Saturday on the Boardwalk, we thought it was the Fourth of July as indie-loving concertgoers, the usual rabble-rousers, and families hit up Coney Island for mango sticks and hot dance licks in the shadow of the Cyclone. The raison d’être for many, however, was the tenth annual Siren Music Festival presented by the Village Voice – an all-day, all-free, all-odors extravaganza starring the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Harlem, Screaming Females and Holy Fuck among other crowd-pleasing blogosphere favorites.
First order of the day was standing front and center for New Brunswick, New Jersey’s heroic Screaming Females, fronted by the extraordinarily brazen, brash and absolutely brilliant Marissa Paternoster are ready for as many accolades that can stick to them. Clad in a red, revolutionary trench, Paternoster, armed with her weapon of choice – guitar Oedipus the King – regaled the agape early-afternoon crowd with a down and dirty assault of shredding know-how and balls-to-the-wall ferocity. Be here now, folks.
Directly after Screaming Females rolled in West Palm Beach’s fast-rising Surfer Blood on the Main Stage, bucking the trend befitting their locale by proudly wearing pale skin and not beach bedraggled hair. Frontman John Paul Pitts, clearly the current Michael Cera of breezy, good-time indie rock, gamely lead his band through their ace hodgepodge of Vampire Weekend meets Modest Mouse (with flashes of early U2) tunes such as “Floating Vibes,” “Take it Easy,” “Harmonix” and big hit “Swim (To Read the End).”
New York’s own Pains of Being Pure at Heart drew a sizeable and supportive crowd as they charmed with a lush, superb set of cute and peppy, dream-pop songs (think early Cure) such as “Young Adult Friction” and “Higher Than the Stars.” While there are some oft-cited shoegaze influences, it’s Britain’s godfathers of twee, the Field Mice, that this young band is most reminiscent of.
Harlem, Austin, TX’s ultimate party-starters and rowdy boys, threw the can’t-miss set of Siren 2010. With their manic, psych-boogie stylings and hilarious stage banter (“Double beach ball…it’s almost a triple beach ball!” cracked the drummer) this was the party to beat. Killing with raucous jams such as “Witchgreens,” “Be Your Baby,” “Gay Human Bones,” “Psychedelic Tits” and “Think I’m Thinkin About,” the ultra-personable trio brought some serious mojo (and crowd surfing) in their ample bag of tricks. No wonder they’ve been picked to open a handful of dates on Dead Weather’s current tour.
While festival veteran Ted Leo was packing ‘em in and slaying (as usual) with the Pharmacists on the Main Stage, Staten Island’s unassuming Cymbals Eat Guitars showcased their wide range of influences on the Stillwell Stage with plenty of admirable guitar face, tidal atmospherics and healthy doses of post-punk grit.
With wide-eyed enthusiasm and grateful smiles for miles, MTV Breakthrough Video winners (and Brooklyn’s own) Matt & Kim commanded the largest audience of Siren 2010 with their irrepressible spirit and contagious positive energy and vibes. With the setting sun and their ace pop-punk DIY creds on full display, the duo (who enjoy the type of chemistry only reserved for Jack & Meg, or Jack & Alison as of late) delighted with an a cappella take on R. Kelly’s “Ignition (Remix),” fan favorite “Good Old Fashioned Nightmare” (dedicated “to the shorties!”) and “5K,” which was introduced by Matt as a chronicle of the electric-blue eye shadow-loving Kim’s journey from Olympic hopeful to musical soul mate.
Toronto’s favorite intergalactic beat-bruising chemists Holy Fuck closed the day on the Stillwell Stage with perfectly timed sunset grooves and deeply felt sonic blitzes with single “Latin America,” “Red Lights” and “Lovely Allen.” Though the popular quartet said little during their set, keyboardist Brian Borcherdt found time to joke, “Coney Island, I’ve heard about you, been training half my life for you, except I thought it would be a hot dog eating contest…” And as a welcome, cathartic breeze made its way through the head-nodding crowd, another Siren’s song concluded; enfolding the steadfast and rewarding the hearty. –Carrie Alison with additional reporting by Teresa Sampson, Photos by Carrie Alison