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The New Colossus Festival: Bringing Musicians & Fans Together

If you've been looking to find up-and-coming artists or attend a festival without breaking the bank, let me introduce you to the New Colossus Festival. Launching in 2019, the 5-day festival takes place annually in March, showcasing over 150 artists among multiple venues across the Lower East Side and East Village. 

As the organization grows, they have added more shows throughout the year: Summer Saturday, a free show on the first Saturday of each month, May through September. You can check out the artists playing and more upcoming shows on their website. I had the privilege of attending, and with the overwhelming options of artists to see over the 5-days, I only got to see a fraction of the bands I had on my list to check out. 

Sasha Cay @Baker Falls

The band from Montreal took the stage at Baker Falls, giving a beautifully soft spoken with grungy instrumentals that gave it this 90s sound that reminded me a lot of Mazzy Star or even Fiona Apple, where, yes, it's ethereal sounding; there is some darkness and edge to it. Listening to her music digitally, you can hear the darker tones of her voice, lyricism, and instrumentals, reminding me of songs from The Velvet Underground album from 1969, such as songs like Pale Blue Eyes and Candy Says. 

Winona Forever @Baker Falls

The Indie Rock/Pop band took the stage as one beautifully blended unit. The power dynamic within the band was leveled among each member; it was one of the first bands I've seen live with such equal stage presence. Leaving them all to have a moment to shine. They all harmonize and take turns singing the main vocals. They are upbeat and energetic. It's one of those sets where you have so much fun dancing that you forget everything. 

Hot Garbage @Arlene's 

As I entered the venue, I overheard someone say, "This is the band you have to see," and the second they started playing, it was amazing. I kept saying post-punk in my mind because that's what it sounds like when you aren't listening. Still, once you give them the attention they deserve, you realize a lot of elements come in, like electronic sounds and the consistency of this white noise that lingers as they play throughout the set, but also the use of their synths and how the guitarist kept getting closer to the amp to create this noise and distorting sound from his guitar. That's when I realized that it has more of a noise rock/art punk sound with hints of post-punk in the singing and lyricism. This is one of those bands I had to keep following throughout the festival, as I could not get enough of them.

Ultra Q @Arlene’s

Moments throughout their set, I forgot I was not at an Ultra Q show. The crowd filled with fans singing along. I suspect many are not first-timers at an Ultra Q show, but when they played their final song, everyone took note, and the moshing began. They felt like a band that really had their sound established, and all their songs blended perfectly, not to make it sound like one long song, but each song has similar elements that they love to use. They know their sound and image well and are confident in it; they are a band that has found themselves. They are also visibly the most comfortable on stage, which made it evident that they are used to performing, and despite not being from the city, they had fans in the audience who knew every word to every song. 

Saloon Dion @Berlin

This one was interesting to watch because although they are British, and it makes sense, they do gather all of their inspiration from British musicians such as Oasis and just influences from the 00s through the style of singing and lyricism, but I could also fear punk influences from the jaggedness and fast-paced instruments. The way his voice sounds and the way they carry themselves on stage, as well as their great confidence, also seem like a band that's established and confident in their sound. They had incredible stage banter and looked happy to be there as they danced and played on stage. 

Yo Diablo @Bowery Electric 

Some of the best things in life happen by pure fate. While Yo Diablo was not on my list for the weekend, they were among the best performances and my favorite one. They had this cool energy, and although there weren't many words in their songs instrumentally, I was fulfilled more. They are highly technical, which is what made it evident to me that they have been friends for a while or at least have been a band for a while because, during the buildup of each song, it felt improvised in which they would look at each other and start slow and understood where the climax would be, delivering these electrifying climaxes. Their sound sounded like influence from everywhere, from rock to punk to metal, and from their guitar riffs and drum lines, but also, at times, they had a midwestern and European influence, which all made sense when they said they were from Spain.

Canned Pineapple @Arlene's 

This is a band that made me feel as if I was watching an old rock band from the 60s or 70s with a lot of British influence from British punk through the way they were performing all eclectically by jumping around and jagged movement that reminded me of a lot of Mick Jagger, Michal D'addario from The Lemon Twigs, and punk rock artists such as Iggy Pop. They reminded me a lot of the Lemon Twigs with the baroque pop and glam rock sound but British but reminded me of their earlier days, not their music now. They had incredible stage presence not just from the way they performed but also the way they dressed, from Mod and punk hairstyles to even their clothes that just kept convincing me I had time traveled; their presence was so electrifying that I wish I had not found out they are based in the UK because I need to see them again and to this day I cannot stop thinking about them, their music, and performance They are absolute rock stars in that authentic rock way, and they all had looks that are older which easily could've fooled me to believe that they were from the 60s or 70s which proved it when the lead singer left the stage saying "Rock N Roll baby." 

Petite League @Mercury Lounge

It's another indie rock band but has a more established sound and is confident in it. At times, their guitar riffs reminded me of the strokes, but they are releasing a lot of new music, and this setlist is one they play often, but they stated that it would be one of the last times that they will play that set, which made it more special. People were jamming and dancing, and they created a fan base for themselves. They are one of those bands that when you see them live, you feel the music within that its almost heart-thumping, 

Bruiser and Bicycle @Berlin 

It was so hard even to photograph; it occurred as they were jumping around that I would've missed if not watching behind the lens, from their bassists chugging a beer mid-song or their drummer losing a stick and starting to play with their hands. This band could be categorized as art punk and noise rock and reminded me a lot of the Brooklyn band Godcaster with less of the darker sounds and was more upbeat in sound and energy. They are a band where every member loves being onstage and are all performers, from how talented they are at their own instruments to the confidence that they all exude to dance around and have fun that translates into the audience having fun, too.

Written and Photographed by Veronica Anaya

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