Juan Wauters and Viet Cong Stand Out at 4Knots Music Festival
Everyone who played 4Knots Music Festival Saturday was, if we do say so ourselves, pretty damn great. There were a couple stand-out highlights, though. Let's get into 'em.
All photos Rob Menzer
Unassuming and ambitious sounds like an odd combination, but Juan Wauters radiated both qualities as he took the stage Saturday. Looking as if he had just stepped from the crowd, with nothing but an acoustic guitar, he began to play songs from this year's N.A.P. North American Poetry with a lot of focus and very little fanfare.
Wauters' songs play like kōans; it would be an understatement to call them simple. The first verse of "Water," which he played on Saturday, goes: "And the water will come down, and wash you down, and let you see, what you would be, if you didn't know, what's right or wrong, or what is fun."
In person, Wauters contributes to the atmosphere that allows you to weigh the simplicity and bite-sized profundity of his lyrics. His interaction with the crowd didn't consist of much more than smiles and these straightforward songs, though after playing for a couple of minutes, he became intent on having his vocals turned up, and had to ask that the sound be adjusted several times.
After playing five or six of his own songs, Wauters brought two members of his live band, Carmelle Safdie and Amanda Rodi, to the stage to accompany him. (Rodi on flute, and Safdie on drums, triangle, and tambourine.) Though their presence didn't alter the sound too much, Wauters seemed looser and more relaxed with his collaboraters present; his boyish, diffident face finally broke for some smiling and he began to punctuate the end of his songs with a heartily yelled "alriiight."
Though there's very little doubt about the kind of twee impression that the trio emanated (there was a flute and a triangle, for godsakes), Wauters blank verse songwriting helps his live band seem more than merely adorkable. It's an unfortunate fact that earnest artists today often are received with scorn; ironic distance has become an almost suffocating norm. So it was refreshing to see how seriously Wauters and his collaborators, took their performance. Wauters songs need be met with a kind of thoughtful, sunny presence, and he and his band modeled perfect behavior for their audience on Saturday at 4knots.
See also: Dinosaur Jr. Learn to Get Along