You might have been at Jones Beach.
The sun was soft and warm and the sky a cloudless early summer miracle, the East River was before you and Those Darlins between you and the river. It was a New York moment imitating a Long Island moment imitating a Nashville Skyline, a place where the urban world of loud brash high octane life was replaced for half an hour with Tennessee rock and roll of loud brash high octane life. A couple of hours later the stoically bemused Dinosaur Jr would be wowing the crowd on the same stage, and a little earlier than that the angular wit of Mac Demarcos and before Those Darlins the indie classicism of Speedy Ortiz had had their moment, but for right now the day belongs to the aggravated garage bang of Those Darlins. A quintessentially New York rock and roll moment the day after Tommy Ramone died.
A few hours earlier quintessential New York musician Jahn Xavier and I made our way to Fulton Street for the annual Village Voice 4Knots Music festival, a mix of homegrown bands being offered up to a wider audience and headline alt rocking bands. The cobblestone street leads past the “Front Row” stage across the road to Pier 16. The Village Voice is not the publication it was when I was writing for it but whatever it is, 4Knots they do very well, a bottom tip of Manhattan festival where the best rock bands around play for free to an appreciative audience. Near the front of the “Pier 16” teenage girls are waiting patiently for Mac DeMarco but Jahn and I are smiling through proto punks Crazy Pills at the “Front stage”, a blues garage bopping band.
Back at “Pier 16”, I’ve wanted to see the highly buzzed about Speedy Ortiz for over a year now but not enough to actually search them out. Speedy Ortiz is an indie alt rock band heavily inspired by Pavement. The awesomely named Sadie Dupuis joins bands as diverse as Clair’s Diary and Those Darlins, who began their career at summercamp and at this stage the Stephen Malkmus jones seems to be overpowering her. I wasn’t crazy about last years Major Arcana though the current EP Real Hair is pretty good. It is as though Sadie studied “Rattled By The Rush” but missed the melody. Live, they are much better. Opening with a terrific “Taylor Swift” and reaching its zenith with a game changer “American Horror” they made a believer of me. The Pavement days are coming to an end.
Nude Beach I had seen at the Don Giovanni Showcase last February where they held their own with serious heavy hitters like Shellshag, but yesterday they were better, Jahn loved them more than I did and left me to get a closer look as the band has morphed into a classic rock outfit, with power and melody. They are getting ready to record their new album on Don Giovanni and Nude beach did themselves nothing but favors this afternoon.
Vietcong is where Jahn and I disagreed. Jahn thought they were samey sounding with a drummer who was playing on the 1 and 3 and throwing off the rhythm entirely. I thought they were very impressive art rockers whose bassist vocalist Matt Flegel is a real talent and whose art drone songs got me there. Back at the front stage, Juan Wauters sounded more like Jonathan Richman than Lou Reed but he had a pleasant disposition and a clutch of fine songs.
At this point, Jahn and I went our separate ways, as I couldn’t get back and forth between the photo pit and the VIP Peking Ship where by 5pm there was a line to get in, but I do know Jahn was very excited to see Dinosaur Jr. First there was Mac Demarco. The girls at the front of the stage were screaming for the blonde tousled haired Canadian now West Coast transplant who looks like a cross between a young David Letterman and a young Robert Morse. Mac is a singer songwriter with a smirk, the gap tooth grin and off center attitude adds force to his most powerful songs, they seem to come from somewhere left field. Back in March, Alyson Camus wrote this: “I arrived just on time and a crazy drunk girl told me she was there ‘for the experience’, and she could not shut up about her love for Mac Demarco while stepping on my feet. I must admit, I kind of like the guy, he sounded cool, chain smoking during the tuning and playing really diverse songs.” I get a feeling if I gave him time, Mac would grow on me but how much time does he want? He seems to be neither one nor the other though he kept a firm grasp of his audience with an opening singalong to “Salad Days” and a firm grasp on my attention with the beautiful “Blue Boy”.
And finally, you couldn’t move on Pier 16 for Dinosaur Jr. they opened with the age old “In A Jar’ off the 1987 You’re Living All Over Me and continued with “The Lung” from the same album and for the following 40 minutes till a cover of “Just Like A heaven” when I left maybe two songs early, they played loud (not loud enough, in fact) white guitar noise. The band are really old pros and they have about as much coolness to their quotient as you can imagine and in 2014 have reached the peak of their careers, elder statesmen of just about every single thing.
Leaving 4Knots around 740pm my thoughts returned to Those Darlins, a band I’d preferred in theory rather than in practice in the past. Their sound was a classicist meets garage rocker with a cover of “The Man In Me” just to keep you on your toes, and their visage at the Pier 16 was one of youth, beauty, power, of the timelessness of rock and roll over half a century after Presley and Berry wrote the template we still all use. Rock and roll is here to stay it will never die, the band seemed to claim for us, still here, still making people happy without reason. RIP The Ramones but the Ramones are still here, they were at 4knots yesterday..
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