Within New York City’s music scene, there’s often talk about how ‘New York is over’ as rents continue to rise, musicians are pushed further away from Manhattan and prominent venues close. If there’s one thing we learned from 4Knots Fest, The Village Voice’s annual free music festival, it’s that New Yorkers still want to see rock music in the city.
As opposed to Governor’s Ball, Northside Festival and other NYC-area music fests, 4Knots is free, all ages, and in an accessible location (South Street Seaport). Even though punk-influenced alt-rock dominated the lineup, it drew a large, fairly rowdy, diverse — young and old — to the touristy pier this past Saturday. Formative alt rockers Dinosaur Jr. (above), who helped define an era of loud, guitar-heavy rock in the ’90s, headlined the day-long festival. The three-piece led by now 48-year-old J Mascis powered through the hits (including “Start Choppin’, “Feel the Pain” and “Out There”) to a packed pier. Mascis, a New Yorker himself, was in his element in front of his signatory wall of amps and the crowd moshed along — even if few regularly listen to the cult figure.
Just as (if not more) anticipated was Mac Demarco, the much-adored, goofy guitarist best known for his onstage antics and reverb-heavy ‘slack’ rock. While fairly tame onstage at 4Knots, tropical-inspired guitar and breezy vocals were a welcome counterpart to the gorgeous summer day. He performed much of his critically-acclaimed third LP, “Salad Days” and if the weed-tinged air was any indication, his adoring fans were more than content.
Earlier in the afternoon at both the main stage and a smaller side stage, up-and-coming national rock acts of different flavors performed. Those Darlins, a Nashville export, provided swaying blues rock for the occasion. Calgary’s angular rockers Viet Cong gave the then-expanding crowd a taste of post-punk.
We also caught the tail-end of Locally Amped favorites Speedy Ortiz, the math-y, lyrically-dense DIY-bred rock group originally from Western Massachusetts. Queens-bred Juan Waters offered a jangly set of catchy, light-hearted folk rock on the smaller stage.
4Knots is the sort of city-friendly music festival that makes New York what it is. With a talented assortment of rising and established rockers, Saturday’s fest makes thoughts of a dying New York exaggerated. Even if Dunkin Donuts did recently move into Williamsburg.