Last weekend I finally was able to cover my first music festival. Big Picture Media invited me out to the Village Voice’s 4Knots Music Festival to meet some quirky and fun musicians. Not only was it a great time, it was perhaps the strangest music festival I have ever attended. The lineup consisted of Surfbort, Heaven, Heaters, Meatbodies, Happyness, Screaming Females, Mikal Cronin, Twin Peaks, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks and headliners Super Furry Animals.
I arrived at Pier 84, where the festivities were set to begin at 1PM. As the press crew took me through the pier and stage area, the sun was already beating down hard. Sweating, I made my way onto the Hornblower Infinity Cruise Ship, yes, a yacht where VIPs and the bands congregated. I was impressed with the setup. There were drinks aplenty with snacks at the bar for VIPs everywhere and everyone was bustling with excitement. I wandered around for a bit scoping out the people and musicians clamoring about. This was where my interviewing magic was set to happen that day. I met with four bands at various locations on the boat and had an absolute blast chatting with them, even if it was just for a moment. “It is great to be out here, we have done our previous festivals at the South Street Seaport, so the change in venue has been a nice bonus,” said Music Editor of the Village Voice, Hilary Hughes. “The line up is simply fantastic and I think it will provide a great mix of rock and roll for all.”
As my first round of interviews came to an end, I was able to finally catch the second act of the day, NYC’s Heaven, perform. Even though there was a small crowd early on, it grew steadily throughout the day and into the night. 4Knots fans were a mix of hipster looking kids and a weird grungy adult crew. Heaven started off slow and then rocked in much to the enjoyment of the crowd. I really dug the beats in their songs. Their music provided an excellent groove to get us all excited. Heaven reminded me of a mix between Smashing Pumpkins and R.E.M. with a dash of surf rock built in. I looked up to the yacht from the grass and I watched all the various band members of the festival wandering around the boat. It looked like they were all having a great time. Off in the sky, a blimp passed by advertising the new Peanuts movie, which made me laugh.
I turned my head and admired the beautiful cityscape behind me, the view that all the bands would see as they performed. The sunshine was lighting up all of the buildings in a blinding glare. It was hot as hell outside that day, with little shade but from the few trees scattered around the park. People flocked to those areas. I spent a great deal of my time to and from the yacht to cool off. People in the crowd were taking photos left and right, there even seemed to be some legit photo sessions going with models dancing. They did not have a clue what was going on. Maybe they were simply good looking ladies, I don’t know. For more weirdness, as I was admiring the sessions going on, there suddenly was an old guy taking off his shirt and tanning on the grass. That was something many people did not want to see.
While on the Hornblower Infinity windows viewers could watch the paddle boarders and people canoeing on the water. Many came in-between our boat and the famous Intrepid. Part of the joy of NYC is that there can be adventure found anywhere. Every little corner has a piece of NYC character. Gruff Rhys of Super Furry Animals, who has not returned to the great city since 2009, shared in his thick Welsh accent, “this city changes a lot, after one place shuts down, another one pops up somewhere.” I spotted Gruff and the rest of the band wandering through the festival and making their way to the city shortly after the festivities began. For many of the bands this was a unique experience for them. As the nerdy yet happy fellas of Happyness stated, “this is our first time hanging out on a big boat, we are very happy to be here.” For Surfbort, their ideal show was a little more detailed. Guitarist Matt provided some insight. “I would love to do a show where we had a giant piñata of Donald Trump that we could set on fire during our set and just have Mexicans whacking away at it.” This prompted the whole band to chuckle and nod in agreement. I smiled when suddenly a fellow by the window pulled down his pants and mooned us via the glass. The whole band shuffled over and naturally took a selfie with the booty. For Heaters NYC is special. “It is by far one of our most favorite places to play. There is just so much to do and people watching is our favorite pastime here.”
Heaters were awesome musicians live as well. They got right into it with their trippy head banger tunes. Fans with long hair were bobbing their heads furiously in unison as the crowd continued to grow. It was at this point when I realized that many of the other bands were exiting the boat to catch them performing. Their sound was unique with ups and downs to their flow that sped into various changes. People were obviously digging it. Even the speedboats zooming by in the water slowed down to catch some of the rhythms. Butterflies and bubbles began swirling in the air as Meatbodies followed up with their head banging music. People were immediately thrown into the rock and roll vibe. There was wild and crazy hair flying everywhere. It was at this time when a little bit of moshing began, nothing too serious though. The real moshing would come later.
Once Happyness came on, they provided us all with some addictive and different tunes. They were extremely passionate on stage and were living in every moment. Each one looked like they were in some kind of dream daze as they rocked on with their eyes closed. Their music had a definite contrast to the other acts of the day. With slow and serious guitar droning, they were the middlemen in creating some great somber rock. Screaming Females were nuts. My photographer and colleague at the show alerted me to make sure I saw these guys perform. “I am surprised they are not the headliner,” he admitted. He was right; they were loud and wildly amazing. I felt like I had seen them before at an old show with The Thermals. Mikal Cronin’s crew were loud and free as well. People were walking all over the place from the space and onto the boat. While Mikal Cronin rocked out, I finally got a bite to eat from the delicious Crafty ‘Cue barbeque stand. I was mighty pleased as I wolfed down my pulled pork sandwich with my free Bud Light. I know, I decided to use my drink ticket on a Bud Light. Don’t judge please.
Twin Peaks were insanely alive during their set! Each one of them were animals on stage. From falling on the ground, dancing with their mic stands, to having mini seizures the fellas of Twin Peaks were by far my favorite entertainers of the day. Almost all of the bands came out to watch their madness. I might also note that this was when the real mosh pit began. It was brutal. People were getting sucked in and could not get out. However, every mosher I saw, boy and girl, had smiles on their faces. They had a blast.
As the night came to a close, the headliner Super Furry Animals graced us with their presence on the stage. Each one of them received a roaring applause as they meandered to their posts in matching white space/hazmat suits. Their music is similar to Radiohead with intensely weird graphics behind them as they performed. Gruff mentioned his thoughts on his music. “Playing with technology prompts a lot of changes in our work. However, the mechanics of why we make music is still there. People will always make music and most music is meant to keep people aware.” They proved it that night. Gruff even went so far to put on a giant red Power Rangers helmet in the beginning of his set and serenaded us with his repetitive tunes. The band even had cue cards with various translations of ‘applause’ written on each for the audience. Naturally, the audience did as they were told. There was a sort of shoe gaze element in their rock and roll world that caused even the hardest rock fan to drift off. The taxi cruise ships honked their horns and were rewarded by a wave from the band and the crowd. Everyone was so happy and loving the light show emitting from the ships and the stage.
At the end of the night, I was thoroughly exhausted. Wandering with a friend afterwards describing the experience, it simply was an unusual mix of musicians and music. The crowd was large but nothing like how major festivals are. Despite the size, the characters in the audience were definitely the most diverse at a musical event. It went the same way for the bands performing at 4Knots. While all were fans or at least were aware of one another, you could not really place each next to each other with ease. They were all uniquely bizarre in their own way. All in all, it was a fun time and an experience worth remembering. If you have a chance to go next year, might be worth it to see what I am talking about. Until then, keep enjoying the summer festivities!