Photo by PETE TROSHAK
Let it be known that on Saturday afternoon a hearty band of settlers arrived in the parking lot of The Electric Factory under a dreary skies and occasional torrents of rain to protest much like their forefathers did back in 1773. It wasn’t the hatred of a tyrant king or anger over the price of tea that brought these people together, instead they gathered together for the 215 Block Party to protest the end of summer by drinking quality beer, eating from food trucks and catching some up and coming bands and a legendary New York indie rock triumvirate on an outdoor stage.
Those who arrived arrived late to the block party missed an impressive opening performance by Philadelphia’s own Mannequin Pussy. Despite there being no pool available at this party, frontwoman Marisa Dabice [pictured, below] arrived on stage in an orange bikini. Dabice strapped on pearly white Fender Jazzmaster and lit a fuse on a half hour blitzkrieg of the band’s two minute anthems of rage and frustration.The venue was only about half full during Mannequin Pussy’s set due to the iffy weather, but the intensity of their performance made sure every eye and ear in the lot was fixed to the stage. Dabice wailed and shredded on guitar and the rest of the band ably assisted her in trying to stomp the hearts and brains of the crowd out with their music which veers abruptly between Creedence Clearwater Revival style boogie and Henry Rollins era Black Flag style thrash. One of the hardest periods of rain followed their set, as if the emotional downpour of their performance sliced a hole in the thin layer of dark grey clouds that hung over the city.
The main event and highlight of the evening was a rare and triumphant appearance by indie rock deities Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Making only their second appearance here in the last decade, the band offered up no new music but performed a highlight reel of fifteen of their best songs much to the excitement of a rain dampened but raucous crowd. Singer Karen O arrived splendidly attired in a long sparking multi-colored coat that looked fit for a queen of a powerful rock dynasty. The overwhelming roar that erupted from the crowd at her appearance confirmed her royal status, but the magic of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs lies in the synergy that O’s voice and flair creates in tandem with balls to the wall drumming of Brian Chase and godzilla-stomp guitar riffage of Nick Zinner.Three songs into the set during a stampeding run through “Black Tongue,” O Stomped on a trigger on the stage and unleashed a swirling snowstorm of letter Y shaped confetti that showered the crowd and the party was full tilt from that point on, Mid-set the band wowed the crowd with a trio of their best songs. Despite being fifteen years old, “Y Control” from 2003’s Fever To Tell album seemed made for the current #metoo times as O emotionally delivered the song with lines like “I wish I could buy back the woman you stole” dripping with lament and pain.
Next the band teased the crowd with a long intro to a pulsating and excellent “Zero” that sounded like the band was on the verge of covering Rocky III theme song “Eye of the Tiger.” They followed that with an electric church version of “Sacrilege” featuring a blaring and ethereal sampled gospel chorus and the crowd passionately testifying by clapping and singing along at full volume. Late in the set, O commented on the overwhelming volume of the crowd and noted that “love is in the air” before dedicating the next song to her son Django and to the crowd. The band then delivered a beautiful performance of their best known song “Maps.” Chase gently pushed the song along with his drumming and Zinner delivered short bursts of guitar pyrotechnics while O intoned “they don’t love you like I love you” to a crowd that would brave hours in the rain in a parking lot to support the band in the rain. Here’s hoping we don’t have to wait another five years to see this band again. — PETE TROSHAK