Summer Fun: Siren Music Festival
– image by Flickr user JalapeÃ±o
This past weekend I attended Siren Music Festival for the first time.
I’ve been in NY for almost four years now, but was always working or unavailable on the date of the fest. My friends would go and tell me about how much fun they had and I would reply with something like “Well, I worked ’til 5am cutting down a piece about dead people… jealous?”
This year, however, was different.
The karma for this summer appears to be really freaking great, so my first experience at the fest was while shooting and producing interviews with Broken Social Scene, Ra Ra Riot, The Dodos, Islands (they are fab artists and also really funny in person) and Dragons of Zynth. I got heatstroke, a back cramp, somehow managed to sunburn my right eye (the one without a contact) and it was all worth it.
I spent most of last week coordinating with festival heads to schedule interviews with bands as well as making sure I had stage access. The point of that being (this explanation is for my family and non-industry folks) that there are about a trillion people who attend this event, plus I am kind of short. This means if I am standing in the crowd like regular festival girl, all of my footage is going to be of some dude’s back hair. Luckily I was able to work it out (as you will see very soon in an excellent clip), so the shoot ended up being really productive. And I also saw very little back hair, so that was nice.
One element of the shooting schedule that I was a little stressed about was the fact that we only had five minutes with Broken Social Scene literally moments before they went on stage. That is not the best time to interview anyone (especially after a full day of interviews in 100+ degree heat), but it’s what we had to work with and I intended to make the most of it. I spent the evening before the shoot researching bands, writing down questions and creating a hand held schedule of the day’s events so that I didn’t confuse myself in the heat (I somehow knew I was going to pass out and didn’t want to forget anything).
On Saturday I took the train down to Coney Island and met up with my PA and excellent colleague Rya Backer. It was her first time at both Coney Island and Siren Fest, so she also ate her first corn dog, helped me set up shoots and stood within one foot of Brendan Canning all on the same day. Needless to say, spirits were high, despite the fact that I stood on a steaming hot black top all day and slightly passed out while shooting The Dodos (I was OK and did not drop the camera, whew!).
Our schedule was pretty tight so Rya and I spent all day running from one dressing room tent to the other, from one stage to the next, all while trying to get b-roll on the boardwalk and MOS’s (interviews with “man on the street”) from strangers. Ultimately what affected me the most was not the pressure of the day’s responsibilities, but the heat – we were very prepared and Rya was extremely helpful by managing the guest release forms, changing my tapes and helping me lug equipment around. I probably would have been 100 times more stressed if she had not contributed.
I loved listening to the bands from the VIP area in front of the stages (and often from on the stage) but after attending this year’s fest I can’t honestly say I would want to experience it again without the VIP treatment or as a member of the press. I was able to take breaks from the masses of bodies in a shaded area where many libations were served. There was bottled water and ice to drop down my shirt. There were several fans (the spinning kind).
All of this may make me sound like a bougie brat but consider this – the crowds were so packed on those blacktops that people were resorting to watching bands from the top of the ferris wheel. That’s a lot of human flesh pressed together. That’s a lot of hairy, beach sand-speckled backs for me to press up against while trying to catch a far off glimpse of a band.
I think Siren Fest is great but I don’t know if I have the stamina to handle it as a regular concert goer. Those fans are hardcore. I would imagine that the heat and sardine feeling is no picnic for them but if they are there to see a band they are crazy about, it probably makes it all worth it. If Janelle Monae or Morrissey were playing Siren Fest next year I would be swinging from hairy backs just to make it to the front of the crowd. Seriously.
Here’s a clip from some of the footage that I shot of Broken Social Scene. I was the only shooter on stage with them and since they were the headliners of the evening, I had the opportunity to look out into an enormous sea of people who were there to experience a band that they clearly loved. The energy emanating from the crowd towards BSS was intoxicating. That was an experience that I have been thinking about intensely and will continue to do so for a long while.