Category Archives: Festivals

Noise Pop 2013: Miner, In the Valley Below, Warm Soda (and Free Energy, sort of)

The night's Jacob Marley moment. We'll explain later. (Ellen Huet/Treeswingers)

That’s neither 1 Chainz nor an Americana Jacob Marley. We’ll explain later. (Ellen Huet/Treeswingers)

The best part of Noise Pop — or, really, any festival — often isn’t the act you come to see but the openers you didn’t even know you were going to love. We headed to Brick and Mortar in the neighborhood of disputed names (is it North-North Mission? The Elbow? Division Heights? Far East Duboce?) Thursday night to see Warm Soda, the local boys about to do to good.

Instead, we found ourselves wooed (and whooped and hollered) off our feet by Miner, a foot-stomping good time of a band from Los Angeles. They’re an adorable family affair — frontman Justin Miner, his wife Kate on various diminutive stringed instruments, cousin on keyboard, brother on guitar and the occasional electro-acoustic banjo — with a genuine joy of being on stage. Sort of like the Lumineers if they took themselves less seriously and were more talented.

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Noise Pop 2013: The Fresh & Onlys, R. Stevie Moore, Plateaus, Burnt Ones

Burnt Ones (Ashley Dotterweich/Treeswingers)

Burnt Ones (Ashley Dotterweich/Treeswingers)

Ed. note: Friend of Treeswingers Ashley Dotterweich very graciously reports back from Bottom of the Hill, with a personal connection to Wednesday night’s headliners. Everyone, say hello.

Full disclosure: The Fresh & Onlys saved my ass once, so I’m predisposed to like them. Back in the spring of 2011 I was finishing up my stint working in Los Angeles on the Natural History Museum’s First Fridays program when our headliner cancelled- the day of the show. Luckily for us, the Fresh & Onlys , by some miracle, were free that night and headed down from San Francisco to play the show and save the day. Last night at Bottom of the Hill, they didn’t disappoint.

Openers the Burnt Ones started off the night like a punch in the gut and didn’t let up. Their lo-fi psych/punk sound left my ears ringing well into the next set, but they set the tone for the rest of the night. The Burnt Ones’ lead singer has a Jagger-esque flair for theatrics, occasionally sliding onto his knees and playing his guitar behind his head, that made seeing them on stage a stripped-down spectacle; put them in big hair and makeup and they wouldn’t seem out of place at an ’80s glam rock show.

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Noise Pop 2013: Jason Lytle (of Granddaddy), Jenny-O, Michael Statis and Will Sprott

Will Sprott opens treeswingers' coverage of Noise Pop, your favorite itinerant San Francisco festival. (Kelvin Tse/treeswingers)

Will Sprott opens Treeswingers’ coverage of Noise Pop, your favorite itinerant San Francisco festival. (Kelvin Tse/Treeswingers)

Ed. note: Today’s dispatch from Noise Pop comes from Friend of Treeswingers Kelvin Tse. Everyone, say hi.

On the first day of Noise Pop 2013, we rolled over to Brick and Mortar to check out a set of four bands headlined by Jason Lytle of Grandaddy fame. Michael Stasis kicked it off with extremely danceable beats and catchy melodies including a song about stumbling onto a Goth party in Oakland in “Land of
the Goths.” Although the room still wasn’t quite full yet when Stasis ended his set, he provided a strong start for the night.

But the contrast between Michael Stasis and Will Sprott‘s music was dramatic. Sprott, of the Mumlers, may strike you immediately as the shy boyish type that struggles internally with questions of the existential sort. His music is of a decidedly different tone and stuck to earnest inquiries about love and heartbreak. While fingerpicking his semihollow body guitar, his bassist laid down an easy groove, and two backup dancers (one rocking shoulder pads) thumped a simple beat on the bass drum and tambourines. But what really pulled the whole thing together was his smooth-as-molasses voice as he crooned crooned classic soul lines like “I don’t want to be free / I just want your arms around me.

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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2012 Recap

Chris Carrabba of Dashboard Confessional plays at the Arrow Stage Friday afternoon in, hands down, one of the “hardliest” parts of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. (Ellen Huet/treeswingers)

At the 12th annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, you could listen to acts all weekend and never hear a banjo.

Of course, it would take a little wrangling and stage-hopping, but it’s a testament to the widening range of style at San Francisco’s famously free festival in the park.

Twelve years ago, local 1 percenter and amateur bluegrass player Warren Hellman asked the legendary Hazel Dickens to play a twangin’, string-pickin’ concert in Golden Gate Park–then dubbed Strictly Bluegrass. But this weekend, many of the major forces behind it were now smiling down from above instead of from the stage: Dickens, Hellman, Earl Scruggs and Doc Watson all passed away in recent years. (Though they did manage to grab a little stage presence–their illustrated faces hung from the backdrops of several stages.)

