Dinosaur Jr, Mac DeMarco + More Rock New York City at 4Knots Music Festival
Dinosaur Jr. capped off a full day of rock and roll at this year's 4Knots Music Festival, the Village Voice's annual free show at South Street Seaport in New York City. The band rocked an hour-long greatest hits-style set before a crowd that packed the pier, a sunny stage that faced out toward the Brooklyn Bridge. Yesterday's (July 12) lineup was filled with similarly-crunchy guitar rock including Dead Stars, Radkey, Viet Cong, Speedy Ortiz, Those Darlins and Mac Demarco.
Opening 4Knots were Dead Stars, a fuzzy pop rock act out of Brooklyn that might just have some of the catchiest tunes of the summer. Performing songs from their debut LP, 'Slumber,' Dead Stars were greeted with a huge crowd that sang along with all of their memorable hooks. Throughout the rest of the day, it wasn't uncommon to walk by attendees who were humming the chorus to their most infectious track, 'Summer Bummer.'
Following Dead Stars, punk rock outfit Radkey brought their Ramones-esque music to the Big Apple all the way from Missouri. 4Knots was Radkey's final tour stop before they hit the road with Rise Against in Sept., so their spirits were high during the entire performance. Rocking out tunes like 'Cat and Mouse' and 'Le Song,' the highlight of the set came during the middle of their latest track, 'Feed My Brain.' About a minute into the song, the sound completely cut off. At a point where other bands might freeze in their tracks, the three brothers didn't miss a beat and finished the song with no power or sound.
Viet Cong's set leaned heavily on bass and drums, chugging through mathematic rhythms while singer Matt Flegel howled to the crowd. For critics guessing where VC's sound will go next -- after the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink sound of 'Cassette,' their debut EP -- the indication after their 4Knots performance is that they're headed into a more precisely rhythmic space that allows Flegel's voice and the dual guitars of Danny Christianson and Monty Munro to spread out a little more (and often even ominously).
Chunkier and looser than some of the other bands were Speedy Ortiz -- guitarist Devon McKnight, bassist Darl Ferm and drummer Mike Falcone built a wall on top of which Sadie Dupuis earnestly sang her maze-like lyrics. The band wasn't as powerful as we imagine they sometimes are at sweaty basement shows; they're an act that does better in tighter confines, not only as a live band but also in creating music that is dense both lyrically and melodically.
The roots-inflected rock of Those Darlins produced a raucous set for a band whose music hews from the swaying and forthright -- like their impressive lyrical suite, 'Oh God' -- to barroom rockers and ragers. At 4Knots, the latter aspect of the Nashville-based band took over with classic fist-pumpers like 'Screws Get Loose' and 'That Man' sitting nicely beside covers of the Crystals' 'And Then He Kissed Me' and Bob Dylan's 'The Man in Me.'
Garnering a huge crowd on the pier, Mac DeMarco blew fans away with an offbeat but endearing sense of humor and, more importantly, a tight band that played a curious and fascinating brand of sunglasses rock. We were impressed with how many teenage girls were screaming his name and how wild the amassed crowd got for a dude who, a year ago, was playing to a half-empty room in Brooklyn. We think DeMarco might have some more surprises up his sleeve and we can't wait to see them.
As Dinosaur Jr. took the stage, good vibes and sunshine abounded. All amps were dimed and all personality checked at the door with room left for only three insanely loud instruments blasting into the crowd. The set list felt comfortable, punctuated by overdriven takes on 'The Lung' and 'Raisans,' as well as a thrilling 'SludgeFeast' at the climax. Frontman J Mascis' singing was nearly inaudible over the blast of his own three Marshall stacks, but that didn't seem to bother any of the screaming fans. The performance was rock at its purest, visibly inspiring a feeling in the packed crowd that there was no better time to crowd surf and jump into the fray. Thirty years after their inception, it's hard to imagine Dinosaur Jr. were ever better than this.
The weather was perfect at this year's edition of the 4Knots Music Festival, but more importantly, the music was perfect. If anyone questioned the status of rock and roll prior to July 12, those doubts were quickly quelled as thousands of fans came out to enjoy a day of near-flawless music.
Check out our exclusive photos below and make sure to catch-up on everything else we saw at 4Knots via our Instagram account.