LIVE REVIEW: Escape 2 New York – Lessons from a First Time Fest
The first time trying anything is often a learning experience. First bike rides can teach that gravel is most coarse once under your skin. First crushes teach you that your heart can hurt a thousand times over. Your first second crush teaches you how easily it can be mended. First kisses can make one painfully aware of the combination of teeth and metal wiring. Each first time, regardless the task, provides insight and lessons. The first year of a Festival is no different. Thus, as The Owl Mag made its first trip to the Hamptons for the inaugural Escape 2 NY Festival we picked up a couple of lessons, scrapes and perhaps even a few bruised hearts all in the name of rock ‘n’ roll.
Welcome to the Hamptons:
Lesson: Sometimes an album title so accurately sums up a band it can hardly be embellished upon. Static Jacks‘ forth-coming album titled, If You’re Young speaks to their demeanor to a tee. It is definitely youth, and the spryness it brings, that allows for the screaming, jumping and wearing of masks and bunny hats, all while lead singer Ian Devaney holds up a sign that says, “Fuck Off Everything.” The very first band to take the Main Stage at the E2NY definitely made no apologies for being young and carefree. Ahh, youth.
Lesson: Bubbles; always a good idea. While White Rabbit has musicality on their side, boasting a 6-piece line-up, dual drums, and a piano, their set was infinitely improved by all the glowing circular orbs floating about. Very through the looking glass-esque, indeed.
Lesson: Working with Drew Barrymore does the
body band good.
Having had their music video directed by Barrymore only days earlier, it seemed that Best Coast was soaring higher than usual. While most people seem to enjoy the new (but not new) wave of fuzzy lo-fi vocals, Bethany Costentino has a vocal ability that offers a surprising range once given the chance. This photo doesn’t look like the typical Best Coast shot, there are no Lennon glasses or a guitar in hand. But at Escape 2 NY something about Cosentino’s set seemed a bit different… better. Perhaps it was just the Hamptons’ air. Or the fact that Bob cut off all his hair.
Lesson: Sometimes the best lessons are the ones you are taught directly.
The Ettes Lesson: Give credit where credit is due. Peaking out from the very back of the stage, hidden often by ridiculous props and the now ubiquitous cellphone-in-the-air concert attending stance, drummers often get little-to-no recognition. And female drummers? Forgettaboutit. Well, it ends here. The Ettes drummer, Maria “Poni” Silver, was fast, ferocious and made to play.
Lesson: Spice things Up. While Au Revoir Simone have traveled often since forming in 2003, Erika Forster, Annie Hart, and Heather D’Angelo have always managed to keep their dream-pop relevant and reinvented. At their Saturday set, this manifested into the debut of some new songs in which Hart tried her hand at the drums.
Lesson: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
The Panda Pit
Not a band, but still managed to be the place where only the cool kids hung out.
Lesson: Chris Taylor just may know what he’s doing. Taylor is known to most as the bassist of Grizzly Bear, now heading a solo project under the name CANT and acts as the leader of the record label, Terrible Records. Given the titles of the latter two projects, Taylor seems to prescribe to a serious case of self-deprecation (or clever marketing), especially given that his label is releasing the sophomore album of a band that gave one of the best sets at E2NY: Chairlift. The band, once duo (and now quartet) from Brooklyn, managed to captivate the lazy audience, which lead singer Caroline Polachek graciously called “chill.” Regardless of the audience’s stance, Polachek whipped her body, screamed and starred down the crowd, nevermind the incredible range she evoked, a vocal capacity that will hopefully get more credit on their newest album. (If you’re anxious, you can listen to their newest single here.)
Delilah Lesson: While it was tempting to analyze the implications of a male supermodel choosing to don a plastic Elvis mask, Jamie Burke and his band Delilah were too busy being good and entertaining for there to be much time for such philosophical fodder. Paired with Mikki James, the duo played songs like “She Wore Black”. Aside from the formulaic model/musician combo, Burke also is an artist and used his musical talents to score the Calvin Klein ‘One’ campaign. Apparently there is more to life than being really, really ridiculously good-looking.
