4Knots Music Festival: Mr. Dream, Eleanor Friedberger
Pier 17, South Street Seaport
Saturday, July 16
Better than: Showing up late.
I have this problem—it’s well known among my friends—where I arrive at things (shows, parties, etc.) on time. Usually this results in me either a) attempting to read my book through the warm-up music at whatever dimly lit venue I’m at this week or b) bankrupting myself by buying a mixed drink at the bar. So, for a person like me, it’s nice when I come to something that starts at 1:00 at, well, 1:00 and find my punctuality rewarded. And when I can get a buzz going without turning to the savings account, I know it’s my day.
By that definition, Saturday was my day. Or rather our day, because I definitely wasn’t alone in turning up on time to watch Mr. Dream kick off the inaugural 4Knots Festival at the South Street Seaport’s Pier 17. The Brooklyn three-piece happily embraced their role as opener, noting that they would now enter the history books as the first band able to say they had played 4Knots. Their hard-rocking set drew mostly from this year’s Trash Hit and climaxed with that album’s closing track “Learn the Language.” Its fuzzy guitars and memorable “Heaven is just a zip code” refrain likely won the band a few new fans both among the early arrivers and pizza-eating balcony dwellers.
After wandering through the vendor tables and, yes, stepping aboard the wooden ship that served as the festival’s VIP section (the Peking, setting sail in 1975, I learned from one of the displays), I was more than ready to watch Eleanor Friedberger prove that she could have a successful career without the parenthetical (of The Fiery Furnaces) attached to her name. Throughout the set her voice was clear and music bouncy, a sonic breeze that almost seemed able to cool down all of us standing in the hot summer sun. Working against the clock, she attempted to say goodbye by performing three songs in her last seven minutes onstage. Midway through the second, “Inn of the Seventh Ray,” it became clear that a buzzer-beater of a finisher would be needed, and the final tune—fittingly, The Fiery Furnaces’ “Tropical Ice-Land”—came through.
Critical bias: Well…
Overheard: Some mild confusion as to what a can of Budweiser was doing on stage with Mr. Dream.
Random Notebook Dump: I did text my soon-to-be-arriving friends—too late, unfortunately—that downtown 4 trains were running local. Ah, the MTA, the persistently valid excuse for lateness.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 17, 2011