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.
San Francisco sweetheart Christopher Owens is growing up, which is why he left his band Girls. But his first album on his own is about being terribly young, which might be why it came out charming but mostly immature.
Lysandre, out this week, is a 30-minute wistful sigh that recounts a short-lived, sudden, naive love with a girl Owens (or the narrator) met while on tour. She’s an ethereal creature, never speaking but embodied only in a recurrent theme, a Renaissance-sounding slow waltz riff.
Here’s where Lysandre gets a little heavy-handed as a short album with a story: Lysandre’s theme shows up tacked on at the end of several tracks, played by various incongruous instruments, as if to remind listeners that hey, this album has a theme. During the first trip through the album, the melodic repetition makes for a comfortable, familiar feeling; by the third, it’s a little obvious and cloying. And when odd track “Riviera Rock” spends its entire length turning the theme into a beachy instrumental jam, it’s really hard not to hate-hum the tune to yourself as you fall asleep.
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…
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:
Posted in Festivals, Outside Lands, Photo, Shows
Tagged bloc party, city and colour, franz ferdinand, fun., golden gate park, jack white, kele okereke, outside lands 2012, regina spektor, san francisco, santigold, skrillex, stevie wonder
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:
Posted in Festivals, Outside Lands, Shows
Tagged andrew bird, dave grohl, die antwoord, foo fighters, golden gate park, justice, neil young and crazy horse, outside lands 2012, san francisco, tennis, washed out