The cold and stormy weather that hit day two of OctFest ‘18 (Sunday, September 9th) – the ‘Beer, Music & Food Celebration’ presented by Pitchfork and October on Governors Island – seemed to provoke the poncho-laden attendees to dance harder, sing louder, and enjoy it all more in defiance. On top of that, the urgency for taste-testing the 250+ beer options increased on the final day – but we already had our strategy locked: see what that nonstop line in front of Taiwan’s Taihu Brewing (臺虎精釀) was all about, no matter how much time it took. The unique Woooo May brew was the cause of the commotion, not only because it was its first time served in the U.S., but because it was strikingly delicious – a distinctly smoky, tangy flavor that your taste buds can’t forget. 20-person line: so worth it.
Vancouver-based indie rockers The Courtneys kicked off the music on day two, and they gave the determined festival-goers a reason to start dancing in the rain. Their setlist was a nice mix of songs from both their albums, including The Courtneys II from last year. Soon after, New York’s own Julie Byrne gave the crowd a lovely taste of her mellow folk sound, even inviting up a guest harpist who played with beautiful precision. Good music inspired more good drinks, and we enjoyed a glorious three ounces of Birra Del Borgo’s L’Equilibrista, a hybrid sour ale from Italy brewed with 39% Sangiovese wine must (at a wobbly 10.50% ABV) that could satisfy both a hophead and a wine lover. And knowing how crazy the food lines were on day one, we did not mess around on day two and grabbed an early lunch that rocked our world. Hank’s Juicy Beef, NYC’s bastion of real, Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches, was everything we dreamt it to be; dipped, hot & spicy, and mouthwateringly tender.
It’s a good thing we had the fuel, because we were about to burn a ton of calories rocking out with Shopping. The London punks brought a memorable set to the fest with their hard-edged yet upbeat sound, ripping into songs from their new full-length record, The Official Body, which came out earlier this year. “Thanks for dancing in your little ponchos,” said Rachel Aggs cheerily. “I’m seeing some good poncho action! I wanna see some good umbrella action too,” she teased, the band commenting on how it was typical British weather for them. Inspired by their badassery, we decided to try Four Peaks Brewing Company’s award-winning Kilt Lifter from Arizona, a feisty and aptly-named super-sour brew. “You mothafuckas drunk already, or what?” Kamaiyah, the self-described “Queen of Oakland,” asked playfully as she started her set, pointing out some fans who were already grooving woozily. She connected right away, rapping fiercely on tracks like “Mo Money Mo Problems” and “Fuck It Up,” and cranking the crowd’s energy up a few more notches.
L.A. noise rock duo No Age – made up of Randy Randall and Dean Allen Spunt – dished out music from their new album, 2018’s Snares Like a Haircut, their fans raging to the beat in the rain. “You guys are the sickest crowd in the world. We’ve never played to people holding umbrellas before.” Later in their set, No Age reminded the crowd about the Democratic primaries in New York coming up this Thursday. “You’re in the unique position to put Donald Trump in jail…go out and vote and put this fucking president in jail.” We drank to that, and this time it was a glass of Devils Backbone Brewing Company’s caramely and classic O’fest Oktoberfest Lager. Up next, fellow L.A. rockers Girlpool – their core duo comprised of Cleo Tucker and Harmony Tividad – cut through the raindrops with their folk punk performance, grabbing attention with their bold harmonies and relatable lyrics, like those on “123” and “Cut Your Bangs.” To their large and affectionate audience, Tucker said appreciatively, “Thank you for standing in the rain.”
It was never easy to choose from the crazy variety of brews at OctFest, but we soon landed on the Texas Ranger IPA from Bärfuss in Argentina, and at that moment, found the hoppiest beer we’d tasted all weekend. Appropriately, Philly folk rockers Hop Along were up next and kept the crowd bouncing, performing material from their latest self-produced album, this year’s Bark Your Head Off, Dog. As the day went on, we were excited to score a sample of Wild Beer Co’s Modus Vivendi (listed in the “certified beer nerd” section of the schedule) from the U.K., a rich, barrel-aged sour beer with a flavor all its own.
Of course, no drinks were needed at all for the bash Nile Rodgers & CHIC had in store as the legendary guitarist/producer, looking fresh in a sparkling gold suit, stole the show with his fiery band and talented backup singers. All the fans who had swarmed the stage for his set were totally enthralled, and started treating the ceaseless raindrops like light from a disco ball. Hit after hit, Rodgers’ stellar setlist reminded everyone just how much iconic work he’s produced, from Diana Ross’ “Upside Down” to Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” to David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.”
Before the festival’s tricky 8pm beer cut-off, we had time to try the Passionate Blond IPA from Newlands Spring Brewing Company in South Africa, which made for a smooth and summery finish. Even better, much-loved indie rockers Yo La Tengo, hailing from Hoboken, NJ, played an immersive nighttime set that was one of the weekend’s highlights, jamming warmly on favorites like “Stockholm Syndrome,” “Shaker,” and “Autumn Sweater,” as well as material from their new album, 2018’s There’s a Riot Going On.
Having spent the whole day determined to party in the rain, the festival-goers gearing up for The Flaming Lips’ performance were beyond excited to see them appear. Their headlining show was like flipping a switch: first darkness, rain, and patience…then lights, lasers, costumes and props, everywhere, in every color. Wayne Coyne was the masterful frontman his fans know well, singing with special emphasis and somehow making eye contact with thousands. Adding to the visual spectacle, their team unleashed huge colored balloons on the crowd, who gleefully smacked them around as much as the wind and rain did. The Flaming Lips’ 11-song setlist was a crowd-pleasing taste of the hits, each one receiving loud vocal support from their fans – especially the three from 2002’s Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots; “Pt 1” straight into “Fight Test” early on, with “Do You Realize??” as their meaningful finale, closing out OctFest 2018. Amazingly, the onslaught of wild props – like Coyne’s larger-than-life laser-beam hands, and a special “Fuck Yeah OctFest” balloon – weren’t even the main focus, because their sound felt bigger than the whole island (and better than the rarest beer).
Article: Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley