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The Village Voice’s 4Knots Festival At Pier 84 In Hudson River Park, June 11th, 2015, Review



With the temperature in the lower 80s and puffy white clouds playing tag with the sun, a dip to deliciously fresh as the hours passed along and the headliners reached the stage, you couldn’t have asked for anything lovelier than Saturday afternoon. Standing on the bridge of the Hornblower Yacht and watching one top art guitar band after another perform, in an unusually well curated day of rock and roll, New York has never been sweeter.

This my second Village Voice’s 4Knots festival, having missed the first two years, 2014 was at the much smaller Pier 16, and while I had a blast (here), man was it cram packed. At the time I wrote: “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.” This year they erred in the other direction and the place could’ve done with more bodies. The former free show now cost $25 a ticket and $50 for VIP and that, of course, hurt attendance. Plus, it was absolutely the size, and maybe the bill? I would think Stephen Malkmus and Super Furry Animals alone would be enough to get 5,000 people into the gorgeous Hudson Park. Add Mikal Cronin and Screaming Females, that  alone should have drawn a huge crowd.

It was a carefree, easy, flowing day, a stressless presentation of great rock guitar. I arrived a little late, rushing through my Taylor Swift review at the speed of write, I got there in time to catch Meatbodies roaring through “Mountain”. The smart tight and catchy garage rock LA style band is lead by Chad Ubovich, Mikal Cronin’s (who will be playing later) bassist. Their current album is a psycho drama piece of badass rock and fuzz. On stage they were good enough to make you forget their entirely sophomoric stage patter and concentrate on the power plus guitar solos in the middle and  drone rock that ended the set.

Happyness are a pretty wonderful trio from London (you know the UK, “that way” one of them points) and their sound veers between folkieness and good natured beauty rock outs, opening song “Weird Little Birthday Girl” wasn’t  even a highlight in a consistent and well performed set of ambient meets rock mood music. The new album, Weird Little Birthday does low loud so well I am not really sure that’s what they are trying to do.

Screaming Females are at that zen like place now where it feels effortless; it feels simple and easy and organic, as though they can reach inside themselves and perform music with a rage that is becalmed through effort. They are, simply, great. I haven’t seen them in awhile and the trio improves all the time, you don’t think they can be better and yet there Screaming Females are, better. I thought Jarrett Dougherty was a great drummer when I interviewed him six years and life has made him so steadfast it is like the other two don’t worry about anything at all. I have met the sublime lead guitarist Marissa Paternoster a number of times, and was gonna congratulate her on Rose Mountain, both album, song, and a terrific performance of it  today but… It feel likes grovelling doesn’t it?

Mikal Cronin, between him and Ty Segall they are the West Coast equivalent of Kurt Vile and Patrick Stickles. But I am not a huge fan of either Ty or Mikal, they both lack quality control, and their recorded work sounds great as sound but lacks consistency as song: I never recognize them. Apparently, I needed to see Mikal live. Much better in person, the set still suffered from power pop that powers fine but pops less so. MCIII his latest album sounded good but nothing stuck with me. This was a good set and a coupla songs were real cracker melodic hard rockers. I guess he needs more time than I’m gonna give him.

Twin Peaks, the Chicago, Illinois kids who have been waiting for this moment for six years and are now officially ready for their close up. Fast, loud, melodic, power popping, brilliant and as energetic as you can possibly imagine, they gave the performance of the evening. Nothing zen about these guys, they were cheeky, good humored and giving it their all in their sadly truncated set. Stephen Malkmus complimented them as he walked on stage,  so you know how great they were.

What is the difference between the Jicks and Pavement? Around five million bucks. But otherwise Malkmus is Malkmus is Malkmus, the same acute rock songs with zigzag melodies and twist and shifts in keys and tempos, and the singsongy tune twisting. A super fine set of some great and some less great songs. The entire 4Knots Festival hit its zenith with the gorgeous ballad “Freeze The Saints” followed by the glam rocker “Baby C’Mon”.

As for Super Furry Animals.. I left after three songs and I liked what I saw but I had reached exhaustion though what I heard was a mix of noise and rock, funny costumes and Cool Britania zippiness.

And art rock guitar heroes. A great day of music. Congrats to whoever put this show together. See you next year.

Grade: A





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