March 2, 2010
Written by Todd Wanerman
Noise Popâ€™s Friday night roster posed some maddeningly appealing choices. Some members of our usual research team opted to check out Atlas Sound etc. at the Great American, arguing that it offered the promising new talent that the festival excels in. I and several of my familiars could not resist The Mumlers, The Growlers, Sonny and the Sunsets and The Ferocious Few at CafÃ© du Nord. True, I have seen the three local acts on the bill many times. But the prospect of all three of them together, with a fourth act fresh off of touring with Dr. Dog, just sounded like party of the year.
The Ferocious Few have built a mighty legend around town, as much for their fearless guerrilla street jams – ignoring or dropping F-bombs on anyone who suggests that they pack up and move on as for their super-charged take on Howlinâ€™ Wolf/Elmore James/Creedence style blues. As Fernandez himself pointed out, the duo is more accustomed to playing on the sidewalk outside of a Noise Pop show than being up on stage, so how would they fare in the spotlight?
Fernandez started with a simmering solo acoustic number, while drummer Aguilar expressed his sangfroid by leisurely applying lip balm. They had their set on the boil soon enough, with Aguilarâ€™s frantic brushwork on display and Fernandez breaking two strings in the first 3 songs. The qualities that make them so appealing -â€“ their sincere delivery of traditional song forms, and their hold-nothing-back energy -â€“ was a little diluted in a legit setting, but still in abundance. The Fewâ€™s first full-length studio album, Juices, comes out this month on Birdman Records.
Sonny and the Sunsets has been one of my favorite local groups since I happened upon them at a Happy Hour show at the Makeout Room over a year ago. Their leader, Sonny Smith, has been a cult figure around town for years, for everything from music to comics to playwriting. As he told me, he put the Sunsets together to focus on a more driving, energetic sound than that of his earlier solo albums like Fruitvale. Lucky for Sonny, he recruited another local legend, Kelley Stoltz, who absolutely floored the crowd right here at the du Nord with his own songs at a Haiti benefit a few weeks back, as his drummer. Bassist Ryan Browne joined in a little later, rounding out one of the strongest rhythm sections in town.
March 1, 2010
Photos by: Nicole Browner
As Noise Pop 2010 entered its closing weekend, packing or selling out many high profile venues in the city, badge holders, photographers, and various press folk were confronted with all kinds of competing choices. Friday and Saturday’s lineups featured a smattering of sterling singer songwriters (John Vanderlice, Mirah / Thao, Laura Gibson, Mark Kozelek), including a murkier permutation of this breed in Atlas Sound, the solo project of Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox.
Cox’s musical and personal backstory continues to elicit attention concerning his dual persona as introverted bedroom recording recluse and front man for one of the most acclaimed indie rock bands of the past decade. While solo offshoots sometimes fall shy of the collaborative dynamics and the immediacy of a full band, on Friday night Cox’s wall of loops, stream-of-consciousness lyricism and candid stage banter made a 600 capacity room sound like a pair of world class headphones. The quietest moments were just as affecting as the heavily saturated sonic textures cast between them.
Donning a navy blue cable-knit sweater, vintage wool-flapped ski hat, and a harmonica entrapment around his neck, Cox seemed to emanate a recent Neil Young fetish for segments of the set. At times, he sang uncharacteristically sans effects, only using simple and steady harmonica runs to spell his self-psychoanalytic lyrical ruminations. These sparer compositions helped accentuate moments later in the set which more closely resembled the Atlas Sound recorded material, with Cox pasting vocal loops and acoustic guitar strokes in hypnotic fashion.
Occasionally, and especially later in the show, chit chat between the artist and the audience disrupted the flow a bit, but it was mostly amusing and good spirited. A long encore ensued culminating in the title track from Logos, and nearly no one headed for the door until the very last strum.
March 1, 2010
Photos by: Rachel Keenan
The inclusion of John Vanderslice in the Noise Pop 2010 lineup should come as a surprise to no one. Regardless of new albums, collaborations, tours, proverbial blog buzz, etc., JV’s spot on the bill reflects something even greater. As both a musician and San Franciscan, he epitomizes the spirit of the Noise Pop festival: an event and institution that thrives on a sense of community through local underground music, art and film, as well as highlights from a more nationwide indie scene.
JV is just that – a local musician who both supports and creates community within the Bay Area (through Tiny Telephone, as well as endless enthusiasm and generosity towards his peers), and also commands respect on a national level for his stellar roster of albums (such as last year’sÂ Romanian Names).
Vanderslice headlined Friday night’sÂ Bay Bridged-presented show at the Swedish American Music Hall, preceded by a lineup that, as he stated later in the evening, he was very proud to have put together. As a result, it felt like a truly musical evening – every song from every act came across with a common sonic thread, a feeling of particularly lush composition and intricate, creative songwriting, a constant outpouring of pure melody.
The show began with Conspiracy of Venus, an all-female a’cappella choir with a repertoire of familiar songs. Under the artistic direction of Joyce Todd McBride, the group performed a lovely set of pop tunes rearranged in choral form, from Joni Mitchell’s “Big Yellow Taxi” to Rufus Wainwright’s “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk.” The ladies were all dressed to the nines, with feather boas thrown in for good measure, and displayed enough energy and grace to set the tone for a very jovial evening.
