the neo-New Wave of Interpol or The Editors, but it really stands as an equal to those two.  And The National is only going to get bigger…

 ~

Sunday, August 12: Pool Parties @ McCarren Park Pool, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

 Ted Leo & The Pharmacists

 

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I was thoroughly unimpressed when Ted Leo & The Pharmacists' latest album, Living With the Living came out a while back, but I revisited it before heading out to the penultimate Pool Party, and while I wasn't thrilled, it was alright.  Live, Ted Leo, et. al. built on that less than ringing endorsement, with Leo himself animated throughout the whole set.

My fellow Ted has a loyal following, so loyal, in fact, that one girl from somewhere's backstage decided to come out and dance, going so far as to sidle up and to Leo and begin to distract, before the ever-reliable Kip Kouri finally got her off:

 

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 ~

 The Thermals

 

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Another band I was less than impressed with on record (The Body, The Blood, The Machine), I did like them better than Ted Leo on record, and felt the same way live.  More excited and more straightforwardly rocking, the band veered away from The Hold Steady-ish forced irony I didn't like on The Body.

 ~

Friday, August 10: River-to-River Festival @ South Street Seaport, downtown Manhattan

 Au Revoir Simone

 

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Just about to start a tour with Oh No! Oh My!, on the backs of the release of The Bird of Music (QRO review), the three lovely ladies of Au Revoir Simone had to contend with threatening weather when the played South Street Seaport.  The fear of rain kept the turnout down, and those that were there were rather subdued.  Au Revoir's keyboard-based melody doesn't translate so well to the outdoors, and those same keyboards create a barrier between them and the crowd, while keeping the three women relatively motionless.  Still, all in all, they sounded great, even if it was a bit more like hearing the CD than seeing it live.

 ~

Thursday, August 9: Celebrate Brooklyn @ Prospect Park Bandshell
 

 The Hold Steady

 

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I didn't catch this free show at Prospect Park, as I was at Mercury Lounge to see Los Campesinos! (QRO live review).  Also, I have a kind of irrational dislike of The Hold Steady.  But our other man at Siren, Sam Horine, was there and said it rocked.

 ~

Sunday, August 5: Pool Parties @ McCarren Park Pool, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
 

 Blonde Redhead

 

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After all the energy of twenty-plus people on stage for I'm From Barcelona (see below), the three-person Blonde Redhead had a little trouble filling the stage.  But the band did their best, especially singer-guitarist-bassist-keyboardist Kazu Makino.  Playing most of their latest, 23 (QRO review), along with a few tracks from their two other twenty-first century albums, Misery Is a Butterfly and Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons, even if they couldn't wow McCarren with a show, they still could with their music.

 ~

 I'm From Barcelona

 

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A massive Swedish collective with a stage show reminiscent of The Flaming Lips, I'm From Barcelona had McCarren Park Pool jumping with delight.  I can't remember any of their songs, and I have no idea whether their stuff would work recorded (or even just in a smaller venue), but I certainly won't forget them.  I only caught maybe the last third (missing the singer crowd-surfing on an inflatable raft – which I did stumble over in the photo well), but what I did see was amazing.  Confetti, running around, sitting at the edge of the stage, inviting virtually everyone backstage on-stage at the end, a guy wearing a cucumber costume…  But my favorite was when they got everyone to lift up their arms and sway.

I did feel bad for all the people waiting in line to get in to McCarren, a line that went left to the cross-street, then looped backwards and went all the way down past the entrance and around the giant pool, ending at the VIP entrance (which so many poor souls thought was the RSVP entrance).  Probably all there for Blonde Redhead, they didn't know what they missed.  Folks, get to McCarren early – and not just to beat the lines…

 ~

   

Sunday, July 29: Pool Parties @ McCarren Park Pool, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
 

 TV On the Radio

 

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It had been pouring all day, causing many people who'd filled up the 5,000-person RSVP list to skip TV On the Radio.  The Pool Parties are rain or shine, but that didn't even matter, as the rain stopped just as they took the stage.  The rain hadn't stopped a sizable turn-out, however, and they were all rewarded by the band's return to Brooklyn.

 ~

 Celebration

 

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Celebration, however, did feel some of the rain, though it only seemed to hit heavy during the break between the bands.  That's just another way Celebration is one lucky group: not only were they opening for TV On the Radio, but their last record was produced by TVOTR guitarist David Sitek, and their performance included guest vocals by TVOTR's Kyp Malone and Jaleel Bunton, who both duetted with singer Katrina Ford.

Some fans came very well prepared: 

 

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 ~

Saturday, July 28: McCarren Park Pool
 

 Sonic Youth : Daydream Nation

 

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In only one of three dates in the U.S., Sonic Youth performed the incredible Daydream Nation, from start to finish, with barely a skip of a beat or flip of a record in between.  The crowd, full of people from across the country (I got tickets off someone in Houston) went absolutely insane, pretty much from the get-go, but when the get-go is "Teenage Riot", that's pretty much to be expected.  I managed to get a photo pass at the last minute; it was only for the first three songs, but that's "Riot", "Silver Rocket", and "The Sprawl".  I had to fight through a packed photo well, and, after I'd been standing in a spot for all of two seconds (when other photographers didn't move during their whole alloted three songs), to deal with some drunk girl who thought I'd been blocking her view for too long – and thought she could tell me to move…

Maybe out of karma, for the rest of the show I had the video cameraman (who didn't move for the entire performance) in my line of sight.  It wasn't so bad, until Sonic Youth returned for the first of two encores, with backing member (and Pavement bassist) Mark Ibold in tow.  As a friend of a friend of a friend of a relative (there's a marriage & a death in those 6°), he was instrumental in me meeting the band last summer when they played at XM Radio Studios, but this time, the cameraman was right between me & my Ibold.

However, Thurston gave the man what-for:

 

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 ~

Sunday, July 22: Pool Parties @ McCarren Park Pool

 Band of Horses

 

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McCarren Park Pool was packed, with a line stretching 'round the block, for Band of Horses.  While not exactly jumping around, the Band did deliver a great set, well worth waiting for.  And unlike their poor experience in San Diego, the crowd didn't just go wild for "Funeral", but indeed for all the material played, including some new stuff on their upcoming album, Cease to Begin.

 ~

 Annuals

 

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I'd heard great things about Annuals when they played Boston (QRO live review), but missed them when they opened up for Bob Mould at the Callum Robbins Benefit at Bowery Ballroom (QRO live review).  Thankfully, in New York it's never that long before a band comes back again, and so did the Annuals.  With energy to spare, these young folks lit up the Pool, with pretty much everybody running around on stage, including frontman Adam Baker occasionally switching Korgs and keyboards with Anna Spence, as well as sometimes switching to beating one big drum – or just the cymbals of the two drummers.

 ~

Saturday, July 21: Village Voice's Siren Music Festival @ Coney Island, Brooklyn

Thanks to redevelopment and gentrification, Coney Island's Astroland amusement park is gone after this summer, and many fear The Village Voice's Siren Music Festival will go with it.  But nobody knows what the future will really bring, so let's all cross our fingers and hope for the best, 'cause Siren was great.  The only real problem, other than the crowds, was that the bands managed to get off-schedule, making it so every band played at the exact same time as another band on the other stage.  I missed three bands that way.

 

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 ~

 Cursive

 

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The Omaha band was added as co-headliners when it looked like M.I.A. (see below) might not get a visa into the country.  While not as good as the original headliners, We Are Scientists (see below), they still delivered.  And the crowd certainly treated them as top-bill.

