5 Must-See Bay Area Artists at Noise Pop’s 30th Anniversary

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Spellling performs at Primavera Sounds in Barcelona in June 2022. (Sharon Lopez)

Since its first show at San Francisco’s Kennel Club (now The Independent) in 1993, Noise Pop has grown into a gem of a festival that spans genres and generations.

In its nascent years, it hosted early-career shows by bands like Modest Mouse, and made space for wacky experiments like the time the Flaming Lips conducted an orchestra of 40 boomboxes in 1998. In more recent years, Noise Pop has expanded into hip-hop shows, jazz concerts and club nights that tap into the Bay Area’s many musical subcultures.

Since Noise Pop’s emergence, music festivals have exploded into an enormous industry. But instead of assuming that bigger is better, the homegrown event stays true to its roots by putting on a constellation of smaller shows at concert halls, high-fidelity theaters and dive bars alike. “We’re certainly the outsider in the landscape of festivals,” says founder Kevin Arnold. “We really think we have a lot more opportunity to be experimental, try new things and super-serve the small audiences.”

Though inflation and the after-effects of the pandemic have made times tough for the live music industry, Noise Pop remains a crucial platform for local and independent artists. “It’s nice every year to support new bands coming up and then have the opportunity to pay tribute to some of our heroes,” Arnold says.

As this year’s Noise Pop gets underway Feb. 20-26, fans will have the opportunity to catch veteran acts like Yo La Tengo, Duster and Bob Mould; newer artists with cult followings, including Boy Harsher and UNIIQU3; and comedy nights and film screenings.

The lineup is vast, with over 140 artists performing at 25 venues on both sides of the Bay Bridge. So to help you navigate your Noise Pop week, here are five must-see local acts to get on your radar.

Covet. (Covet/Bandcamp)


with Soft Blue Shimmer and Grumpster
The New Parish, Oakland
Wednesday, Feb. 22, 8 p.m.
All ages, $27.50

Anchored around the nimble playing of guitarist Yvette Young, Covet has been described as math rock. But that might imply that their music is cerebral and hard to parse, when in fact they invite you to groove along to the kaleidoscopic melodies of their entirely instrumental tracks.

Mae Powell. (Mae Powell/Bandcamp)

Mae Powell

with Analog Dog and Marika Christine
Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco
Wednesday, Feb. 22, 8 p.m.
All ages, $13-$15

With warm, inviting vocals and playful lyrics, Mae Powell makes indie folk with the cozy feel of curling up on a shag rug next to the record player. Slide guitars reminiscent of old-school country and 1960s-style psychedelic organs nod towards the Bay Area’s Summer of Love past while reaching towards a hopeful future.

Spiritual Cramp takes a post soundcheck break outside of Oakland's Starline Social Club on day four of the 2019 Noise Pop Music and Arts Festival.
Spiritual Cramp took a post-soundcheck break outside of Oakland's Starline Social Club on day four of the 2019 Noise Pop Music and Arts Festival on February 28, 2019. (Estefany Gonzalez )

Spiritual Cramp

Opening for RXK Nephew
Brick & Mortar Music Hall, San Francisco
Thursday, Feb. 23, 7:30 p.m.
All ages, $18

Feeling some pent-up frustrations? San Francisco band Spiritual Cramp delivers unruly, high-energy post-punk with anti-establishment lyrics. It’s perfect for moshing and leaving it all on the dance floor.

Spellling. (Adora Wilson)


with Pride Month Barbie and Mahawam
Great American Music Hall, San Francisco
Sunday, Feb. 26, 7 p.m.
All ages, $25

A Spellling concert feels like a mystical ritual. Oakland singer and bandleader Tia Cabral captivates her audiences with arresting vocals and enigmatic lyrics, evoking mythology, tarot and the occult. With a mega-talented band that draws from influences as varied as prog rock and soul, Spellling’s theatrical live shows leave fans with a renewed appreciation of the magic of everyday life.

Tia Nomore visits The IMDb Portrait Studio at Acura Festival Village on Location at Sundance 2023 on January 22, 2023 in Park City, Utah. (Corey Nickols/Getty Images for IMDb)

Tia Nomore

Opening for JUNGLEPUSSY, with Stoni and DJ Mousetwat
The New Parish, Oakland
Sunday, Feb. 26, 7 p.m.
All ages $25-$30

Tia Nomore has been grinding it out for years in the Bay Area music scene, and the Text Me Records artist recently got a big break with her starring role in Earth Mama, a forthcoming coming-of-age film that debuted at Sundance to rave reviews. The rest of the country will soon get to fawn over her acting chops, but local fans know that Nomore is a gifted MC with a whole lot of slaps in her catalog.