By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
The lead singer for the Pattern stumbled backstage with a rip in his pants revealing tight black undies, DJs Boozy Jo and the Bag Lady were already hammering down Bacardis, and it was only one in the afternoon. Siren was off to a proper start. The Voice's own festival, now in its third year, has become an annual midsummer rite of passage, with thousands of underwashed indie rock fans heading out to Coney Island and bravely enduring the heat to get a dose of good old-fashioned rawk.
Me, I'm indie-rock retarded, and had no idea who most of the bands were on the lineup, save for the white girl rap trio Northern State, and yet I was given a chance to DJ on the main stage. So I brought what I thought would be a sensible choice of musicGuns N' Roses, Rolling Stones, and um, Pat Benatar. (One person e-mailed me, "Way to set the right mood for !!!. What was with all that classic rock shit? You should've played 'Stairway to Heaven' while you were at it.")
But if you must know, Nic Offer, the hyperactive singer, made me do it. He confessed that as a nine-year-old he used to lip-synch "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" with a hairbrush in front of his mirror. "I even made my parents buy me the mirror," he said. "And look where I am now!" So, in his honor, I played "Promises in the Dark."
Had I had the sense to bring some techno, I would've played some of that for !!!, but I doubt any records I have could've matched their innovative, energetic sound. (Later, Nic chastised me for writing that there would be no dance music at the festival, so yes, I stand corrected.) After the Kills, the Rough Trade duo who forgo drums and sing while giving each other the evil eye and who mostly ignored the crowd, !!! were a burst of joie de vivre and lit a fire under the arses of the crowd, most of whom probably never dance, like, ever. They were easily one of the best things about the festival, and not just 'cause Nic Offer's so very charming.
While there was no Karen O this year, I did have the pleasure of seeing Sahara Hotnightsfor the first time. In honor of all the ladies who came before them, I spun some Joan Jett, the Go-Go's, and Heart. After their set, I ran over to the Stillwell Stage to see how Northern State were faring. It seems the Long Island Lolitas are already experiencing a backlashsince they got so much positive hype before they inked a deal, the critics are backpedaling on their initial love affair. Mean reviews (one on Pitchforkmedia.com was especially vicious) and high-minded rap critics dismiss them as woefully middlebrow and as having limited skills. Tell that to the crowd of fans who gathered to watch them, many of whom knew the lyrics from their debut Dying in Stereo on Columbia. Tell that to the two blond girls up front, who clearly had never seen them before, and were watching them with glee and wonder, and nodding whenever they heard something they liked. "Who's your favorite?" I asked my friend. "Dude, it's all about Sprout." (Me, I like Guinea Love, but then, I'm a guinea, myself.)
Back at the main stage, the V.I.P. tent had filled up with industry types, among them Carlos D of Interpol, who is so committed to fashion that he insisted on wearing an all-black suit in the hot weather. Fashionistas would have approved, and they would have squealed had they seen Hedi Slimane, the Diormenswear designer. I couldn't have picked him out of the crowd, but one friend described him thus: "He looks very French." Ah, OK. Not looking French at all was comedian David Cross, who was walking around with a hottie on his arm.
Looking good in the tightest pants I've ever seen, the four boys in the New Zealand band the Datsuns took the stage around six, just when the sun seemed strongest. They turned in my favorite set of the day, and gave me a new crush to dote on (me and the Bag Lady made eyes at the singer, Dolfbut he was too busy rocking the crowd to notice). The whole event was so wholesome: The parents of two members of Sahara Hotnights flew in (so did the 'rents of !!!), and the Datsuns and the Swede gals both rode the Cyclone together after the show. (Cute, cute, cute!)
Too tired to stand, and shamefaced from playing classic rock before indie gods like Modest Mouse, I limped back to the train. Next year I'll play something from the '90s, I promise.