 ~

New York Dolls

 

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However, Siren wasn't really Cursive's, or M.I.A.'s, or We Are Scientists's; it belonged to the original co-headling, the one and only New York Dolls.  This recently reunited seventies act has always been tagged as the inspiration for such diverse groups as The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols, and David Bowie, and playing at Siren, they kind of outshone them all.  A lot of people wondered what the Dolls still had in their tank, and the answer was: a lot.  It was really amazing, seeing such an old, worn-out bunch of musicians rock such a young, hip crowd.

 ~

Voxtrot

 

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I had gone in skeptical about these Austin kids, as their self-titled debut hadn't won me over, let alone justify the heaps of praise and success they'd been given.  But I had to admit that, live, they were certainly good, especially "Steven" (which, apparently, isn't about Morissey) – no doubt helped by the incredible enthusiastic crowd of kids watching.

 ~

M.I.A.

 

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One of the three acts I missed, I skipped her because our other photographer really wanted to cover her, and I'm not really a fan of hip-hop or grime rap.  The Sri Lankan Londonite almost didn't make it to Siren, as her visa was delayed by the U.S. government right up until the week before, thanks to occasional nods to armed groups like the PLO and the Tamil Tigers, which her father helped found, (of course, this all made a great Village Voice cover story).  But Sam reported that none of this effected her on-stage, where she was, if anything, more friendly and more engaging, while dropping tracks both new and old.

 ~

Matt & Kim

 

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Definitely the band I most wanted to see – and a strong favorite of QRO's – the hyper (but don't call them cute…) Matt & Kim pushed aside the monitors to get as close to the audience as possible, playing their first festival ever – And what a festival it was!  At no point during Siren did I see any crowd as happy with a band as they were with Matt & Kim – nor any band as happy to be at Siren.  The barrier between photo/V.I.P. area and regular audience was pretty much completely blurred (despite the best efforts of Siren security), with fans making it over the barrier, and one kid making it onto the stage to hug Matt Johnson.

[the only downside to Matt & Kim was that I'd been there to interview them, and the Siren security people didn't let me into the V.I.P. area, despite being specifically told to do so when I arrived.  Luckily, Matt & Kim's awesome PR people rescheduled things and everything turned out well]

  ~

 We Are Scientists

 

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Easily the toughest decision one had to make at Siren was whether to see Brooklyn's Matt & Kim or Brooklyn's We Are Scientists.  W.A.S. might have been a little older and less jumpy, but that didn't mean their crowd didn't get anything less than super excited when they heard top pieces off of their breakthrough With Love and Squalor (though things did simmer down a bit whenever W.A.S. played new material off the upcoming Birds of a Pleather).

 ~

 Lavender Diamond

 

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Just as I had agreed to see Voxtrot so our other reporter could cover M.I.A., so did I watch Lavender Diamond while he saw The Black Lips (see below).  But whereas I'd passed on M.I.A. pretty willingly, and was impressed by a band I hadn't expected much out of, I was bummed I missed The Black Lips, and was not at all impressed by the band I'd pegged as 'worst of Siren' before going in, and wasn't proven wrong, Lavender Diamond.  Singer Becky Stark had some funny in-between song banter about opening up an eco-friendly amusement park, but it was more something to laugh at, not with, and she annoyed even her own guitarist with her diatribe about how shitting in water is a bad thing (apparently, it's because humans only started doing it about a hundred years or so ago, meaning it's not 'natural' – like other 'recent' human inventions as female suffrage, civil rights, and the electricity to power speaker amps).  Her guitarist was also annoyed at the size of the photo/V.I.P. well (not something to win over the press), but, most noticeably, even looked bored during some of the songs.

 ~

The Black Lips

 

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Disappointingly, even though I left Lavender Diamond early, I still missed all of The Black Lips.  Even more disappointingly, it appears they put on an incredible stage show, which culminated in bringing on stage Popcorn the Chicken, a live chicken!  And then they followed that up with dumping a bag of feathers onto an electric fan pointed at the crowd, raining feathers down upon all.  Always known for a great stage show, The Lips even impressed the longtime fans in attendance (Siren probably nixed their usual nudity and urinating), even if some of them did say the visual performance out-did the musical one.

