Fun at the waterfront – rain and shine

Xiu Xiu and Deerhoof + Why? + Fang Island + Pictureplane – Williamsburg Waterfront – July 11th

Given the names on Sunday’s bill, I was afraid that the waterfront for the season’s first free show would be swamped, but when I arrived at around 3:30, I was delighted to see that I didn’t even have to wait in line to get in. That said, the sights and sounds till offered plenty of stimulation. The Williamsburg waterfront is made for people watching. People paraded around in strange outfits and meticulously managed hair. At the far end of the park, a guy played dodgeball wearing a dress shirt, vest, and bow tie. I only wish I had had my camera to catch the action.

Williamsburg Waterfront (Photo Lauren Farmer)

When I arrived, I surveyed the stage only to see a woman wearing some kind of flesh-colored fat suit cavorting around to the music of Pictureplane.

By the time Fang Island took over, a modest crowd had accumulated on the sun-drenched cement pit at the foot of the stage.  A light rain began to fall over the grateful crowd, but luckily the stage was covered so the show went on. I was shocked to see that two of the five members of Fang Island were wearing short-sleeve hoodies (one more comfortably than his sweat-drenched bandmate).

Fang Island put on a fun show, but things really picked up when Why? frontman Yoni Wolf took the stage. Thanks to Yoni’s sick dance moves, clever (and oh-so-decipherable) lyrics, and a full-band sound, Why? proved to be the highlight of the day for me – even if the rain did pick up a fair amount during the performance. Why? offers an intriguing blend or hip-hop and whimsical indie-pop, complete with lyrics that are astute and deeply confessional. He has a real knack for drawing in an audience, which is quite a feet given the distracting nature of the Williamsburg waterfront. My only regret was not having a video camera to capture Yoni’s dance moves. When confined to the mic stand, he used his hands animatedly. Then as soon as he had a few beats, he pulled out the high kicks, flips, and spastic arm movements – even if the instrumental interlude was only a few seconds long.

Why?

Take a listen to an excerpt from Why?’s last song, “Hollows”:

Of course, it’s worth pointing out that none of the Jelly-sponsored pool parties would exist this year without the support of Senator Chuck Schumer, who of course was present at Sunday’s show and had this to say before Xiu Xiu and Deerhoof performed:

Senator Chuck Schumer at a 2009 Pool Party (Photo Amanda Hatfield)

As you can probably tell from the clip, Schumer’s mic kept giving out (almost as if to limit Schumer’s speech and keep him from getting into politics too much), but for the most part he was still met with enthusiasm.

Xiu Hoof (Deer Xiu?) (Photo Jason Persse)

Next up: the main event. Apparently, this wasn’t the first time Xiu Xiu and Deerhoof have partnered to cover Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures, but I really wanted to see what it was like with my own eyes.

Take a listen to yourself of back-to-back clips of “She’s Lost Control” – first of Sunday’s show, followed by the original by Joy Division:

Overall, it was a decent show. Like Joy Division’s Ian Curtis, Xiu Xiu singer Jamie Stewart has an undeniable intensity when he performs (even if their presentations are rooted in different types of urgency). A major highpoint came during the last song when I realized that recent Xiu Xiu convert Angela Seo was throwing wine glasses into a metal garbage can in time to the music and bashing the broken glass with a metal pole in order to create some pretty sweet effects.

Here’s a clip (listen carefully for the smashing glass):

Sadly, I won’t be able to attend the majority of the summer’s free shows since I work on Sundays, but check out the schedule for future shows here:

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