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New York Music Beat: The Siren Music Festival, Coney Island July 18

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by Ernest Barteldes

Now that the Latin Alternative Music Conference is behind us, it is time to check out another New York music tradition, the Siren Music Festival in Coney Island, a sweaty music event that is currently on its ninth edition with a large day-long showcase of both independent and signed bands who are expected to be breaking through soon – examples of past participants include Baby Loves Disco, Guided By Voices The Donnas, Modest Mouse, The Stills, Death Cab For Cutie and also The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, who played the festival shortly before their major-label debut turned them into the neo-punk darlings they went on to become later on. I've been attending this Village Voice-sponsored festival since its second edition (I only missed it in 2007, when I was traveling in Brazil), and for starters let me state that this is not for the faint of heart – you have to walk back and forth between the two stages to catch the different performances – the crowds are huge, bathrooms are hard to come by (the best being at Nathan's Famous facilities on Stillwell Avenue), and of course there is the unwavering heat to deal with. But the Siren Festival is great fun, and there is the opportunity to discover music before it hits the radio stations – call it finding diamonds in the rough. And there are also the countless freebies that you can score there, ranging from CD compilations, T-shirts, energy drinks and of course the ever-present New York City condoms – the mayor does want us to stay safe, I guess.

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Another thing is the fact that you don't have to shell out six dollars for your beverage of choice. Delis sell beer for an average price of $ 2.50 (open containers are still illegal on in public, even if brown-bagged or poured into paper cups. The police usually looks the other way as long as revelers behave, but summonses have been given out), and food can be found at affordable prices there. You can also refresh yourself by going for a dip in the ocean – the water is fine at this time of the year, reaching an average temperature of about 60 degrees. The best way to get to the festival is using Public Transportation. You might want to drive, but remember that The Siren Music festival has become the second biggest day on Coney Island (after the Mermaid Parade), so parking can be a daunting task. Subway trains servicing the area are the N,Q,F and D trains. The B64 bus is also a relatively fast option, taking an average of 30 minutes from Bay Ridge – the best option for those coming in from areas like Staten Island. The Siren Music Festival begins at 12 noon, ending at about 9 PM. For information on schedules, band information and pretty much anything else you might want to need, visit their site at http://siren.villagevoice.com/siren

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