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Feelies open for Sonic Youth
River to River Fest at Battery Park
July 4, 2008

Written by Joshua Williams
Photographed by Amy Davidson

Opposite Photo: Sonic Youth


Once upon a time, a bunch of learned property owning dudes gathered in Philadelphia. They declared that the country would no longer suffer the indignities and abuses of a far away monarch. And most importantly, certain truths were declared to be self evident, among them life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Naturally, this has evolved over the last 232 years into hot-dog eating competitions, copious amounts of lager, and exploding things in the sky. In short, we’re free, so lets party.

Sonic Youth

In towns large and small all across the nation, one way to celebrate our declaration is to put on a concert in a town square type setting, slap some meat on the grill, and groove to some tunes. I found myself at Battery Park in Manhattan, checking out Sonic Youth with supporting act The Feelies.

Sonic Youth

One thing about shows of this nature is that they pretty much have to be safe for mass consumption, which is why you most likely won’t find Norwegian Black Metal in the town square anytime soon. I’m sure the folks at the River to River festival figured Sonic Youth was a bit edgy. I, however, find it quite interesting that a band considered so groundbreaking and experimental 20 years ago is now safe enough for 4th of July celebrations and the state fair circuit.


The Feelies were all right I guess. Good summertime fare rock and roll. Upbeat mid-tempo rock songs your great aunt may find threatening if she was never into rock or belonged to a polygamous cult. I doubt they are a band I would pay to see, but neither would I walk out on them. I liked the percussion work, and there were nice melodies, but overall, it was a bit too poppy for my taste. But, as you’re sucking down a chili dog, and washing it down with a miller lite during a 4th of July cookout, it goes rather nicely.

Then there is Sonic Youth. I have a confession. I’ve never really seen the big deal. On the one hand, I appreciate the fact that they sound like no one else. If they come on at a party, you’ll know who it is. Experimenting with alternative tunings is cool. I appreciate their appreciation and promotion of the no wave scene, and I can see how in a dank basement in the 1980 it would have been viewed as groundbreaking and different. On the other hand, I’m not so sure Thurston Moore has changed the perception of what can be done with a guitar as some have claimed. It doesn’t go Diddly, Berry, Wray, Hendrix, Clapton, Page, and Moore. Of course, he didn’t claim the mantle, so it’s not his fault. In any event, they are now safe for public consumption, so hipster kids can go see the influence of the current blog favorites, and financial analysts can relive the days when they were the gnarliest thing on campus.



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