With significant rainfall in the forecast, this year's 4 Knots Festival seemed like an iffy proposition at best, but this was one day where I applaud the ineptitude of the world's meteorologists. Gorgeous day, maybe just a little warm, and picture perfect for enjoying a free festival with a solid lineup, just like this one.
J to Chambers (no service to Fulton? WTF?), and as I was running late, I heard Marnie Stern's music get increasingly louder as I approached. Marnie and her band were playing the "second" stage, and I walked up during the middle of personal fave "The Crippled Jazzer."
Of course, I'm a big fan of Marnie Stern's music, having just recently caught (and enjoyed) the tail end of her live set at Music Hall a couple months ago. Unfortunately, today her voice was totally blown out, transforming what would normally be spirited upper register yelps into tortured screams (check the video above, if you dare). I didn't stick around for terribly long, only seeing "The Crippled Jazzer," "Nothing Is Easy" and part of "Year of the Glad" before heading over to the main stage. Highlight for me was the kinda awesome instrumental coda to "The Crippled Jazzer," which gave former Parts and Labor drummer extraordinaire Joe Wong (Marnie's touring drummer) plenty of room to flex his chops while Marnie hammered her signature kamikaze leads over the top.
By the time I arrived at the main stage, The Men were already set up. It's possible I missed the first song or two of their set... I walked up just as they began their krauty C&W track "Country Song." That segued into my favorite song in their catalog, "Oscillation," which I'd never seen them perform live before. (See directly above this paragraph for my crappy iPhone video of "Oscillation," starring the backs of a lot of dudes' heads.)
As familiar as I am with their material (very), The Men are a band that manages to surprise me each time I see them. During their set at Don Pedro's on the eve of Hurricane Sandy, they eschewed the more contemplative aspects in their catalog, instead opting almost exclusively for straight-ahead grungy-ass punk. At the Sandy benefit at Vitus in December, they unexpectedly opened their set with several acoustic songs, and when they finally plugged in they played practically all new material. Their Bowery show in March found the band stretching out and playing a robust 70 minute set, while incorporating horns into several songs. And their show at Union Pool early last month featured such an energetic performance that I gained new appreciation for several of the songs from New Moon which I'd previously been iffy on. Anyway, the surprises at today's set were: 1.) said aforementioned "Oscillation" performance; 2.) Ben Greenberg spent the whole set on bass, after having migrated over to lead guitar for the last couple shows; and 3.) they actually played a cover, ending the set with an excellent horn-augmented version of The Stooges "I Wanna Be Your Dog" (see directly below for video).
The Men's set drew heavily from New Moon and Open Your Heart, with a couple new ones thrown in. As per ushe, the energy level onstage was incredible, and a small pit of kids opened up towards the front, featuring the occasional crowd surfer. Fuck yeah, awesome set, and you can bet your sweet patootie that I'll be keeping my ear to the ground re: any upcoming news from these guys. Here's an incomplete setlist:
? (not sure if they played anything before I showed up) "Country Song"> "Oscillation" "Turn It Around" "Open Your Heart" uhhhh not sure... "I Saw Her Face" new song - rockin and punky "Ex-Dreams" "I Wanna Be Your Dog" [Stooges cover]
The next band on the bill was Reigning Sound, who I'd never heard / heard of before today. I took this opportunity to find a bathroom and a reasonably uncrowded beer merchant, eventually making it back to the stage area midway through the band's set. These cats reminded me of a good bar band, with familiar-sounding American rock and roll tunes by the bushel load.
Kurt Vile and the Violators were the afternoon / early evening's final act, taking the stage a few hairs past 7. I was really looking forward to this set, having not seen Mr. Vile live since his January '10 set opening for Dinosaur Jr. at Music Hall of Williamsburg. I was disappointed to have missed out on him the last time he came through town in May in support of his solid new joint, Wakin on a Pretty Daze.
Fittingly, Vile opened his set with the title track (give or take a letter or two) from the newest album, immersing the assembled crowd in his undeniably chill vibes. Ahhhhhhhhhhh. The crowd took notice, and for the first time in the afternoon I began to smell pot smoke liberally wafting through the air. Vile and his Violators ambled their way through "Jesus Fever," "Was All Talk" and "KV Crimes" next.
A half hour or so into the set, decided to wander around the Seaport for a bit before opting to beat the crowd by heading back to the J early, back home before sundown. Not too shabby of a day, right there.