Lesson Two via Delilah: In the Hamptons, when festival-goers dance at your set, it looks like a Benneton Ad.
Lesson: Not all things are fashionable, cultural appropriation included.
The Crowd Aside from the statistical improbability of having that many people in one place with perfect bone structure (something noted by Bethanny Costentino of Best Coast during her set), the crowd at Escape 2 New York had another thing in common: the strict adherence to gravity. For most of the festival the audience was found seated, which led many artists to comment on the “chill” atmosphere, something definitely appreciated, but perhaps also may have contributed to what one woman speculated as the appearance of “unenthusiastic.” It didn’t help that capacity wasn’t reached, although it did come very close on Saturday night.
And the one man who defied such a trend…
You can take the girl out of New York, but…
The Escape Directors Lesson: Even in the middle of a reservation, in a gazebo, on an acoustic stage, you can still have your rockstar moment.
Not technically a band, but it is the world’s first and only fully robotic gamelan orchestra. Could be a potential future band name though…
Lesson: The kids are alright.
And so are the adults…
The Psychedelic Furs Lesson: The Psychadelic Furs proved that they don’t need the official title of headliner to act like one. Hamming it up for the cameras, smiling, joking and accompanied by a very gesticulate Richard Butler, the band made songs like “Love My Way” and “Forever Now” feel like a complete theatrical experience. But while Psychedelic Furs may have proved that they’re theatric royalty…
Patti Smith… is queen. As if this was something that needed to be taught.
“I don’t even know where the fuck I am,” declared Patti Smith, “It took me like 72 hours to get here.” Regardless of her own travel time, it was apparent from the all-ages crowd screaming her name that they would have traveled much longer to catch a glimpse of the iconic woman. And she didn’t disappoint. In between speeches about seizing the day, the importance of the festival, taking back the power from corporations (a strange juxtaposition in the heavily sponsored event) and occasional freestyles about walking down a New York City street, Smith laid down a performance of such intensity it was almost laughable to have anyone attempt to headline after her Friday night set. Smith gave no care to the potential influence of the Hamptons title. She spit on stage, cursed and screamed. When one fan pushed her way to the front screaming, “Patti! Patti! Can you take this? Can you take this?” thrusting a book toward the stage intended for the singer, Smith simply looked down and said, “As if I don’t have anything else important to do right now.” It wasn’t cruel, it was just Patti. Or maybe it was cruel. After the rousing and amazing closing performance of “Gloria” none of it mattered anyway.
Day Three: No pictures.
When Fred Fellowes, inspired by U.K.’s infamous Secret Garden parties, dedicated two years to creating the Escape 2 NY festival, it is likely that they went through the series of worst case scenarios. It has to be believed that inclement weather was one of the outcomes taken into consideration. However, on the third day of E2NY, when thunderstorms struck in the early morning, the festival was left battered and bewildered. For hours people were left speculating as to whether it would go on, many eventually huffing out of the Glamping camp grounds onto the equally tumultuous shuttle buses. Having the advantage of a somewhat behind-the-scenes view, it is hard not to sympathize with the organizers who calmly darted about trying to salvage the last day of festivities with unbelievable calm. However, exchanging positions for an outsider’s perspective, for those who traveled to Shinnecock and waited away their day for official word of closure, it is understandable as to why there would be a call for better protocol. It is a lesson learned, one that will hopefully never be called upon again. It also brings into question the choice of location. While the fest boasts an escape to New York, Patti Smith got it right when she questioned exactly where in hell she was. Unfortunate train schedules, lack of transportation and the use of the Shinnecock Nation’s reservation all made for the perfect storm (aside from the rain itself) leading to the festivals ultimate demise on its third day.
But at the end of the day, through all the stress and the turmoil, one lesson is universal: The Rose Petal Dome may have been the best idea ever and a needed accessory in every home (as long as you don’t think about all the flowers needed to actually make this magic happen).
So what’s the final verdict? Just like first crushes, skinned knees, and brace-face kisses (all of which this festival likely contained), this event, like every inaugural event, was a learning experience. And, despite its bumps, just like the best kinds of first times, we can’t wait for it to happen again.