The New Colossus Festival 2022 @ Lower East Side NYC, 9-13 March 2022 | Under The Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, August 15th, 2022  

The New Colossus Festival 2022 @  Lower East Side NYC, 9-13 March 2022,

Mar 21, 2022 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share


One of New York City’s newest festivals returns after a pandemic-enforced hiatus welcoming indie bands from across the world to Manhattan’s Lower East Side for five days of guitars, whammy bars and much-needed connecting with strangers over a shared love of music.

Founded in 2019 by label owners Steven Matrick and Lio Kanine and marketeer Mike Bell, The New Colossus festival line-up benefits from those industry links which take them to other festivals across the globe in search of new talent.

This year’s event sees around 100 bands on the bill, many playing multiple sets at different venues. Venues all within walking distance of each other, such as dive bar Arlene’s Grocery and bro bars like Pianos, join the likes of more traditional alternative gig venues, Mercury Lounge and Bowery Electric.

Record labels host showcases, their bands playing back to back in a venue for an afternoon or evening which means each day has a slightly different vibe. From Steven’s Dedstrange party on the opening night, featuring Docents, Randy Randall of No Age and Wah Together, to Lio’s Kanine Records party on Thursday, with Diary, The Natvral and Blushing.

Arlene’s packs the punch on Thursday. Punchlove bring dreampop in waves; a motley bunch benefiting from broad influences which you can hear throughout the set - from the melancholic soundscapes of Radiohead to the angst of Nirvana and Silverchair. The set includes a blinding cover of Pitbull’s “Forget About Your Boyfriend And Meet Me At The Hotel.”

This is the first ever NYC gig for Canadian four-piece Sunglaciers who have spent much of the pandemic hauled up in their hometown of Calgary in the mountains. Driving drums blend with catchy synths and Frank Black-style vocals to create a compelling sound that you can’t fail but stomp your feet to.

Sunglaciers
Sunglaciers

Blushing play to a jam-packed crowd at East Berlin on Avenue A. The show starts a little late with a couple of technical issues, vocals barely audible to those of us front left but this picks up by the second or third song, thankfully. The comparisons to Lush and Slowdive are totally warranted. Energetic layered guitars and honey-toned vocals from this band of lovers (two husband wife duos) made for a great show.

It’s over to Pianos for Climates (not the British hardcore band from the 2011/12). They dub themselves glitter grunge. It’s a helpful descriptor. You’re immediately captured by the sight of three charismatic women on stage. A solid drummer, excellent guitarist and lead singer whose vocal harmonies have a real touch of the St Etienne’s about it and overarching 90s vibe.

Cigarettes for Breakfast fill the basement room with a stunning wall of noise a la My Bloody Valentine, perfecting the blend of male and female vocals to create a multi-faceted layered sound elevated by emotional lyrics such as: “lose my grip on time, heal my mind until it’s fine, I’ll survive” in “Home”. One of the highlights of the festival - sadly one of the bands only playing a single set so no chance of catching them again.

Cigarettes For Breakfast
Cigarettes For Breakfast

Portugal’s Hause Plants combined comedy with music to create one of the warmest vibes of the entire festival. “You guys should stand closer, cos we’re gonna crowdsurf,” Guilherme Correia warns. A man of his word as we find out later. The Portugese trio are stoked to be playing Arlene’s Grocery, informing us The Strokes once played here, “20 years before we were born!” Speak for yourself, bud.

They launch into the poppy earworm “Visual Diaries”, which Guilherme dubs their ‘hit song’. It wouldn’t be out of place on a Shine album, a wonderfully whoozy indie pop anthem. Until now, it’s been pretty easy to forget there’s a pandemic raging outside. A few mask wearers in the venues, some hand sanitizer here and there but other than that it’s got real old time feels. Enter Guilherme: “I’m totally getting covid because I’ve been making out with the mic for like 45 minutes now, I am a lucky guy.” He’s a funny guy, that’s for sure.

Hause Plants end their sweet set with “Small Talk” which is “about going to parties with people you hate”, and it’s here they fulfill their crowdsurfing destiny - for about 5 seconds.

Hause Plants
Hause Plants

It’s back to Arlene’s Grocery on a rainy Saturday for the Showgaze / Psych Day featuring the likes of Blushing, Living Hour and Bodywash.

