Reunited, Luna Enraptures the Crowd at McCarren Park

After a ten-year break, Luna commanded a double encore at McCarren Park last Thursday night as part of the first day of the Northside Music Festival.

The enthusiasm from the crowd was clear before the set began. “I told my friend not to talk to me when they go on,” an excited fan said. “It’s a reunion for us,” she continued as she pointed out other people in the pit she used to see at Luna’s concerts before they disbanded in 2005. “I haven’t been this close ever,” another fan exclaimed. “It’s gonna be a good vibe.”

Britta Phillips.
Britta Phillips.

Britta Phillips (bass) came on stage, her coral jumpsuit with mustard squares, tapered at the ankles, popping against the monochromatic backdrop. As she picked up her instrument and Dean Wareham (vocals, guitar), Sean Eden (guitar), and Lee Wall (drums) joined her on stage, the crowd howled joyously at the band, “It’s been too long!” “We love you!” “What’s up Luna!!”

Britta Phillips (bass), Lee Wall (drums), Dean Wareham (vocals, guitar), Sean Eden (guitar).
Britta Phillips (bass), Lee Wall (drums), Dean Wareham (vocals, guitar), Sean Eden (guitar).

Luna’s discography floats between indie rock, dream pop, and indie pop. Their 16-song, 90-minute set displayed the gamut of their repertoire. The audience, composed primarily, though not exclusively, of people who might have been in their twenties when Luna was most active in the ‘90s through early ‘00s, were elated by the reunion and transported by the performance. “You’re on fire!,” one of them yelled. “I am on fire! It’s very hot up here,” Wareham, responded, as he toweled off his arms between songs. Behind him, Wall did the same thing. The temperatures hovered in the mid to high 80s.

Luna’s catchy melodies can prompt you to do everything from bounce, shake, and dance to lie still and lounge on a hot rock at the edge of lake on a summer day. Wareham and Eden show skilled craft and imagination in their playing.

Highlights from their setlist included “Tiger Lily” (Stale cigarettes crumble in your fingers / Caught with a drink in my hand edging to the door / Sweet obscenity, didn’t I know it? / Didn’t I call her name?), “Friendly Advice” (Cover my face with roses / Cover me head to toe / You wanted to give me / Some friendly advice / That was alright by me), and “Bewitched” (She’s always late / But she’s not sorry / And I capitulate / And I’ll come runnin’ to her / And I’ll come runnin’ to her) from 1994’s Bewitched, when the band was in its earlier iteration of Justin Harwood on bass and Stanley Demeski on drums. On her Facebook page, Phillips had posted “studying Justin…” with a YouTube video of “Friendly Advice” performed live on MTV’s 120 Minutes.

Also heard were “Sideshow by the Seashore,” “Chinatown,” (You’ll get yours and I’ll get mine / You can’t be lucky all the time) and “Moon Palace” (Seventeen dreams for you / They’ll all be gone tomorrow) from 1995’s Penthouse; from 1997’s Pup Tent, its namesake, “Pup Tent” (I see you walkin’ / Walkin’ on tippytoes / Swayin’ like a sunflower / On a Spanish afternoon) and “Tracy I Love You;” from it’s final album, 2004’s Rendezvous, “Speedbumps” (Tell me who I’m supposed to be / It’s raining rain / It’s raining snow / Tell me where you wanna go); and a cover of Calvin Johnson‘s “Indian Summer” from their 1992 EP, Slideto close the show.

Fans light up during "Indian Summer."
Fans light up during “Indian Summer.”

Throughout the night, there was an ongoing dialogue between musicians and loyal devotees. “We know ‘em and so they’re wonderful people too. We’ve been able to become friends with them. They’re great to their fans.” That was clear. “Hi all, hi, Chester, how you doing man?,” Wareham pointed to a man in the crowd. “Hi Sean!” “It’s good to see so many old friends here,” Eden said as he looked around at the gathered throngs.

Halfway through the set, Wareham let us know that it was Phillips’s birthday so we all sang “Happy Birthday” for Britta like they did for Wall in Barcelona last month. Following our collective vocals, they aptly performed “Tracy I Love You” (Tell me stories on my birthday / Buy me gifts on Halloween/ She’s pretending not know me / But I know where she’s been / Change your name and change/ Your number / I’m gonna find you anyhow / I have been through all your things / Asking when and how and why).

Packed and happy audience at McCarren Park.
Packed and happy audience at McCarren Park.

Two long-time enthusiasts who had come to see Luna together took a minute to talk to me after the show. “I saw them ten years ago when they ended their total reign in New York City at Bowery Ballroom,” one of them said. That was February 27, 2005. “I’ve seen Dean and Britta. I’ve seen all the incarnations after and I know them now because I’ve helped them with their renovation out in Brooklyn and they’re really great, but this was really a great treat.”

“They were excellent tonight, totally excellent,” raved the other. “How did you come to them?,” I asked. They both responded, finishing each other’s thoughts, “I listened to Galaxie 500,” “way back, 80s, 90s,” “we’re really the old timers,” “we’re the old-timers, we’re like old-time fans.” Wareham formed Luna after his rock band with fellow Harvard students Naomi Yang and Damon Krukowski, called Galaxie 500, disbanded. Fans have followed him ever since.

Luna will be back in New York in October playing Bowery Ballroom on October 7 and 8, and Music Hall of Williamsburg on October 9. Follow Luna on Facebook and Instagram.

About Sonya Patel

Sonya is most drawn to voices, sounds, and lyrics that tell vivid and compelling stories. Her playlists include everything from folk, country, rock, and pop to hip hop and R&B, to blues and jazz. She will fly hundreds of miles to hear something live that piques her interest. (Instagram: @sonyacpatel Twitter: @sonyacpat)

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