20 Watts

Memories and Photos from Siren 2009 by Eric Vilas-Boas

Frightened Rabbit rabble-rouses at Saturday's Siren Festival

READ: 20 Watts’ exclusive interview with Siren opener Tiny Masters of Today
VIEW: 20 Watts’ festival photo gallery, under the jump

Life doesn’t get much better than listening to free live music on a blazing hot summer’s day while chowing down on some cheap, sub-par hot dogs. To all those who don’t reside in the New York area or just couldn’t make it out to Coney Island on Saturday, let’s just say we’re very sorry you missed out.

Luckily for you, however, we’ve compiled a list of the best bands that graced the stages by the boardwalk this weekend. And when they play in your area, you better not miss them. Highlights of the day ran the gamut from fifteen-year-olds to the veteran ’90s indie-rockers that make up Built to Spill. Two types of shows permeated Siren this year: those driven by gimmicks and those driven by musicianship. The best acts melded the two strains together and struck a balance.

Tiny Masters of Today, made up of fifteen-year-old Ivan and his thirteen-year-old sister Ada (with an unnamed drummer), opened up the day for the audience at Siren.

There wasn’t much of a crowd yet when they started, but considering these kids are much younger than most readers of this blog and played at the same stage and on the same day as Built to Spill and Japandroids, they held their own remarkably well. Ada even went so far as to amicably explain that the “President” referenced in one of their songs was George W. Bush, not Barack Obama. With short song lengths and smatterings of political lyrics, it’s ironic that they played some of the purest punk rock of the day despite being born twenty years after the genre first surfaced.

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Despite the heat, Japandroids rocked out like a coked-up White Stripes

Speaking of Japandroids, if there were any band at Siren with too much pent-up energy, it would be this duo. Playing garage rock like a coked-up, bastardized version of the White Stripes, Japandroids murdered their set, pulled it from the grave, and kicked it in the face like so many of the beach balls floating around the stage and crowd. Japandroids offered a warning before starting, with guitarist Brian King commenting on how much room he had to move around on the stage and how he felt like “the f**kin’ Stones” as a result.

Japandroids played one of the most dynamic, talented sets at Siren, and indeed, seemed to love doing it. When drummer David Prowse wiped his forehead with a towel after 20 minutes of nearly nonstop frenetic drumming, King chastised him for his weakness: “The f**kin’ towel? Really?”

A Place to Bury Strangers, a performance rife with psychedelic noise rock overdriven to its finest heights, featured the lead guitarist and singer, Oliver Ackermann playing on a busted-up old white Fender Jazzmaster. Spectators surely wondered how this guitar came to be so mistreated, even as Ackermann’s strap loosened mid-song. They were instructed about halfway into the set. A Place to Bury Strangers are known as “the loudest band in New York” for a reason, and when Ackermann whipped off his Fender and sent it twirling around his body in a reverb-heavy frenzy, it only hearkened back to YouTube videos of classic pioneers of instrument destruction. Actually, watching the dude whip out another busted-up Jazzmaster, (this one black) was almost better than watching him snap his guitar strings in the first place. From the way the bassist and drummer barely batted eyelashes, APTBS probably pulls this stuff all the time.

The Raveonettes, Built to Spill, Bear Hands, Frightened Rabbit and Micachu and the Shapes also all performed incredibly well. The Raveonettes began and ended strongly, playing their hit “Aly, Walk With Me,” among other mesmerizing songs. Built to Spill, the veterans that they are, knew how to put on a great live show after seventeen years of playing together. Bear Hands kept the masses well-entertained for their set and even brought some friends of theirs onstage to join in the fun and dance without their socks and shoes on. Micachu and the Shapes entranced the crowd with both their skill and unique and unpredictable song structures.

A surprising number of listeners don’t realize that a band’s live show represents more than half the battle in the music industry. At a large free festival like Siren, then, the all-important question becomes: What casual spectator is going to stick around and stay interested, even after the set?

These bands managed that and more. Good for them and great for us.

— Story by Eric Vilas-Boas
— Photos by Caitlin Dewey


[…] Memories and Photos from Siren 2009 « 20 Watts "A Place to Bury Strangers, a performance rife with psychedelic noise rock overdriven to its finest heights, featured the lead guitarist and singer, Oliver Ackermann playing on a busted-up old white Fender Jazzmaster. " (tags: aptbs siren brooklyn ny review) […]

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I have attended every sirens festival for the last five years and this one that just past has left me highly disappointed. Personally the line up wasn’t that good, but I still went for bands like Japandroid and about two other bands. Japandroid was pretty good, probably would be better in a venue with a more active crowd though.

I most definitely agree with this
“Life doesn’t get much better than listening to free live music”

Comment by Lookman

I agree. Personally, though I thought the lineup was very good this year, I was at Siren last year and I remember being a LOT more impressed with the lineup last year. Broken Social Scene, Helio Sequence, and Ra Ra Riot, among others, all kicked ass.

Comment by vilbobag

[…] SPIN reports that the new Micachu & the Shapes video for “Turn Me Well” premiered today, courtesy of the band’s surprisingly big fan, Bjork. The track, which juxtaposes a mechanical pop sound with more natural, organic visual layouts, is their second single off of Jewellery, which came out in March. [Previous 20 Watts Coverage: Editor’s Pick #79: Weird New Band … Micachu and The Shapes, Memories and Photos from Siren 2009 (Micachu and The Shapes Live)] […]

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[…] Meanwhile the Stillwell Stage will be hosting bands arguably just as cool. Holy Fuck, Cymbals Eat Guitars, Harlem, Ponytail and Apache Beat are set to rock Stillwell, making the ever-present choice of what stage to hit when that much more difficult. The full hourly breakdown was released yesterday in anticipation of the show this Saturday, July 17. 20 Watts will be on-scene for the day and will be covering the day’s shenanigans when we aren’t taking part in them ourselves. Check out some previous free concert coverage this summer and the last time we covered Siren! […]

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[…] PREVIOUS COVERAGE: 20 Watts at SIREN 2009 […]

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