The 2010 Noise Pop Music Fesitval is just around the corner, and in its eighteenth year the festival continues to offer a compelling slate of events celebrating the world of independent music. With over 100 bands and artists involved in events between February 23rd and March 1st, there are, to put it mildly, a lot of attractive options. Here are some picks for potential highlights during the Noise Pop week.
It wouldn't be Noise Pop without shows featuring some buzzed-about new indie bands, and bands don't get much newer than Black Prairie, whose show at the Rickshaw Stop on February 27th is actually their first ever live performance. The group features three-fifths of chamber-prog giants The Decemberists, but don't expect epic narrative-driven sea shanties from this primarily instrumental acoustic quintet. Instead the group pulls from bluegrass and old-timey sounds on their first album, Feast of the Hunters' Moon, which comes out in April.
Judging from Philadelphia band Free Energy's early promo tracks, Stuck on Nothing may be the most conventionally rock-and-roll album DFA Records has ever released, but is that a bad thing? It's certainly something of a curveball to see critics reference Thin Lizzy and T-Rex given the label's disco and electronica leanings, but I'm inclined to trust producer James Murphy (LCD Soundsystem) and the rolling groove of "Something in Common" and the urgent stomp of "Dream City." The band is at the Rickshaw Stop on February 24th.
A couple more potential highlights on the "young band" front: New Jersey's Memory Tapes (Bottom of the Hill, 2/27), whose Seek Magic was deemed "Best New Music" by Pitchfork last year, and Austin's Harlem (Cafe Du Nord, 2/24), a band whose second album Hippies is forthcoming on Matador Records.
The Noise Pop bills are stacked with excellent local bands, but several locals-turned-headliners bear special note. The Dodos recently previewed their collaboration with the Magik*Magik Orchestra at the SF MoMA's 75th Anniversary opening, but they'll be giving their first public performance at the Palace of Fine Arts on Thursday, February 25th. For a band that can create propulsive, booming songs from just a guitar, drums, and a vibraphone, the orchestral arrangements at the MOMA show didn't feel superfluous, adding ambitious layers to the trio's endearing tunes.
If you don't already have a ticket to see Rogue Wave at Bottom of the Hill on February 24th, you'll need to buy a Noise Pop badge (and even then, I'd show up early). The show kicks off the band's US tour in support of their new album Permalight, which Zach Rogue has described as a "total dance album." That's something of a shift for a band known for its melodic indie pop. Also of note: SF's Thao Nguyen brought Mirah onstage for a few songs at her recent sold-out Great American show, but the two are doing a full collaborative performance at the Swedish American Hall on February 27th.
Outside of the stacked slate of concerts every night, there are a number of other music-related events during the festival, including an ongoing photo exhibit at Hotel Biron showcasing some of the Bay Area's talented concert photographers and a film schedule stacked with interesting offerings (including a sneak preview of a new Magnetic Fields documentary and a doc about Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan's winery). Finally, if you're put off by the idea of paying to see live music, there are free happy hour shows at Bender's from the 24th through the 27th, including, I should note, a Bay Bridged presented show on Friday afternoon featuring three great local bands.
Ben Van Houten is the Programming Director of The Bay Bridged.