The first annual 4Knots Music Festival on Saturday, July 16th succeeded in turning South Street Seaport — usually picturesque, tourist-clogged shopping plaza — into an enjoyable venue for an afternoon of rock-centric music. As a replacement for Coney Island’s Siren Fest, a summer music staple for the last decade, this year’s one-stage, six-band lineup was more conservative in scale and scope. The lineup clung to guitar-focused indie-rock, poppy and rocky to varying degrees. Smaller, sure, but the weather held out and the respectable bill proved to be a good way to console yourself about not being at Pitchfork Fest in Chicago (or the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival a borough away, where Kanye performed with Q-Tip).
The ’90s-influenced Mr. Dream opened the day with their angular guitar rock, before Eleanor Friedberger lightened things up with poppy jams off her new solo LP, Last Summer. Her backing band included the melodic leads of guitarist John Eatherly (Be Your Own Pet), and in a nod to her other group, she closed with “Tropical Iceland.”
For the rest of the day, the growing crowd saw Oberhofer’s upbeat guitar pop, the garage-punk of Puerto Rico’s Davila 666, Titus Andronicus doing their best fiery Jersey rock, and the Black Angels’ psychedelic riffs, which brought out the sun just in time for a swirling sunset over the skyscrapers of lower Manhattan. For me it was Davila and Titus that hit the hardest: loud, grungy punk rock that was easy to sing along to and get excited about.