Words by Chris Pacifico :: Images by Christie Harrison
Siren Music Festival :: 07.15.06 :: Coney Island, NY
Having been self-dubbed as the "premier outdoor indie rock festival" since its debut in 2001, the Village Voice-sponsored Siren Music Festival is probably just that because not only is it held at Coney Island in the summer time, but it is also free and features two stages. A lot of camping festivals have to go out of their way to accommodate kids' tents and entertainment for the young ones, which in the end means a higher ticket price. But at this place, all you have to do is let them go on the rides or sit on the beach while you enjoy the tunes. Even though it's dubbed as a "family" place, Coney Island probably seems a bit foreboding to anyone who saw the unforgettably dark and dreamy drug drama Requiem For A Dream for which it was used as the backdrop.
Siren Music Festival :: 07.15
Upon walking in, the first thing that hits you is the smell, a mélange of sea salt and the aromas redolent from all the deep-fried and salty foods being prepared along with the hot dog scent from the world famous Nathan's, but we'll get back to that in a second.
The Louisiana duo Deadboy and the Elephantmen christened the main stage for the day by playing their own brand of greasy blues and dark swamp rock followed by Brooklyn trio The Rogers Sisters. Led by the squeaky voiced sister Jennifer, The Rogers Sisters churned out their own brand of punk, which ranged from danceable and hook-filled to abrasive - kind of like the B-52's waiting in a dark alley waiting to mug somebody. Peripheral to the main stage is the 79-year-old Cyclone at the intersection of West 10th Street and Surf Avenue, which is not only the most famous, but also the world's best wooden roller coaster. As the bands play the main stage, one can't help but notice the sound of the coaster whooshing through about every two minutes.
The Rogers Sisters :: Siren Music Festival
When it was time to cross over to the Stillwell Stage, walking across the boardwalk to get there may be a five minute hike, but it's a feast for the eyes and brings out the true melting pot semblance of New York City. To the right there's the beach, which is packed to the brim since it's a Saturday, with people break dancing in the middle of it. To the left it's nothing but kiosks and huts serving an array of international food like funnel cakes, corndogs, zepoles, knishes, gyros, and shish kebobs, just to name a few. There was even this little Dominican stand where frozen fruit drinks are made in long plastic cups with a mystery liquor or liqueur. Whatever it was, it sure went down easy and felt good. At one point I even spotted a stand where people were lined up to get blossom-cut mangos on a stick drizzled in chili sauce. While it may seem gross at first, this vendor seemed to be cleaning up. And then there was Nathan's, whose hot dog onions I tasted in the back of my mouth for four days following the festival.
Siren Music Festival :: 07.15
After indulging, it was off to the Stillwell Stage where Philadelphia's Man Man put on a frenzy of jazzy and circus-tinged "whatchamacallit" rock with most of the members donning short shorts. Following their set they were nice enough to do an interview with JamBase for an upcoming feature during which beer, cigarettes, and zucchini littered the landscape while front man Honus Honus insisted I jump into their circle as they passed around a bottle of Maker's Mark bourbon. After about five or so continuous shots, standing up becomes a bit tricky.
Man Man :: Siren Music Festival
Back over at the main stage, Baltimore's part-cabaret, part-gypsy, part-jazz-punk trio Celebration took the stage as front woman Katrina Ford (whose vocal contributions on the new TV on the Radio album are utterly spellbinding) let her vocals prove that she was indeed the siren of the Siren Festival. Their tunes were so infectious and groove-laden that even the most jaded of hipsters were dancing. Even the journalists and photographers in the press pit couldn't refrain from shaking their asses. During their set on this particular 88-degree and sticky day, a rain drizzle poured down for a couple of minutes followed by more heat as the crowd reeked of rainwater and sweat.
Katrina Ford - Celebration :: Siren
While the live set of the Goth mopers She Wants Revenge may have taken the Bland As Canned Chili award for the day, Minneapolis' Tapes 'N Tapes invigorated the crowd with their peppy and spunky indie pop. Sure, every few months or so the bloggers froth foamy hype from their mouths to incite buzz-band mania, but Tapes 'N Tapes are probably the only ones with whom they are right on the money. The Stills aimed to please as well with some warm, arty, and creamy pop with the cowbell not too far away. Christopher Walken would have been proud.
Fresh from Norway, Serena Maneesh exploded their shoe-gazer aesthetic with enough noise and feedback to be heard as far away as the Hamptons, and they could still violate a noise ordinance around those parts. With the lilting angelic harmonies and wafting viola, they finally succumbed to their inhibitions at the end of their set as they rubbed and grazed their guitars against anything and everything. It wasn't just making noise for the sake of making noise though. Serena Maneesh took the catastrophic sound of an impending hydrogen bomb and made it sound enchanting.
Serena Maneesh :: Siren Music Festival
The vibes switched gears when Art Brut took the stage with their wry, witty, and of course dry stripped-down punk-pop. Lead singer and thick eyebrowed Eddie Argos was trying to find words that rhymed with "Stella" between songs before Scissor Sisters closed out the night with a flamboyantly tuneful set.
Art Brut :: Siren Music Festival
Overall, Coney Island seems like another planet within the five boroughs, and the Siren Festival makes for an enjoyable summer day for those in the NYC area who wish not to travel far for an eclectic assortment of live music. The only thing to worry about is getting the stench out of your clothes from rubbing up against perspiring people all day long.
JamBase | Coney Island
Go See Live Music!