The Village Voice’s 4 Knots festival is perhaps the most consistently booked free music festival in… well, I want to say the world, but at the risk of sounding myopic, I’ll just say New York City. The 2014 edition, which took place this past Saturday, continued the festival’s tradition of indie guitar hero-heavy bills with the godfather of ’em all at the top of the bill, Dinosaur Jr.
Mascis, Murph and Barlow played a predictably incredible, hit-heavy set (which you can watch highlights from right here) that blew away similarly amazing offers from past headliners like The Men (who are the best live band in Brooklyn) and Archers of Loaf. Thirty well-earned years (THIRTY?!) in the indie rock cannon forced a different stage configuration to accommodate a much larger crowd than we’ve seen in past years. Everyone was there. Even Kim Gordon.
The smaller stage was pushed across South Street into that area where I think they have the “FiDi” Smorgasburg to allow for what looked like Terminal 5-sized crowd for Dinosaur Jr. and Mac DeMarco from the drunken confines of the SS Christgau, docked stage right. While the new configuration made shuffling back and forth from stage to stage somewhat frustrating, (I gave up after enjoying fifteen or twenty minutes of Nude Beach’s set) it’s a small price to pay for a free afternoon of draws on the level of Dinosaur Jr., Mac DeMarco and Speedy Ortiz.
My initial thought was that the bands playing on the “Front/Row” stage sorta got the shaft, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Crazy Pills, Dead Stars, Juan Wauters, and the aforementioned Nude Beach picked up a few new fans from listeners who stumbled on the “B-stage.” They’re capable, pop-minded local bands with everyman appeal and there seemed to be a decent crowd on hand throughout the day.
Back to the main stage; I was surprised and disappointed that Speedy Ortiz were already nearing the end of their set when I arrived around 2:30 p.m. I figured they’d slot in right before Mac DeMarco, but that honor went to Those Darlins, whom I was pleasantly surprised by. They even mixed in a cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Man In Me.” Before they hit the stage, the remaining members of Women’s new band, Viet-Cong played a solid set somewhat reminiscent of Modest Mouse and Gang of Four.
It’s amazing how popular Mac DeMarco has gotten over the past couple of years; the crowd went absolutely bat-shit for him. Kids in bucket-hats rushed the stage and forced the Mascis fans to the back. They sang along to every word of “Ode to Viceroy” and “Salad Days.” I would have loved it if he busted out a track or two from his debut LP, “Rock and Roll Night Club,” but he knows his bread and butter is “2” and this year’s lush long player, “Salad Days.” My personal highlight was the baroque-infused “Passing Out Places.”
Dinosaur Jr. came on a bit after 7 p.m. and effortlessly shredded through perfect festival set of hits like “Just Like Heaven,” “Freak Scene” and “Out There.” It was sorta tough to hear J over his three Marshall stacks, but it didn’t matter much; the crowd was singing and moshing along for the duration of the set. They launched into an extended version “Sludgefeast” at about five minutes after eight for the go-home track, the perfect ending to a perfect set and really, a perfect day of free music.