Crowd04July

The 4th Annual Siren Festival

Show Date: July 17, 2004

{Remembering hearing all those Siren Music Festival ads on KEXP? Remember how sad you were that you couldn't afford the plane ticket to attend? Our NYC friends Trix and Jen made it, and you should read about it. Special thanks to Konstantin Vilenchitz for the fabulous photos!}


 

What is the Siren Music Festival?

 

by Trix
The kids in New York don't really know how to do "outdoors" during the "daytime." Being that New York is the city of cement, steel and glass, outdoor festivals rarely occur in the city limits — sure there's Long Island or New Jersey — but no one in Manhattan goes there unless it's some sort of family holiday. We lost Lollapalooza this year and Central Park's Summerstage usually lends itself to the likes of Dave Matthew's Band — suffice to say that the Siren Music Festival is a bit of an anomaly, a hot dog Carnivale, a destination spot for the blacktop-sect.

Siren is the place where you inevitably bump into your freshman year roommate (the bitch who owes you 20 bucks from that May 1996 phone bill) and that one weird guy that maybe you shouldn't have made out with — if he hadn't bought you all those drinks at that Spoon show.

The secret to Siren is that you have to look your best, because you never know how you're going to impress. Also, on public transportation, it takes forever to get there, so you better make sure that your iPod is fully charged. Oh, and there's a lot of live "indie rock" music. So much music that they split the bands on two stages: a main stage (Death Cab / Blonde Redhead) and a side stage (…Trail of Dead / Mission to Burma). Who do you think would win that celebrity death match??

Because there is so much to cover, I've asked my lovely, be-freckled friend Jen McCreery to split the review. Also, she got there a tad earlier than me (okay like 2.5 hours earlier!).

The Ponys

 

by Jen
I tried to beat the masses by getting to the boardwalk an hour before the bands started. Given New York's tendency to not show up to a show until at least halfway through (two-thirds for the fashionistas), I figured I had a halfway decent chance of at least watching an empty stage from a close proximity.

At 1:00pm, I make my way back to the Main Stage on 10th Avenue. Har Mar Superstar is posing for publicity stills in front of the port-a-potties. I think I love him. The Ponys are playing louder than the Cyclone [a roller coaster] passengers screaming above, they're sweating more than me and the masses have arrived. At least two thousand kids have forgone Saturday morning cartoons to watch these three boys and a girl play spooky punk rock music. I give up all illusions of elbow and breathing room and join them.

I am the masses and the masses are bouncing to the music with bright and early energy and the masses are showing the first pinky signs of sunburn and . . . wait, was that Ben Gibbard? It's the first sighting of the day of what will become an eerie phenomenon of Ben Gibbard look-alikes. Ben Gibbard grows a beard. Ben Gibbard eats Italian ice. Ben Gibbard makes out with a girl in the flea market. It's distracting and it's never him. Not once. (See Trix's Thermals review) 

The Thermals — take 1

 

by Trix
The Thermals. Photo by Konstantin VilenchitzI show up at 2:30, right around the time The Thermals started playing — and I meet up with my friends, behind the side stage (Stillwell). I think I pass Ben Gibbard and smirk because in Brooklyn, pretty much everyone looks like some permutation of Ben Gibbard (glasses, a tight-fitting tee-shirt). Somehow, I get hooked up with a VIP pass for the Stillwell stage, which means several things:

1. No waiting for the bathroom, ever (even if they are disgusting port-o-potties)
2. Eventual Budweiser (they had a truck of BUD)
3. Front-stage privileges

I am set, I am psyched, and ready to roll! I prance up to the stage, watch The Thermals sing their hearts out, dance their fucking souls out and I'm going along, grooving until I realize — I am right next to the person that I thought was Ben Gibbard. BUT IT'S REALLY HIM, standing next to Chris Walla. Which really isn't really a reason for drama — after all, I am sober (it's 2:30 P.M. on a hot Saturday afternoon, of course I am SOBER), so you know I wouldn't do or say anything inappropriate.

EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT I have stupidly brought my homemade "Ben Gibbard Hates Me" tote bag. And I am standing right next to him. I turn the bag around, and clutch it close to m
y breast. I cease dancing. I stand perfectly still.

Eventually he leaves and Chris is alone, his body is a vessel of unadulterated, rhythmic exhilaration. And at the risk of cribbing off of something Pitchfork may have written, he really is the number one cheerleader of the indie rock scene.

The Thermals end their set, Chris Walla leaves and I turn my bag inside out. 

The Thermals — take 2

 

by Jen
The set ends and I run run run over to Stillwell Avenue because The Thermals are on next and we're from the same town and they put the NW back in my NY. I am squashed but I'm close enough to Kathy that when she waves I can almost imagine it's at me. The music starts and this is what this festival is all about. Not caring about the heat or the smell or the… I am in the middle of the mosh pit. The "if I don't break my arm, it's not a good time" mosh pit. The masses are screaming and out of control and sweaty and gross.

I am going to die.

There is only one direction to go and that's away from the stage. The Thermals are miniatures of themselves but I'm out of harm's way. "Dance, you disaffected losers, dance!" the moshing ringleader screams. 

The Constantines

 

by Trix
The Constantines. Photo by Konstantin VilenchitzSome girls notice a boy's eyes or smile or body. I think the hottest part of a man is the forearm. The Constantines have the hottest forearms I have ever seen. And they work! Together! On the beat! In unison!

