Village Voice Siren Music Festival - Coney Island

Once again, I am split between loving the Village Voice Siren Music Festival for what it is and thinking it could be so much better. How would I improve it? I wouldn't lean so heavily on blogger-approved indie rock bands to draw the crowds. The New York music scene is diverse and large enough to support a more daring arrangement of musical acts. To solve this, I'd set up an electronic and hip-hop tent on the beach in between the two main stages. For more variety on the main stage, I'd book a couple jazz or blues acts for early sets. How about Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings for an inspiring 2 pm engagement? Or how about a third stage showcasing only up and coming local acts?

I'd make some improvements to the accommodations as well. How about screens near the back of the two main stages so everyone could enjoy a good view of the stage? And one word: bleachers. I know it is summer and metal stands would turn to hot plates, but give me a seat with a view and I'll deal with the pain.

But then I stop and realize it's very easy for me to criticize the festival. I'm not responsible for booking or promoting it. I'm not putting in the hundreds of hours necessary to pull it off. So I'm willing to cut the organizers some slack. I assume the band choices are limited who is available, who will bring a crowd, and who fits the overall aesthetic. And with no revenue from ticket sales, accouterments like giant screens and better P.A. systems are probably beyond the scope.

It's also easy to read too much into the bookings. In my opinion, the lineup doesn't represent the zeitgeist of music. It's just a free music festival with some popular indie bands. Bottom line: putting aside my lack of enthusiasm for this year's lineup, the Siren Festival is a great excuse to visit Coney Island, eat Nathan's hot dogs and gawk at the wonderful panoply of human beings gathered in this otherworldly place. Thanks Village Voice!

For the second year running, I decided to skip most of the bands playing early and concentrate on the headliners. My decision wasn't based on any extreme dislike for acts like The Rogers Sisters, Celebration, Dirty on Purpose or Tapes `n Tapes. I blame my recent ambivalence towards indie rock in general. In some cases, unwarranted hype (my opinion) kept me away and the less said about She Wants Revenge, the better.

That left me with Art Brut and Scissor Sisters. Neither band has a new record to promote. Both have played in the area recently. Thus my expectations were modest and completely met. Both acts were entirely predictable, but enjoyable regardless. Sadly, a major equipment failure would mar an otherwise fun Scissor Sisters set.

I'm standing by my decision to not pay to see Art Brut again until they put out a new record; however they are still lively and hilarious. Eddie Argos was his usual vicarious self, slicing the air with crazy scissor kicks and laughing it up with new quips. Naturally, his "I'm drinking vino with Brian Eno" couplet during "Moving to LA" brought a smile to my face. Their set list was shuffled, but still hit with the familiars from Bang, Bang, Rock and Roll.

There was really no debate over seeing Scissor Sisters or Stars. Nothing against Stars really, I'm just not impressed enough with them to fight for a good view near the front or stand in the rear where the sound system is overwhelmed by carnies and car horns. I knew Scissor Sisters would cajole what little energy was left in me to dance, nod my head or just meekly shuffle my feet.

Like Art Brut, the Sisters are playing out the success of an aging debut record, so new material figured prominently. Their attempt to play the catchy first single, "I Don't Feel Like Dancing" from their forthcoming album, Ta-Dah, was unfortunately foiled by two complete P.A. failures. The sound didn't just dip, it disappeared entirely. The band was left to shake their tambourines and lead the befuddled audience in rounds of hand clapping.

For me, the momentum of the show was crippled. The glitch was resolved, but even a normally rousing rendition of "Comfortably Numb" couldn't keep me from heading for the exit early. I missed whatever fun the Scissor Sisters had left in them, but we'll meet again, I'm sure.