The Siren Music Festival, a glorious combination of height-of-summer Coney Island cheese and alternative rock, has been making July bearable in New York City since 2001. But this year’s event, which took place Saturday and featured the New York Dolls, M.I.A., Cursive, and the Black Lips had a cloud over it: Astroland — the elegantly depraved amusement park where Siren takes place — has been sold to developers who plan to renovate the entire area, and will close down the park at the end of this year. So this year, the fried clams tasted a little bit better, the ocean seemed a little bluer, everyone got just a little bit drunker, and the rock bands rocked just a little bit harder.
Imported hipsters from the Lower East Side of Manhattan mingled with families and couples strolling the boardwalk, stuck their feet in the dirty Atlantic Ocean, and played skee-ball in-between sets, but as per usual, Siren was mostly about the music. Highlights included British blues-punks the Noisettes, the always perfectly debauched Black Lips (who brought a live chicken on stage with them), and We Are Scientists, who debuted a series of new songs in between instant crowd pleasers like “Nobody Move, Nobody Get Hurt” and “It’s a Hit.” British/Sri Lankan dancehall temptress M.I.A. was very busy during her set: She pranced around in her sequined ringleader’s costume, tried to invigorate the hot, somewhat listless audience with songs from her new album, Kala, announced that she’s single (Diplo, what are you thinking?) and paused during the set to reapply her red lipstick. Even with healthy competition from these hot younger bands, the New York Dolls still managed to dominate with a rowdy show-closing performance. “Looking for a Kiss” had the crowd air-guitaring along and the band’s searing take on “Piece of My Heart” became a cathartic punk jam as every crowd member joined in for the chorus, sending the sound of their voices across the boardwalk and out into the Atlantic Ocean. We’re feeling nostalgic already.