 ~

The Detroit Cobras

 

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The Detroit Cobras brought Motown to New York, and the barroom outdoors, with their garage-rock covers of 50's and 60's soul and pop (not that I recognized any of the songs as covers).  It might have been a bit of an odd fit for The Cobras, but beer in one hand, cigarette in the other singer Rachel Nagy made it work.

 ~

Noisettes

 

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I had been expecting the Noisettes to rock, but not in the way they did.  I thought it was going to be singer Shingai Shoniwa who'd blow things away while manning the bass, but instead it was guitarist Dan Smith who delivered the boom with some awesome guitar solos.  Going in, I should have looked less at their appearance, and listened more to their debut record, What's the Time Mr. Wolf? (QRO review).

 ~

 Elvis Perkins in Dearland

 

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One band I hadn't expected to rock was Elvis Perkins in Dearland, but I obviously underestimated Dearland.  Perkins' Ash Wednesday was sad and slow, but with Dearland backing him up, the performance was strong and rollicking.  Of course, when you have one guy on an upright bass, another guy occasionally playing an accordion (though on a table and not slinged around his front – the lame way to do it), and another guy going from handless harmonica while drumming to running around on-stage with a giant marching drum, you're going to be memorable.

 ~

 Dr. Dog

 

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Dr. Dog likewise added more rock into their mix, taking the sixties Beatles pop of their latest release, We All Belong, and turned it into a seventies southern-fried country rock.  They also delivered possibly the greatest on-stage collection of beards I've ever seen.

 ~

 White Rabbits

 

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While missing M.I.A. and The Black Lips was unfortunate, but at least expected, I had no warning when I missed one of my current favorite up-and-comers, White Rabbits.  I'd thought that, since The Twilight Sad (see below) were supposed to start a half-hour before the Rabbits, I'd have time to catch at least some of the Rabbits after The Twilight Sad ended.  Instead, I got to the Rabbits just as they were walking off stage.  I still ran into most of them throughout the day, however (their bassist even borrowed my phone, and almost disappeared with it).  And I've already seen them twice, once at Bowery Ballroom (see above), and once at Highline Ballroom (QRO photos).

  ~

 The Twilight Sad

 

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Another band that most definitely surprised was Glasgow's The Twilight Sad.  Based on their debut, Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters (QRO review), I'd expected some teenage post-rock that might have been good, but not right to start off Siren.  What I got, however, was a loud, powerful performance, accentuated by the compelling presence of singer/frontman (and occasional cymbal-crasher) James Graham.

 ~

Friday, July 20: River-to-River Festival @ South Street Seaport, downtown Manhattan
 

 Bishop Allen

 

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Playing in anticipation of next week's release of The Broken String, these boys from Brooklyn delivered a wonderful show, with the songs often exceeding their delivery on String, their previous full-length, Charm School, and some of the twelve EP's they had released in 2006.  There had been one EP for each month, except that the August EP was actually a full-length live release.  Those live performances had exceeded the recorded EP ones, and Bishop Allen were no different when they played South Street Seaport.

 ~

Sunday, July 15: Pool Parties @ McCarren Park Pool
 

 Ponderosa Stomp

This so shouldn't have worked: old-time country and blues singers hitting the oh-so-young McCarren Park Pool in the oh-so-hip borough of Brooklyn.  The references that were thrown around were to deceased stars like Stevie Ray Vaughn and James Brown; the most contemporary people on stage were in the backing bands, and were still the not-so-of-the-'now' likes as Saturday Night Live saxophonist Lenny Pickett in the house band, and the two decades-plus indie-rockers Yo La Tengo.

