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for August 9, 2005

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Siren Songs Filled The Air
by Kaitlyn Robinson

In a galaxy not so far away, in a land quite close to home, lies a magical place full of mystic and wonder, where the natives are always happy and the corndogs are in constant supply. What place do I speak of, you ask? Well, it is none other than Coney Islandís Astroland Amusement Park, home of the Village Voiceís Siren Music Festival for the past five years. Coney Island serves as the perfect backdrop for this outdoor music festival featuring both seasoned and emerging indie-rock bands. Not only does the forty-five minute subway ride from midtown Manhattan to Coney Island make you feel like youíre really traveling to a foreign land, but the festivalís main stage is located right next to Americaís first wooden rollercoaster, the Cyclone, built back in 1927. My experience at Siren truly was a trip back in time and space.
After taking the D train to itís farthest edge, I stepped out of the subway car to a mix of heavy guitar driven sounds and screaming little kids begging their parents to buy them some cotton candy. With that, I knew I was in for an out of this world experience. I quickly found my way to the main stage and shuffled into the heart of the crowd to catch my first performance of the day, Ambulance LTD. Melding together a type of 60ís pop, slightly reminiscent of the Beatles, with space-aged guitars, Ambulance LTD has a sound distinctly their own. Commencing with an instrumental transcendent jam, the band started off on a positive note. However, as the set progressed a lot of the opening magic subsided. I stood their hoping the band would regain their energy and restore life into the catatonic crowd who were standing idly by. Ambulance LTD really came through with their song Stay Where You Are, a catchy pop tune that made you want to bob your head and sing along. Unfortunately, the majority of the crowd was unmoved by this airy display of pop ingenuity. While I was not thoroughly impressed with the bandís performance, the poor reaction they received from the crowd may not be totally their fault, as they did perform at two in the afternoon with the sun blazing down on the hot and sweaty concertgoers. The excessive heat may have drained the life from the crowd.
Adding to the experience of traveling to a distant land was the band Dungen. This instrumentally versed quintet comes all the way from Vastergotland, Sweden. Although deriving from another country, the band seamlessly incorporated themselves into Sirenís mainly American line-up. Well except for the fact that they sing in a different language! However, the language barrier did not hinder the band from delivering a stellar performance. Showcasing a multitude of instruments, ranging from a 12-string acoustic guitar to a Swedish wooden reed flute, Dungen sounds like a folk band on acid. Hearing this band finally made me understand why so many non-English speaking people in foreign countries like American music, like the Germans and David Hasselhoff. Sometimes itís not so much about the lyrics of a song, but about the transmittable power of the music.
Headlining the Siren Festival was both Spoon and Mates of State, but due to the dual staging, I was only able to catch one of the performances. Given the choice, I opted to see Spoon. I was anxious to see how their almost danceable eclectic sound with a subtle pop twist would convert onto a live stage. Needless to say, I was not let down. As the crowdís hangover from Friday nightís debauchery slowly wore off, Spoon took the crowd in their hands, lifted them up, and smacked them around a few times with an energetic surge of musical brilliance. Mostly playing songs from their recent album release, Gimme Fiction, lead singer Britt Daniels took us on a journey with his amazing lyrical narratives, and Jim Eno kept us dancing with his infectious beats. The highlight of the set was Spoonís performance of Paper Tiger and the amazing sounds protruding forth from Danielís guitar. Iíve never heard a guitar sound so evil, yet strangely seductive at the same time. Rounding off the concert, Spoon played an encore performance of Small Stakes, driving the crowd wild with its funky keyboard riff. This is certainly not how your grandmother would play the keyboard.
When all was said and done and Spoon left the main stage closing out the 5th annul Siren Festival, I felt a great sense of joy burning deep inside of me. Well it was either that, or the severe sunburn I got from standing outside in the scorching sun all day. However, despite the oppressive heat that probably took its toll on much of the crowd, the concert was an overall success. Although some bands performed better than others, there was no one who was tragically bad. In addition, with 14 bands in the festivalís lineup, there was bound to be something for everyone, whether you dig Saul Williamsí mix of hip-hop and punk or the mellow yet ironic acoustic sounds of Brendan Benson. So as I boarded the subway train back to reality, I left Coney Island with one thought; what an incredible day for music.


©2005 Kaitlyn Robinson

All material ©2001-2014 Sean Carolan, except as noted.


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