Golden Ghost: After a missed set by the Ballet (”a bit Belle and Sebastian-ish”, I was told) and a quick couple acoustic guitar numbers by ToddP intern Mikey (yet lacking a project name) Golden Ghost stepped up to the blanket. The current primary project of Laura Goetz from Castanets, Golden Ghost plays ornate psychedelic folk. While the new EP slides somewhat unpredictably through oddly dissonant solos, murmuring background noise, and multi-tracked vocal shimmer, the acoustic show saw three of the songs presented simply and effectively on dual guitars and harmonica.

Shooting Spires: Appearing under his solo moniker, Parts and Labor’s BJ Warsaw opted not to try to recreate the improvised electronic noise of the last of his solo sets I observed (difficult, one imagines, without electricity), instead playing four songs for unaccompanied guitar. While two of the tracks were off of last year’s Parts and Labor LP, sounding oddly spare and unembellished here, the others were sleek new Shooting Spires tracks, lending credence to BJ’s comment that he’d like to turn the side project into a full band eventually. So be watching for that.

The Goddamn Rattlesnake: Like Po’ Boy Johnson, who played later on in the afternoon, and O’Death, the Goddamn Rattlesnake are purveyors of the mythical Backwoods Brooklyn, complete with drawling faux-old-timer vocals and banjo. If there was a rustic part of Bed-Stuy, this is what it would sound like.

I took the next couple sets (Nate Eksta and Skeletons and the Kings of All Cities — my apologies to both) to tour the grounds. The most visible ruins are those of Renwick Smallpox Hospital, an oddly castle-like mass built in 1856 and currently in a stunning state of disrepair, with only walls remaining in most rooms, trees jutting from destroyed or nonexistent floors. Nearby, though less striking due to massive renovation in 2000, lies the Strecker Memorial Laboratory, original built in the 1890s to house bacteriological research.

Lidia Stone: Vying with Necking for the Most Kinetic Set ribbon, Lidia Stone defied the “acoustic” show designation by playing buzzy casio punk (a battery operated loophole) with beats banged out on luggage outfitted with kick pedals, while frontman Nites leapt over the heads of several stunned audience members, borrowed a forty from several others, and convinced everyone else to sing whoa-oh back-up to his shouts of “If you like Mastodon / we’ll go further on”. Songs included “Eye of the Taigaa” and “On Babylon”, which Nites introduced with something like “This is a song about the Apocalypse. Well, actually all of our songs are about the Apocalypse.” Later, I asked him where they’d been hiding (it was my first encounter with the band) and he said they were perpetual sleeper hits. I’ll buy that.

High Places followed sleeper hits with sleepier versions of two of their own hits. Lacking backing tracks and with singer Mary Pearson having lost her voice, songs like “Sandy Feat” became more delicate but still instantly recognizable arrangements for Rob Barber’s tribal percussion and Mary’s recorder. Rob, on the High Places’ knack for concise pop songwriting (I am paraphrasing): “I grew up listening to hardcore bands. When a song goes over a minute and a half, I get freaked out that it’s going to bore people.”

Necking: Next, all eyes were trained up the hill to a section of the field which had previously been occupied only by frisbee throwers, now with two-piece drum kits at either end.

Principle Neckers Nick, in a bell-covered jumpsuit, and Dong approached the drums proceeded to alternately yell each other’s names, knock out a couple beats, chuck surplus drum sticks across the field at each other (I think there was intended to be some catching involved, but very little actually took place), and grab their respective sets, moving them a few steps closer together.

After a bit of this yell-throw-play-step progress, the drummers began to circle each other in close quarters and the actual playing picked up. It didn’t have far to go, however before it degenerated to a chase across the field, various drum parts being strewn about or brandished as needed. It was like a full contact drum circle. I was probably grinning like an idiot.

The Dirty Projectors: In probably his last show before leaving on European tour next week, Dave Longstreth appeared flanked by dual girl backup singers to present another couple Black Flag covers. If you haven’t seen the Dirty Projectors lately, Black Flag covers are pretty much all we’re getting, and I’m definitely not complaining. Depression never sounded so quirky and sunny.

Greg Ashley: Appearing all the way from Oakland, Gris Gris frontman Greg Ashley may have been the only performing out-of-towner. Dripping sweat beneath the late-afternoon sun, he played quirkily worded pop songs on, interestingly, a classical guitar.

Aa: If any audience members found themselves awaiting further percussive insanity after the Necking set, they needed to look no further than Aa (Big A little a)’s full five-drummer lineup. This is another two more than the last time I saw them.

Needing no amplification for full volume, excessive drums are a good choice for creating havoc at an acoustic show, but even so Aa left nothing to chance, opening the set with an ambient wash of cassette players slowing circulating around the band, and following with violin, saxophone, singing saw, and megaphoned vocals. The sinking sun was just right, the audience completely surrounded the band for the only standing set of the day, and the music attained just the right level of visceral rhythmic cacophony.

Things moved quickly forward as I ducked out to the grill for some charred but delicious hot dogs. In the meantime, Dirty Beauty Shop played summer guitar pop, the afore-mentioned Po’ Boy Johnson played Backwoods Brooklyn (I am totally coining this phrase right now), and someone whose name I failed to catch ended a two-song set by falling out of his chair.

Katie Eastburn of the Young People followed, simultaneously playing a battery-operated keyboard, working a kick drum, and singing into Aa’s megaphone. Her songs, featuring lyrics borrowed from 1930s film and William Blake over a drone of recurring keyboard notes gained a striking clarity through Eastburn’s simple, emotive voice, somewhat reminiscent of old jazz singers.

Lapsing time again a bit, Christy and Emily continued with crisp, folky indie pop, applying equal measures of finger piano and harmonica.

The Masking Tapes filled in for Christian DeRoeck’s other two bands, Woods and Meneguar, with another folkier set accompanied by an actual autoharp.

The Fugue involved considerable yelling over an at times near arrhythmic tangle of guitar.

Vampire Weekend did their pastel button-up tinted Afro-pop beach party.

The Beets: Okay, here’s the important part. Finally, the sky dimming, just as I was about to take my leave of the proceedings for the night, the Beets appeared. I told myself I’d stay for just one song, but once they began playing their classic 60s garage rock I was gripped. Twin guitars beamed rhythmically forward, punctuated by strokes of brush snare and flicking around vocals that seemed perfectly, timelessly at ease in the music.

This is a band that seemed to have appeared out of the ground (of Queens, apparently) fully formed without a formative period. After they finished, I approached the lead singer and guitarist. “So what’s your story?” I asked, “That was a great set. Where did you come from?”.

Turns out they only formed in March, and have played a total of seven shows together. And yet, already, they have some unmistakable quality of potential. The guy standing next to me was already trying to book them, in fact. Predictions are dangerous so I’ll try to sidestep making one now, but wherever the Beets may go from here, I have a feeling it’ll be worth watching.


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