The New Colossus Festival will return this March for its 2nd annual musical journey across the Lower East Side, and it seems sure to be another epic concert binge to remember. Some music industry panels will take place during the day on the 12th, but the meat of the fest is the multitude of music showcases running from Wednesday the 11th through Sunday the 15th. The New Colossus take its name from the poem inscribed on the side of the Statue of Liberty that once welcomed immigrants from all over the World to our shores, and likewise this fest is bringing act from all across the globe to our city. This fiesta of music is similar to the citywide fests like SXSW, or even the recently defunct NYC-based celebrations like CMJ and Northside, only this one centers on a more specific section of town, in this case Manhattan’s Lower East Side. After being left alone too long without this brand of festival, The New Colossus Festival has picked up the slack for NYC, with a return to that smaller, more indie-focused feel and anti-corporate stance of CMJ back in the day, and being in a smaller area of town, you can now easily jump from venue to venue through the night to see more and more of the artists. These more independent music focused happenings prove to be great exposure for newer acts and money booms for local businesses across the city. Still, the focus of the happening is how they prick that particular nerve that all audiophile freaks like myself seem to share, a musical addiction finally gets to take over, and the musical party monster can really come out and play.

This festival really leans into the whole international vibe. They do manage to get some of that global SXSW crowd, especially those bands from Europe and Canada, who are making their connecting flight through the Big Apple on their way to Austin the same week anyways, so they also play a set or two here in NYC, where they’d get even more attention in the media and advertising capital of the world. They are already burning brighter than those other festivals as a brand-new independent music beacon burning brightly from right here in the city that never sleeps and in a mecca far more custom-made made for the late-night club crawl. The concerts, raves, conversations, and wild happenings take place at many different venues across the legendary Lower East Side, which has been known as the headquarters of the NYC music scene since back in the 70’s punk days with locales like CBGBs, The Mudd Club, and 82 Club among others playing a leading role in crafting the music world over the last several decades. This neighborhood has obviously changed quite a bit over the last 20 or so years, and with gentrification went many of the coolest clubs who were often pushed out to places like Williamsburg and Bushwick just across the East River in Brooklyn. However, it turns out there is still some great rock still left this hood ready to roll, and many of the area’s hottest small venues are ready to host of some scorching hot shows in honor of this killer festival.

This year’s lineup has been super-charged with their largest concert event to date; a showcase headlined by NY noise rockers A Place To Bury Strangers on Friday night at the Bowery Ballroom. This late-night show will also shine with opening acts like the shoegazey Public Practice that is a cool combo of the bands WALL and Beverly, as well as UK’s punk uproaring of LIFE. This makes for an impressive breakthrough to larger, more mainstream stages, but many of the more small and independent locales of the LES are still making up most of the venues for this festival. Some of the LES’s most famed nightspots will be housing these concerts; like the former piano store turned hotspot aptly called Pianos, as well as the ex-bodega now killer club Arlene’s Grocery, the basement cabaret club atmosphere of Berlin Under The A, the Williamsburg bridge adjacent bar The Delancey, the location that had been known as Coney Island Baby (that many older music fans might remember as Brownies) which now goes by the name Lola, and even the more neon-splashed splendor of Bowery Electric built just block away from the old location of CBGBs which is sadly now a expensive hipster haven John Varvatos.

A Place To Bury Strangers


There are artists coming here from all over the globe, and it will be sure to be a giant melting pot of fun. There is a lot of traffic from across the pond with the likes of former Charlatans UK singer Tim Burgess who will undoubtably be bringing back some of those groovy 90’s Brit-pop vibes. This newest English invasion will also include the promising popstress Sophie Nicole Ellison also known as HUSSY, garage rockers The Orielles and chick dance-heavy stylings of Stealing Sheep from Liverpool, the warm folksy feels of Luke De-Scisico, as well as the attention-stealing False Heads. From up north there will be some great Canadian acts like indie rockers Tallies, the pop duo Ice Cream who also hail from Toronto, the June Moon fronted Forever from Montreal, as well as dream rockers FRANKIIE from Vancouver who will also be excellent to take off to. For more exotic fare, there will also be the retro 60’s psychedelic Pop Yeh Yeh rock indulgences of Singapore’s The Pinholes, the dreamy magical indie pop of Siv Jakobsen and the punky sweetness of Pom Poko from Norway, the synthy Parisian lovers known as Pale Regard and fuzzy popsters Marble Arch from France, Aussie artists like singer/songwriter Ali Barter and shadowy post-punkers Shady Nasty, New Zealand’s psych rockers Swallow The Rat, and the spicy Madrid trio No Crafts.

