In its 17th year, the Noise Pop Festival is even more fierce than previous years. The festival, which runs Feb. 24 to March 1, 2009 in venues throughout San Francisco, brings together some of the best local artists with an incredibly impressive lineup of indie acts from out of town.
There are simply too many great shows to mention, and some of them are already sold out unless you buy a full festival badge. But here's a small sample of some of the highlights.
Kicking things off Tuesday night is what promises to be a highlight of the festival, with Deerhunter and Lilofee at The Mezzanine. This show (get there early, folks -- this one is free with RSVP) begins at 10pm and showcases one of the biggest buzz bands in the indie world. Their latest album Microcastle received rave reviews as a break-out album for this previously under-appreciated ambient rock group. Combined with local electro-pop band Lilofee, this show should kick-start the festival with a bang. If you're looking for a more mellow festival appetizer, Antony and the Johnsons will play at 8pm at the Nob Hill Masonic Center.
Wednesday, let the games begin. The first full night of shows is packed with music with a John Darnielle solo set at Swedish American already sold out. However, one of the most exciting shows of the night, Stephen Malkmus (most widely known for his work with Pavement, but now performing with The Jicks) will perform a solo set at the Great American Music Hall at 8pm. The Jicks' latest album, Real Emotional Trash, was released in March of last year to mixed reviews. Malkmus occasionally slips into old shoes and performs Pavement material at shows, but one can only guess about this show. Kelley Stoltz, Peggy Honeywell, and Goh Nakamura will open for this legendary indie rocker.
Sold-out shows continue into Thursday with Josh Ritter performing solo with a string quartet at the Great American at 8pm. It's clear why concertgoers would immediately see the value in this show -- Ritter's tender folk rock will surely be breathtaking backed by a string quartet. And with Laura Gibson, Dave Smallen and Tiny Television opening, it promises to be a night of amazing up-and-comers. Ritter released a self-titled record in April of last year that consists of 12 songs he wrote in college. He will continue to tour nationwide through Spring. Two great local bands will also headline other venues that night -- Thee Oh Sees and From Monument to Masses. As for all sold-out shows, hope is not lost! You can gain access to these shows by purchasing the ever popular Noise Pop Festival Badge which will grant entry into all shows during the festival.
With a new album pending, St. Vincent will grace the stage at the Great American Music Hall on Friday. Her debut record Marry Me has brought her international fame, and her live performances showcase her raw talent as a vocalist and guitarist. She'll be joined by Cryptacize, Rafter and That Ghost at 8pm. The Independent will host yet another sold-out show (but remember, you can still get a badge!) from Ra Ra Riot. The band's name matches their energy onstage, even with a cello and violin taking a leading role in their upbeat indie tunes. Their debut album The Rhumb Line has sent them straight to the top of the indie scene, with a performance on Letterman, a placement in Spin magazine, and much more. Cut Off Your Hands, Telekinesis and The Hooks will open beginning at 8pm.
Saturday, the festival reaches a peak with legendary punk rocker Bob Mould (best known for Hüsker Dü) taking the stage at the Swedish American. At 48, Mould still has a sense for what music fits him and fits his fans. A new album Life and Times will be released in April. Mould will be joined by Mark Eitzel (of American Music Club), Donovan Quinn and Jason Finazzo beginning at 7:30pm. Local buzz band Sholi will also headline on Saturday at Bottom of the Hill, with The Dead Trees, Everest and Jake Mann. Sholi's recent shows with Iron and Wine and their signing to Quarterstick/Touch and Go Records have turned the eyes of many fans nationally. That show starts at 9pm.
Ending the festival with a bang on Sunday, New York indie legends Les Savy Fav will perform at The Mezzanine with The Mae Shi and The Drums. After six years of silence, Les Savy Fav reemerged in 2007 with Let's Stay Friends. Having suffered from writer's block, the album made fans and critics grateful for the quality that resulted in a final burst of inspiration -- an album these "godfathers of indie" could be proud of. With no planned shows upcoming, this is a unique opportunity to see the band, perhaps before they head into the den in search of more material. The show starts at 8pm and thus we will bid farewell to Noise Pop 2009.
Of course, these shows are all on top of an overwhelming amount of film, art and industry events that will be going on all week. And there are multiple happy hour shows with fantastic local acts such as Maus Haus, Scissors for Lefty, Man/Miracle, The Aimless Never Miss and more. Check out the full schedule for more details and tickets, and have fun.
Emily Logan is the News Editor of The Bay Bridged.