Siren Festival 2008 LIVE review and pics by Troy Brookins

Music Reviews
Siren Festival 2008 LIVE review and pics by Troy Brookins
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Jul 22, 2008, 08:09

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THE VILLAGE VOICE EIGHTH ANNUAL SIREN FESTIVAL SATURDAY, JULY 19, 2008 CONEY ISLAND, NY

Coney Island is possibly the last seedy place in NYC.  A sense of danger and tension spills from the surrounding neighborhood onto the boardwalk, so thick you can smell it. But those days are numbered. Just like Times Square, downtown and Hell's Kitchen, there are plans to scrub the area clean, getting rid of the old New York, by developing hotels, time shares and a new amusement park. This was supposed to begin this year, but Coney Island was given a reprieve to host one last summer of fun.

For the last eight years, Coney Island has been host to The Village Voice's Siren Festival. This two stage, fourteen band, eight hour event features some of the hottest indie acts as well as a few you need to hear. This past Saturday was no different. Broken Social Scene and Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks headlined the event while DJ Ted Leo spun records on the Main Stage and the three man collective Deadheat took care of the entertainment between acts on the Stillwell Stage.

Dragons of Zynth and These are Powers started the festival at staggered times, but I was stuck in traffic, the missed exit didn't help either, and missed both bands.

Siren's two stages are set about a ten-minute walk apart and the trick is to make sure you leave one stage in time to make it to the next band. The set times are separated by thirty minutes, but inevitably something goes awry and the schedule is thrown off a bit. Unless you camp out at one stage, it's difficult to catch full sets, but the festival is free so you can't complain.

Parts & Labor

This is a Brooklyn band that recently went from trio to quartet and I've been meaning to check them out.  Exploding with angular guitar noise and spitfire drum beats, Parts & Labor's secret weapon are singers BJ Warshaw and Dan Friel who cut through it all with solid lyrics and powerful voices that sometimes combine to cut through the intensity.

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Film School

SoCal's Film School was possibly the biggest surprise and best band of the day. They just blew me away with their lush shoegazing thunder. They were tight and proved that the live show does far more damage than their recordings. Definitely checking these guys out next time they roll into town.

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The Dodos

Things weren't going so well for The Dodos. Something was messed up with equipment or sound and singer Meric Long couldn't hide his displeasure. This didn't make for a good show, so it was off to Nathan's for some hot dogs and beer. It was at least a million degrees in front of the stages and there was a cool breeze blowing across the boardwalk, so instead of watch misery unfold, it was time to cool off. Too bad to, because I expected better from the San Francisco trio.

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Annuals

Why aren't Annuals as memorable as they should be? I've seen them twice now and can't really think of a single thing to say to someone along the lines of a recommendation. I liked Be He Me, but the live show misses.

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Times New Viking

Finally had the chance to catch Times New Viking and loved every minute of it! Nice primal lo-fi pop and scratch that hasn't been heard since Guided by Voices turned pro. Drummer/vocalist Adam Elliot pulled out the rock star bottle of Jack and took several swigs in between howling and pounding. Now, that's punk rock.

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Jaguar Love

Matador signed these guys? Jaguar Love is supposed to be some art rock band, but it comes across as straight glam. I was reminded of eighties hair metal, or even Jet. The singer has a resemblance to Poison's Rikki Rocket and that didn't help much either. I'm sure someone knows something I don't, but they didn't do it for me.

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Ra Ra Riot

Caught a couple of songs by Ra Ra Riot, but wasn't feeling the bouncy, party atmosphere on the crowded stage. They got their start playing house parties and venues around Syracuse University and it showed. Time to head for another beverage.

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Beach House

Figured Beach House couldn't pull off the outdoor venue, but I was wrong. Their subtle dreamy sound worked well in the summer sun. The decision to add a drummer was a good one, helping round out their performance.

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Islands

Aside from Broken Social Scene, Islands received the best crowd response. Singer Nick Thornburn came out with a metal garbage can over his head and delivered the first song from its confines. The front of the barrier was packed with kids who knew every word to every song. There's a rabid passion for this band, but I was more impressed watching the crowd deal with the heat as they supported their favorite band.

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The Helio Sequence

I want to like The Helio Sequence, on paper they sound great, but nothing grabs me. Even thought they might bring something live, but I still wasn't convinced.

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Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks

I haven't seen Stephen Malkmus play live since Pavement and at least he faces the crowd now. Real Emotional Trash is a really good record and the addition of Janet Weiss has anchored The Jicks. The performance was good despite some sound difficulties and Malkmus has learned to work the crowd instead of avoid it, which made Pavement such a lousy live band.

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Broken Social Scene

By the time Broken Social Scene took the Stillwell Stage, the place was packed; making it next to impossible to see the band. Fans, those who were curious and those who just wanted free entertainment found any space they could occupy and didn't move. From where I was standing, it all looked like a good time. I've never been a huge fan, but they didn't chase me away. The swelling crowd did. Nearly eight hours of music ninety-degree heat was enough and I didn't have it in me to fight for space.

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No one knows what the future holds for the Siren Festival if Coney Island goes corporate. This could have possibly been the final hurrah, because NYC changes daily and many great places and things get lost in the process. Here's to hoping that Siren can survive the cheapening on NYC.

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To see more of Troy's photos from the festival please click here!

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