The annual Out In The Streets Music & Arts Festival descended on NYC – a momentous gathering of marvelous indie rock talent spread across two blisteringly hot and sweaty Summer days in July. The festival was once again held on the gorgeous park grounds of Flushing, Queens’ historic Onderdonk House, the oldest surviving Dutch Colonial stone house in the entirety of New York City. The house is one of those miraculous, hidden Big Apple gems that can be too easily walked past and missed, though the 2-acre block plopped in the middle of a heavily industrial area on the Queens-Brooklyn border that holds tremendous history. Beyond the huge music tent, the festival had lots of excellent food and drink tents, as well as copious stands for local pottery artists, super rad jewelry makers, artists, vintage clothes vendors, in addition to inventive leisure activities like a hair-braiding station and cool inflatable kiddie pools to chill out in to. It was an amazing way to take in the modern luxuries in the middle of a deeply beautiful historic site.
My first band of the day was the elegant art rock of the Brooklyn quartet by the name of SOFTSPOT, who swell and throb over trippy beats and atmospheres as frontwoman and bassist Sarah Kinlaw displays a intoxicating inclination for performance art. Next was a Dallas band called Party Static that particularly impressed with a dueling singer shtick that really stuck as they played off of each other with sparring roars. That was followed by the Brooklyn power trio B Boys, who have some real intellectual struggles going on lyrically juxtaposed to some real full-forward rock reminiscent of some classic NYC artists like Television and Richard Hell and the Voidoids.
You could really start to feel the Summer heat as the expansive lineup of FUTURE PUNX recovered an early 80s astral zone between new wave and post punk they aptly call “post wave.” After that was one of my favorite local bands, Beverly, who have a lot to prove these days, as one half of their female rocker power Frankie Rose (previously of Crystal Stilts, Vivian Girls and Dum Dum Girls) left to go solo after their awesome-tastic debut album Careers a couple years back. They have since impressively powered on with the always enchanting singer/guitarist Drew Citron and blistering axeman Scott Rosenthal as the central figures. Their new follow-up The Blue Swell is a wonderful new turn for this budding band, injecting a darker, more emotional NYC vibe into their jangly, echoed, shoegazey, indie rock sound they’re so damned good at. Following no one and only charting on their own sonic onslaught of a path was NY’s own Big Ups, who came charging in guns blazing with their brilliantly engaging brand of punk, which never fails to deliver a loud and zany brand of rock every time I’ve been lucky enough to be assaulted by them in the past few years. Check out their new album Before A Million Universes if you know what’s best for ya’, or else they may come over and blow out your home speakers regardless.
One of the big personal surprises of the first day’s proceedings was Guerilla Toss, a band I had always seemed to miss since they moved down to NY from Boston, but now I see what the hubbub was all about. Their sound is a synthy brand of punk where molten internal chaos twists into outright volcanic furry, with frontwoman Kassie Carlson delivering largely spoken-word types rhymes and poems in the guise of a worked up Patti Smith or a spazzed out Kathleen Hanna somewhere in between her Bikini Kill and Le Tigre days. Their new disc of screeching funk that dances to its own beat is called Eraser Stargazer and is definitely worth busting up your living room for, and certainly don’t miss them next time they destroy a stage near you. Next was Potty Mouth, who have apparently moved out to the sunny shores of LA from the liberal arts mecca of Western Massachusetts but are still kicking rock n’ roll ass and sexist jerk boys alike. They have a catchy pop edge with a growling riot grrrl edge that reminds me a bit of those early 90’s Joan Jett/L7/Liz Phair days, but they still definitely kick it to their own unique beat.
The headliner of the first night was the eternal Brooklyn punk boys The So So Glos, who never fail to bring on the full sweaty exuberance of pure rock n’ roll power every time I’ve seen them. They harken back an essential classic feeling of a bygone pre-gentrified NYC of dirty dive bars, strip joints, graffiti-covered everything, and the hardest-core punk music around. Being such an in-your-face post-punk type of band, there is, of course, many similarities to bands of the past, from oldy-punk like Ramones and The Replacements, to old-ish skate punkers like Descendants and Suicidal Tendencies, to the Bad Religion and Pennywise sounds of the 90’s, and even Strokes, Titus Andronicus, and Japandroids of more recent times. Still, they remain true to their roots-based sound as they scream and leap about the stage in adrenaline-charged abandon. Their new album KAMIKAZE stays true to that vision, while cynically acknowledging that everything has changed so much in NYC over the past couple decades. This created a thought-provoking juxtaposition to recent fears of all the city’s staggering expansion, gentrification, and transformation into inspirational perspective atop this aged historic landmark that has seen more change than any of us could really comprehend over its lifetime.
Article: Dean Keim