Kurt Vile – Photo by Chris Becker

Following the mud extravaganza at Governor’s Ball a few weeks ago, looming forecasts of scattered thunderstorms the day of the Village Voice‘s annual free 4Knots Music Festival did not deter music lovers from trekking out to South Street Seaport for a day of hard-hitting jams. The 4Knots Festival continued the Voice‘s 13-year history of curating free, live music events and breathed new life back into the still-recovering Seaport, which faced major damage from October’s Hurricane Sandy.
With no gray clouds in sight, the festival began brightly with Steve Gunn. The folk/blues rocker was a last-minute addition to the festival’s lineup, though we would see him later in the day as the guitarist for Kurt Vile And The Violators. Fresh off the release of Time Off, Gunn used his articulate story-songs to capture the attention of early festival-goers trickling in and those planted on picnic blankets in the middle of the crowd. His crystal vocals were captivating in their ability to stop tourists in their search for souvenirs and instead give their attention to the sweet folk rock emanating from the Pier 17 Stage.
Brooklyn’s experimental scuzz trio and CMJ Marathon alum, Heliotropes, followed on the opposite stage playing against a picturesque view of the Brooklyn Bridge. The calming oceanic backdrop was no indicator of the oncoming set, however. Still buzzing from their most recent release, A Constant Sea, Heliotropes brought a roaring sense of urgency to their performance. The doom metal foursome tore up the Pier 16 Stage with their sweet harmonies and scorching vocals.
After each set, festival-goers migrated from stage to stage, some rushing through the crowd in the hopes of grabbing a prime view. As Heliotropes finished out their set, the crowd zapped their way to the opposite stage for fellow Brooklyn act Hunters. Immediately after the band walked on stage, the antics began as pink-haired vocalist Isabel Almeida danced and twirled, her vocals unrelenting. Full of pounding drums and explosive guitars, Hunters brought serious energy to their performance. While Almeida was running around the stage, sitting on the speakers, and gyrating about, the crowd exploded with new-found pandemonium once the ever-necessary festival beach balls arrived. Hunters finished out their half-hour set with both Almeida and guitarist Derek Watson lying on the stage, legs kicking in the air.
Brooklyn was seriously represented at 4Knots with over half of the day’s lineup calling the view across the East River home. The Babies were one such band, who tore it up on stage with driving bass lines and riffs to match. “Wild 2” from the band’s self-titled LP was greeted with elation from the crowd and even those packed on the water taxi docked behind the stage. Afterwards Parquet Courts drew an ample crowd that included a long-haired Brad Oberhofer among the audience. Parquet Courts brought the day’s first round of moshers as “Master Of My Craft” made head bangers out of everyone.
As Marnie Stern played, she reminded anyone with ears of her guitar prowess, her technical precision boosted by her excitement of having her nephew in the audience. Throughout her set, the New York City darling kept asking for her guitar to be turned up and it’s a good thing she did: Her shredding is best heard at full volume.
Kurt Vile And The Violators closed out the festival with a set to match the dimming sun. Vile took to the stage clad in a white-on-white outfit, which really set off his wild mane. His soothing psychedelic tunes brought the festival to a fitting end for a day replete with gritty vocals and skuzzy guitars.
Our photographer Chris Becker was in the crowd too, snapping shots of the best fest moments.
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