Taking place in downtown Manhattan’s South Street Seaport – a boardwalk area that is half historical tourist attraction, half shopping centre – the inaugural 4Knots Festival found itself in a slightly incongruous venue for a free, all-day, indie event. Bemused looking Japanese tourists pass the stage, ambling down by on their way to the riverboat tours, while Midwesterners laden down with Abercrombie shopping bags watch from the veranda of the over-priced seafood restaurant adjacent to the stage. Beside it is a tall sailing ship called Pekin, moored and in service as a buoyant VIP area.
Sponsored by alternative free sheet The Village Voice, who previously ran New York’s much loved and now sadly defunct Siren Festival, 4Knots is a rather smaller affair. However, despite the relatively meagre size of the pavilion, the stage area is never in danger of becoming too full, even during headlining acts Titus Andronicus and the Black Angels. The opening slot at festivals is often somewhat of a graveyard shift, but Brooklyn indie rockers Mr. Dream are lapping it up, genuinely excited at being “the first band, ever, to play at 4Knots Festival” and repeatedly thanking the crowd for showing up so early to hear them play their particular brand of Pixies-esque noise rock.
Up next is Eleanor Friedberger of the Fiery Furnaces, who appears in an appropriately nautical ensemble consisting of a black and white striped playsuit and pink pastel shirt. She plays material from her upcoming solo-album, which going by her performance, will sound a lot like mediocre surf-rock band covering old Alanis Morissette songs. Fortunately Puerto Rican punk band, Davila 666 manage to revive the crowd’s flagging energy. Borrowing liberally (and occasionally, stealing flagrantly) from classic ‘70s punk bands like The Ramones and The Stooges. Singing in a hodgepodge of Spanish and English, the band race through a set whose highlight is undoubtedly their Spanish cover of Blondie’s ‘Hanging on the Telephone’.
Titus Andronicus undoubtedly stole the show from ostensible headliners, The Black Angels, playing a delightfully shambolic set of anthemic punk songs. Though Titus’ blue-collar sensibilities drew early comparisons to fellow New Jerseyite Bruce Springsteen, their sound clearly owes much more to The Pogues than the Boss. Bearded frontman Patrick Stickles hurls himself into the crowd like a man possessed and gleefully surfs the teeming crowd while security and technicians scrambled to stop him from disconnecting his own microphone. Following this, it’s all The Black Angels can do to keep the crowd nodding along as they played. Despite its somewhat bizarre location and the large number of naysayers lamenting the demise of Siren, 4Knots looks like it has the potential to become another welcome addition to New York City’s musical calendar.
Photos: Jasmina Jasinska