Capitol open with their post-punk indie rock. A band of brothers - literally - they’re headliner material and it’s a shame we don’t get to see more of them this weekend. There’s more than a passing resemblance to The National as guitarist has Aaron Dessner vibes and singer has Matt Berninger tones, with a similar delivery in “Smashing” where he repeats the start of the word over and over at the end.

Lyrically they’re up there too, “Oh god, I don’t want you here in my head,” pleads ?? in “Saint of Nothing”. The building layers of sound compliment each other perfectly to give it a huge sound, sniffs of New Order or The Bravery. Undisputed highlight of the festival for this indie lovin gal.

The festival has been hit by some covid-related drop outs, including Lunacy and Data Animal but, despite that, organisers manage to pull of what would’ve been unthinkable just a few months ago - with a wave of UK bands heading Stateside, along with others from further afield including Portugal and Belgium.

Saturday sees some changes to the published schedule with updates pinned on the wall in Pianos with some confused faces expecting different bands to the ones who greeted them but that led to a couple of spectacular surprises for some too.

Capitol
Capitol

None more so than Coline & Toitoine (pronounced Twatwane) who end up playing later than billed. The genre-defying Belgian duo need little more than a mic and some decks to create a full blown theatrical show. Both true showmen their songs are inspired by literature, art and society - from Aldous Huxley to the impact of social media.

With apparent ease, the mesmerising Coline moves from Sia style contemporary vocals to classical operatics and French spoken word, with a good helping of street dance on the side; all the while Toitoine dances with the decks, mouthing lyrics, air drumming and embracing his own musical world - he could be in his bedroom, but we’re grateful he’s in this room.

“Do I go to Oslo?” wouldn’t be out of place in an award-winning musical or as a film score. Soaring vocals combined with twinkling keys and a captivating story. Each song offers a different sensory journey and leaves you wanting more.

From the exotic spine-tingling beauty of Coline & Toitoine to the testosterone drenched Britpop of The Institutes. Sauntering onto the stage with their Beatles haircuts, bucket hats, parker jackets and daps with no socks (guys, it’s minus two outside!) they launch into the sound (via an Ocean Colour Scene soundcheck) which matches their image perfectly. The boys have got tunes. From “Caught in a Dream” to “Alleyways”, they’re up there with the Britpop forefathers - think Shed 7 and pre-Britpop showgaze pioneers Ride.

The Institutes
The Institutes

The UK contingent is strong upstairs in Pianos on Saturday, with Oxford’s Enjoyable Listens capturing the crowd’s attention by performing on a bar stool, to a backing track played off his phone. Sounds like a questionable set up, but it works due entirely to the charismatic performance and deep, emotive Morrissey-esque voice of Luke Duffett. He has that cool awkward Jarvis Cocker way of throwing shapes as he croons through some hilarious, self-deprecating lyrics such as “and you told me to forget her, but how can I? She’s my mother and all the nice things she said to me over the years,” in “A Laugh And A Half”.

Sunday’s closing party features the awesome Witch Prophet Ethiopian/Eritrean singer-songwriter based in Toronto, Ayo Leilani wows us with Amy Winehouse level vocals and a powerful performance, with her wife Sun Sun bringing the electronic beats. There’s a strong trip-hop which lures you into that zoned out space in which you can really connect with the lyrics, “visualise, write it down, visualise, write it down”. “Musa” poses the existential question, “where do we go from here?...we’re falling through darkness and we cannot see the light.”

Closing the festival is Brooklyn-based indie rockers Girl Skin There is a strong local contingent here, girlfriend, mums etc and it creates a party vibe in the room. The guitarist caught covid so they’ve got a last minute stand in, but it doesn’t affect the cohesiveness of the set and they storm through some pretty inoffensive indie along the lines of Razorlight. The lead singer looks like a cross between a young Neil Young and Mick Jagger and channels the latter for the entire show.

Enjoyable Listens
Enjoyable Listens

The timing of this festival is not accidental. Many of the acts are heading on to SXSW in Austin after their NYC pitstop, something festival goers might want to make note of too. The New Colossus has a real local city festival vibe, like Dot to Dot or The Great Escape in the UK, but with the pulling power to attract up and coming international acts. It’s not been going long enough to judge yet, but reckon a lot of the bands you see and hear here will be regular features higher up other festival bills in years to come. We may be looking back on this as Hause Plants reflected on The Strokes’ journey from Arlene’s Grocery to international stadiums.




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