Siren Music Festival: 18 July 2009 - Coney Island, NY

If you can get past the heat, claustrophobic audiences and remember to wear comfy shoes, then Siren can be a pleasurable experience from start to finish.

Siren Music Festival

City: Brooklyn, NY
Venue: Coney Island
Date: 2009-07-18

The Village Voice’s Siren Music Festival began in 2001 -- a time when free outdoor music shindigs were a little less common, indie was a little more indie, and Coney Island was a little less grimy (or was it grimier?). Even the Voice itself has changed from a dependable go-to guide for city-based culture, to spouting wistful weekly attempts at cultural commentary, while thousands of new media websites are doing the same exact thing. The difference is, however, that new media provides up-to-the-minute listings days in advance, and in the process has eaten the printed version of the Voice alive. Nonetheless, the Voice succeeds in throwing a fine festival for all every summer, even if it’s held in the much past its prime Coney Island.

A trip to Coney Island is not for the faint of heart... literally. In fact, every year the park’s organizers promise a renovation, but every summer the wooden Cyclone manages to creak on renovation-free overlooking a beach that is jam-packed with tanners. And while we think that the Astroland section of the park was closed this year, it was pretty impossible to tell. While strolling past the sideshow area, there is very little shade, and the attractions still insist upon hosting a variety of outdated and rather un-PC sideshows where little people with deformed arms are paraded on with the words “Everything you see here is real! The bearded lady! The torso man! The giant baby! The girl with lobster hands!” If you can stomach these things, you’ll probably be rewarded with a plethora of Coney Island’s best goodies, including Nathan’s Hot Dogs, enormous cups of ice cream, a creaky ride on the Cyclone, and maybe a burlesque show somewhere down the line.

This year, Siren did not fail in its attempt to round up about fourteen or so kid-tested, Pitchfork-approved indie acts. The smaller bands kicked off the day, including Bear Hands, the kid brother-and-sister duo Tiny Masters of Today (who for the record, are cooler than thou, no matter how old you are), and electro-quirk trio Micachu & the Shapes. The late afternoon hosted acts such as the rough and tumble rawness of Japandroids, Future of the Left, Thee Oh Sees, and Israeli longhaired sweat machines, Monotonix. The later acts, aka the most coveted performances, carried names like A Place to Bury Strangers, Frightened Rabbit, The Raveonettes, Spank Rock, and ‘90s tried and true alterative act Built to Spill.

Though the festival is free and the bands are good, Coney Island isn’t where you want to be on a crowded, hot, July day. If you can get past the heat, claustrophobic audiences and remember to wear comfy shoes, then Siren can be a pleasurable experience from start to finish. Thankfully, the musical performances held on the Main and Stillwell stages were energetic and ultimately satisfying. Scottish alt-act Frightened Rabbit were particularly impressive to watch. Frightened Rabbit are unusually good at focusing the magic of their recorded work to their live set. Scott Hutchison’s voice was thick with brogue, and his onstage demeanor felt lively and unpretentious. Although Frightened Rabbit mainly stuck to performing tracks off of their newer album, The Midnight Organ Fight, (understandable, given the 40 minutes of allotted stage time) the boys pulled off a solid, heartfelt performance given the hot sun’s prevalence.

After trekking through the festival space, past a sea of hipsters in gladiator sandals, cutoffs and wayfarers, I arrived at the Stillwell stage (the smaller of the two) for A Place To Bury Strangers’ set. Just minutes before, I could make out the strains of garage punkers Future of the Left while I leafed through cheap jewelry at the festival’s flea markets. Once I arrived at Stillwell, A Place to Bury Strangers looked just as sweaty and uncomfortable as their audience did, but their set did them some serious justice. APTBS’ guitar-work is their major selling point, obscuring the singer’s voice in ten layers of distortion.

Speaking of selling points, this year’s Siren Festival boasted seasoned alt-rockers and indie veterans Built To Spill as a headliner, and they don’t come out to play very often. Their early evening performance was just as solid as the other bands on Siren’s roster. Doug Martsch and Co. moved through newer songs like “Liar”, “Goin’ Against Your Mind”, and their 1994 classic “Distopian Dream Girl”, but “move through” is more or less all they did. Doug Martsch has time-stamped his quirky, nasal voice, enviable guitar talent, and has any number of special sing-a-long indie songs under his belt, but I did wonder if a Built to Spill performance would be a little more engaging back when free outdoor music shindigs were a little less common, indie was a little more indie, and Coney Island was a little less grimy.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.