The Urban Festival Experience- Northside

19 Jul

Northside, which I raved about last month, was a 4 day festival that rocked Brooklyn the last weekend in June. Yes, this review is delayed, but that’s only because there has been SO much free live music happening this summer that I’ve been overloaded, yada yada. Anyway, Northside was excellent. First and foremost, the festival was inexpensive- $40 for a total of over 100 show options- with well-known headliners from all over the US and Europe and rich with Brooklyn bands just starting out in the big league. The festival itself was very tiring, since the 18 venues were scattered all over Williamsburg and Greenpoint, but it was all in all a great time. It was also a great social experience; an easy way to learn about new bands by both hearing and meeting them (more than half of the people I met throughout the festival were in a band at the festival). I attended the festival all four nights which was quite the commute from my Harlem bachelorette pad, but the bands were fantastic, the energy level high, and the drinks discounted with our Northside all-access badges. Also worth mentioning was the fabulously air conditioned Northside Headquarters on Bedford that provided all badge-holders with a nice goodie bag and unlimited free Heinekens. Sweet.


Notable Bands (that I didn’t see): I’m Turning Into, DOM, Thao and Mirah with the Most of All, These United States, Dinosaur Feathers, Million Young, YellowFever, Air Waves, Au Revior Simone.

Cloud Nothings @ Knitting Factory

This was my first time at the KF Brooklyn and I ended up loving the venue. The space is perfect for bands with a small but loyal fanbase and the acoustics are great. I’d been recommended Cloud Nothings in the past but had not actually listened to them until they performed the first night of the Fest. They immediately matched the energy of the rowdy crowd and kept it up throughout their 40 minute set. Equally important to their sound are punk and lo-fi influences that combine for a feel that is energetic, ambient but also smart. Favorite song was “Turning On” from their most recent record with the same name. I met these guys after the show and they were pretty much oblivious to their awesomeness and I found out they were actually from Cleveland. They joked around with me and even acted bashful when I told bypasses they were famous. They’re a band to look out for.

*Wavves @ Knitting Factory
Wavves is a great band whose music and performances have often been overpowered by a reputation of personal problems and hissy fits. I came to this show expecting a messy performance and a messy crowd. I was very pleasantly surprised by my entire experience. Back on track after a controversial meltdown at Barcelona’s Primavera Sound in May, Wavves himself was in tune with his band and  and put on a show unforgettable because of the energetic, focussed, and inspire quality of his performance. Like Cloud Nothings, Wavves is riding the lo-fi tide (get it?) and doing it so smoothly, balancing out more heavy guitar rock, which is also a key part of the sound. The crowd was full of big fans screaming every word, and though the space was tiny, there was space for lots of crowd surfers, including me (!!!), which Wavves encouraged with a smile. For his first show since he was rumored to have lost his mind, it was spot on.

Fang Island @ Public Assembly

Fang Island is a band I first heard about through Pitchfork’s Best New Music, and I have hard time describing their sound. Power rock that incorporates sounds from afro-pop to metal is a vague definition. Their songs are built upon heavy and repetitive guitar rhythms interlaced with additional guitar and bass intricacies and occasional chant-like vocals. This band is not for everyone, but I think they’re great. Live, they played like veterans; the energy was fantastic and they blasted the room to the extent that my friend felt her ears were almost going to bleed. This is a show to go to an suffer for days from whiplash because you were head banging so hard.

Notable Bands (that I didn’t see): The Fiery Furnaces, Oberhofer, MEN (Someone I talked to told me this was the best show of the entire festival– nakedness ensued), Les Vinyl, Heavenly Beat

Slow Club @ Europa
Forgot my camera this night so I have no pictures by but Slow Club is a beautiful band that can be described by the word “genuine.” From London, England, the duo of man and woman play guitar and percussion instruments. The songs focus on the vocal power and lyrics of the Female and less commonly Male lead, which draws away from the overall potential complexity of their sound, but for what it is, slow club makes gorgeous ballads and fun, catchy pop songs. The band was full of British Humor and had the intimate crowd laughing in adoration.

Woods @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Woods is a Brooklyn cult band with a unique sound that ranges from full and melodic to experimentally barren. Both sounds were present at their showcase and neither went too far, but the slowness that dominated a lot of the set left some of us bored and wondering if there was a better show we could have been seeing. When they were at their best, though, I heard a sound so layered that it paralleled Sparklehorse. The interesting variety of instruments used by a man writhing on the floor was the highlight.

