Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Jul 18th 2010 2:30PM by Kenneth Partridge
Ben Hider, Getty Images
As the Notorious B.I.G.'s 'Where Brooklyn At?' blared over the PA, keyboardist Matt Johnson and drummer Kim Schifino bounded out from backstage and ran to their instruments, rallying a crowd that had been marinating in sweat, beer and sunscreen for the better part of eight hours. Playing to what they said was the largest home-borough audience of their career, the Brooklyn-based musicians barely blinked and couldn't stop beaming. There's not a pair of cheerleaders, figure skaters or makeup salespeople in America with half this band's enthusiasm.
"Let's do this s--- together, because it's the f------ summer in Coney Island!" Schifino shouted, just before tearing into 'Lessons Learned, a spazzed-out mix of hardcore-punk drumming and rubbery keyboard. At one point, Johnson accused his band mate of playing every song at double speed, and this was no exaggeration. The onetime Penn State running star treated each tune like an Olympic sprint, and the harder she whacked her minimalist kid -- snare, kick drum, floor tom, cymbal and tambourine -- the bigger and brighter she smiled.
In addition to their own material, Matt and Kim played snippets of such club favorites as DJ Kool's 'Let Me Clear My Throat' and Biz Markie's 'Just a Friend,' which turned into a giant sing-along. Toward the end of the set, before Schifino declared herself "a sap" and nearly wept tears of joy, she jumped into the audience and danced atop a platform of raised hands, busting rump-out moves as the sky behind her turned a deep orange.
Matt and Kim's disco-punk love-in capped a long day of music that, like Siren Festivals past, reaffirmed the insatiability of New York City-area indie rock fans. Lured to Coney Island each year by great lineups and free admission, Siren attendees willingly pack themselves into narrow asphalt corridors facing the festival's two stages. There, as the sun seemingly hangs 40 or 50 feet overhead, they ignore sunburn, thirst and claustrophobia, all for the love of music.
This year's Siren roster didn't disappoint. Prior to Matt and Kim's manic throwdown, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists turned in 45 minutes of righteous, tuneful thrashing, barely pausing between numbers. In just the first ten minutes, 'The Mighty Sparrow' begat 'Sons of Cain' begat 'Where Was My Brain?' As Leo, pictured, pumped his electric Joe Strummer leg and bashed on his hollow-body Gibson, drummer Chris Wilson unleashed a percussive blitz, driving a sound that incorporated everything from seething left-wing punk to bubblegum pop. Leo is known in the indie community for his integrity and work ethic, not to mention his musicianship, and Saturday afternoon, he sang each line and played each note as if they were extensions of his very being.
While the Pains of Being Pure at Heart lacked Leo's world-on-the-line conviction, they proved worthy openers, prefacing the Pharmacists' set with a dozen souped-up twee-pop ragers. The Brooklyn quintet's '103' was a good candidate for song of the day, given the temperature, and by the time the group reached its namesake song, which features the battle cry, "We will never die," the five pale, skinny musicians looked ready to keel over.
More wrecking ball than wilting flower, Night Marchers frontman John Reis was unfazed by the Coney heat. The San Diego native and former Rocket from the Crypt frontman brought to the main stage some much-needed garage punk swagger, infusing his quartet's songs with trashy Telecaster riffs and snarling rockabilly leads. With his pompadour, tanned skin and decidedly non-scrawny build, Reis looked as out of place as the Marchers' music sounded.
"We're all in this together," he said early on, trying to enliven the audience. "Except for us, because we're better."
Floridian buzz band Surfer Blood was better suited for Siren, both in terms of look and sound. On such lazy, hazy indie jams as 'Take It Easy' -- another possible Siren 2010 theme song -- the quintet showcased a level of pop craftsmanship that renders unfortunate its chosen moniker. The group doesn't play fuzzed-out surf pop, as its name implies, and it shares more in common with Pavement and Guided by Voices than it does its beachcombing peers. During the final song, percussionist Marcos Marchesani picked up his floor tom, hoisted it overhead and jumped into the audience. He eventually left the drum with fans and returned to the stage, pulling off what turned out to be a risky act of showmanship.
"That's not even ours," lead singer J.P. Pitts said.
Screaming Females singer and guitarist Marissa Paternoster treated her gear with even less respect. On the final song of her band's stellar 2PM set, the first-rate shredder threw down her Stratocaster and fell to her knees, succumbing to a fury that would ultimately compel her to ram her microphone into her mouth. Her outburst was the perfect culmination of the New Jersey trio's performance, a chafing half-hour of noise punk catharsis. As always, Paternoster came dressed for war, rocking the military-style red wool dress that's become her trademark.
As it turned out, the Females weren't the only reason to arrive early. The Massachusetts quartet Dom kicked things off with a fine 1PM performance, providing what amounted to a 30-minute overview of the modern state of indie rock. The group moved deftly from lo-fi surf to blippy electronic dream-pop -- definitive sounds of the steamy summer of 2010.
Watch Surfer Blood perform 'Floating Vibes' during yesterday's set:
Watch Matt and Kim perform 'Yea Yeah' during their set: