Live: Lyrics Born Date: Thursday, March 1 Opener: The Coup Better than: Getting slapped in the mouth with a fish Rating: 4 out of 5
Lyrics Born and the Coup threw down what could possibly be the liveliest and most fun show for this year's Noise Pop Festival. Both acts brought full bands to back them, each filling the Fillmore with soul-shaking beats that left no hip unshook. Lyrics Born's band brought forth the funk with so much gusto that the floor was literally bouncing. With an audience of what Common might refer to as "coffeeshop chicks and white dudes," no one could control even a foot from tapping, as everyone seemed to let go of the inhibitions that will likely stay bottled in for other Noise Pop shows. Ridiculous amounts of Buddha wafted through the air as slap bass, twangy guitar, and keys courtesy of Crown City Rockers' Kat Ouano kept the party going.
LB, alongside his supporting vocalist wife Joyo Velarde, hit all the right notes as they went through what seemed to be the entire Later That Day track list. The two exhibited their fine-tuned chemistry throughout the set, highlighted by one of his newest tracks, "I'm a Dude," a chauvinist-and-proud-of-it anthem. In what could be the most interesting call-and-response portion of any hip-hop song, Lyrics Born griped about how long women take to get ready and urged all the men to yell, "Hurry the hell up!" while Joyo had all the ladies counter with "It takes time to look so fly!"
Boots Riley and the Coup seem to have recuperated nicely since their recent bus accident, as evident at the beginning of the show. Riley, sporting his trademark blowout Afro and dressed in a superfly leisure suit, melted soul all over the early audience with funk and soul beats, culminating in a final performance of "Ghetto Manifesto" to the tune of OutKast's "So Fresh, So Clean." Unfortunately, the end of the Coup's performance was met with the majority of the audience just arriving through the doors.
The only true hip-hop show of Noise Pop turned out to be the best entertainment of the festival so far. True, Lyics Born and the Coup may not be as heralded and seminal as other bands playing this year (read: Sebadoh), but they're surely a lot more fun. -- Oscar Pascual
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Previous experience: Countless LB shows Personal bias: As Eazy-E put it: I like rock, but I prefer hip-hop. When white girls dance: They look more like they're doing calisthenics.
Live: Ted Leo and the Pharmacists Venue: Great American Music Hall Date: Friday, March 2 Openers: Georgie James, So Many Dynamos, Pony Come Lately Better than: Saving a bunch of money on your car insurance. Rating: B+
The mysterious forces of the universe can sometimes conspire to prevent a well-meaning concert reviewer from catching the first band. Sincerest apologies, local supergroup Pony Come Lately; you were missed, but not forgotten. Second to play was So Many Dynamos, an emo/indie-rock quartet from St. Louis kicking off a twenty-date US tour. Tight jeans, faded tees, and delightfully unkempt 'dos softened the group's otherwise tough sound, which drew from At the Drive-In descendants such as Dismemberment Plan and Les Savy Fav. Georgie James is a cute name for a cute band with a cute sound. Brandishing a classic pop style not unlike the Shins, Georgie James was the first band of the night to get the audience moving -- though it should have moved even more than it did. Despite the crowd's reluctant response, the band's sweet power-pop hit the mark with gorgeous melodies and harmonies. Oddly enough, guitarist and lead singer John Davis used to drum for DC-based post-hardcore group Q and Not U. Keyboardist Laura Burhenn, who looked something like an indie version of Jennylee from Beauty and the Geek (let's not get into how I know that), has a beautiful voice and was pursuing a solo career when the duo came together in late 2005. Davis and Burhenn were joined by a bassist and drummer.
