Photos: A Memorable Return for Noise Pop with Azealia Banks, Arooj Aftab and More

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Woman in hot pink burlesque outfit and long blue hair sings into mic
Azealia Banks headlines The Warfield on night seven of the Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)

Last week, Feb. 21–27, Noise Pop returned from its pandemic hiatus, and audiences showed up hungry, with an omnivorous appetite for new sounds. They filled up major concert halls like The Warfield, and packed out small clubs like Bottom of the Hill and the New Parish. Throughout the week, there was an eagerness to take in what the artists had to offer, whether they were big-name headliners like Jeff Tweedy, Dorian Electra, King Woman and Azealia Banks or the dozens of up-and-coming acts that dotted the bill. Here are the moments that stood out.

Arooj Aftab headlines Gray Area for Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)

Arooj Aftab

Gray Area, San Francisco
Feb. 22

You didn’t have to speak Urdu to have a profound experience at Arooj Aftab’s set at Gray Area—her voice is that transcendent. For a brief, drizzly evening, the Brooklyn-based Pakistani singer brought us together on a spiritual frequency in the nearly pitch-dark Mission district theater.

Aftab took the stage under dim, red lights with a harpist and a nylon-string guitarist. When she unleashed her crystal-clear voice, she transported the audience into the depths of sorrow and buoyed us back up again with hope. And with her unexpectedly dry humor between songs, she also cracked us up.

Arooj Aftab backstage at Gray Area during Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)

“It’s sad, but it’s supposed to be sexy-sad, you know,” she remarked after one particularly powerful track, sipping from a coffee mug of red wine. Commenting on her Grammy nominations for best new artist and best global music performance, Aftab joked about the award show being postponed to April: “They gave me more time to stay a nominee instead of a loser, which is why I’m telling you guys.” Self-deprecation aside, though, if she does get the accolade, her impeccable Noise Pop set proved it’ll be well deserved.—Nastia Voynovskaya

Tyler Holmes performs at The New Parish during night three of the Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)

Tyler Holmes, Irreversible Entanglements and Moor Mother

The New Parish, Oakland
Feb. 23

Those present at The New Parish on Feb. 23 went on a couple sonic journeys. The first was led by Oakland-based opener Tyler Holmes, whose dynamic set included an unexpected, masterful cover of “We Belong Together” by Mariah Carey. Holmes turned it into a haunting yet danceable soundscape, reminiscent of what one might hear at a nightclub for monsters. The set took the audience on a trip through the vulnerability and complications of love without shying away from the weirdness of it all, too.

Moor Mother headlines The New Parish during night three of the Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)

Then came Afrofuturist experimental jazz band Irreversible Entanglement’s hour-long, nonstop marathon of a performance. Frontwoman Moor Mother’s spoken-word lyrics took listeners on an adventure through space-time: “Who will survive the cosmos? Will I see you tomorrow?” With its unpredictable, shifting tempos, the sound was both primordial and post-apocalyptic.—Julian Sorapuru

Hand Habits singer-songwriter Meg Duffy backstage at The Chapel at Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)

Hand Habits

The Chapel, San Francisco
Feb. 25

The Chapel was blessed by Meg Duffy’s guitar playing as Hand Habits commanded the space, bouncing well-constructed melodies off The Chapel’s tall ceiling. The Los Angeles-based band had the kind of performance you could get lost in. It was as if each member of Hand Habits was physically connected to their instrument of choice, putting their bodies into every note they played. Duffy indulged the audience with a full range of their skill. Their fingers danced vigorously on the strings of multiple guitars throughout the night, like a master painter switching between thick and thin brushes. Accentuated by controlled percussion and an assured bass guitar, Hand Habits tapped into an intersection between sensitivity and string-shredding that engrossed their audience.—J.S.

Hand Habits headlines The Chapel at Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Friday Feb. 25, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)
Papercuts headlines Bottom of the Hill during night six of the Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)

Papercuts

Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco
Feb. 26

At a venue still decorated with hearts and roses for Valentine’s Day, Papercuts played soft guitar pop that evoked the wonder of love. The San Francisco outfit’s music has a dreamlike quality, with stripped-down percussion and wistful vocals imbued with nostalgia. Their performance sounded like what taking an end-of-summer road trip to the beach feels like. After each song in their set, almost before the audience could get their applause out, frontman Jason Robert Quever uttered a very soft and humble “thank you” to the Noise Pop attendees. The crowd had such an appreciation for the hometown band that shouts of “Encore!” rang out at the end of the night. Quever obliged with a solo performance of his moody track, “You Can Have What You Want.”—J.S.

Man in denim shirt and baseball cap plays guitar on stage
Tommy Guerrero headlines Bottom of the Hill during night seven of the Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Sunday Feb. 27, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)

Tommy Guerrero

Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco
Feb. 27

Tommy Guerrero looked completely zen on stage at Bottom of the Hill on Sunday even though he was playing some pretty complicated riffs on his guitar—often with his eyes closed. His meditative demeanor wasn’t too dissimilar from the relaxed approach to skateboarding that made him famous in the ’80s. His entirely instrumental set brought the perfect sunny mood on the closing day of Noise Pop. Accompanied by the steady grooves of Matt Rodriguez on congas and percussion, Josh Lippi on bass and Louie Senor on drums, Guerrero played surf rock licks with a Latin jazz backbeat. “You never know what’s gonna happen,” he told his packed hometown crowd, which included his teenage son and lots of other rocker dads and their offspring. “It’s like how I grew up skateboarding in the streets of the city, almost getting run over by everything possible—but just fucking pulling it, barely. That’s how I tend to play music. That’s why you gotta have a badass band.”—N.V.

Bali Baby performs at The Warfield at Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)

Bali Baby and Azealia Banks

The Warfield
Feb. 27

Although most of the audience was there to see headliner Azealia Banks, opener Bali Baby deserves more than an honorable mention. In her fuchsia wig and teeny-tiny mini skirt (think real-life Bratz doll), Bali brought an instantly fun mood when she and her squad started bouncing all over the stage. Ladies and gentlethems were twerking; someone was wearing a bunny mascot head; hype men were working the crowd in neon balaclavas. Bali was leading the whole procession like a trap Alice in Wonderland from Atlanta. She was an absolute delight, and probably ended the night with a few hundred new fans.

Azealia Banks headlines The Warfield at Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Sunday Feb. 27, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)

Azealia Banks emerged looking ethereal and regal in a pink velvet leotard and matching gloves, with visuals of a moon reflected in water lighting her path. In another life, Banks might have been a Broadway star. She has a flare for drama in all its forms—both in the way she lives in the public eye, and the way she performs. She belted, she freestyled, she sang and rapped in Spanish. And with a live drummer and three-piece brass section, she turned the party up.—N.V.

Azealia Banks headlines The Warfield at Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)
The crowd at The Warfield at Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Sunday, Feb. 27, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)
Stephen Steinbrink performs at Bottom of the Hill at Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)
Chime School performs at Bottom of the Hill at Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)
April Magazine performs at Bottom of the Hill during Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)
Dorian Electra performs at August Hall during Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022.
The crowd at August Hall during Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)
Irreversible Entanglements and Moor Mother perform at The New Parish during Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)
Irreversible Entanglements perform at The New Parish during Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)
Arooj Aftab headlines Gray Area during Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)
Ouri performs at Gray Area during Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)
Death Tour performs at August Hall during Noise Pop Music and Art Festival on Friday, Feb. 25, 2022. (Estefany Gonzalez)

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