*Real Estate @ MHOW

This show immediately overtook the lack of energy that Woods left behind. The gorgeous ambient melodies that are so central to the music were bright enough to get the crowd dancing but mellow enough to pay a lot of attention to. Something I did not really realize about them until seeing them live is that they are actually a hipster breed of jam band. Like many of the other bands at Northside, they are grouped into the Lo-fi surfer genre. Real Estate, actually, brings a depth into that genre that many of their contemporaries lack. This was a beautiful concert, and perfect for Music Hall.

Darlings @ Public Assembly
I love Darlings. Not only because I have a crush on the drummer.  And the guitarist. Or because their song, “Teenage Girl” had pretty much been stuck in my head for three weeks. But because they don’t care whom they are playing to, they will play equally well each time. They are getting bigger with each show they play but it seems like their egos will never grow to dominate their quirky stage presence. They are young and refreshing and don’t care if there’s a wasted bro slamming down his beer onto the stage, they still liked him. Look out for them.

Notable Bands (that I didn’t see): Titus Andronicus (Day show, really??),  Ribbons, Ava Luna, Twin Shadow, ZAZA, Liars, Fucked Up, High Places, VHS or BETA

Twin Sister @ MHOW
Think of a less dreamy Beach House with more members, more strange sounds, more influences, and more rhythms…that then meets Here We Go Magic. This is a little hint of how Twin Sister sounds, and this band is well worth the Hype. Fairly new on the scene, Twin Sister is on the verge of making it big. Lyrics that are as strange and they are clever paint the songs into imaginative tales guided by strange and spooky noises. Live, this band is beautiful and brought my into an hour-long trance that I never wanted to leave. The multitude of instruments played showed these guys to be real professionals.

*Memory Tapes @ MHOW
I can easily say that Memory Tapes is one of the best bands that has come out in 2010, and Pitchfork agrees. Memory Tapes is the project of one man, who relies on synthesizers, keyboards, percussion, and guitar on top of his airy and seemingly far-away vocals. His voice takes some getting used to, particularly live, but it suites the music perfectly. Each song from his debut, “Seek Magic” is different in beautiful ways, some that incorporate dreamy disco and some that actually feel like you’re listening to a tape player. None is as complex or as perfect as his single, “Bike,” that he played once then sampled again during the climax of the concert, which drove the diverse crowd (Bros, Hipsters, Middle Aged, and Drunks) crazy. With the addition of a live keyboardist, his sound could easily fill a stage at a large music festival like Lolla or Bonnaroo, and I’m not doubting that he might end up there this time next year.

Notable Bands (that I didn’t see): The Babies, North Highlands, Tikki Masala, The Smoking Pipes, Les Savy Fav (Fat Guy pouring beer on himself… wish I were there), We Are Country Mice

Active Child @ MHOW

This was a good show, but the music itself made me pretty uneasy. Most people in the crowd enjoyed the mix of far-out synth melodies and the dramatic strumming of the harp that was present in every song, but the intentionality of the lyrics and the deep, monk-like quality of the singer’s voice just was a little too much for me. Props to the band for understanding how to play a harp so well… but overall the sound was just too overwhelming. They did not suite Islands, either, whom they were opening for.

*Islands @ MHOW

Note: I did not take this picture! ^
I was stoked to finally see Islands, probably the most popular band of the whole festival, and it surprised me that the Music Hall was not at capacity for the show. Nevertheless, Islands rocked their set, playing for about an hour and a half, the longest set I saw all weekend. They played almost all of their first album and didn’t sound bored while doing it, which I can imagine could happen when your second album is considered just not as good by your fans. The show wasn’t overtly exciting, and the conversations between songs were genial but brief, but not inspiring. Despite and because of this, what struck my about this band is the sheer level of professionalism that they embodied. They didn’t need to cause a scene on a stage because the quality of the performance, musically, was overwhelming enough. Really a great show, there was no other way to top off Northside.


One Response to “The Urban Festival Experience- Northside”


  1. Wanna Play GigMaven’s Northside Festival? | mavenly - 05/25/2011

    […] out the festival’s official website here. and my coverage of last year’s festival here (wavves, cloud nothings, islands, fang […]

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