"This is where we need to live, man" a friend assured me as we passed the barriers and hefty security guards at Brooklyn's Northside Festival. Half-drunkenly stumbling to each bar and food vendor that lined the inner fence of Greenpoint's McCarren Park. "This is where we need to be."
Since its inception in 2009, Northside Festival has quickly grown in length and popularity. For some, the weekend-long festival, encompassing nearly 400 contrasting acts at 43 different venues around Greenpoint and Williamsburg, is designed for one specific reason — to consume music. Others are attracted to the multi-disciplinary elements of the festival such as the Entrepreneurship and Technology Conference. But regardless of your ambition, the festival planners assure you that you're not alone in your ventures. Priding themselves in offering a variety of completely diverse acts, this year McCarren Park filled up with every aberrant individual and cliche from Manhattan to Brooklyn.
As each hour blessed us with a little less humidity, fans crowded the single stage in hopes of being a part of what was sure to be an insane frenzy. Loyal fans stood elbow-to-elbow within the increasingly violent crowd ready for the inevitable mosh that would break out anywhere. Crowds of 20-somethings, whom at any of the other summer events, would be seen with light-up pacifiers and half-open eyelids, pogo-sticked in place along with the opening acts, the Blind Shake and King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard.
My friend and I watched the line as it wrapped around the blocks nearest the entrance. We smirked at all the butchered Gosling and Miley haircuts, waving off all the mango and watermelon sellers. We drank our favorite most obscurely flavored drafts, and patiently waited for the real reason most people made their way to this particular Northside event — Thee Oh Sees
Thee Oh Sees
When the three-piece collective finally took the stage, clouds of white smoke poured from the center of the audience, long hair whipped in the faces of the people standing behind them, and 80-pound girls were being flung into the air without any real expectation of being caught. I watched men drip with nosebleeds, sweat and Poland Spring as they caught their breath from the reckless dancing, all while the women bounced on their toes, surveying the ones closest to them with a floating skeptic eyebrow. Every dance move from the History of Dance and the final scene of Napoleon Dynamite was clearly rehearsed and implemented.
Every gum-chewing, dip-spitting, short-shorts-wearing individual was present and accounted for. Even the nostalgic hipsters, the ones who examine the crowd from far away, circled the outer layer of the park. Business-suit wearing individuals climbed down from their ivory towers to sit on the inflatable couches shielded by the sun while their children ran amok between the tents, flashing their 80-buck all-access passes.
Thee Oh Sees
And as Thee Oh Sees wrapped up what ended as a 90-minute set, the crowd quickly regained consciousness and embarked just a couple blocks down the road to catch Beirut
— a band that couldn't be more different than Thee Oh Sees. But what was most surprising was that the same fans whom I spotted recklessly dancing in the crowd at Thee Oh Sees, had comfortably found themselves pressed against a wall humming the tunes to Beirut's most acclaimed tracks. And then it hit me: These people don't care about what everyone else is into. They love music for the sake of loving music. The mosh pits have officially been swept under the rug and the same guy who was once seen as your foe buddies up next to you to scream, "Do you hear those fucking horns, man?!"
If there's anything I learned this year at Northside it's that some festivals attract crowds with their carnival qualities, while others, like the one I experienced this weekend, lure in the real fans with great music.
Thee Oh Sees
Live Photos by Steph Orentas