Summer’s End Music Festival
Written by Garrett Riley
Photographs by Rick Perez
Brought to you by Invertebrate Music
I walked up to a large black door in the warehouse district with Good Time Rick. “This is the spot” he said. Okay, I was ready to take in the Summer’s End Music Festival 3 days before my departure from NYC, to see if it held anything I missed (and desperately needed). I was in NYC on other business, coming from Oakland, and had already seen several shows at some cool Brooklyn venues. So far I had seen a lot of standard indie, fat guy rock, and enough sexless beach jazz to make a whole convent of surfing nuns cream their habits. I didn’t come into this expecting much, but I have been accused of being a hater before, so take it with a grain of sugar, I guess.
The doorman checked our I.D.’s and informed us that the smoking section was across the street and down the block. They were hiding their smokers, but there were no residences near the venue. I couldn’t figure out if they were dodging yuppies or cops, but we were neither, so we entered without incident. Like any venue worth it’s weight in salty blow, the ceilings were low, the stage was high and small and janky, and the bathrooms were upstairs around the corner and full of the usual sniffs and snorts of a young audience.
Yours are the Only Ears
The fourth band was a quiet one. They were another awkwardly billed/placed band on the night’s roster. It was unfair to the band and the crowd that at the height of bacchanalia, when everyone was five beers deep, with a guy literally bleeding outside the door, this gentle folk pop trio quietly took the stage and played over a hundred shouted conversations. It was synthy twee bliss, gleefully lost somewhere in between Vetiver and Joanna Newsom. Darkly adorable and meekly powerful, they commanded whatever there was to command, and the night wore on.
Surf Rock is Dead
The third band, Surf Rock Is Dead, was essential clean-made-to-look-dirty. Over-delayed, not a finger out of place, perfectly trimmed beards and the like. Deafeningly shy dork rock. They stretched their words beyond recognition as if to avoid scrutiny, or so one would think based off of the music. It was predictably ooh-laden mayo pop, it felt like Christmas in Ohio. The band played anti-dance music and had the nerve to ask the crowd to dance. They hadn’t shown us charisma, or anything we couldn’t have heard in any predominantly white college town in America for that matter, yet they asked us to clap. Then, just as I was ready to give up hope, the guitarist gave us two uptempo songs that ordered the hips around, caressed the ears, insisted upon themselves. The first one was a dreamy, ecstatic crowd pleasing pop racket, like Deerhunter on a handful of adderall. They finished strong with a screaming and doomy beachgaze number, complete with a wandering bassline, a backbeat you could rely on, and a catchy ‘ooh’ based chorus that was all of a sudden worlds less contrived than what we’d heard from them thus far.
Tall Juan hopped onstage with haste before the last band was done breaking down. He paced around, spat on the stage, then did 9 pushups in front of the drumset. He picked up a little black classical guitar strapped high and tight to his chest, plugged it in to an old Fender amp, and the show began as though it hadn’t already. He smiled and grimaced and gritted his teeth, squealing and barking (and still spitting) in a perfect image of the 1970’s punk who used to roam the streets of the East Village at night before it was a shopping mall. He played guitar like a songwriter, and it was clear why he didn’t have a band behind him- he didn’t need one, and they just would’ve gotten in the way. Just as I began to wonder who he was reminding me of, he casually broke in to a verse and chorus of “The Plan” by Richard Hell and the Voidoids. That was it, he sounded like he was born in the Heartbreakers’ roach-infested studio apartment. But he sang with a bit of an accent, as if to signify that he’d come a long way to get to this stage. As he moved seamlessly from cover to original, stage right to stage left, floor to rafters, knocking down the mic stand and dropping to his knees to be heard, spilling beers, spitting straight up in the air and letting it land on his shoulder, I looked behind me at the crowd and saw something I’d never seen before: a mosh pit forming before a man with a classical guitar. The most jarring thing about Tall Juan’s show was not the mosh pit in the crowd, or even the stage acrobatics. It was the wild eyes of a clearly earnest and honest and driven performer, who was the only thing to see in a room full of people for 40 minutes. It was the mosh pit within the man.
I did not envy the act who had to follow that, especially when they took about 30 minutes to set up their various gadgets and pedals and whatnot. When the show was finally underway, however, I realized just how worth it the wait had been. All of a sudden we were complicit in their Satanic disco riot, their molly fueled wiccan house party, their funky menstrual blood bath. The music was cunning, feminine, sinister, and hard-fried. I am convinced that you cannot find this music anywhere other than a Guerrilla Toss show. The leading lady marched in place, her eyes rolling back in her head, her hands signing what appeared to be ancient curses and blessings, out of what appeared to be their own accord. She was in control, screeching indifferently in a playfully demented backwards sing-song meter. The rhythm section could’ve been James Brown’s, and the preach-rapping of the lead singer could belong to no one else but her. She had a manner of controlling the room which left us all hypnotized, ready to strap on our black Nikes and die in that room, just in time to catch the funky spaceship flying by that surely must have delivered this otherworldly music to us in the first place.
To close out the night, 12:30am, was Honduras. The room was packed with revelers and spectators alike, but it soon became obvious that these boys were the main attraction. Good Time Rick had shown me some of their music online, telling me it was punk. I disagreed. I realize now, after having seen their live show, that I was wrong. That’s the deal with Honduras; if you don’t see them live, you don’t know Honduras. They mumbled politely to the sound person, and without much ado, started up. I was intent on taking as many notes as I could, but as soon as they started playing, I was helpless, I couldn’t stand still. What started as a shake-rattle-and-roll quickly escalated as the drums dropped out and came back in double time, sending the crowd into a rage of orgiastic revelry. What struck me most was not the pure joy in the faces of my fellow moshers, or the front man’s neck tattoo, but the deceptive simplicity of their songs. Lou Reed once said “One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz”. I believe that Honduras has heard this quote. They have a mastery over the one chord song that I haven’t seen before, and am not sure I’ll see again any time soon. At least not until the next time I come to NYC or they come to Oakland. Honduras are a group of authentic punks, and I recommend keeping a picture of them in your wallet to show to the next person who tells you “punk is dead”.