In the most recent issue of the L Magazine, Todd Goldstein from ARMS says the following:
The C-word – chillwave – or whatever… I think some of it is so boring, The sounds are beautiful, and I think that’s what makes people excited, but they’re not actual songs, you know?
Now, ARMS are terrible, but there is some truth in this. A couple of days after the Grizzly Bear gig that cause me to leak effusion out of every journalistic pore, I returned to Governor’s Island with a crew to chill on the fake beach and see Neon Indian.
Chillwave is something that completely passed me by. It’s actually difficult to talk about it in terms that aren’t completely ripped from Hipster Runoff (who invented the name, to Pitchfork’s chagrin). I enjoyed Deadbeat Summer in the two weeks it sat on my car-shop €15 mp3 player, and I didn’t hate it when I heard it after that, but in general I’m with Mr. Goldstein. It’s the reason I get unreasonably angry with people who think Person Pitch is better than any Animal Collective album, too. Because something sounds nice when you’re barely paying attention doesn’t make it good music (though that’s unfair to Person Pitch, which is a great album in its own right).
So, in surroundings that, as evidenced by Morning Benders, Caribou and Grizzly Bear gig visits, would make almost anything seem a little transplendent, Neon Indian was shown up. The hype that surrounded the Neon Indian-Washed Out-Memory Tapes-general chillwave rise to “relevance” was the most self-aware imaginable, and it was factual proof that irony, while not in itself disagreeable, can end up lumping you with baggage you don’t want.
Five bands played this show. Miniature Tigers, Prefuse 73, Dom, Nite Jewel and Neon Indian. None of the above did anything to merit even listening to after the fact. Miniature Tigers were the best. Dom, easily, were the worst, and barely even knew their own set. But it was Neon Indian’s name on the top of the bill, and it was their show to disappoint.
Governor’s Island, as the name implies, is an island.It is thus relatively difficult to leave. It was full to capacity (c. 3.5k), or close, at about dusk. There were less than 500 actually in front of the stage by the time Neon Indian ended. Democracy doesn’t work a lot of the time, but when ears don’t hear what they want, feet walk, and that’s what happened.
There was some merit in sitting on sand, away from generally bored and sarcastic friends, and trying to ‘chill hard’ to Deadbeat Summer, while it lasted, but no amount of talking around it would make this a good gig. It might be easier to hear ten tracks of pseudo-tropical gloop on an iPod while you’re refreshing Facebook than it is to listen to (for example) Adebisi Shank, but it’s definitely not as rewarding, and there’s nothing like big speakers, a big stage and a big crowd to show that up.