5 Best Sets of 4Knots Music Festival 2014

posted by Joshua Johnson on July 14, 2014

Dinosaur Jr at 4Knots 2014 by Rob Menzer for the Village Voice

New York City -- 4Knots Music Festival is not like other music festivals. It’s a free, open to the public, all-ages festival that ends before nightfall and has pens built exclusively to contain those who wish to partake in the classic music festival pastime known as day drinking. This meant 4Knots had a lot more children and people walking/carrying their dogs than one might expect to see at such an event, unless you and your hipster dog are frequent attendees of Dogchella and Bonnawoof (note: these are not real things, but they definitely totally should be). 

Even with the more family-friendly elements, what makes or breaks a music festival is the quality of bands, and 4Knots had a full supply of high-caliber music. These were our 5 favorite sets from the 4Knots Music Festival: 

5. Mac DeMarco

I will admit that, when listening to his albums, I wasn’t really feeling Mac DeMarco’s vibe. His stuff sounded pleasant enough, but I never felt like I was on his wavelength. When I saw Mac’s set at 4Knots, though, I totally got what he was going for. He took the stage just as the sun started its long descent down, and the atmosphere couldn’t have been more perfect for Mac’s style. Here, his laid-back demeanor actually helped enhance his performance, especially on songs like the synth-heavy “Chamber of Reflection.” Mac’s chill set was matched by an equally chill setting, maximizing all levels of chill. 

4. Dinosaur Jr. 

Dinosaur Jr. are indie rock royalty, and J Mascis is the Grand Wizard. His long, Saruman-like hair and beard make him quite recognizable, but it’s his guitar playing that truly sets him apart. His signature distorted solos whipped the crowd up into a frenzy, resulting in mosh pits, crowd surfers, and one guy making it rain playing cards like he was indie rock’s answer to David Blaine. Between all the solos, the highlight of Dinosaur Jr.’s set were the cheerful “woo-hoos” during their now 20-year-old classic “Feel The Pain.”

3. Speedy Ortiz

Speedy Ortiz set the tone for Dinosaur Jr.’s headlining set with their own take on the 90s indie rock scene. Led by frontwoman Sadie Dupuis, Speedy brought the hammer down with a much heavier sound than I was expecting. On record, Sadie’s sweet voice provides an interesting contrast to the band’s distorted instrumentation, but live, she trades sweetness for fierceness. Each song had a sharp edge to them, letting you know that even though they wear their influences on their sleeve, Speedy Ortiz is a wholly unique band with a lot to say.

2. Those Darlins 

On a general level, Nashville’s Those Darlins sound like a southern-fried version of The Runaways. They definitely slip into the southern rock genre comfortably, but there’s a certain punk energy to their sound that gives the band a distinct personality. In between rocking the hell out of songs like “Night Jogger” and “In The Wilderness,” the band also showed their tender side with a cover of Bob Dylan’s “The Man In Me,” aka that song at the beginning of The Big Lebowski. Those Darlins closed their set in a big way with a passionate rendition of “That Man,” highlighted by Jessi Zazu’s heart-wrenching vocals. 

1. Radkey

Radkey, a punk rock trio whose members range in age from 16-20, holds the honor for being part of the simultaneously worst and best moment of 4Knots. Midway through a particularly head-banging worthy rendition of their song “Feed My Brain,” the band’s amps and mics completely cut out. However, the band was unfazed by the sudden lack of power, and went on playing the song anyway. Even though the crowd could only actually hear the drums, the energy the band put forth was palpable. Out of the worst situation, Radkey pulled out the most rock n’ roll moment of 4Knots.

After finishing “Feed My Brain” without amplification, power was restored and the band continued their set. In addition to playing some great music, Radkey were incredibly fun to watch. Lead singer and guitarist Dee Radke stood stoic as he  sang in a deep, Misfits-like 80s punk voice as bassist Isaiah Radke leapt all over the stage while rolling his eyes into the back of his head and just plain shredding on the bass. If Radkey’s set proved anything, it’s that there isn’t nearly enough bass shredding happening in today’s music scene. The trio closed their too-short set with the song “Romance Dawn,” which sounded like the punk successor to Franz Ferdinand’s “This Fire.” They then left the stage after Isaiah told the crowd he wished they could play more songs. Being that Radkey was my favorite set of 4Knots, I certainly shared that sentiment.

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See Also:

Playlist: 4Knots Music Festival 2014 
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