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists were, without a doubt, the main event, for the crowd summoned whatever jaded energy it had left to welcome them. Wearing khaki pants and a navy blue polo buttoned all the way up, Leo didn't exactly look the picture of punk. His performance, however, was full of fire and energy -- despite a lingering illness -- and that was all we needed. A series of miscues [the band failed to start a couple songs together], mistakes [Leo's voice cracked, the drummer was off sync a couple times], and bad luck [Leo broke a distortion pedal and a guitar string toward the end] was distracting, but didn't detract much from an otherwise solid set, which included almost everything off 2005's Shake the Sheets as well as a surprising number of songs from the group's forthcoming new record, Living with the Living, out March 20. As predicted, their exuberant punk/reggae/indie-rock translated excellently across the board.
One song from the new record, the hardcore-influenced "Bomb. Repeat. Bomb.," provided the night's most striking moment. The majority of Leo's newer material is political in nature, but this track was more overtly angry than anything off Shake the Sheets. Bassist Dave Lerner screamed "Bomb, repeat, bomb, repeat, bomb!" into his mic throughout the song, while Ted Leo took his most aggressive stance of the night. He usually makes frustration and anger sound sexy, but this was blatantly different and stood out sharply in his set. It was like the downer that nonetheless needed to be said.
The band's encore delivered more highlights: a solo version of "Bleeding Powers," which proved Ted Leo can fill a room all by himself, then a closing cover of Chumbawamba's "Rappaport's Testament: I Never Gave Up." The lyrics were from another group, but they conveyed Leo's message perfectly. As his bandmates quietly put down their instruments and left the stage, he continued to chant the song's closing couplet:I never gave up, I never gave up/I crawled in the mud but I never gave up. It was a fitting epithet for a man who's been in the biz for almost 20 years with no loss of passion.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Previous experience: Shake the Sheets and a few random tracks from earlier records Personal bias: Quickly fell in love with Shake the Sheets and the song "Hearts of Oak" from 2003 record of the same name Random quote of the night: Dude in the audience requesting song: "Since U Been Gone! Since U Been Gone!" My friend: "Is that a Ted Leo song or does he mean the Kelly Clarkson song?" Ted Leo, hearing request onstage: "That would be bad for all of us."
(PIXELATED) VIDEO OUT
Ted Leo and the Pharmacists - "Me and Mia"
Georgie James - "More Lights"
Live: Hella Date: Wednesday, February 28 Opener: Pop Levi, Macromantics, Tartufi Better than: Taste of Chaos 2007 Rating: two out of five bananas
Delicate-eared young girls fled as tall beardos swarmed toward the Bottom of the Hill stage Wednesday night during Sacramento ADD speed metal act Hella's debut of new material as part of Noise Pop 2007's week-long, city-wide music festival.
Closing with the title track off their recent Ipecac release There's No 666 In Outer Space, Hella dropped sortie after sortie of percussive cluster bombs while new vocalist Aaron Ross screamed alongside the chaotic guitar-work of Spencer Seim.
Drummer Zach Hill hits so hard and so seemingly randomly from beginning to end that he might as well be enduring electric shocks with the drum sticks simply taped to his hands.
The downside? This band is so techy and so proggy - with preternatural tolerances of just milliseconds between drumbreaks - that it's hard to tell when they're being clever or when they're just fucking up and stomping all over each other's cues. Hella makes System of a Down look like Wayne Newton. It may not be possible for every bar of music in a song to subscribe to a different drum pattern, but Hella tries. The patches of clear, straightforward metal are so rare they elicit whoops and fist-pumping out of sheer recognition.
Not your cup of tea? Number two headliner Pop Levi functioned as the anti-Hella during his prior set. Using very traditional, 4/4-based drum beats and standard blues chords, the former bassist from Ladytron and his quartet showed his first real American crowd what exactly a love child would look like if the parents were the Black Keys and a glam-era David Bowie. The entire timbre of Levi's set operated in the treble end of the dial, with his dry, distorted guitar complementing his rough yet high nasal voice drowned in deep reverb. Even though Bottom of the Hill is as big as a 7-11, Pop Levi sounded like he was playing a stadium. Such a career transition is possible, given songs like "Pick Me Up", Vincent Gallo's looks, and healthy appreciation that girls need something to dance to.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Previous experience: Hella interview and review of There's No 666 In Outer Space
Personal bias: white dudes like electric guitar Random quote of the night: "That guy is like Pan, except instead of having goat legs, he's 10 feet tall." - short girl named "Shimmy," regarding plethora of tall beardos at the show
VIDEO OUT: Pop Levi
Live: Tapes N Tapes Date: Tuesday, February 27 Opener: Har Mar Superstar, Extra Action Marching Band, DJ David Cross Better than: your average Tuesday night without an open bar Rating: two out of five bananas
Industry insiders and indie scenesters followed their primary rule of "don't act excited" during the opening night of the 15th Noise Pop Festival in San Francisco Tuesday, denying headliners Tapes N Tapes an encore while politely golf-clapping with one hand clutching a free Heineken. The underwhelming evening stayed afloat thanks to the open VIP bar, the Extra Action Marching Band, and other great performances. But let's face it - it's frickin' Tuesday and we all have to work the next day.
Comprising 110 bands over 6 days at more than a dozen venues, San Francisco's Noise Pop Festival is arguably the biggest Northern California music event, even though it's 10 times smaller than Austin's South By Southwest. Tuesday's show at the Mezzanine kicked off the event thanks to Doc Martens, who sponsored the FREEDM Night - meaning free entrance to web-savvy applicants, a 90-minute open bar, and hundreds of pounds of free posters, t-shirts, eMusic gift cards and ice cream.
Highlights included Midwestern indie quartet Tapes N Tapes performing all the good songs off their 2005 debut The Loon, including "Just Drums" and "Manitoba" which had maybe 10 percent of the crowd dancing, and ended with no encore.
Equally denied, Oakland's Extra Action Marching Band ushered in Noise properly with a blasting, 25-person person brass and dance ensemble that worked its way through the crowd. Lots of pounding drums and trumpets and g-strings and pom-poms made Mezzanine feel like a Mardi Gras parade, except for the goddam audience, who seemed drugged with lithium. If some small town hall in Santa Cruz got a chance to party hard with Extra Action, they would've torn the fucking place apart.
Similarly, party-hungry inland crowds would also riot if they saw Minneapolis' Har Mar Superstar do his thing, but he would be the target. There's nothing quite like this balding, beer-gut-laden white dude crooning "Sexy/Back"-style dance pop while flashing his man boobs. His sincerity made up for his vulgarity. And anyone willing to strip down to their tightey-whiteys in front of the meanest crowd in North American has two swinging brass ones that go clang-clang when he dances. "Fuck you for not applauding that," Har Mar said after a particularly exposing ass-dance. Fuck you, indeed.
PS: Comedian David Cross DJ'd a set, but no one danced or even stepped within 10 meters of his turntable for fear of some searing burn about being a hipster. Touche, Mr. Cross and your invisible moat of heckling.
CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Previous experience: Tapes N Tapes' The Loon; Public Enemy at Mezzanine Personal bias: Pro-The Loon; Pro-bands with brass and nudity; anti-ennui Random quote of the night: "I should be a billionare." -Har Mar Superstar
VIDEO OUT: Oakland's epic Extra Action Marching Band
Har Mar Titty Flash
Tapes N Tapes do "Manitoba"
NOISEPOP PICKS Here's the deal. Noisepop is going down in history as your most ultimate six-day weekend in human existence. The big downer is that your buzz will undoubtedly be killed by the plethora of snooty attitudes thanks be to the local population abound of whom are commonly referred to as the Pretentious Art Fucks. South Park wasn't lying, San Francisco does have the highest smug levels in the nation, and it's not just hybrid car owners. So make the best of your time. You won't go two seconds without being surrounded by kids dressed like Russian spies, so you might as well bang your head as hard you can. Right, player?
Wednesday 2/28 Don't act like you didn't tape every episode of 120 Minutes back in the day, watching while crossing your fingers for anything dealing with Lou Barlow. Sebadoh is going to rock, and you know it. Besides, tickets for Rage Against the Machine at Coachella are all sold out, and you have to relive the 90s at least once this year. 8 PM at Great American Music Hall, $18, $20. All ages.
Thursday 3/1 Life will be sparse with beats and rhymes at this year's Noisepop, so get your fix from the Bay Area's own Lyrics Born, performing with The Coup. It's been nearly two years since his last offering, but odds are LB will still win you over with funky-soul beats and gravely vocals that never felt so smooth. Not to mention Boots and The Coup seem to be recovering quite nicely from their recent accident, and should get you sufficiently wet for Lyrics Born. 8 PM at the Fillmore, $25. All ages.
Friday, 3/2 Sorry, TV on the Radio, The Arcade Fire or Interpol couldn't be here. But hey, go check out Autolux. They're definitely on the junior varsity indie rock team, but that means they're getting better. Don't end up like the time you gave up on Blonde Redhead before Misery is a Butterfly. Keep hope alive! 9 PM at the Independent, $12, $14. 21+
Saturday, 3/3 You'd gladly trade in this entire festival for a few good hours with Radiohead. Do the next best thing and check out one of their favorite bands, Clinic. Smoke a bowl beforehand, then bug out and wonder if Ade Blackburn got his jaw wired shut like Kanye. 9 PM at the Independent, $17. 21+.
Sunday, 3/4 If you want some thorough entertainment, see if The Dwarves pull some old school crazy shit, or just go laugh at jokes rife with puppy cunnilingus, gay retards, and an awkward white girl impersonating Alicia Keys. The Comedians of Comedy could quite possibly be the high point of your Noisepop experience. The indie elitists can't be jerks at a comedy show, can they? 2 shows, 6 PM and 9 PM at the Independent, $24. 21+. --Oscar Pascual
This year showcases some of the most interesting and high profile acts in NoisePop history. The bottom line is not many of us music junkies have the time, the money, or the liver capacity to experience it all. So the Express has taken it upon itself to give you a definitive critical guide to the whole magical mystery tour.
Thursday 3/1 There is no doubt that the return of Roky Erickson to the stage will have the effect of seeing an apparition; bizarre, riveting and a little frightening. As the frontman for the Texas group The Thirteen Floor Elevators he wrote the rock classic "You're Gonna Miss Me" which has been famously lodged into the pop culture consciousness as the intro to the movie "High Fidelity" where John Cusack's character plays the angry break-up song as retribution for his girlfriend leaving him high and dry. It's an apt metaphor for Roky Erickson's career as the gifted songwriter was loved and then quickly forgotten by the mainstream after only releasing two records both of which had singles that reached the Top 100 Billboard charts. After being arrested on a marijuana charge he pleaded insanity, (bad move) only to be hospitalized and subsequently subjected to electro-shock treatments, which left his brain high and dry. During the late '70's and '80's he was largely seen as an oddity of rock culture with his recorded solo works consisting of songs about alien habitation, talking with the devil and all other sorts of psychological horrors. For many critics Roky is the American Syd Barrett, a brilliant but troubled songwriter whose small body of work presaged many of the later dominant styles within rock (psych, garage and punk) and whose unmistakable howl has been copied by everyone from Janis Joplin to the lead singer of the Gris Gris. Don't miss this legend perform with the Explosives at The Great American Music Hall Also don't miss openers Howlin Rain , Oranger and Wooden Shjips. 8PM 25$ All Ages
Stream "You're Gonna Miss Me"
Los Angeles' indie-rock trio Autolux have been paying their dues on the concert circuit for years now opening for major bands (White Stripes, Beck, NIN) who love them but can't yet seem to get the mainstream to show their appreciation. Seeing them open up for all these major bands can be a frustrating experience (I've been there) because it is nearly impossible to follow the subtle musical interplay and chemistry between the musicians when you have 10,000 screaming fans who just want to see Trent Reznor or Jack White. The key is to see them headline in a small venue with great sound i.e. The Independent. Their live show is something to experience as lead guitarist Greg Edwards spends half the time as a mad scientist using his guitar pedals as instruments while the other half holding it down with vocal harmonies and guitar hooks that will have you humming the whole drive home. The rhythm section is no less efficient as bass player Eugene Goreshter also helms the vocal duties and delivers memorable driving bass lines of the Sonic Youth/Pixies variety. The female drummer Carla Azar has been known to make male indie-rock drummers cry and run back home to practice for another 10 years as her sheer skill and physicality on the skins would make Questlove do a double take. Also be sure to check out openers Snowden with Oakland's Death of a Party whose debut album is coming out soon and also Canadians Malajube whose new record has the critics swooning. At the Independent 8:30 PM 12$ 14$ 21 and over.