But instead, they brought McCarren down, and here's why:

 Ray Sharpe, with the A-Bones

 

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Such an old-school rock 'n' roll guitarist you'd think Bo Diddley was still up and running about (he did just get out of intensive care…), one could feel that Ray Sharpe could show just about everybody in Brooklyn how to handle an axe…

 ~

Tommy McClain, with Yo La Tengo

 

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While all the acts I saw had some great stories to tell the young crowd, no one was better than Tommy McClain, recounting his ups and downs, year-by-year, in wry, sardonic wit one had to be shocked he still had after everything he went through.  And what's more, he was backed up by none other than indie-rock vets Yo La Tengo (Tengo guitarist Ira Kaplan also played piano for the A-Bones (see above))!

 ~

Roy Head, with Ponderosa Stomp House Band

 

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He was called "The White James Brown", and that was no lie – he had the attitude & demeanor, not to mention voice and feet, of the Hardest Working Man in Show Business, though he looked more like fire & brimstone preacher.  And he was, at least, "The White James Brown If James Brown Were Alive Today" – no spring chicken – but wasn't anything slowing him down.  He was also maybe the ladies' favorite, from the dancing girls on stage to his own inability to remember where he put his Viagra (though, he reassured us, that was only for the more mature lady up front).

 ~

Bobby Patterson, with Ponderosa Stomp House Band

 

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One of the biggest soul singers of late sixties Dallas, this Lone Star senior citizen had more jump to his step than most people half his age.  Best was when he rocked out to Stevie Ray Vaughn's (or it might have been his song, that Stevie Ray Vaughn covered – I'm not sure…) "How Do You Spell Love (M-O-N-E-Y)", with frequent throws to the louder-and-louder crowd.

 ~

   

Saturday, July 14: CitySol @ Stuyvesant Cove Park
 

 Les Savy Fav

 

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After a mid-2005 hiatus, many feared that Les Savy Fav were breaking up, but they're back, playing in the run-up to the September release of Let's Stay Friends.  Live, singer Tim Harrington was as crazy as ever, alternately donning and doffing safari gear, running into the crowd, even running past the crowd, across the sidewalk, and on top of a parked van – and the rest of the band kept playing like nothing odd was going on.  Unfortunately, not long after they started up, my camera's battery – and my own – ran out (after something like eight hours and eight bands), so I only got a few photos.

 ~

 Land of Talk

 

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Fresh with a new drummer, Land of Talk were probably the all-day event's highlight, rockin' songs both new and old as the sun finally set.  But all that pales in comparison with the fact that I got to interview their just-as-good-looking-up-close-and-even-smarter singer/guitarist, Elizabeth Powell!

 ~

Besnard Lakes

 

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Between the eight bands, eight hours, beautiful view of the East River, figuring out the eco-friendly ways of the alternative energy-powered festival (like they would let you refill your water bottle for free, and you saved a buck on beer if you reused your plastic cup), and interviewing Land of Talk, I have to say, I kind of wasn't keyed in for Besnard Lakes.  I remember liking them, but I can't remember much else.  But hey, their 2007 release, The Besnard Lakes Are The Dark Horse (QRO review), was just nominated for Canada's jury-selected Polaris Music Prize – and considering it's up against such Maple Leaf heavy-hitters as The Arcade Fire's Neon Bible (QRO review) and Feist's The Reminder (QRO review), that title's taken on a quire literal meaning…

 ~

O'Death

 

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I'd been told these guys would 'blow away' this festival, but something got kind of lost in the translation.  You'd think their freak-folk-fun would translate well into the open-air, by-the-sea setting, but perhaps there was just too much sitting down – and too much shirtlessness.

 ~

OCDJ

 

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Once you take away the light shows, the dark dancing, the party drugs and glowsticks, DJ's can be pretty damn dull – doubly so when they're only pressing buttons on a laptop, and triply so when their schtick is to wear some full-head mask.  The only really interesting part was when his stuff broke down and he had to take off the mask to fix stuff (unfortunately, wasn't watching then).

