The folks at Celebrate Brooklyn! chose to make Saturday’s Feelies show at Prospect Park Bandshell a seated event. This was, perhaps, a nod to the projected age of the crowd – with band members and their earliest fans pushing 60, an evening of standing in thick 90+ degree air on the bandshell’s sloping concrete may have resulted in some undesirable liabilities for the show’s promoters.
But The Feelies make physical music – frontman Glenn Mercer pranced around the stage all throughout the band’s two-encore set. For their faster songs, it’s hard not to run in place, and even at its slowest, their music still demands a hearty sway.
The Feelies flourished on the club scene for years before taking a 16-year break in 1992. Over the course of their hiatus, the New Jersey quintet’s legacy came into focus with just about any band that wielded a guitar – R.E.M. brought jangle-pop to arenas, Weezer took both the Feelies’ sound and album cover and made them a little more hi-fi, Yo La Tengo added noise to the Feelies’ trademark sprawl (after meeting at a Feelies show, no less!).
Throughout the night, the trademark oomph with which The Feelies deliver their tunes was toned down by the seating arrangements, leaving only a small row of excited dancers along the grassy hill at the back of the bandshell, which is a spot usually reserved for Prospect Park’s chillest vibers. The Feelies also avoided some of the speedy classics from their debut, Crazy Rhythms, instead opting for more subdued (but still great) songs off of their later albums, in particular 1986’s The Good Earth. This tension was finally released at the end of the first encore, when Mr. Mercer tore into a cover of The Stooges’ “I Wanna Be Your Dog”. As the house jumped to its feet, the crowd’s enormity became clear. This was likely the largest show that The Feelies have ever headlined.
The generational spread in the crowd and on the bill at Saturday’s show was further proof of The Feelies vast influence – Times New Viking and Real Estate, two awesome bands who each wear aspects of The Feelies’ sound on their sleeve, opened the show. While the long train ride prevented me from seeing Times New Viking support their latest release on Merge, Dancer Enquired, I caught Real Estate’s 8PM set. The band is preparing for a new album release this October, and based on their great set on Saturday, and also THIS AMAZING SONG, the album will rule.
The Feelies closed with “Fa-Ce-La” – one of their classic boppers from Crazy Rhythms. It’s hard to gauge the quality of their performance – Prospect Park Bandshell is consistently one of the most comfortable and good-sounding outdoor venues in New York City, but The Feelies’ music isn’t suited for a park, especially on one of the most disgustingly hot and stagnant nights of the year. No matter – the evening was still a success: I still saw The Feelies, one of my favorite bands ever, for free on a summer night. Sounds good to me.