Day One of the Escape to New York Festival was a smashing success by nearly every standard except one — attendance.
Of course, complaining about that is a double-edged sword. Bigger crowds mean longer lines at the fantastic food trucks and stands like Rickshaw Dumplings, Pizza Moto and the American Indian food from the Shinnecock and Wampanoag tribes. They mean less space to sit, messier bathrooms and more competition for interacting with the public art displays. But they also mean Escape to New York gets to continue.
“Tonight, we are part of something new,” headliner Patti Smith said last night on the stage. “Every time there is something new, there is a risk. There is always a risk of failure ... There is also a risk of finding light, of feeling new and alive.”
Right now, festival creator Fred Fellowes is happy with the results and is already making notes for what he hopes to change next year. Right now, Escape to New York is a glorious little secret club — one that can use a few more members this weekend.
Here are my Top 5 musical moments from Day One:
1. The Static Jacks, “Into the Sun”: Ian Devaney's impassioned howl and the rest of the Static Jacks' revved-up Replacements-y rock should turn this into an anthem for the fall, once their debut “If You're Young” arrives Aug. 30 on Fearless Records. Devaney's delivery, complete with wild-eyed waving of a sign that ready “Follow” and “Together” made it that much more memorable.
2. Patti Smith, “Free Money”: Smith's inspiring set was an elegy of sorts, dedicating songs to the late Amy Winehouse, Jerry Garcia and Fred “Sonic” Smith. But the timeliest dedication was offering up her punk-ish ode to winning the lottery to “Obama and the United States of America,” after yesterday's historic downgrade of the nation's credit rating. “I think they need it,” she said.
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3. Chairlift, “Bruises”: Yes, they have better songs, slinkier, smarter synth-pop. But Chairlift embraces its song best-known for its use in an Apple iPod campaign (the “handstands” one) and boosted its poppiness by folding in a bit of Modern English's “I Melt With You” and then extended it for more of a dance party.
4. Best Coast, “When I'm With You”: The dreamy song fit perfectly with the chilled-out vibe of the festival as the sun set and more fans started to arrive.
5. The Postelles, “123 Stop”: A bit of rockabilly, a bit of The Strokes — “123 Stop” was the catchiest of a grand power-pop set drawn mainly from the Manhattan band's eponymous debut.
Above, singer Ian Devaney of The Static Jacks performs on the main stage at the Escape to New York Festival on Aug. 5, 2011.