 ~

These Are Powers

 

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Oh man, was this band awful.  They're pretty much the definition of what's bad about noise-rock: gnashing sounds done way too loud, a screaming Asian woman 'singing', lack of song structure, words, or anything remotely justifying their presence on stage.

 ~

Budos Band

 

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Like the El Michael Affair from last Saturday (see below), this many-member, horn-heavy band played a nice afro-soul (as they themselves called it), which was relaxing that early in the day.  The Staten Island group's Budos Band II ("We like to keep it simple") drops on August 7th.

 ~

Frankpollis

 

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I had very little in the way of expectations for the first of eight bands, but I gotta say, after Land of Talk, these three guys might have been my favorite of the day.  Talking to them later on, I disarmingly realized these guys might still be in high school or something, but their expansive indie-rock is refined to the point of being much more akin to the rolling outdoors of Great Britain.

 ~

   

Wednesday, July 11: River-to-River @ Rockefeller Park, downtown Manhattan
 

 Spoon

 

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After getting caught in an absolutely horrendous storm, I was almost hoping this didn't go off so I could go back home and dry off, but after getting under the tent with the River-to-River people and others I started to warm up.  The weather cooperated – eventually – and Spoon were able to take the stage, albeit for a shortened set, that was still well worth it.

 ~

   

Sunday, July 8: Pool Parties @ McCarren Park Pool, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
 

 Octopus Project

 

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Octopus Project opened up with a little Flaming Lips-meets-post-rock, as a couple of people dressed like Japanese anime characters distributed long, thin balloons for the crowd to wave during the first song.  But that was for only the opener, after which they settled into more of a post-rock driving rock jam, with a giant cabinet of equipment at the center.  But the instrument that really stole the show was a modern Theremin, a nineteen-century device that creates sound waves based on just the wave of your hand.

 ~

 Erase Errata

 

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I'd read online and in The Onion that Dan Deacon was coming up second or third, and that Erase Errata was first, so hadn't exactly rushed there to catch the unimpressive Errata.  Of course, I was wrong about Deacon, who came up first and I missed 'em, but was right about Erase Errata: the only thing I can remember about these three women is that they weren't memorable.

 ~

   

Saturday, July 7: Central Park Summerstage
 

 The Cinematic Orchestra

 

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Touring on the release of their latest, Ma Fleur (QRO Review) , the laid-back indie-jazz of The Cinematic Orchestra was relaxed, but not sleepy.  If the Brits dragged on a bit, well that's the kind of day it was at The Central Park Summerstage: hot and serene, like a regular summer day in Central Park.

The nice surprise was Ma Fleur's guest vocalist Patrick Watson.  Unfortunately, he only appeared later in the set, after the photo well was closed, but I got a couple of shots like this one:

 

Click image for full gallery of Patrick Watson from Mercury Lounge show on 3/1/07

 ~

 RAMP

 

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Best known for being sampled by A Tribe Called Quest, the seventies-era R&B/Jazz group RAMP recently reunited, and their appearance at the Summerstage was their first NYC date in thirty years.  Most definitely kicking it old school, RAMP was highlighted by its double dose of diva-ness (from back when that term really meant something).

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Kevin Michael

 

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I'm not a fan of R&B, but I have to say I liked the up-and-coming Kevin Michael – whether that is really a compliment is another question.  He might have worn on me if he'd had more than four or five songs, but between the 'fro, his fan group of screaming girls, and especially his beat-boxing guitar player (who I probably liked more than Michael himself), it worked.

 ~

El Michael Affair

 

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This young instrumental collective from Brooklyn reminded me of The New York Ska-Jazz Ensemble (from a short ska phase in the mid-nineties – we all had them…).

