New York City continued its summer of rain-soaked festivals with Pitchfork’s OctFest this past weekend on Governor’s Island. Over 90 brewers curated by Bon Appetit joined a 20-band roster for two days of beer sampling along to a live soundtrack. Headliners The Flaming Lips, Vince Staples, Yo La Tengo and Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy kept their fans happy amidst weather conditions that had YLT’s Ira Kaplan assuring his audience that “if your band was playing this festival, we’d come to see you.”
Each OctFest attendee was given 15 tickets allowing them to fill their plastic, three-ounce mini pint glasses with brews from brewers like Braven Brewing Company, which will be opening a brewery-restaurant in Bushwick on Sept 28 (Co-founder Marshall Thompson told me its kitchen will be “very vegan-friendly.”) The suds could be soaked up with food from popular restaurants Mission Chinese Food (also opening a Bushwick venue this month, next to Elsewhere), Oakland’s KronnerBurger, and Williamsburg’s Best Pizza, whose parmigiana heroes were made in batches that continually sold out.
Saturday’s music lineup opened with Brooklyn’s accapellist Madison McFerrin at the smaller Island stage and D.C.’s Flasher on the main Skyline one, aptly named for the FiDi buildings in the background that framed it. The afternoon also featured Australia’s Hatchie, local genre-benders Standing on the Corner, Cameroon-born Vagabon, and Canada’s Preoccupations, whose drummer Mike Wallace’s family came to NYC and ran to hug him after his set. Nighttime brought the rap party with Chicago’s Saba and England’s NAO. In his black outfit, Vince Staples was a furiously moving silhouette against the white LED screens behind him. Across the field, Jeff Tweedy’s solo acoustic performance kept pace with the soft, steady shower of rain.
Rain had also been predicted for all of Sunday. But, as we saw at Panorama in July, lighting is the real hazard of these large festivals and the show went on for brewers and musicians alike. The Courtneys, Julie Byrne and Shopping got things going before a crowd of Brooklyn locals hunkered at the Island Stage for DIY favorites No Age, whose guitarist Randy Randall told fans that “this is the sickest crowd we’ve ever seen. We’ve never played to an entire crowd holding umbrellas before.” Randall also told everyone to “vote this Thursday in New York’s primary elections so we can put Trump in jail for his white collar crimes. Go out and vote, don’t be lame.”
L.A.’s Girlpool and Philly’s Hop Along followed before the legendary Nile Rodgers took the stage with his band Chic. Rodgers was one of the disco era’s biggest artists before continuing his career as a producer. His show’s repertoire reflected that history with classics like “We Are Family” and “Le Freak” mixed with Bowie’s “China Girl” from Rodgers-produced album Let’s Dance. Parading around the stage with a wireless guitar in his gold suit, Rodgers invited a crowd of friends and the festival’s other bands to come onstage for a grand finale of “Good Times.” The sight had one audience member exclaiming, “This was the highlight of my summer!”
Yo La Tango and The Flaming Lips closed out their respective stages as the rain and wind only got worse. Yo La Tengo played flawlessly, building to a 10-minute instrumental finale, as hair and water blew in their faces. The Flaming Lips kicked off their set with a party balloon that proclaimed “Fuck Yeah OctFest.” An inflatable robot appeared for “Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots Pt 1” before lead-singer Wayne Coyne donned giant hands for a harsh, no-vocals cover of “The Star Spangled Banner.” When the song crescendoed, Coyne lifted his huge palms to reveal lasers that shot over the crowd. After performing “There Should Be Unicorns” atop a scale model of one with rainbow wings, Coyne struck up the evening’s second Bowie cover with “Space Oddity” from inside his trademark bubble. The Flaming Lips closed with their neo-classic “Do You Realize??”, warming their enrapt, beer-buzzed fans and making it easy for them to realize, despite the falling temperatures, that summer is still going on.
Photos by Manny Tatkieto and Nick McManus.