New York City isn’t often associated with beaches and sand, but the waterfront, island-based Full Moon Festival held last Saturday brought tropical vibes to weary city slickers. Co-curated by the savvy pop-conscious Neon Gold Records and packed into just one day, the festival managed to capture the desirable elements of a day-fest while avoiding the downsides. Well, there were some downsides—a lengthy ferry ride to get out to the historical banks of Governor’s Island and a whopping $8 ATM fee once stuck on the island—but the sandy hammock strewn areas, local food vendors & accessible bars complemented the electro-pop lineup.
There was certainly a spirit of summer pervading the festival—Absolut had their latest vodka/champagne infusion available by the plastic flute, and there was even a face-painting booth set up. An Choi, a Vietnamese eatery located in the lower east side, was serving what might have been the most palatable meal: sticky rice and caramelized pork complete with an option addition of fish sauce. But, at the heart of this festival were the shimmering, synthy leanings that 2013 has to offer: From Brooklyn to Belgium, here’s a selection of the acts that stood at day-long island event.
Also check out the gallery above for photos of the bands, crowds and a gorgeous vantage of the Manhattan skyline that the venue afforded.
Wild Belle – Main Stage
For the first big daytime set on the main stage, the chill, reggae stylings of Wild Belle graced the main stage. Fronted by siblings Eliot and Natalie Bergman, the Chicago-based group put out their debut record Isles this past March, and have been consistently honing their jazzy, soulful sound. Eliot’s massive jazz saxophone draws the main line through many of their tracks, but its Natalie’s warm vocals that flesh out the songs.
“Hello New York! I smell weed!” she laughed after the group performed their first track. The beachy vibes of the festival paired with their psychedelic brand of reggae inspired quite a few to toke up as the sun set over Manhattan’s looming skyline.
Float Fall – Neon Gold Stage
Over on the Neon Gold stage, Float Fall, a slow-core earnest pop duo from Belgium were breaking hearts on international soil for the first time. Their mournful duets sung mostly by Rozanne Descheemaeker recall the likes of the xx and Beach Bouse, but when her counterpart Ruben Lefever starts shredding on guitar, their brand of heartbreak songs reveal a meatier undertone than their emo counterparts. Another highlight was when Rozanne began playing a French Horn solo on one of their songs—they might be digital-leaning but their musicianship stretches far beyond bleeps and bloops.
There was also an incredible dancing man costumed in all silver whose solemn, solo performance lent an air of humor to the nearly empty area. Funny thing though, the longer Ruben and his keyboard-playing partner Rozanne performed, the bigger the crowd got—savvy Brooklyn music lovers know a good thing when they hear it.
Little Daylight – Neon Gold Stage
One of the main reasons I opted to attend Full Moon Festival was based on the draw of Little Daylight—their infectious blend of mainstream and indie pop sonics is a blip on 2013’s radar that keeps getting brighter. The trio of Nikki, Matt, and Eric (they refuse to release their last names) first produced “Overdose,” a song catchy and bright enough to be a summer anthem, and are now planning the release of their EP Tunnel Vision for August 6.
Performing on the smaller Neon Gold stage, Little Daylight had the entire floor jam packed—the fullest that side stage was all night. In the best way possible, they sounded exactly like their recordings, a crisp lightness that often won’t carry over live for bands so reliant on digital sounds.
Tanlines – Main Stage
One of the major headliners for the festival, when the Brooklyn duo took the stage they made sure to shout out their big apple roots. “We love you guys the most,” vocalist Eric Emm yelled out to the rowdy crowd right before the start of perhaps their best known track, “Real Life.”
“We love you more than people in other cities, we mean it,” he assured. Still, there seemed to be some truth to his words—the group gave a high-energy performance that contrasted nicely with the lackadaisical vibes of Wild Belle earlier. Though most of the crowd had been drinking or smoking for hours at that point, the main stage area was awash with dancing, screaming and jamming bodies—Tanlines are definitely a New York band and this festival was a home stage performance in many ways.
Haerts – Neon Gold Stage
Haerts made my jaw drop when the drums hit on one of their first songs. Though they assuredly fit under the “electro pop” moniker, Hearts toss their boundaries to the winds at times, incorporating heavy drum patterns and vocals so loud in the mix they feel like an out and out rock group. After catching their set at Full Moon, it’s easy to see why their back-to-back shows at Bowery Ballroom last week both sold-out.
Their music crosses the boundary between the last few years recent electro leanings and the traditional rock structure with ease. The enveloping, guttural voice of vocalist Nini Fabi transforms from the typical indie croon to a heart-stopping howl in the space of nanoseconds—a surprising, next level move that elevates your standard pop fare to something much more compelling.
Haerts are a baby band on the brink of big star fame—they recently signed to Columbia and they eclipse many of their peers effortlessly. Marrying the urgency of electric pop with arena rock, everything is anchored in the end by Fabi—who often recalls the likes of Springsteen or Stevie Nicks in her beautiful shriek. After seeing them live, I didn’t even want to see any other groups that night—it was clear to me I probably won’t see another band that can outperform them in a long, long time.