Stealing Sheep


There are also more local artists than you can shake a rockin’ stick at, which include the baritone crooner Kip Berman of the classic alt rock group The Pains of Being Pure at Heart with his Dylan-esque project The Natvral. There is also the hardcore Virginia shock-rockers Ceremony ready to melt some faces, the dreamy Beantown imports Honey Cutt, the slacker rock of Halfsour from Western Massachusetts, and even the indie-pop rockers DieAlps! From Tampa. Other must-catch homegrown acts include like jazzy popsters Deep Sea Peach Tree, Queen’s shoegazers WIVES that includes Diiv guitarist Andrew Bailey, the electro-pop duo Water From Your Eyes that will give you all the feels, jangly love rockers formerly known as Queue and now known as Forever that will charm your socks off, and even the mind-bending experimentation of ackerman that will be great to trip out to.

These artists and bands will be performing at a variety of showcases at these many venues across this mile radius slice of the Big Apple, and within the mind-boggling multitudes of bands playing, it may be hard to know where to start planning, or whether jumping from party to party or staying at one place all day and/or night for a full showcase or two might be the best move for you. To help out, here are some suggestions to get the party started. 

Starting on Wednesday eve there will be a big kick-off at Pianos with the likes of Siv Jakobsen & Marble Arch rocking late into the night, and there’ll also be the The Icons Creating Evil Art Label Showcase at The Delancey which will start it off right with artists like Summer Heart. The big Thursday night show will be the Kanine Records Party at Pianos that will be a surefire hit with a mind-blowing number of artists like Tim Burgess, Tallies, Natvural, and Honey Cutt’s album release party. There will also be the Canadian Blast shindig at Arlene’s with the likes of bewitching Jasmine Trails. If you’re not too exhausted by the end of the night, there will also be a cool after-show DJ dance party at The Ludlow House raging into the early morning hours. 

The Orielles


Friday will have that big blow out at Bowery Ballroom with APTBS, but there will be plenty of other huge parties including a Who’s Next mixer featuring Spanish post-punkers Belako at the upstairs lounge at Pianos starting around 6PM, as well as Paste Magazine Presents at Berlin with Ali Barter and Tim Burgess, and at Arlene’s featuring local surf rockers Deep Sea Peach Tree and Luke De-Scisico. There’s also the Au Review Party with the Aussie dream-pop goddess Tia Gostelow, Edinburgh’s melodic indie-rockers Vistas, and The Pinholes at Lola. On Saturday during the day you could just bop between Pianos and Arlene’s across the street and see more bands than most people see all year. Saturday night will have plenty more to blow your mind, with the DIY Magazine Presents show with The Orielles and Life at Berlin, there will also be the Halifax Pop Explosion Party at Arlene’s with the likes of Caveboy and Tallies, but you’ll find me most of the night at The Delancey for the likes of Ceremony, Wales’ L.A. Peach, Tim Burgess, and Stealing Sheep. Finally, if you have any strength left, there is still plenty of day shows on Sunday, including a Goodbye Party at Pianos with many bands and also amazing lineups at Arlene’s and Bowery Electric to boot. This will be many of these artists’ first performances in the states and may also be a very rare opportunity to see a band before they break into the big time.

Bad Waitress


There will be no shortages of things to do and see for this week of The New Colossus Festival, and it is all very affordable. Just $100 which gets you full access to all of the shows, conversations, and parties of this fest, depending on venue capacity and your stamina, and you can buy your badges right here. Don’t miss out on what will surely be the party of the year, as this is one of those experiences you don’t soon forget.


Article: Dean Keim



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