Well, I just got back from a week of Noise Pop in San Francisco and boy are my hips tired. These last few days have been a whirlwind of crazy shows, packed venues, expensive beers and old friends. I have been going to Noise Pop shows for half a decade, not a very long time in the festival’s 17 year legacy, but I can safely say this was the craziest year I have seen. Insane. The city is so much more alive and moving than I remember. The people all have an extra shot of crack in the morning and an extra shot of whiskey at night. Outright lunacy. Here is a brief rundown of my week.
Tuesday: Annie and I drive down to SF from our home base in Sonoma County, the collective hometown of our youth. We meet the folks at the Noise Pop offices and grab some badges. Annie and I both worked for these guys this year, so the festival is like a week long paycheck. We also have accommodations at the beautiful Mosser Hotel in the downtown financial district .The hotel is quaint and the staff was friendly enough and most importantly stay the Hell out of our room all week. Privacy at its best.
The show of the night is Deerhunter, who open the festival at the free party located just blocks from our room at the Mezzanine. Usually I am scared of this venue, both because of its surroundings and its history. I have heard some bloody tales. But the club is packed and the spirits high. High priced too. Six bucks for a bud. What a country.
Deerhunter comes out shrouded in fog and the Boss’s “Dancing in the Dark” as introduction. Then they play a blisteringly loud and intense set filled with tunes old and new that really show off their live sound. A blend of post punk and shoegaze set to a poppy tempo, the band is pretty rad live. Noise Pop went ahead and filmed some of these so I could embed them here. Aren’t they sweet?
Wednesday: We first take the train to the Swedish American Hall, upstairs from Cafe Du Nord. We have come to see Papercuts, the act fronted by local songwriter Jason Quever. He makes ambient indie pop that is at once eerie and melodic, with a high flasetto and hypnotic hooks. Annie and I both love this band. They are actually opening for Mountain Goats, but we head over to see Stephen Malkmus instead. We saw the Goats last year, and seeing Malkmus live has always been a top priority.
There we meet up with our friends Eric and Rachel and had a grand old time. This show, at the Great American, is actually a solo venture for Malkmus, who comes out alone with a guitar. He proceeds to engross the crowd in stripped down renditions of his older Pavemnet material (Range Life) and newer solo stuff (Real Emotional Trash). He is great to see, really capturing the audience, who had been callously talking through every opener, and some tunes are like a sing along, they’re so popular. Got to see Malkmus again soon.
Thursday: To the Bottom of the Hill and the instrumental force that is From Monument to Masses. There we meet up with more friends and proceed to rock our heads in a steady and determined fashion. FMTM is a really tight, really full three piece, playing epic rock with decidedly politcial undertones and sampling. I am lucky enough to grab a barstool at the back and sit for the end, as the crowd gets pretty swollen throughout the show.
That’s really the only problem with this festival, too many people go to it. The venues sell out, plus another several hundred badge holders, sponsers, staff, and friends of friends on guest lists. Almost every show I went to was a fire hazard waiting to happen, over crowded and sweltering from the heat of the tiny rooms. And I know there is really nothing I can do about it, it just kinda stinks for the people who are really into these bands and the bands themselves. They are playing to industry people more concerned with talking over the music than enjoying it. Oh well (shrug shoulders)
Friday: This is Ra Ra Riot at the Independent. Again crowded and hot, Annie and I take refuge in the VIP upstairs area. We are VIPs afterall. Its our duty to uphold all that is VIP. We promptly forget our friends among the surfs, peons and peasants below. They are lost to their own fate. But we-we rise up to that higher plateu to claim our place as the very important people.
Oh yea. . .Ra Ra Riot was actually pretty good. See for yourself.
Saturday: By this time I am getting a little burnt out from all this Noise Pop. It’s a hard thing to do. Going out every night. I’m tired. We try to go to the Pop ‘n Shop at the Verdi Club. This is where all the crafts are. You walk around and look at them and buy some. Yet again, the venue is too small for the crowd and we can’t even get through. Ten minutes later we are cruising the Mission, buying laserdiscs and perusing cacti. Much better.
We see the debut of Clues, a project fronted by one of the guys who was in the Unicorns. I didn’t really do my homework on them. I think they’re from Canada. The show is a quick train ride down to the Rickshaw Stop. Loch Lomond, from Portland(!), open with others and were decent enough, though this is the night where the inattentive crowds actually ruin the show. Rickshaw doesn’t really have a sound system like most clubs. The music is actually drowned out by the sound of the screaming masses, half of whom seemed to have snuck in by the looks of the over stressed security staff. It’s madness. We stay for Clues, but leave early to catch the train. They sound good, but I’d like to hear them again without the competing conversations.
Sunday: This was the one. Les Savy Fav at the Mezzanine. This was the set of the festival. If you are not familiar with Les Savy Fav, check them out here. I will just say that everything you hear about lead singer Tim Harrington’s antics is true.
He comes out wrapped like a Mummy, pours a beer on the crowd, gets felt up by stage crashers and divers, slides down a handrail, roams the crowds and crawls back up on the stage. The music is tight, the crowd is wild, the atmosphere is electric. Maybe one of the best shows I have seen in years. They play all our favorite songs, give us all our money’s worth, leave us all wanting more. Long live Les Savy Fav.
I will also post a video of that set if Noise Pop does. You have to see it to believe it.
So that was it. Oh yea. Our car’s window got smashed on the last night of the week. Almost made it through SF unscathed. A bunch of a Savages in this town.
I’ll be back to movies and comics soon, but music has been my life this last week. Not such a bad thing. Not at all. Thanks to Noise Pop for making me feel special. And thanks to San Francsisco for reminding me I’m not.