Despite dark skies, crowd pours in for The National


By Todd Simmons

At the Seaport Music Festival last Friday, as a major thunderstorm bore down on New York City and a cluster of boats bobbed feebly in the harbor behind the stage, it was starting to look like The National was heading for a wash out. The first two bands on the bill had their sets curtailed by the specter of lightning strikes and sheets of rain, and the prospect of a set from the headliners was looking grim.

Somehow an estimated 10,000 people were unbowed by the threat of thunder and lightning. They filled the Seaport in anticipation of catching this band whose Cincinnati to Brooklyn arc recently saw them opening for the ubiquitous Arcade Fire at the United Palace Theatre uptown, and before that a five-night stand of sold-out headlining shows at the Bowery Ballroom in late May.

Based on the size of the waterlogged crowd, it seems apparent that a normal summer’s eve would’ve drawn a much larger number if the forecast had not looked so ominous. For the mob that trudged through the storm for some music to kick off the weekend, they got to see a shortened set from Takka Takka and a salvaged, all too brief set from the kinetic, Steve Albini-produced band, The Forms.

But as if on cue, the clouds parted just in time for a full set from The National, a Brooklyn-adopted band that is currently traversing the globe to support its widely acclaimed album Boxer (Beggars Banquet). The baritone vocals of singer Matt Berninger is reminiscent of Dave Gahan, Ian Curtis and Paul Banks of fellow Brooklyn band Interpol, but the music is of a more uplifting nature, like the rootsier side of U2. Despite the band’s indie label, they are really more of an earnest, straight ahead rock band playing ensemble guitar tunes over chugging rhythms, with the exception of mad violinist Padma Newsome, who bowed, strummed and throttled his instrument feverishly while not manning the keyboards.

With two more Fridays of free, indie rock shows remaining in the season, it is apparent that the Seaport Music Festival has once again been a magnet for innovative bands on the rise. This year’s program included Fujiya & Miyagi, Animal Collective and Menomena among others, altogether another successful summer for the producers of this terrific series of concerts. Building on past line-ups that have included Sufjan Stevens, The Hold Steady, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and legendary bands like Suicide and New York Dolls, the Seaport Festival continues to be a can’t miss event in Lower Manhattan. Whether the weather was good or torrentially soaking the Seaport planks, the trek downtown to the old docks has been worth it this summer.

Now that efforts are underway to return McCarren Pool to its original use as a Williamsburg recreation center, the Seaport Music Festival might find itself with little competition putting on great, free rock shows in the near future. Remaining shows this year include Scotland’s Camera Obscura, Atlanta-based Deerhunter and local bands The Last Town Chorus and Battles.

For more information visit www.seaportmusicfestival.com.