The 4Knots festival was originally named such because the East River, running through every borough of New York City, and culminating at South Street Seaport, supposedly runs at the speed of 4Knots. The festival is hosted every year by the largest independent daily in the U.S., The Village Voice. While the event is free, and open to all ages, it didn’t suffer from the congestion and crowding that often plagues similar free concerts in the city. Upon entrance, visitors could wander from the entrance at Fulton Street all the way to Pier 17 on the East River. Concert-goers bounced back and forth between 2 small stages to see an assortment of rock bands perform. The sun was out, the the sea-air breezy and delightful, and the entire atmosphere highlighted the best aspects of summer concerts in the city. 4Knots featured some impressive slacker-rock performances from artists like Mac Demarco, Dinosaur Jr., Dead Stars, and Speedy Ortiz.
The two most-hyped acts on Saturday were undoubtedly Mac Demarco and Dinosaur Jr. Demarco’s performance was exactly what one would expect: off-kilter, quirky, indie-rock with occasionally tender lyrics. The ultimate hipster, Demarco appeared on stage in signature loose hat and gap-toothed grin. Everything about his style is casual, from the way he strums his guitar to the way he meanders around the stage. The standout song from his set was ‘Blue Boy’, a guitar-heavy track off of his newest album ‘Salad Days’. The song’s lighthearted chords and simple lyrics breezed through the summer atmosphere perfectly, somehow letting the audience know that everything and anything would end up alright. By now, Mac Demarco is an indie-icon in his own right. His quirky breed of slacker-rock and goofy stage presence can easily melt away any summer-time blues.
Headliners Dinosaur Jr. are icons in their own right as well. This ensemble is often accredited with helping define alternative rock in the 80s and 90s, influencing band like Nirvana, My Bloody Valentine, and Radiohead. Even more impressive, the band pulled off one of the more successful reunion stories of the 2000s, and have since been rocking ever since. Dinosaur Jr.’s set was a spectacular display of crowd-surfing. The band featured heavy guitar riffs and plenty of feedback and audio distortion.
We were pretty disappointed that the much-hyped Chinese punk band Re-TROS couldn’t make it to the stage. The 3-piece band had difficulties with visa requirements, and unfortunately could not enter the United States to perform at 4Knots. However, another stellar act, Speedy Ortiz, invigorated day-time concert goers on Pier 17. Frontwoman Sadie Dupuis belted out punkish, yet self-aware tunes like ‘Tiger Tank’. The band’s heavy rock sound and talented instrumentalists (Mike Falcone, Darl Ferme, Devon McKnight), combined with lighter and crystal-clear vocals by Dupuis create catchy 90s-esque tunes that stood out at the slacker-rock festival. I’ll be honest: I rarely find myself so immersed in punk-rock music as I was this Saturday. Regardless, 4Knots ended up being one of the most enjoyable free concerts I’ve attended this summer. It seemed the heat didn’t bring anyone down; the crowd was enthusiastic, and crowd-surfers abounded. While the folks at Village Voice didn’t take too many risks with the line-up, and the artists all echoed the same punk-rock/slacker-rock genre, the festival was immensely enjoyable and well-planned. If you want more inside coverage of 4Knots, watch out for FDRMX‘s interview with slacker-rock band Dead Stars this Monday.