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Violens & The Grand Archives
South Street Seaport
Friday August 22, 2008

Written by Matt Boyd
Photographed by
Amy Davidson

Opposite Photo:
The Grand Archives

The impossible never threatens long in New York City, or at least it never seems to. In the first blush of the promise of the month of May we Gothamites never think the end of August is an achievable goal, we never consider the final days of summer an immediate danger, something whose proximity is even worth considering. But as we sweat and careen under the hot stage lights of June and July and bathe under the cold beer taps of Seaport Beer, that August curtain call does still wait stage autumn, nonetheless. The stage directions read: Inebriates exeunt. Here we are at the second to last free Seaport River to River festival show, and it seems like summer only just got started. WTF, summer? Stand clear of the closing doors.

Last Friday’s free River to River Festival show at the South Street Seaport featured NY band Violens as appetizer and Seattle’s Grand Archives as main course.

Jorge Elbrecht of Violens

Jorge Elbrecht of Violens

Violens played a flawless set with a familiar feel, digging back into the well-documented archive of the past twenty-five years of pop rock. They kept the rock-o-meter’s needle hovering somewhere around 90-95 on the British end of the scale. The playful and active baselines pushed into the crowd’s face bounced around like the musical undercarriage on so many endless variations of The Smiths “This Charming Man,” with guitar work and vocals evocative of Suede.

Violens’ live-action monster of amalgamated hit makers isn’t limited to referencing the style of two Brit-pop acts, however, but also remembers current acts like Hot Chip and wistful American wunderkinder the Walkmen. Energetically performed though their set was, however, breaking through the crust of likeable accessibility to the hot mantle of the truly memorable throbbing below the surface wasn’t an outcome in their cards that night. You can sound like bands people love without being bands people love.

Mat Brooke of The Grand Archives

I don’t know whether the headliners, The Grand Archive, with members hailing from several respectable modern rock pedigrees (Carissa’s Weird and Band of Horses, to name two), did their best to reminisce on the vocal harmonizing and the soaring rhythms of Crosby, Stills & Nash, but they didn’t manage to capture that old-timey feel or the dead-on vocal overlays of CSN if they were trying to. They did take me back, though, as far back as college- that long, upper-middle-class peace and love fake-out of hippie nostalgia, and once again I found myself back there questioning my enrollment in the whole sordid affair. Whoa. Flashback.

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