So for the second year in a row, I headed down to Battery Park in Manhattan to celebrate the 4th of July. Last year was Yo La Tengo and Stephen Malkmus, which was a bit of a mess with a lotta people get stuck outside. This year they switched things up and had a free ticket system, so I ended up getting inside the fences, to see Belle and Sebastian. A friend of mine used to describe the band as something he really loved, but mostly listened to right before bedtime. I was confident I was going to enjoy the show, I just didn't know how high-energy I was going to get. I got waay more than I could've expected. Even if every song they played wasn't the most danceable out of their catalogue, they funked it up. "If You're Feeling Sinister" had a pulsing drum beat added and "If She Wants Me" had its guitar line tweaked from that "swishing in the wind" feel to far more hip-shaking heights. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoy this band on their albums too, but the live show was a fucking blast. The set went for around two hours, with lots of great repartee between the audience and frontman Stuart Murdoch. There was a sufficient amount of jokes about the Scottish band playing to celebrate the 4th of July, and long quotations from "The Warriors", all to great crowd response. A lot of the material was new to me, with the band drawing heavily from The Boy with the Arab Strap. During one of the new album tracks "Sukie In The Graveyard", someone behind me actually pulled out a harmonica and started jamming with the band. The encore came in the form of a heavily distorted guitar version of the star spangled banner, sort of. You can't really fault a scottish guy for not exactly knowing the melody though. That went straight into the titular track from Arab Strap. The DowntownNYC program that set the free show up has a lot of other events going on this summer and is definitely worth checking out. Hot Chip, The Hold Steady, and Ted Leo are the first couple acts I can think of that are being presented this summer. You can search through the events at the group's page here.
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