6 Artists You Shouldn't Miss At Noise Pop 2022

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Topaz Jones performs during the 2018 Austin City Limits Music Festival at Zilker Park on October 5, 2018 in Austin, Texas.  (Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)

At Thursday’s Noise Pop kickoff party at the California Academy of Sciences, an eager, standing-room crowd gathered around Kamaal Williams as he jammed out on his vintage Rhodes piano with his quartet. This wasn’t the sort of jazz you normally see in a theater—it felt raw and alive. West Oakland battle rapper Nan Fiero joined them for a song, freestyling on stage with his eyes closed (he said he’d only found out about the gig at 1am the night before).

If the upbeat energy was indicative of anything, it’s that Bay Area music lovers have a lot to look forward to at the week-long Noise Pop festival, which gets underway Feb. 21–27 at a variety of venues both large and small in San Francisco and Oakland.

Kamaal Williams performs at the NightLife pre-party for the Noise Pop Music and Arts Festival on Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)

Noise Pop, which started off as an indie rock festival in 1993, has in recent years steadily expanded its purview to include hip-hop and electronic music. This year, the lineup is even more eclectic: some of the big names include Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy, skateboarding icon-turned-psychedelic guitarist Tommy Guerrero and ever-controversial rapper Azealia Banks. There are international acts like classical Sufi singer Arooj Aftab; a first-time partnership with SFJAZZ; and a lot more queer-centric events, like the HE.SHE.THEY dance party with DJs VTSS, LSDXOXO, Club Chai’s Lara Sarkissian and more.

Noise Pop always brings an opportunity to fall in love with new music. Below you’ll find our recommendations of artists not to miss.

Topaz Jones

With Swish and Ozer
The New Parish, Oakland
Feb. 22


Topaz Jones is more than a talented hip-hop artist—he’s well on his way to becoming an auteur. Along with his 2021 album Don’t Go Tellin’ Your Momma, he co-directed a short film of the same name which won a Sundance Award and got a wide release via The New York Times. Inspired by the Black ABCs flashcards two teachers developed in Chicago in the ’70s, the film uses the alphabet as a storytelling device that stitches together vignettes about Black family life, educational pursuits, activism, artistry and friendships. In Topaz Jones’ world, C is for code switching and V is for valuable. It’s perfect for the modern-day, TikTok-addled attention span, but that doesn’t mean it lacks substance or soul. If anything, it proves that Jones’ ingenuity deserves a lot more recognition.

Tyler Homes

Opening for Moor Mother and Irreversible Entanglements
The New Parish, Oakland
Feb. 23

Before the term “hyperpop” entered mainstream vocabulary, Tyler Holmes was singing and rapping over their self-produced chaotic, glitchy beats and industrial noise. But over the past couple of years, the artist has leaned into their singer-songwriter side. Their 2021 album, Nightmare in Paradise, gives space for processing trauma with stripped-down tracks that combine gorgeous acoustic guitars, cellos and woodwinds, delicate singing and experimental electronics. Holmes wrote it in the aftermath of caring for a friend who was shot and survived a random attack while they were together on tour in Puerto Rico. Ever the one to make beauty from tragedy, Holmes makes space for our collective grief.

King Woman

With Spiritual Cramp and Provoker
DNA Lounge, San Francisco
Feb. 25

There’s something special about the way Kris Esfandiari’s droning voice can lull you into a peaceful daydream one minute and break you open with rage and catharsis the next. The frontwoman of the Oakland doom metal outfit King Woman is one of the most compelling artists of her genre. Her earlier work was rooted in processing a religious upbringing she’s described as “cult”-like, and on King Woman’s 2021 album, Celestial Blues, she leans on Biblical archetypes to create a gothic drama of her own design. Esfandiari’s involvement with scenes and creative communities outside of metal means that her work isn’t just relegated to one niche. She last performed at Bottom of the Hill at Noise Pop 2019 with her other project, Miserable, and with King Woman, she’s taking the helm of a much larger stage at DNA Lounge.

Makaya McCraven

With Cheflee
The New Parish, Oakland
Feb. 25

In some circles, jazz and hip-hop are in constant dialogue, and Chicago drummer, producer and “beat scientist” Makaya McCraven is one of the conduits of that creative conversation. McCraven looks into the past and future to create new possibilities: just look at his last album, Deciphering the Message, where—like a true crate digger in the tradition of J Dilla—he mines the legendary Blue Note Records catalog for interesting sounds that came out before the 1960s, blending them with modern recordings by top-tier instrumentalists in his band and blurring the lines of time and space in the process.

Valerie Troutt

Joe Henderson Lab at SFJAZZ Center, San Francisco
Feb. 25

Valerie Troutt’s big, gorgeous voice and high-energy house beats come together with divine synergy: together they can move your body and your mind towards a brief moment of spiritual enlightenment on the dance floor. The Oakland singer brings gospel-trained skill to the microphone, and she uses her voice with powerful intention. In addition to self-producing and writing her music, she’s a longtime community activist who uses music a source of healing and strength, particularly for Black women.

Dorian Electra

With Lil Mariko and Death Tour
August Hall
Feb. 25


Dorian Electra won me over with the music video for “Flamboyant,” a personal manifesto of living life with panache. Instead of playing it cool, Electra commits to every experiment and every over-the-top fashion look. That willingness to be weird and sense of humor have earned the genderfluid artist a growing acclaim. On their debut album, My Agenda, they poke fun at different types of masculine roles and tropes. It’s entertaining, it’s sexual—the opposite of subtle, which is why Electra’s listeners come back for more.