You’d think hundred-degree weather would keep people inside. Yet, the 10th Annual Village Voice Siren Festival still drew thousands. What was so irresistible? Was it the lineup? Maybe, it did include some big (-ish) names. Most of the bands have received the “Best New Music” stamp from Pitchfork—for some, the ultimate stamp of approval. For the second time, Ted Leo was scheduled to perform with his beloved Pharmacists. Cymbals Eat Guitars, Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Surfer Blood and Holy Fuck were also on the bill. The festival also boasts food, booze and giveaways. Is that all? Hell no. Siren Fest is free of charge. So what if the bands are mediocre? If nothing else, the day was bound to be interesting.
The festival has a two-stage setup. Main stage was on 10th St and another stage was on Stillwell St. The amusement park on Coney Island is pretty busy in the summer, and for the first part of the festival—which started at 12 pm—the park received all of the attention. At 4:30, when Earl Greyhound took the Stillwell stage, the crowd was still small. You could walk straight to the front without fear of being elbowed in the gut. Muscle-T clad hipsters in “jorts” preferred to sit on the curb—where they seemed nonchalant but were actually fully engaged in the Brooklyn-based trio’s funky blues.
It wasn’t hard to locate the crowd. People tend to flock to the nearest source of intoxication. At Siren Fest, that would be the “beer garden,” inappropriately dubbed since the “garden” was just a tiny corralled area on one side of the street. However, the area had several tents serving beer and was far enough back from the stage that the cigarette smoking, tatt’ed up, Travis Barker wannabes could actually see the bands onstage.
(Video courtesy of Sup Mag)
Over on Main Stage, feel-good band Pains of Being Pure at Heart was entertaining a much larger audience. Beach balls floated across the stage. Joints were being passed. People were brown-bagging their faces off. It was too hot for dancing, but plenty of heads were bobbing to the quick-paced pop music. Tiny heads, I might add. The crowd was younger than expected, with more braces than wristbands. The band’s set was short, but after a ton of applause, there was no doubt that they put on a good show.
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists brought an even bigger crowd to Main Stage, and that’s before the Screaming Females even joined them on stage (yes, still screaming). It’s probably true that the band is losing steam. We’ve been seeing less and less of them where it counts (tour dates, record sales, press). This show, however, proved that Ted Leo still has a loyal following. The older fraction of the crowd knew the words. The younger fraction—whose age maybe averaged 16—found the heart to dance, happily dispelling the remaining electrolytes they had left. Their refreshment of choice, since Bud wasn’t an option? Energy drinks, seriously.
Dinnertime approached and a good portion of the crowd headed over to Nathan’s Famous to get real with their inner Kobayashi. The line was out the door as Cymbals Eat Guitars took the Stillwell Stage. This band is one of those “love ‘em or hate ‘em” bands. They tend to screech and wail onstage. Not to mention, lead singer Joseph Ferocious seems to have a seizure every time he sings. Since Ted Leo had the majority of the crowd over at Main Stage, it actually made the experience at Stillwell Stage more enjoyable. First, it was about 10 degrees cooler. Second, the over-eager 13 year-olds were thankfully absent. The crowd definitely seemed thankful and a loud applause erupted as the band packed up their equipment and left the stage after one of the longer sets of the day.
After an hour in between sets, electronic all-stars Holy Fuck stormed Stillwell stage. Though Matt & Kim probably had a larger crowd, the Toronto-bred group drew a crazy one. The band had nothing but energy; dancing their asses off the second they took the stage. As it finally cooled off a bit, the crowd followed suit. Head bobbing was now full-on crowd surfing. Sometimes bordering on experimental, Holy Fuck didn’t lose the crowd once. They picked up even more steam as they went. The drum kit was no doubt the driving force, pounding through each song like a drill-sergeant on speed. As some headed into their 8th hour of heat stroke, dehydration and pure wasted-ness, Holy Fuck saved the best for last, “Lovely Allen.” They killed it.