East Village Radio Music Festival: It’s Hard Out There for a Pirate


KRS-One, performing somewhere far from the South Street Seaport

East Village Radio, the sponsor of Sunday’s South Street Seaport-hosted Music Festival, began life in 2003 as a pirate radio station, but as host KRS-One noted, while staring contemplatively out over the East River, “It’s real hard to be a pirate in New York City.” An early brush with the New York Times (“the so-far-pirate 10-watt FM station hopes to become to the downtown’s demimonde what NPR is to the white-wine-and-Brie crowd”) led directly to a more emphatic, direct brush with the FCC (“Hanging over all of this is the very real threat of shutdown,” observed the same self-defeating article) and a hasty retreat to the Internet, where the station remains to this day. In that same renegade spirit, EVR threw a five-year anniversary party this weekend, in public and everything, and invited not just local struggling artist types High Places and Vivian Girls, but Devin the Dude too. “Awesome Color: crazy,” exclaimed KRS, marveling at the sight of three white dudes kicking out the jams. “Absolutely insane.”

Devin, meanwhile, made his own gesture to the white-wine-and-Brie crowd when he choose an old Bed Bath & Beyond bag as the official vehicle for the Coughee Brothaz T-shirts he proceeded to fling out into the crowd. Maybe he’d just dropped his kids off at NYU? Vivian Girls, playing in the earlier half of the afternoon, got into the anarchist spirit and covered the Beach Boys; High Places, up next, took the nice weather to heart too, bringing a bit more Sebastian the Crab–style patois to their usual jagged-edge calypso. When the vocals cut out, and their tangled electronics spat out a decent simulation of actual water and wave noise, the crowd went wild.

Over in the indoor second stage, Parts and Labor’s Dan Friel hoisted an absurdly large homemade instrument onto his own lap, churning out little passages of P&L-gone-DAT Politics via a dense cluster of Christmas lights, effects pedals, and a keyboard. It was sort of silly as a spectator sport, but no sillier than Devin asking a mainstage crowd full of prudish hipsters: “Any horny women out there?” The response was muted, but many may have been confused. As KRS had noted earlier, apropos of little: “A lot of people here might not be into rock music at all.”

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