Summer in NYC means a whole lot of free concerts, and one of the highlights of this writer’s year- 4knots Festival. The free festival, lovingly put on by The Village Voice, took over South Street Seaport for one debauchery-filled day, attracting a diverse (and massive) crowd, and gifting the tourist masses some real punk rock. This year, we fell in love all over again with the expanded festival, especially while seeing so many of our favorite up-and-comers- Viet Cong, Speedy Ortiz, Nude Beach, Juan Waters, and Mac DeMarco- and in the presence of truly legendary rockers Dinosaur Jr.

This year’s diverse lineup reflected a growing investment in the festival, now successfully established in its second year in Manhattan. South Street Seaport’s ongoing construction shifted the landscape of the fest since last summer and 4knots responded by repositioning their second, smaller stage within the Fulton Market and shifting the main stage east against the river. The pushy masses hustled between the two stages, ushered by flag-waving volunteers, dodging bikes and throwing ‘bows.

Juan Wauters had a lot of groupies..

Early in the day we caught Brooklyn’s own feverish garage pop trio Crazy Pills, who played to the early birds of the festival, an eager crowd. Following their performance was The Beets’ Juan Wauters, whose solo music is upbeat and rides a Latin surf vibe that understatedly reflects his upbringing in Uruguay. He serenaded gently and sweetly, picking melodies on his guitar and gazing into the charmed crowd, who (were mostly under twenty and wearing crop tops) returned the gaze lovingly.

Speedy Ortiz showed what all the hype was about…

First on the main stage was 90’s-shaped indie rockers Speedy Ortiz out of Massachusetts. The band has been on an upward spiral since their EP Major Arcana hit earlier this year. Hot off the trail of an American/Canadian tour  (including performances at Bonnaroo), the band did not disappoint with their smart, sassy, punk-laced alt rock with an accessible and charismatic show.

Nude Beach Had a Ball!

Nude Beach, another Brooklyn band, excited the punk-oblivious tourists meandering through Fulton with their jangly, feel-good jams, which they describe as “road trip-ready indie rock with punk edge and blue-collar roots.” Their performance stood out as the most high energy rock’n’roll show we saw all day, and they looked among the most stoked of all the bands to be performing.

All aboard the massive pirate ship..

The VIP and press boat docked alongside South Street hosted all sorts of drunken masses on its decks, offering a place to network, eat, drink, and generally be merry…oh, and take Polaroids.

Viet Cong = Best New Discovery

Bill wildcard Viet Cong, whose stunning 2013 “Cassette” EP just got put into most of our rotations after being reissued by Mexican Summer last week, put on an excellent performance. Their post-punk sound, born amongst the ashes of Canadian band Women, is at the same time instrumentally muddled and emotionally clear, riddled with splashes of electronic, goth, and pop elements and soaked in reverb. Live, they are ridiculously tight.

Mac DeMarco showed us the Canadian Tropics…

The two main headliners of the festival closed out the main stage. First, Canadian stoner rock musician Mac DeMarco (and Bushwick Daily Listening Party Alumnus) thrilled his youthful, adoring fan base, reflecting the sunniness of the day in his tropical guitarlines alongside charming (maybe intoxicated?) stage banter. Offsetting the heaviness of much of the festival’s punk vibe, his lighthearted and romantic sound suited the crowd as he crooned his way through most of his remarkable rock debut, Salad Days. Side note: did you know he lives in Bushwick?!

And finally, Dinosaur Jr Slayed.

They are called legends for a reason, people. As many of DeMarco’s teenage fan base rushed out of the festival after his set, the old timers in the back were able to push up to get a spot for Dinosaur Jr‘s breathtaking set. A powerhouse trio since 1984, J MascisLou Barlow and Murph, accompanied by a wall of amps, blasted into their set, creating a wall of guitar-driven sound. The crowd surfed, moshed, got yelled at by security, and then did it all again. Best 4knots set ever.

photo by Jessica Straw for
photo by Jessica Straw for
photo by Jessica Straw for

Til next year, 4knots!