So here’s the scene. I’m at South Street Seaport, where I have been every Friday for the last four Fridays. So Cow ends. A choice presents itself. Stay for Golden Triangle and Thee Oh Sees, or take a risk on being allowed over to Governor’s Island for an evening of fake beaching, electric palm trees and mathematical adept/facemelting tune chef Caribou.
I chose Caribou. It was surprisingly easy, sorry to make it sound dramatic. The queue for the ferry took about ten minutes even though my friends who had gone earlier waited a solid two hours. This is evidence that God loves So Cow (but not Ireland).
Quick breeze through the opening acts. Chain Gang of 1974: terrible. 1/10. Super-calculated rock ‘n’ roll post-Rapture stuff with the most annoying, obtrusive frontman of all time. At one he shouted (presumably) “You two are fucking awesome” at two members of the crowd. Not beyond the realms of possibility that he actually did say what I initially thought, though, and he just wanted to declare his love for U2 mid-set. Anyway, fuck Chain Gang of 1974.
Phantogram were less offensive but their oblique, abstract electronic rock didn’t exactly induce the right type of mood for the occasion. Guess who did.
So Dan Snaith emerges. You might remember him from his 2005 doctoral thesis on Overconvergent Siegel Modular Symbols, completed at Imperial College London. More likely you know him as Caribou, former progressive intricate guitar-led psychtronica artist and current Four Tet-esque club speaker-murderer.
They play as a four-piece with two drum-kits set up at the front of the stage, putting the sensational drummer at the centre of attention and highlighting the bits where Snaith has finished his vocal part, rolled up his sleeves and sat down to play equally complex drums himself. There are triggered sequencer tracks, definitely, but still, they’re an impressive proposition for a band that makes mostly electronic music.
Things kick off relatively slowly, but by the time Melody Day hits about three songs in, the crowd’s reaching its peak in size and energy. Andorra songs are met with some of the most enthusiastic shuffles I’ve seen en masse.
But it’s the Swim songs, when they drop (and they do drop, on festival sized bass-bins), that own the plastic beach. Odessa comes halfway through the set, creates a bleary reverie in its wake and send a lot of the attendees towards the ferry happy, being eager to get back to whatever investment banking they have to do in Manhattan but not without getting their time’s worth.
Those who stayed got flawless, driving, intricate electronic music from on high. The end of the regular set comes, Snaith thanks the crowd in a totally unassuming I-have-a-PhD-in-Overconvergent-Siegel-Modular-Symbols type of way, taps on some heavy delay and says “Sun!”
It is what it says it is, undeniably one of the tracks of the year, and enough to inspire a space-caked (but no worse) companion into claiming unselfawarely that he was genuinely experiencing euphoria.
The encore was a ten minute psychedelic instrumental showpiece full of builds, drops, washes and turns, taunting the ferry-hurriers with ever twist. A seriously impressive set of musicians, as I said, with proper bombs up their sleeve.
Hard to think of a more perfect gig, even if I’m clearly not expressing it that well.