Last weekend, the Tripwire sent a pair of writers to capture the excitement of Siren Fest. Christen Thomas and Jeff Thrope, the writers in question and regular contributors to the site, tackled this review tag team stylee. Below you'll catch each writers' take on a number of topics, including "vibe," "best band," "biggest peeve," etc. enjoy!
Jeff: This is my second Siren Festival and I've thought the same exact thing as I stepped off the train two years in a row; "Where the shit am I?" Coney Island is a weird place to begin with, but when filled with bands, hipsters, and the usual Coney Island crowd mixed together, it becomes even weirder. But people are down there with reason, and because of the length of the journey, people are usually down for the day. There's no going back to your apartment between bands, no stopping off at the trendy bar. People are down there to eat, drink, and watch some good music. When we all have the same agenda, things seem to get fun.
Christen: This Saturday was my fourth Siren Festival. I like the excuse of heading to Coney Island to see bands and I sort of need one to face the hellish heat and crowded boardwalks of July at the beach. But if I get to see a couple of bands I like, eat a corn dog and drink beers outside, well that makes for a pretty good day. It's always an interesting time to see pale hipsters in their cowboy boots in the sand with the people who actually come down to Coney Island on the weekend to enjoy the beach. And clothing, or lack of, is always a trip. It's not everyday you get to see a sweaty shaggy dude in leathers walking next to a weathered guy in a banana hammock.
Jeff: I'm having a hard time making this decision. I was floored by how entertaining Man Man was and how perfect Stars was as the day was ending. I unfortunately hadn't had the pleasure of seeing either band live before, so let me start with Man Man. Their unique brand of what my roommate calls "pirate rock" is undeniably attention grabbing. It's almost like the members of the band are putting on a small play. There are slide whistles, various types of kitchen appliance percussion, and lots of vocal call and response. It's hard to look away as, like a play, you don't want to miss the plot twists and anything unexpected. Each band member is a different character and usually plays a different role in each song. It's our generation's Tom Waits. Or wait, maybe Tom Waits is our own generation's Tom Waits.
Stars is one of my favorite bands and until Saturday, I haven't had an opportunity to see them perform. Stars was the perfect band to end the night on The Stillwell stage. Amy Millan's voice cuts you like a knife. What comes out of that woman seems effortless and fits perfectly with other lead singer and bandleader, Torquil Campbell. They played a bunch of songs including "Elevator Love Letter," "Ageless Beauty," and "Your Ex-Lover Is Dead," which got the fans riled up once again after a long day of rain, heat, fried food, and drink. It was the perfect band to end a perfect day.
Christen: Siren's tricky because you're filling a strange space with music, so the sound isn't always the absolute best. In terms of a great show, my day has a tie. I thought that the Stills' turn on the Main Stage was pretty great. My buddy is real into the track "The Mountain" from the new record, Without Feathers and when they pulled that song out mid-set, the response from my little corner of the crowd was pretty great. Their turn on stage was energetic, and had the benefit of having the always-cool rumble of the Cyclone punctuating the set.
Right after the Stills' set we scooted over to the Stillwell stage to see the other festival highlight, a rowdy set by Art Brut. I feel like I've seen these guys ten times in the last 8 months and their time on the road has produced a live band that kicks ass wherever they play. The last time I saw them was at a packed in-store in Brooklyn, and the intimacy, spontaneity and excitement was still there at Siren. Leader Eddie Argos left the stage, bounded through the press/VIP area and scaled the barrier between the band and the crowd during one of the songs and certainly won my heart. It also didn't hurt that by that time I'd consumed about 10 beers.
Jeff: I know, I know. EVERYONE complains about the sound at Siren Festival. How many people do you know that said, "Fuck Siren. The sound is awful, it's hot, crowded, and it takes forever to get food." To those people, I say, "So what?" Is there really a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon than seeing live music for FREE? If you don't enjoy music, that's fine. I don't know anyone who actually doesn't enjoy music, but hey, if you're out there, then I understand why you didn't go to Siren. And for those who do enjoy music, then who cares about the heat? (It wasn't that hot anyway.) Pack some food, get on the train, and come down to beautiful Coney Island. It's one of the coolest and strangest places in New York, and if not for the music, it's worth the trip just to see the town. So, yeah, my biggest peeve had nothing to do with the show. It had to do with the people who didn't even bother coming down to check it out. It's FREE music people. I'll see you next year.
Christen: Two of the bands I really wanted to see the most, Deadboy and the Elephant Men and Priestess, were first up of the day. Granted, I knew I wanted to get out there early, and I probably should've hit the hay before 3am on Friday night/Saturday morning, but I didn't. And I missed both those bands. And then in the middle of the day there was totally a lull for me, with a couple of bands who've been playing NYC shows pretty much all the time who I really didn't need to see again. But I'll see you next time Deadboy. I'll see you next time.
Jeff: There was a woman standing on the boardwalk singing an Aerosmith song while standing on her head. Holy crap, that was amazing. And I know this is cheating, but the monster picture of Hot Dog Eating Champion, Kobayashi, takes the cake for me as best character of Siren. The dude ate an average of about 4.5 hot dogs for 12 minutes straight. You do the math. Kobayashi wasn't actually there, but ya know...in spirit or something.
Christen: The guy dressed up as a sea captain. I texted my friend who had to work on Saturday about the guy, and expressed that I doubted he was actually a captain. My friend asked me to interview him, and when I asked him if he was actually a sea farer, he replied, "I am a Captain on the Love Boat." I texted that back to my friend and he requested to know if he did oral, but by that time I had lost o' captain, my captain.
Jeff: The only thing that I ate at Siren was a chicken sandwich from Popeye's. My roommate pretty much bathes in mayonnaise, so it was no problem for him that his sandwich had about a pound of it on the bun. I ordered without.
Christen: Icey cold Heffewisen.
Hardest Musical Decision to Make-
Jeff: The Stills were playing a great set on the Main Stage, but I had to go catch The Cribs for a few songs. Hey, the dude from The Cribs bleeds from his mouth during every show. Was it worth it? No, it wasn't. The Cribs were sloppy and didn't have nearly as much energy as The Stills did. Did I learn from my mistakes? Hell yeah I did. When it came time to choose between Stars and Scissors Sisters, I thought back to my previous dilemma and knew I had to go w/ the Canadians. It was a great choice.
Christen: I love the Cribs and it was real hard not to tear myself away from the Stills to go see the brothers Jarman tear it up. Please come back soon fellas.
By Jeff Thrope & Christen Thomas