Sunday, March 13, 2011

Noise Pop 2011

The last week of February was the 19th Noise Pop Music Festival, the leading music festival for up-and-coming independent music and art. Not to mention, the festival that Casey where works. We somehow made it to at least one show every night that week and came out of it better people, enriched and inspired by some great musical acts. Here's a little recap of the week.

We started the week off at The Independent - our local, neighborhood venue and one of the best venues in the city (in my opinion). Headlining that night was Dan Deacon, a hyper electro music maker and commander of audience. His live show is all about audience participation and he somehow always creates a uniquely intimate experience out of a packed room.

He set up at the bottom of the stage, eye level with the crowd. We got to hang out and dance on the actual stage behind him (thus the vantage point of these pictures), encapsulating him in the crowd.

This picture doesn't really translate the feeling of this music. I just like it.

This is how close his fans were able to get to him. I'm not sure if the proximity of his fans affected his performance as he kept apologizing for the mistakes me made, but I didn't notice anything wrong. Needless to say, it was an awesome show and a great way to start off the festival.

The next night was at The Independent again, this time to see headliners Geographer. I had only heard their single (maybe once or twice) before going to their show. And after seeing them live, I immediately got their album and listened to it on lopp for weeks.

What I appreciated most about their performance was the tightness of their sound. You could tell they rehearsed a lot, not just to get things sounding right, but to be comfortable playing it live. The end result was music better than studio recordings and an air of ease of musicianship. To top it off, they are still relatively unknown and still very humble and appreciative for the crowd.

One reason their sound is so unique is the cello. It straddles the solidity of the bass and adds the melody of the violin. Added with good drumming and catchy synthesized hooks, its music that sticks in your head. Oh, and the vocals are immaculate.

The Independent for the third night in a row! That's definitely a record and the most convenient concert experience. We got to eat dinner at home and stroll over 10 minutes before we wanted to arrive. This Thursday night show was headlined by the Bay Area's The Stone Foxes, but equally present were the also-local openers The Ferocious Few and The Soft White Sixties.

The name of The Soft White Sixties gives you an idea what its like to watch them, except for one misnomer - soft. Their music is a throw back to good ol' rock music from when they were doing it right.

I felt like I was watching The Faces perform an early career show - ready to rock but not quite comfortable with their stage presence. Still, they got my feet tapping.

There is something satisfying to watch , by all definitions, a cool frontman. Maybe its being a younger sibling and idolizing something cool, or if its just immediately living vicariously through the lead singer frontman. In any case it makes for a show you can get in to.

The Ferocious Few were next, who we were most excited to see. They've been a hard working band in San Francisco for years, playing outside infront of the Mac store on Market Street and at Dolores Park on a sunny day. Their music is raw and makes you want to stomp your feet and make a fist.

The lead singer, Francisco, has such a cool stage personality which is almost an alter ego from his kind hearted and friendly off stage personality. On stage he contorts and grinds his face, paired with head twitches, foot stomps and nonstop strumming. He's already drenched in sweat after the first song.

One disappointing aspect of the show was the new drummer. Not that he's not a good drummer, he's just not the old drummer. Apparently, the old drummer left the band two shows before this one, and its showed. The tempo was way off on a couple songs and you could see the discomfort to the changed song on the lead singers face. All in all, it started off good and ended with an "Ouch!"

The Stone Foxes put on a good show, but I didn't get any good pictures of them. Their set was thoroughly satisfying, especially with an encore cover of Black Sabbath's War Pigs. Amazing!

We found ourselves at The Great American Music Hall on Friday night for a very interesting juxtaposition of talents: corky-folky singer songwriter Kimya Dawson and hiphop rapper Aesop Rock. The common ground: talented story telling lyricists. Kimya Dawson's set was light heart, yet very heartfelt, funny, sad, weird and happy. Seems like a basic and elementary list of adjectives, but that's quite appropriate for her sound.

Aesop Rock united the crowd and it was a very unique experience for me. It was an almost entirely white crowd, which by all means is not a negative thing, just difference from what I envision when I think of a hiphop show. Like most rap, I got a bit lost in long streams of words and unrelatable subject matter, but I was still entertained. Especially when Jeremy Fish got on stage.

This is Jeremy Fish, one of my favorite artists, dressed in a pig costume! He, with Alex Pardee, another local contemporary artist, painted about 30 boxes which served temporarily as the stage decoration. At the end of the show, they handed them out to the crowd, which soon turned into a mob over the free art. And to give you an idea, Jeremy Fish sells art for thousands of dollars. So, I'd say a mob was an appropriate reaction.

Here is Aesop rock on stage with everyone that was in the show - Kimya Dawson with her crazy hair and giant rain shell and friends. You can see people in crowd protectively holding their new found box art.

On to Saturday at the Regency Ball Room was Best Coast and Waaves - two up-and-coming indie bands that are the closest equivalent in the indie music world to Brittney Spears (in my generation). These bands have the attention of the alternative teen population, evident in the sold out show.

Here is Waaves performing for a dance happy crowd. We were watching the show from aside, but moved into the crowd for the full experience. Their music is pretty basic and somewhat punk and for this reason, dancing and shoving in a giant crowd is what makes it fun. What wasn't fun was the immature relationships on the stage, with the frontman bagging on the drummer, who, as I can only assume happens all the time, nervously laughed it off and apologized. That disrespect really ruined it for me.

Best Coast didn't redeem the show either. The music was a lot better than Waaves and it was nice to hear some of my favorite songs. But at the intro to one song, the frontwoman couldn't get it right, even on the second try, and ended up ditching the song giving the explanation, "Sorry, I'm too high. We smoked too much before the show." This got a great reaction from the teeny boppers who think drugs are cool, but for me, it was a bit lame considering they sold out a relatively large venue. I didn't get any good pictures, but I also didn't stay very long.

The last night was an intimate solo performance from Ben Gibbard, the lead singer for Postal Service and Death Cab For Cutie. We sat in the back for this show and I don't have pictures for it, but his show was completely about his songwriting and singing anyway. Ben Gibbard seems to write nostalgia, referencing his own past that somehow seems to also be ours too. It may seem to stir up old memories because the height of his bands were a few years back when I was getting into indie music, but I think its also just the imagery in his words. It was a great way to end the week with a mellow, thoughtful acoustic performance.


celia said...

Uggh, I did not realize you had blogged and it was well written. Luckily 3 of the venues was at The Independent. Good job to Casey for putting together the festival. Still amazed that you got your shots, with low lights it makes it difficult to get clear shots. I especially like the shot of Francisco and the drummer - the stage light came out cool.

Dennis said...

Wow, just like my days at Woodstock!!!! Remember them well! Keep up the great work with your camera. Fantastic shots!