We're in the hot sun and I love Canadian bacon.

I want to attack them and rub their forearms.

(Sadly, I missed The Fever AND Electric Six — skinny on the street was that Electric Six might be attacked by Jackasses (the TV show) throwing eggs) (They were not egged).

Vue/The Fever/Electric Six/The Fiery Furnaces/Constantines/TV on the Radio

 

by Jen
I eat fried clams and mistake Trix for the bass player from The Ponys because I see her backstage wearing rockstar sunglasses. 

Har Mar Superstar — take 1

 

by Trix
Har Mar Superstar. Photo by Konstantin VilenchitzI decided to rough it and go to the main stage to hang out with the proletariat and observe Har Mar Superstar — however, because I have not been waiting at the front of the main stage all day, I am at least 200 people deep (see Har Mar Superstar — take 2 by Jen). I can hear him, but I can't see him when the spectacle begins. I use the viewfinder of my camera to bring myself closer to the stage.

And he's wearing a vest.

And then it's no vest.

And then it's just pants.

And then it's just no pants.

At this point, there is enough de-clothed, jiggling body mass attracting the rays of the sun. The mixture of sweat and sun creates a radiant light around his glistening (and hairy, I might add) back, and I start piece together his performance. By the end of the set, he starts screaming that we should adore him — then ends the set by pulling out his pubic hair and throwing it at the crowd. 

Har Mar Superstar – take 2

by Jen
Har Mar Superstar. Photo by Konstantin VilenchitzIt is officially impossible to reach the Main Stage from the boardwalk. Pathways lead to police barricades and metal barriers and there are so many people at this point that it's inevitable that I will start running into folks I know. (Read: ex-boyfriends) I don't really think that I date that many people in New York until I spend an afternoon with all of them at the beach.

We dodge through the kiddie rides and pay-toilets to catch the end of his set from all the way in the back. I am jumping up to catch glimpses of him and every time I do he is wearing less and less and sweating more and more. He is dancing his ass off and so am I.

We should get married.

Mission of Burma

by Trix
The best part of my night! Mission of Burma totally rocked — they were loud, they were sincere — they reminded me of my dad — if he were fucking awesome! It was so loud that even though I was wearing earplugs, I still had to go that extra mile and manually stick my fingers in my ears to drown out that thunder. They were part politico (they had a sign onstage that said "No New McCarthy Era," Roger Miller wore a moveon.org t-shirt and they encouraged everyone to rock the vote this year) and part totally adorable. Probably "adorable" and "Mission of Burma" usually don't go together in a sentence, but both Miller and Clint Conley took a simultaneous picture of the audience and proclaimed that they were the, "oldest and most naïve people here."

Blonde Redhead


by Jen

I realize I am in for the long haul if I am going to see Death Cab For Cutie from any reasonable distance, so as the Har Mar crowd moves out I weave through pockets in the crowd to get closer and find myself located almost directly in front of a speaker. Because I am older and wiser and deaf, I wear earplugs. Which gives a sort of underwater quality to everything. Which is sort of perfect for the Blonde Redhead set. They play pretty mermaid music, complete with submarine bleeps and ethereal beats and Kazu Makino's voice floating over it all. For once, the crowd is still and quiet.

Death Cab For Cutie


by Jen

I am in the front. I haven't been to the bathroom in three hours, haven't had anything to eat, have lost all of my friends to the crowd, but here I am. I made it. I am delirious. I attribute my success to my ability to deal with enclosed spaces and my tolerance for contact with open wounds and body hair.

Ben Gibbard is really here. He is in the flesh.
He has not grown a beard. And the bass is up too high and Ben's mike keeps going out and we are sweaty and tired and I am inhaling someone's ponytail in front of me and… I picture Trixia now. Sitting backstage by the Budweiser keg. I bet they have air conditioning back there. What am I doing here? Am I too old to stand for nine hours at a time in the sun to see a band, this band play? Mid-existential crisis, Ben smiles up at the Cyclone. He is laughing and relaxed and sunburned on his cheeks. Chris Walla is singing along to all the songs and so am I and the neon lights from Astroland are glowing and five thousand people are behind me singing, "So come ooooooo-ooo-oooon. Come oooooooo-ooo-ooo-oooo-ooon." together. In ten minutes we will all fight each other ruthlessly in the lines for funnel cake, wonder wheel and the beach bathrooms, but for a minute it feels like world peace Coney-Island style. Or whatever. 

…Trail of Dead


by Trix

...Trail of Dead. Photo by Konstantin VilenchitzDudes, by this time, I have been standing (well, sitting sometimes in the VIP section) for like 6 hours. I am tired. The Bud truck is open. I notice a hipster with a Mohawk. His scalp is burned — I make a mental note to comment later to a friend. A photographer says (to no one in particular) "…Trail of Dead is like the sexy band! They have all the girls!" And in fact they do. They are sitting on the couch.

And then I go see …Trail of Dead and realize Mohawk Man is Jason Reece, member of …Trail of Dead. Feel sort of like an idiot. Then they throw things into the crowd (drumsticks, a bottle of water, a case of water), while I run away to the Bud truck.

{Won't you please, please, please come next year? Who cares if it takes forever to get there, is excessively crowded and full of sweaty and hairy people? Isn't that what rock and roll is all about?}