Seeing Honeycomb perform next for their official EP release was a lovely and unexpected bonus. The band is comprised of Emily Ritz, Kasey Johansing and Nathan Blaz (Geographer), among others, and the result is wonderfully jazzy, rustic chamber pop. The set wasÂ buoyedÂ by sequins and floaty female vocals, and frontwoman Ritz led the pack with masterful ukulele skills and powerful, soulful vocals.
March 1, 2010
March 1, 2010
Due to a boppingly unmissable Noise Pop Happy Hour at Benders and a wicked long line at (sold-out!) Slim’s, I unfortunately missed Battlehooch’s set at the Wallpaper./Limousines co-headlined show Friday night, but Butterfly Bones wasted no time in cheering me up. The electro-pop-rock quartet have definitely been coming up in the San Francisco scene. According to some cursory research and the look on the guys’ faces, they’d never played a venue the size of Slim’s before. Still, the band didn’t have any trouble filling the stage with their glee, the venue with their buds (several waves and grins were made at certain crowd members), or our ears with Reese’s rippin’ guitar licks.
Their set included one of my personal favorites, “xoxo” and a couple of new tracks, one of them instrumental and slightly darker than the rest of their catalog. The band’s enthusiasm spread rapidly and by the end of their set the decidedly young crowd was in high spirits. Additionally, Austin’s side to side hand-knife dance move will absolutely be added to my repertoire shortly.
The Limousines delivered a set that was intensely visual. They came bearing some crazy light displays for the stage and an assistant with an armload of 3-D glasses for the crowd. A MacBook on stage was devoted to a video feed of the table from which Gio commanded samplers and a laptop. While Eric appeared to have injured his arm, the sling was covered with the aforementioned “broken wing” arrangement. One can only imagine what a show Eric would’ve put on with the full use of his limbs as he was still hopping around energetically without it. The group closed out their set with a spirited take on their hit “Very Busy People,” to which much of the crowd sang along passionately.
Wallpaper. opened up their set with arguably the catchiest track on their full-length DooDoo Face, “T. Rex”. Arjun (who was curiously referred to as “Morgan Freeman” by Ricky Reed for most of the night) worked away on the drums while Ricky delivered lyrics like “I go big on the weekends/I go T. REX” to a crowd of fans who were undoubtedly ready to do just that.
February 28, 2010
A standing-room-only crowd settled in for Downtown Calling Friday, filling ATA’s small space with a quiet symphony of claustrophobic rustling. Notwithstanding a glaring projection hiccup, the film — director Shan Nicholson’s first — was a smashing success, effectively capturing the vibrant, boundary-exploding club scene in 1980′s New York City.
Narrated by Debbie Harry, and featuring appearances from an ever-expanding cast of characters that include Fab Five Freddy and former NYC mayor Ed Koch, Nicholson’s documentary chronicles an oft over-looked epoch in the Big Apple’s fertile cultural life — a span of time located roughly between the invention of punk rock and hip hop and the arrival of AIDS and crack cocaine. Before it was Giuilianified, the dysfunctional, crime-ridden New York of the late 70′s was host to an outpouring of interdisciplinary, cross-pollinating creativity. Artistic movements like the rise of graffiti coexisted with the development of New Wave and Electro music, and the hipsters of the time gathered in friendly, gleeful nightclubs (some with lockers to hold changes of clothes) to dance the night away and bask in the left-brained majesty of their contemporaries.
February 25, 2010
Also on Friday night are two outstanding all-local bills, sounding vastly different from each other. In the school of rambunctious folk rock, consider The Mumlers, Sonny and the Sunsets and The Ferocious Few with The Growlers at Cafe du Nord. You know the Ferocious Few if you travel through Mission BART stations, or from their explosive set at Rock Make last year; The Mumlers give just as pleasing an onstage delivery. Option two entails electro-pop sounds fused with just about everything: Wallpaper., Limousines, Butterfly Bones and Battlehooch at Slim’s.
Performing in a Swedish venue on the anniversary of a Swedish holiday (SÃ¸nderkÃ¥sten), John Vanderslice‘s entourage will reach titanic proportions when 40 strong voices from the Conspiracy of Venus female choir join him onstage. Aside from supporting the mighty pop songs Vanderslice is known for, the San Francisco community choir will perform independently at the show, before Nurses and another local musical collective, Honeycomb. There’s a unique reason to buy tickets early: all preorders will be entered in an raffle for a prize pack from all bands, including a custom voicemail greeting from the choir and a signed test pressing of Vanderslice’s last LP, Romanian Names.
Just added to the festival this week, and a sneaky last minute booking move at that, is a dance party at the Rickshaw on Friday (9pm, $5 to non-badgeholders). Tunes will be spun by an all-star DJ cast, including a member from each of these fantastic local bands: Wallpaper., The Splinters, Tempo No Tempo and Rainbow Arabia (LA).