If the Noise Pop promoters wanted to frustrate us with their choice of performers on Saturday they sure did. If this lineup would have been on Sunday I would choose Brightblack Morning Light in a heartbeat. Their self titled debut of shoegazy folk has been on repeat in my CD player since it came out and it would be a perfect show to see on a Sunday to wind down the week of drinking and going to shows. However, on Saturday raw power is what you need and for that Washington D.C.'s Dead Meadow will be sure to deliver. After releasing three solid albums of Black Sabbath influenced psychedelia they decided to add a new guitarist and make a slight detour in their sound. What they did was silence the naysayers by releasing Feathers, an album that expanded their sound revealing a little less heavy rock riffage and a little more songwriting nuance that doesn't necessarily rely on the big riffs/big drums dialectic. Also, they've been working on new material that will be released on Matador in mid-2007 so it will be a treat for fans to hear what they have up their sleeve. Check out openers Starlight Desperation, Spindrift, Love Like Fire all at Café Du Nord 8:30 PM 12$ 14$ 21 and over
Download MP3 "At Her Open Door"
Sunday 3/4 Although Sunday is slim pickings there are possibilities to catch a couple really great performances to cap off the week. If bringing it down a notch sounds like your game plan then you should go see Minipop a San Francisco band who write hazy dream pop in the Slowdive vein infusing their slow-core with a penchant for melodies that at times recall the best work of The Cardigans. They will open for Midlake a band from Texas whose latest record reached #14 on the British charts. Their brand of folk-pop has garnered references to Fleetwood Mac and Granddaddy and although not my favorite pick of the week, I think their mellow rock approach will fit nicely on a Sunday. Also definitely get there early to see Ester Drang. At Bottom of the Hill 10 $ All Ages --Oscar Medina
Every so often, it's time for Sound by Its Cover to take a break from launching merciless missives against purveyors of bad album art and instead give props to those covers that aspire to the highest marks of the medium. Today, if you hadn't guessed, is one of those times. We can thank London-based indie singer-songwriter Alexi Murdoch for that; the cover to his debut full-length, Time Without Consequence, is beautiful and powerful in its simplicity.
It's not often an album cover consists of a lone person -- let alone the musician who made the record -- sitting on a chair and staring forward, straight into the soul of its beholder. Time Without Consequence demands a closer look. Murdoch's hands rest palm-down on his thighs; his posture is erect. It's a bold, unfliching pose that seems to say, "Go ahead, I dare you."
But at the same time it's gentle and qaint. The musician's dress, unkempt hair, and unshaven face are old-timey and welcoming, in the way you might remember your stern yet loving grandfather. The black-and-white color scheme reinforces this. Studying the photo further, you notice that the focus is very fine. Only the plane of his chest and face is sharp; his hands, legs, and feet are blurred. And finally, the overexposed glow of Murdoch's hands, plus the receding hardwood floor beneath his feet, lend an ethereal, ghostly feel to the scene.
Without a doubt, it's a work of high art. If someone were to frame it and hang it on a wall in an art gallery, SbIC has twenty bucks on it drawing considerable attention and analysis from so-called "art appreciators." If I weren't already holding it in my hands, I'd pay good money for it, too. Shall the bidding begin at $15?