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Outside Lands 2012: Sunday Recap

Jack Blue. (Brian Valdizno/treeswingers)

The last day of any music festival often serves a time of reflection. Looking back, one can often be perplexed how a weekend can move so fast. At the same time, we all know that our bodies were looking to the last note of Stevie Wonder’s keyboard, so that we could bike, walk or bus home and curl up in bed  and sleep.

Looking back, the 2012 edition of Outside Lands had its definite improvements. The inclusion of atypical headliners Metallica and Wonder was a major coup, while props can also be handed to the stage setups which permitted little overlap or sound clashes. The little things helped, too. Valet bike parking was a major plus, while the free shuttles did their best to minimize driving and traffic. As for the questionable goings-on, one wonders why festival organizers proceeded to place a four-story scaffolding smack dab in the the middle of views of the main stage. Crowds seemed nearly unmanageable this year, with some sets–see: Alabama Shakes–unaccessible, leaving plenty of festival-goers to channel their inner ingenuity into off-road, fence-collapsing excursions.

Can someone do something about that dust for next year?

Shortcomings aside, Outside Lands 2012 is in the books–a figment of our memories to be brought up at family dinners with grandchildren 50 years from now want to see how crazy grandma or grandpa were in their prime. “When I was your age, I ate these mushrooms just before Sigur Rós and let me tell you…”

Sunday, Outside Lands’ final episode, gave us plenty of nostalgic moments for future use. From City and Colour’s country-tinged jams in the sunlight of the Sutro Stage to Santigold’s dancers shaking their asses off, there was a moment for everyone. Also, who knows if someone like the great Stevie Wonder will ever perform in the city of San Francisco again? Now that’s special.

Here are some reviews from Sunday’s acts below the break:

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Outside Lands 2012: Saturday Recap

Where’s Waldo? (Brian Valdizno/treeswingers)

Saturday may have been the only time in the history of mankind when someone could go from sucking in the helium-powered tunes of Passion Pit to being sprayed by the froth of Metallica frontman James Hetfield within the span of an hour.

By all accounts, Day Two at Outside Land was exquisitely random– a mindfuck of genres and sounds that screwed up any chance of us piecing together a cohesive narrative. Well, shit. 

For organizers, their diverse offerings served an exact purpose: attract the most amount of people to Golden Gate Park as possible. Saturday’s crowds were a testament to that as elbow room became wrist room, health conscious San Franciscans nearly rioted due to a tofu shortage and traffic-jammed PortaPotties sent humans scurrying to relieve themselves on everything from bushes to art displays. Careful what you end up leaning against on Sunday.

Saturday’s crowds were unbearable–think, N-Judah at 5:30 after work on a Friday… during a nuclear explosion. The music, however, was a different story. Sure it was random, but quality was apparent throughout, from the early indie rock chain of Tame Impala and Portugal. the Man to the parlor crooning of Norah Jones. Geographer, decked out in all black and playing their hometown’s biggest festival for the first time were particularly impressive, drawing a huge crowd during an early set on the Twin Peaks stage.

Below are some recaps from Saturday’s performances:

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Outside Lands 2012: Friday Recap

Justice saves. (Brian Validzno/treeswingers)

Attendees had to choose wisely on the first day of Outside Lands 2012. Sure, the musical skill of indie acts like Of Monsters and Men and Andrew Bird were uncontested, but as the sunlight disappeared, people began to converge on any set that turned up the heat. Casual passersby delved into the hardcore moshing throngs at the sets of Foo Fighters and Die Antwoord just for the exercise. And the extended jam sessions of Neil Young & Crazy Horse turned the Polo Fields into an outdoor interpretative dance studio.

The main topic of texts and conversation: it was cold. At Outside Lands, temperature wasn’t measured by thermometers but the length of the line at Philz Coffee. Native San Franciscans chuckled at the hapless out-of-towners who believed the sunshine in the city weather report applied to Golden Gate Park. Not so much. The frigid wind tunnel between main stages encouraged race-walking between acts and swaddled Eskimo became the official festival outfit.

The only way to survive the chill was to huddle for warmth with the at-capacity-crowd. Solid reviews of the first four years had their effect, and for the first time, all three days of the festival were sold out in advance. Friday was already buzzing in the early afternoon and the typical after work influx in the evening signaled that this festival will be packed for the rest of the weekend.

The sold-out crowd was no more apparent than during the exodus at closing time. The two venue exits have always been mildly asphyxiating at night, but Friday some impatient attendees (read: drunk men) weren’t deterred by chain-link fences. Jacked up on Justice, men-turned-eight-year-old-boys scaled PortaPotties and hopped over to freedom while another crowd uprooted a fence and went scrambling army-style underneath. From what we saw, there were no trampling or toppled toilets but as the weekend progresses, who knows what’ll happen. So what we’re really saying is, don’t use the john at exit time.

Here is a recap of some of Friday’s acts:

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