Fourth of July is for noisemakers: Part One

Post Author: Nate Dorr

For his Fourth of July, Nate Dorr spent about 12 hours going to three different shows throughout Brooklyn. Here is what happened during the daytime.

The Fourth of July, a day on which America celebrates the casting off of the yoke of British rule by grilling things and getting sunburned. Both of those traditions may have been somewhat dampened this year (literally and figuratively) by the threatening-to-spitting rain throughout the day, but in their place another tradition — huge outdoor concerts — proceeded unchecked. I have well-supported rumors that the free Sonic Youth show at Battery Park proceeded smoothly, and I have plenty of personal eyewitness evidence to the effect that the huge MyOpenBar party at the Yard was a success as well.

The Yard, stretched beneath low, light-hung trees and hugging the very suspect but nonetheless oddly scenic waters of Gowanus Canal, has time and again served as excellent setting for relaxed open air concerts. Equal complements of sun and shade and even a semblance of nature, despite the industrial relics looming in from the surrounding lots. No actual BBQing took place, presumably due to the inclement weather, but — much better — Yard organizers brought in a couple vendors from the (rightly celebrated) Red Hook Ball Fields, recent recipients of a tricky but hopefully workable new license form the city. And being a MyOpenBar event, the bar was indeed open for most of the day, with long but quick moving lines snaking through the trees to cool PBR and SoCo Spritzers.

The line-up mostly speaks for itself, but I’ll provide some quick notes:

Power Douglas seem like a kind of speculative fiction: What if Punk had merged with hip-hop first? And what if it had been good? Members of TV on the Radio were apparently involved in the recording of their record, but that recorded work, though good, really comes most alive in flesh. Even catching only about the last third of the set, they had me.

Baltimore post-hardcore typographers Double Dagger seem to get better every time I see them. They are another band whose recorded output really pales in comparison to their kinetic live set, riveting from Bruce Willen’s first burst of tightly controlled bass feedback through to all of singer Nolan Strals thrashing, stumbling magnetism in and out of the audience. They’ve got a new 7″ with a new version of their condemnation of ill-advised Baltimore real estate, “Luxury Condos for the Poor” which Willen describes as “easily the best thing [they’ve] ever released” and much better than the album version of of the track. I am inclined to agree.

DC’s The Apes continued to sound like a whole lot of different things at once — spare post-punk guitar and drums, ominous psych church organ keys, and darting, reaching vocals — all working together with surprising cohesion. Their more complicated arrangements faired a little less well on the open-air soundsystem than Double Dagger’s simplicity, though.

Ponytail continue to be one of the more thrilling live acts operating on this sort of a scale. What’s more, their rapid and technically accomplished outpourings of raw energy (surely ConEd should be harnessing all the shows they have here this summer to light Brooklyn for a few weeks) seem equally at home on stage (or lacking one, right in the middle of an audience) as on their sophomore album Ice Cream Spiritual. They’ll be right back at the Yard next Saturday, if you missed them this time.

Marnie Stern was back in old solo format after recording a new album with Hella’s Zach Hill recently. Hill may have been represented in the backing tracks Stern cued up to dash her fingers over, filling in complicated lead guitar lines, through a combination of razor-sharp strumming and precise tapping. Again, the sound wasn’t the clearest for her brand of precision, but it sufficed.

80s Hardcore, who I missed actually seeing in order to wait in line for delicious tacos, seemed to pretty much deliver on their name.

Texas psych-shoegazers Indian Jewelry, seemingly summering in Brooklyn given their recent omnipresence, took the stage as dusk fell. I had to depart for my next stop — fireworks and music on a Bed-Stuy rooftop — during what seemed to be an interminable slow swirl of static guitar and keys, but favorites from the recent album like “Temporary Famine Ship” spread long tendrils through the trees and night air and spattering raindrops. Suitably dreamy, if rather mournful and exhausted, close to the proceedings.

Tune in tomorrow for the rest of Nate Dorr’s Fourth of July concert excesses.