Ed. note: Friend of Treeswingers Jonathan Hall gives us a first-person account of what it’s like to get caught up in a haze of pandas, teeny boppers and Starfucker.
It’s the loaded Friday night of Noise Pop and I am going to a Starfucker show for the first time. Words and phrases like “insane,” “cross-dressed” and “floor-bouncing” buzz in my ear.
I arrive early and do my best to blend in with the adolescent crowd leftover from Blackbird Blackbird. Eventually I settle in, upfront and early, only to realize I’m the only one in the front row old enough to drink the whiskey and ice that’s in my hand. As I down my plastic cup of booze and wait for the teenage dance carnage to begin, a brief flashlight guides the four lanky members of a group now known as the more radio-friendly STRFKR into position.
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.
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.
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.”
Photo: Taylor Soppe
On a night when San Franciscans peer at Amazonian tree frogs and uninterested caimans behind thick-paned glass with unironic PBR’s in hand, Jason Chung became the most scrutinized exhibit at the California Academy of Sciences. Better known as Nosaj Thing, the Los Angeles beatmaster was the main attraction at the weekly Thursday menagerie, Nightlife, ringing in the event’s 21st birthday and the 2013 Noise Pop Festival.
If anything, it was a venue of low expectations. Thursday nights at the California Academy of Sciences are a time to sip an overpriced IPA after work, rub some sea cucumbers and maybe vibe to the musical act before the strict 10 PM close. Your night’s not going to be a bender. It’s certainly not Mighty or, for something more familiar to Chung, LA’s Low End Theory, where he refined his shadow-fed sounds in the witching hours of early Thursday mornings. Which is why Thursday’s Nightlife show was so odd. Removed from his familiar darkness and thrown into an 8:45 set between the Rainforest biodome and planetarium, Nosaj Thing was out of his element and he showed it.
Photo: Taylor Soppe
Every so often, Popscene and its patron saint Aaron Axelsen manage to snag a diva in the making. In past years we’ve seen everyone from Amy Winehouse to Florence Welch grace the small stage on their way to superstardom. After last night’s show, Jessie Ware looked no different.
There’s a certain presence exhibited by Popscene’s queens-to-be. The small stage area from that of 330 Ritch to Rickshaw Stop has a way of magnifying the smiles, the stage banter and the evident vocal power of talents like Ware, who crushed a sold-out venue with cuteness and charisma on Thursday. It’s safe to say that if Ware follows her projected career trajectory, she will never play a stage like Popscene’s ever again in what is likely to be a long and popular career.
Photo: Brian Valdizno
On National Coming Out Day, San Francisco’s Popscene hosted a party for a band of native sons. Following their migration to Brooklyn, The Morning Benders, errrrrr POP ETC, returned to the Bay Area on Thursday for the first time post-name change operation.
Earlier this year, the band’s announcement that it would be switching names was suprising, coming at time when things for the Morning Benders were certainly on the up. They had finished touring on their widely-acclaimed sophomore LP, Big Echo, appeared in a commercial or two and made the requisite Coachella-appearance. Still, something didn’t seem to sit right. In March, band frontman Chris Chu announced the decision as a conscious move away away from a derogatory slang term in England, where “bender” refers to “homosexual.” “We were told our band name was the equivalent of ‘the Morning Fags’ in America,” wrote Chu said in a statement on the band’s website. Given the circumstances, dumping the original moniker was understandable…