Our local friends of the Noise Pop Industry (NPI), the same great music loving minds that bring us Treasure Island Festival every year, created another solid city wide line-up with this year’s Noise Pop Festival. The Noise Pop Festival is strictly for the locals, a delicate pairing of statewide bands and venues to give us San Franciscans the most optimum sonic experience. We may be a liberal city, but we are pickier than a baby opting peas over candy. This year’s festival had a definite sense of locality as the NPI barely gleaned artists outside of the west coast among their over 50 band line-up.
The big headliner was Yo La Tengo (the once sublime indie rock band from Jersey) and the Urinals (short lived but influential 70s punk band from SoCal). Other big acts were Aesop Rock performing with Kimya Dawson, Ted Leo (solo show without the Pharmacists), Ben Gibber, and Best Coast with Wavves. Like any proper music festival, I stared at the schedule for two hours, and finally made a decision of going about the labyrinth: to go for the underdogs of Noise Pop.
Robbinchilds w/ Kinski @ SFMoMA
Redefining museum space as a performance venue, the SF art and music community sat informally but attentively on the marble floor during this unique experience. CLUE (Color Location Ultimate Experience) is an experiment by dance duo Robbinchilds (Layla Childs and Sonya Robbins) in collaboration with cinematographer A.L. Steiner and Seattle-based rock outfit Kinski. Surrounding you are massive projections of Robbinchilds wanderlust films, as they dance through sweeping floral fields, the bold woods, and the skeletal urban. At the same time Robbinchilds perform their signature dances of simple patterns with contemporary acuteness in front of you with multiple colorful wardrobe changes on site (yes, you see them get naked).
Kinski and Robbinchilds were an accessible package of wafting melodic contemplation through repetition that spontaneously combusted to a rattling force. Within the dance’s vibrant language, the energy of color and harmony was heightened within Kinski’s exploration of sound through the bowing of guitars, splashing of cymbals, organs, flutes and effects. The rock out parts weren’t abrasive but a deep crunch and a hard wind that carried the soft steps of Robbinchilds like a pair of feathers whipping around each other in the wind. Music, video, and performance were one, like an ephemeral circle graph overlapping all around you.
Tamaryn / Black Ryder / The Soft Moon / Wax Idols @ Café Du Nord
This line-up seemed like the more “darker” bands of Noise Pop. Personally, I did not find this show enjoyable. I love 80s music, and I love how today’s record labels are repressing obscure dark and minimal 80s bands for all to cherish. However, I do not appreciate these bands being generic derivatives. There is one thing to appropriate a sound, but it’s another to completely rip off the sound riff to riff and add no contemporary spice to it.
Just because you grew up in the 80s listening to Human League and didn’t get to appreciate the bending works of Joy Division, doesn’t mean you start a band now and think your Ian Curtis. Also, especially if you are going to start a band that adds nothing new to musical craft, don’t take yourself really seriously. For example, Tamaryn thought she was a diva. She asked probably ten times for her microphone to be louder and gave a prissy Sioux and the Banshees attitude. Well, maybe if you use less reverb on your mic and actually sing clearly, you and everybody else can hear.
I was really hoping Soft Moon would be the exception. They were loud, which was good, but way too repetitive in structure, like a looping riff of Jesus & The Mary Chain, having little songs that stood out. Soft Moon, please take note: minimalism does not necessarily equal a lack of diversity in sound or structure, it’s the opposite. The very first band, Oakland Knights TheWax Idols, despite their jaded attitude, were the “redeeming” act, with their garage-rock femme harmonies that fluctuated between sweet and grimy.
Crazy Band / Rank/Xerox / Grass Widows @ Rickshaw Stop
We all have been to a party were there are a group of really obnoxious and obscene girls or boys. Most people at the party hate them, but then again, there are those that really vibe off their energy and want to take the party to the next level. That’s what it was like to watch LA’s young punk group Crazy Band.
Before they even started playing, the three Hispanic gals and drummer boy spent five minutes throwing inside jokes at each other, and not really playing. Then when they actually played, all their songs were probably written yesterday, that day, or improv (the lead singer was singing lyrics from her hello kitty notebook). Not to say they couldn’t play their instruments decently, but played them obscenely crude.
You can tell they were all at In-N-Out Burger on Hollywood Blvd one day, blaring Bikini Kill from one of their mom’s station wagon, and were like “Hey, let’s start a band, yo.” And I love them! The old stifflers in the back of the venue couldn’t laugh or clap for them. The mosh pit probably took up fifty percent of the standing room in a packed venue, and there was only two guys moshing. The girl who saw Ted Leo the night before clutched her drink, bit her lip, and went into her happy place with some hip guy serenading to her with an acoustic guitar. It reminded me that San Francisco can be full of softies sometimes.
Afterwards, came local thrashers Rank/Xerox. After being in that mosh pit for ten minutes, I also realized how good punk rock show can be an incentive to quit smoking.
You can’t romp around if you’re on the ground with your lungs collapsing. Grass Widows, the revered local and lovely femme trio, tamed the boisterous crowd in front, and whipped them into a dance craze with their galloping surf-rock that sounds like you are trying to balance on a surfboard with one leg before wiping out in a sea of butterflies.
Peanut Butter Wolf & Dam-Funk @ SF Public Works
A dance party that shook SF. Sweat to sweat, beat for beat, the L.A. producers on the notorious Stone Throw label, brought the jams. All 45s (mini record that look like donuts) the grooved out fresh and obscure 80s funk, disco, and soul. Prince and Rick James probably would have an orgasm with the selection. Dam-Funk and Peanut Butter Wolf even spliced in a fiery Teena Marie (RIP) tribute set, jokingly crying out the best thing ever in the one dollar bin at Amoeba. Clearly not underdogs but forces to bow down to.
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