We may still be in the slow process of recovering from the pleasant gauntlet that was this year's Northside, but then, there's always something to be said for hair of the dog when it comes to these things. "The dog," if we're really running with this metaphor, being relaxed daytime drinking and a back-to-back schedule of bands we love, playing outdoor shows for hoards of happy, sweaty fans. All of which is to say that we're especially excited for the Village Voice's 3rd annual 4Knots Festival, this Saturday, which brings the likes of The Babies, Marnie Stern, Kurt Vile & the Violators, Parquet Courts, and The Men to the South Street Seaport. For free.
And it should go without saying that putting together a massive free show of some of 2013's most talked-about bands, right in the middle of Lower Manhattan, isn't exactly a small undertaking. Wisely, the Voice brought on curator and producer Stephen Dima, who's been putting on shows in the area (the Seaport Music Festival, River Rocks) for over a decade, having started with the River to River festival, which was created to help breathe life back into the area post-9/11. As we dig around for an appropriately high SPF and shoes that'll be comfortable to stand (and maybe dance) in for the better part of Saturday, we talked to Dima about this year's festival—the biggest one yet—and the delicacies of finding bands that can manage to hold the stage on a sprawling outdoor shipscape.
For a newly launched festival, 3 years can be a huge amount of time. Have there been any major surprises or changes in approach since you started doing this?
Well, the venue itself has gone through some very major changes since the hurricane, but as far as approach it’s always been the same—to make it bigger and better each year. It’s been a very interesting year in planning, and this Saturday will definitely feel like a triumph. It’s really the best the Seaport will have ever had, and I don’t say that lightly. For a free day-long music festival, I’m not sure you’re going to get any better.
Each year, the programming has kept a fairly tight focus around a certain type of indie rock, and it's worked well. Was this an intentional choice from the beginning, or something that's evolved over time?
I think it’s really just something that’s evolved over time, and at the end of the day it’s bands we genuinely like and are excited about. The intention is to present great bands and to as large an audience as we can.
I’ve watched little kids in the neighborhood come to see Wire or Deerhunter and Ted Leo years ago, and now they’re older and still coming and I see them at 4Knots, it’s an amazing thing. I like to watch bands from the side of the stage with the Peking in the background, it’s the classic Seaport concert shot.
This year's lineup is pretty incredible. Any acts you're particularly excited for, or haven't seen live yet? Any that you're already eyeing to get on the lineup for next year (you know, because there's no rest for the weary)?
Without trying to sound like I’m avoiding the question I am looking forward to each and every band and I seriously mean that. Usually the stages start out at a certain level and build up to the headliner but this year it’s on full speed right out of the gate. Get there early is all I’m going to say.
I’m always thinking about next year and what band or bands would be great to have. The really great thing is there are always great new bands to inspire what we do. OK, there is one band we’ve all been dreaming of having at the festival since the beginning…but I can’t tell you who they are.
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.