In Waste Of Paint, our writer/artist team of Jamie Peck and Debbie Allen will review goings-on about town in words and images.
This weekend, Debbie and I turned our attentions inwards, to the Village Voice‘s own 4Knots Music Festival at South Street Seaport. As always, the Seaport was a strange but enjoyable place to take in some indie bands, what with the adjacent mall stores and Pizzeria Uno adding a bit of kitsch that made us feel like rock-and-roll tourists on staycation. (Have you ever smelled the air coming out of a Baby Gap? Pure heaven.)
Following strong showings from Mr. Dream and Eleanor Friedberger (the latter of whom has an excellent new album out), Oberhofer regaled us with a super-energetic set of melodic rock. In keeping with the fest’s nautical theme, the second guitarist sported a sailor hat. Oberhofer’s sound takes more than a few cues from the emotionally charged pop-punk I grew up with in the suburbs—the breakdowns, the falsetto, the sweet screams that emit from Brad Oberhofer’s slight frame—which earns them a special place in my heart. Judging from the audience’s willingness to clap along to their xylophone-assisted hooks, I was not the only one.
Next, Puerto Rican garage rock act Davila 666 cranked up the volume significantly from what it already was for their raucously catchy drinking songs. The fact that most of the words were in Spanish did not deter people from trying to sing along like we were all in a big, breezy bar together. (Although we sort of were.) The six dudes—almost a whole party’s worth!—possess the same messy-fun energy and Southern-tinged rock of the Black Lips, which helped them elicit the first crowd surfing and only proper moshing of the day. They wisely eschewed words at times for simple syllables like “uh-uh-huh.” “Uno dos tres quatro!” was another bit everyone got. Toward the end, they tapped into the universal language of pop music with a ridiculously awesome Spanish cover of “Hanging On The Telephone.” Lead (but by no means sole) singer Carlito Davila inhabited the Debbie Harry role quite well for a stubbly Puerto Rican guy in a Hawaiian shirt.
Bolstered by a crowd filled with family and friends, New Jersey natives Titus Andronicus provided the day’s spiritual climax with an hourlong set of big, anthemic compositions drawing on great American songwriters from Bruce Springsteen to Conor Oberst. Speaking of Oberst, I will never get over how much Patrick Stickles sounds like him circa Desapericidos (2001-2002); if Oberst is less prone to bleating, screamy outbursts these days, Stickles is here to pick up the slack. If you hated that, you’ll probably hate Titus Andronicus; if you fucking lived for it (as I once did), you’ll love them. But if anyone found the talkative, literary frontman distasteful, there was also much to like in guitarist Amy Klein, whose persistent rock star energy went unmatched throughout the day. She put her leg up on the monitor, she headbanged, she jumped up and down, she swung her guitar every which way, and she gave a shout out to last week’s performance from Screaming Females. As if that wasn’t enough, she then whipped out a blue electric violin and played a pretty sea shanty on it. Amy Andronicus: reppin’ the ocean hard since whenever that song was written.
Lastly, The Black Angels played a loooong set of dreamy neo-psychedelia fit for swaying around drowsily on your feet to, or maybe just sitting down right there in the middle of the dirty ground and nodding your head along to. At least, that was what I felt like doing by that point. I appreciated their hard-hitting female drummer, as well as the way guitarist Christian Bland swung his lovely long hair around while supplying reverb-laden, witchy vocals. (Yes, guys can be witchy.) Tambourines, maracas, flange, distortion, and a 12-string guitar all helped shape the atmosphere, and eventually I almost felt like I was in a patchouli-scented chillout room somewhere. A respectable comedown from a long, intense, sweaty, nautical day.