Believe it or not, this was my first Noise Pop Festival. Last year I worked through the whole thing and wasn’t really too happy about that. Weird hours will do that to you. Anyways, I kicked off my experience with the pre-party at the California Academy of Science. Not a huge fan of The Frail but a huge fan of science, so I got to geek out with some friends about both music and the Late Cretaceous period.
Tuesday, February 23rd: It was really neat meeting some fellow SF music bloggers as well as members of the Noise Pop crew who have been wicked supportive and professional throughout the whole festival. After taking advantage of the free drinks at the bar that night, I enjoyed a bizarre and entertaining set by Har Mar Superstar. All Ron Jeremy comparisons aside, he’s got a good ear for pop music. Really fun stuff. I skipped Yoko Ono because, let’s be honest, Lost was on. Pictures here.
[mp3] Har Mar Superstar – Tall Boy from Dark Touches (2009)
Wednesday, February 24th: While it was kind of hard to decide with either Gorilla vs Bear’s Harlem and Best Coast show or Foreign Born, all I had to do is look back at my Best of 09 list and figured Foreign Born was the wisest choice. Opening the night was the East Bay’s The Splinters and they were actually really charming and enjoyable. Good on-stage chemistry. Free Energy are getting a fair share of hype lately but I’d like to think that’s due to their live performances. They played like a low key punk band and seemed pretty happy to be there. The Fresh & Onlys just wasn’t my kind of music. Plain and simple. They have this psych-garage sound that, out of nowhere, switched to goth for one song. Foreign Born on the other hand, was amazing and sounded amazing. Their remarkable African high-life guitars mixed with the singer Matt Popieluch’s carefree vocals got everyone moving. Particularly the bizarrely dressed hippies in the front row. It was a short set, but most of the show consisted of their latest (and best as far as I’m concerned) album, Person To Person. It was a good time and I was convinced I made a wise choice. Pictures here.
[mp3] Free Energy – Something In Common from Free Energy EP (2009)
Thursday, February 25th: My day! I got the distinct honor to co-present the Far show at the Bottom of the Hill. This was particularly special due to the fact that Far is one of my favorite bands of all time. I wasn’t sure about the turnout due to the Dodos doing a set with the Magik*Magik Orchestra, but I was pleasantly surprised that the show sold out that night. The Trophy Fire kicked it off with their middle-ground rock music. Their style is nothing new or surprising, but a nice addition to the line-up nonetheless. Picture Atlantic really brought their game that night with a buttload of energy. You can tune your ear to the band’s obvious pop but they still keep the music edgy and slightly experimental which keeps the experience lively and unpredictable. Stomacher has been often compared to Muse and even (gulp) Radiohead, but I think the band is less grandeur and more modest than that. Stomacher creates a mesmerizing atmosphere (albeit somewhat dark) that you can ‘immerse’ yourself into from beginning to end. There is much potential in this band and hope to see more from this talented group. Now when it comes to Far shows, particularly these recent reunion shows they’re doing, the audience comprises of mid-late 20 year olds with definite knowledge of Sunny Day Real Estate, Promise Ring, and Texas is the Reason. More importantly, they are willing to let loose and just rock the fuck out. For the very beginning of the show, almost everybody (including this guy) was singing along to every word and hyped up on the sheer energy of Jonah’s impressive stage presence. No new material was played, but the show catered to the audience Far knows and loves. I can safely say that we all knew that and appreciated hearing our favorites from Water & Solutions and Tin Cans. After the show I heard so many people saying, “I felt like I was 18, it was like 1998 all over again.” I think that was Far’s intent and they displayed it perfectly. Pictures here.
[mp3] Stomacher – Wild Horses (Rolling Stones Cover) from Wild Horses (Rolling Stones Cover) Single (2009)
Friday, February 26th: I skipped the happy hour shows because I just gotten back from work and, well, I needed to take a nap. I made it over to Slim’s to catch our friends The Limousines and see Butterfly Bones wrap up their glossy and danceable set. The Limousines, as I’ve said, are maturing and becoming a tighter and more entertaining act. After The Limos, I tried to catch Atlas Sound…but no more room in the venue. Bummer. So then I remembered that Four Tet was at The Independent. I high tailed it over to Divisidaro and just made it for his first song. Review and pictures here.
[mp3] Butterfly Bones – xoxo from Pretty Feelings (2009)
Saturday, February 27th: I am a huge Mark Kozelek fan. So imagine my face when I was told I couldn’t enter with my photo pass because Mr. Kozelek doesn’t want photographers at his show. Damn it! I had found an awesome parking spot too! So I shuffled back to the car and tried to decide on either !!! or Mirah. I figured that I had my fair share of dance rock last night, so it’s time to bring at down a notch and see a singer-songwriter. I am so glad I made that choice. Every performer displayed an ethereal and moving performance. Witnessing Mirah and Thao (who remains one of my favorite people to photograph) rock out together was as unique and entertaining as you’d imagine. A very very good night. Review and pictures here.
[mp3] Thao Nguyen – Tallymarks from Like The Linen (2005)
Note: I skipped Sunday’s and Monday’s festivities due to some work I had to do and physical exhaustion. From what I hear, Edward Sharpe brought it that night. If it was half as good as his Treasure Island performance, I imagine it was another magical experience.
Conclusion: This was a nice training session for this month’s SXSW. I realized that sometimes you can’t make every show you want to and when you make a decision, it’s usually a pretty good one. Noise Pop selects some of the best in the current music scene and whatever you decide on, you’re guaranteed to enjoy yourself. Well done Noise Pop. See you next year.