 ~

   

Wednesday, July 4: River-to-River @ Battery Park, downtown Manhattan
 

 The New Pornographers

 

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The fireworks came early as The New Pornographers delivered a rockin' performance that made it a good time for everyone at Battery Park, from the small children their with their parents to the old folks there 'cause their children have long since left the nest.  The skies were dark but the rain came late & weak, thankfully, though still a bit too dark for some of the band's less cheerful songs, of which there were luckily few.

 ~

 Midlake

 

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Unfortunately, missed most of their set (this time for no good reason), but what I heard sounded good – not as seventies soft-rock as on their album, but more hard rock.

 ~

Sunday, July 1: Pool Parties @ McCarren Park Pool, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

 Man Man

 

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The crowd went absolutely crazy for the self-proclaimed 'Viking Vaudeville' sea-shanty-singing, war paint-wearing Man Man – almost as crazy as the folks on stage.  All were right up close to the lip of the stage, with singer/honky-tonk pianist Honus Honus and drummer/percussionist Pow Pow front and center.

Oh, and here's a picture of their number one fan shooting silly string at the people behind him:

 

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 ~

 Dengue Fever

 

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Cambodian pop played to seventies-style psych-rock, they might have rocked, if I knew Khmer.  But they had a guitarist who looked like ZZ Top-meets-Hasidim, an Isaac Hayes-looking bassist, a young Dennis Hopper in Apocalypse Now on saxophone, and, oh yeah, a Bollywood-like Phnom Penh pop princess.

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Illinois

 

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The outdoor festival fun meant that Pennsylvanian Illinois had to eschew their sadder songs from What the Hell Do I Know? EP (QRO review), but instead they embraced the fun wholeheartedly, even with "Bad Day".

 ~

Saturday, June 30: Celebrate Brooklyn @ Prospect Park Bandshell
 

 The Stills

 

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The day before Canada Day, Montreal's The Stills played the Prospect Park Bandshell in Brooklyn, the borough they said they got their start in.  Unfortunately, when guitarist Greg Paquet left after Logic Will Break Your Heart, and drummer Dave Hamelin picked up the axe, the band lost a step.  Plus, the Andy Samberg-looking Hamelin isn't as good a singer/frontman as Logic's Tim Fletcher.  Still good, just not great, it was frustrating hearing "I'm Still In Love" a little too slow, but "Lola Stars and Stripes" still rocked, even with the Maple Leaf hanging behind them.

 ~

Friday, June 29: River-to-River Festival @ South Street Seaport, downtown Manhattan
 

 Ra Ra Riot

 

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The riot was on-stage when Ra Ra Riot rocked the South Street Seaport as a part of the River-to-River Festival.  Not just another collective, but one young enough to run around the place at full-tilt non-stop, but old enough to have a cellist and violinist.

 ~

 Sam Champion

 

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A band, not a person, they don't sound quite as Stephen Malkmus-y live as they do on record, but then again, neither does Stephen Malkmus.

 ~

Sunday, June 24: Pool Parties @ McCarren Park Pool, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
 

 Superchunk

 

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Is Superchunk starting a reunion tour?  Based on their kick-ass set, headlining this summer's inaugural Pool Party, one can only hope.  They drew from all their albums, didn't neglect great singles like "Hyper Enough" and "Slack Motherfucker", or their recent 'comeback' 7", "Misfits and Mistakes" (which is, however, better with Meatwad…).  This is another great 90's alt-punk band that seriously needs to reunite and get the dues that their owed.  Plus, they founded Merge Records, and the home of The Arcade Fire & Spoon doesn't rock hard enough as it is…

 ~

 Oakley Hall

 

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A recent signee to said Merge, borough-bred Oakley Hall played an indie-country/folk that doesn't sound at all Brooklyn, but still rocked, especially finisher, "If I Was In El Dorado".

 ~

+/-

 

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Unfortunately, missed 'em – was at Shea, watching The Mets sweep The A's.  But here's some photos from them at Brooklyn's Union Hall back in March.

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