Oh Siren Festival. You are hot and sticky. You always happen days when there is a threat of rain. You subject me to images of regular beach goers in ill-fitting bikinis and misguided hipsters in short shorts, cowboy boots and leather jackets. But every year I come back and it’s not just for the free Budweiser. In addition to the booze, you also offer some pretty rad free music, and so just when I think I’m done with the music by the cyclone, you pull me back in.
I missed Be Your Own Pet playing early, misjudging how long it would take to get from one part of Brooklyn to another, but what I heard most frequently about this band whose members are still in High School is that they didn’t play long enough, which is always a good sign.
My first band of the day: the Dears. Launching a full scale US invasion from Montreal, the Dears had New York abuzz when they stopped by the Bowery Ballroom last month, and their set on Saturday, while lacking some of the energy of their past shows, was still musically solid. Theories on why the Dears were lacking some previous oomph? I’m going to go with the fact they were playing at 3 in the afternoon and it was hot as crap. But it’s the Dears, so the tunes are great, their Smiths/Blur infused rock had the Coney Island crowd clapping along.
After the Dears I took a stroll on the boardwalk and caught the climax of the Morningwood set on the Stillwell stage. Heat be damned, Morningwood’s lead singer, shaker and general sexy-maker Chantal Claret delivered her patented balls-to-the-wall performance and the Morningwood crew were tight as always. Performing the hell out of a handful of tracks off their upcoming self-titled Capital release, Morningwood had the audience chanting along to “Nth Degree.” When the band whipped out stand-out track “Jetsettermusicletter”- think the Yeah Yeah Yeahs “Art Star,” but dancier - the sweaty masses were theirs.
Post-Morningwood was the mad dash back to the Main Stage to catch my last Q and not U performance ever. The guys blasted through their songs at full throttle, and by the end of their set they were drenched in sweat. Lead singer, guitar thrasher, woodblock-maraca-dust pan player Chris Richards gave the crowd a fucking show. D.C. punks to the end, towards the end of the set he spoke out against the Army recruiters walking around Coney Island that day and endorsed the ever-hopeful Music for America. Classic.
By this time my nose was officially sunburned and I was officially tired of cruising between the two stages, but the always fantastic Saul Williams was setting up at the Stillwell stage, so off I went. It’s consistently amazing how amped up Saul gets a crowd, and the wilting crowd in front of Stillwell was no different. Kids in the front knew all the words, kids in the back were throwing their hands up. Seeing Saul in an environment like that is kind of like being at a Church Revival, if it’s the kind of kick-ass revival that reminds you how diverse and inspiring music can be.
Final trek of the day over to the Main Stage to round out the night with Brendan Benson and Spoon. Brendan was the perfect lead-in to Britt Daniel and Co., in fact, Britt camped out at the front of the stage for almost all of Brendan’s set which drew heavily from his new V2 record Alternative To Love. Brendan’s albums are charming, but his live performances elevate him from being some guy you bop your head to in the morning to being a completely endearing indie rock star. As Brendan wooed the crowd the fog set in, and even though the Cyclone whirled above and the crowd continued to grow in front of the Main stage, Brendan and the fog managed make the outdoor performance feel intimate.
When Spoon played Webster Hall, they made the hard-to-play room theirs, and they finished out Saturday with the Coney Island crowd in the palm of their hand. I haven’t heard much chatter about the Spoon performance, and I blame it on the fact that Spoon is consistently really good. Every time I’ve seen the fellas play I leave happy, and sometimes I neglect to give them the credit they deserve for always being so solid. When the band launched into “I Turn My Camera On,” the audience went as crazy as you can after you’ve been drinking booze in the sun all day. Spoon might be the perfect band to close a day that offered everything from Brit leaning pop, sexy singers, quirky front men, and an end of a polit-rock era.