The 4Knots Music Festival: A Long, Salty Day With The Drums, Archers Of Loaf, Kid Congo Powers, Black Lips, And Jonathan Toubin


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, the Village Voice‘s own 4Knots Music Festival (full disclosure: well, you know) invaded the major tourist hub of South Street Seaport with entertainments at least as diverting as the stuff that’s always there, if slightly more niche. There were rum drinks, nautical stripes, and many instances of sweaty dancing—and even when things didn’t quite go as planned, those in attendance rolled with it like so many boats.

We arrived to find the entrance to the press area cordoned off by police tape as fire trucks flashed their lights and an abundance of New York’s Bravest paced around. Apparently, there had been (and still was?) a fire under the dock, which witnesses told me had been started by a malfunctioning Pepsi machine. Not to be dissuaded, once all was clear The Drums regaled everyone with a bouncy set of reverb-laden synth-pop, dandyish singer Jonathan Pierce coming off somewhat like a happier Morrissey as he crooned bittersweet lyrics and swung his arms around with charming awkwardness. Towards the end of the set, he dedicated a song to “that wonderful band Girls, R.I.P… thanks for giving us two records worth of great music and great times, ” and Waste of Paint poured one out.

Next, headliners Archers of Loaf regaled us with a solid set of the brooding but catchy “college rock” they first gained (indie) fame for in the nineties, with singer/guitarist Eric Bachmann’s raspy voice sounding none the worse for wear. Despite never achieving the same kind of breakthrough fame as colleagues like Pavement, the Chapel Hill alt-rockers have put out much respectable work over the years, and the gen-x-ers scattered down in front sang along to songs like “White Trash Heroes” with gusto. “Thanks to all the bands who played in the hot sun and let the old guys play when it’s starting to cool off,” quipped bassist Matt Gentling. “No one wants to watch someone soil their britches and have a heart attack.”

Later, at Beekman Beer Garden, scruffy garage-rock kids got drunk (or, in most cases, drunker) next to regs celebrating a birthday party on glowing couches as staff rushed around trying to counteract the fire-related delay. We pushed up to the front to see Kid Congo Powers, a veteran of the weirdo-rock scene whose past credits include The Cramps and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, play with his relatively new (but retro-sounding) project Kid Congo Powers and the Pink Monkey Birds. Clad in green shoes and a Canadian tuxedo to match his bandmates, Powers pulled goofy faces as he jammed out on bluesy, spooky, noisy, surf-y tunes, at one point stopping to riff: “You still trippin’? Look over there. [points at trippy projections by B.A. Miale] You know that town where the president lives? They should call that town L.S.D.C.!”

The crowd had behaved well enough up to this point, incongruous venue notwithstanding, but as soon as the Black Lips showed their faces, the anarchic spirit that follows them took hold. Disdainful of VIP areas, or maybe just excited, the crowd rushed at the flimsy barriers, engaging in a shoving match with security as guitarist Cole Alexander egged them on to “tear down that barrier!” By song two, “Family Tree,” security had given up and let the barriers swing open, turning the photo pit into a mosh pit and inadvertently fencing in two small areas on each side where the the less adventurous photographers could retreat. Pissed off, security continued to try to impose order, eventually erecting a new barrier that trapped the craziest people in front and roughing up/tossing out anyone who seemed especially wild. The diminutive Alexander jumped in to try to help the people getting hit but was shoved back onto the stage, at which point everyone started chanting “fuck that shit! Fuck that shit!” Beer sprayed, toilet paper flew, and couples made out amid the chaos. Miraculously, the naughty Southern boys finished their set (granted, an abbreviated one), giving a shout out to DJ Jonathan Toubin and letting us know “rock and roll is still alive!” As if there was any doubt.

It took Toubin quite a while to set up in the aftermath, partly because he wanted to make sure the stage was dry enough for go-go girl Anna Copa Cabana not to slip. “Let’s hope the people who haven’t been kicked out still want to dance,” he remarked to me. Eventually, he was able to go on, and those who hadn’t expended all their energy on the Black Lips mayhem gathered up front to do the twist as the aforementioned ’60s dancer gyrated inspirationally. Although he’s been home for a while now, folks who hadn’t seen him since before his horrific accident kept going up to Toubin, overjoyed to verify his continued existence by sight and touch. “That’s one of the best songs by a 13-year-old girl we’ve played all night,” he said as a cut by Patrice Holloway segued into a French hit by prepubescent Jodie Foster. When his set was cut short by delays, he was characteristically considerate, saying he didn’t really mind. “I just feel bad for the people who came down from far away to see me.” The revelers got kicked out at 2 a.m., but the party moved to nearby bar Fresh Salt and points beyond—a fitting end to a long and salty day.