Someone decided it was real smart to give my ass a Noise Pop press badge this festival season; I have literally salivating in excitement for what this potentially means since I've found out. Here is the account of San Francisco's Noise Pop 16 from a lowly writer armed with creds and a whole lot of time to waste:
One of my greatest loves in life next to beer, fine art photography, and small children is attending music shows. I profess to be a complete concert ho, and trek out multiple times a month to catch live music. It's an intrinsic part of who I am, and its value to me is so paramount, I can't even begin. I mean; I have a music tattoo, for fuck's sake:
(Each music note represents a member of my immediate family: my dad, mom, and brother)
Thus, argument over.
When I was in high school, though, things weren't so easy. I wasn't allowed to go to concerts by myself until I turned 18, which unfortunately was in the summer after I graduated anyway (my mom was sneaky). Luckily, my dad was willing to take me, and when we could we watched a folk guitarist do his thing or head bang in an arena, anything to experience the thrill of live music. When I moved to San Francisco, discovering Noise Pop was almost the best thing that happened to me that year (closely following discovering my love of said beer and also falling in love with the city and a boy simultaneously). Not only were there a shit ton of amazing bands who played each year, but I could take public transit to them too! No car needed! Heaven abounds.
This year is my fifth installment of the Noise Pop party (2006 was missed due to me being in Europe...sobfest, I know), and every year I am continually impressed with what the good folks over at NP are doing. I'll forgive you guys for ending the opening night party early; you still got some tricks up your sleeve for the week, and I am eager to find them out.
After a good round of laughs at the Jamie Kennedy documentary Heckler, I popped on a 14 and cruised my way over to the Rickshaw Stop to catch peoplepeople, a marriage that's just recently occurred between some of the members from Two Gallants and Trainwreck Riders. As the four piece climbed up on stage, I felt like I was watching my brother and his friends play; these guys all looked like babies in the face, minus the fact three of them were sporting some serious beards. Main guy Antonio Roman-Alcala helmed the mic and thanked the audience for coming, commenting it was the band's fourth official show as an outfit. That became more evident as the band plowed through their set; there were moments of sheer clarity and pure shredding and all around a great showcase of folk fused alt rock with a twist of 80s throwback, but there were also some painful points where the "jam" in "jam band" got taken way too seriously, and solos were stretched out for longer than necessary. I want these guys so badly to succeed; the potential is so freaking evident and I really liked the show as a whole. I will hope some honing and tuning will take place over the next year to polish them into the superstars I can see now.
On my way out, I passed by the merch table and saw one of my heroes chilling behind some T-shirts: Janet Weiss. Believe it or not, at one time she inspired me to contemplate picking up some sticks to pound on skins, but I didn't have the time to take drumming lessons (that, and there's no way in hell you can store a drum kit in a San Francisco apartment - trust). Being an avid fan of Sleater-Kinney before their breakup in 2006, I was bummed to not get the three piece back in original form, but was glad to still see Weiss continue on with her new focus, Quasi, who was also headlining the show peoplepeople just opened. I approached the table and spit out a 15-second adoration speech before asking to shake her hand. She looked amused but thanked me for coming.
I bumped into a one Chris Appelgren on my way out; we had been trying to connect for the past two days to try and land me my press badge, but he assured me that each venue would have a print-out of the badge holders and that I'd be gold to hop to any one of 'em in the mean time. After discussing the week impending, I decided I was going to try and make The Walkmen show at the Independent before zipping back to the Rickshaw for Quasi. I was reminded of my dad as I hopped aboard a 21 down Hayes to the Inde; he would have killed for anything to not drive when we were going to shows.
The worst thing to happen to a press person besides get hammered and ask really dumb questions to the musicians they interview is to not be on any list at the box office. It's wonderfully embarrassing; you hold up the line, the person behind the window checks every piece of paper in the office to not find your name, and then staff makes you get out of line while they figure out what to do with you, the evil evil media person. It's pretty humiliating and traumatic, and this completely happened to me when I approached the window at Inde; I did not exist and there was no way I was getting into the show, considering it sold out weeks prior. But I thought back to the Heckler movie from earlier in the evening, and just played it cool - I don't need to throw a huge hissy fit just to prove a point. Why be an asshole when in the long run, it's just a show? I should just stick around, be patient, and hope everything works out if it can. Admittedly, I vapidly tried to find someone to bum a cigarette from while I waited in an attempt to not look like so much of a lame ass. It sort of worked.
Finally everything got sorted, and I entered the upstairs area to take advantage of the "VIP area" my yellow wristband permitted me to; The Walkmen were already five songs in (second worst thing after finding out you're not on any list: listening to the show from the outside, burn in my flesh for sure), so I settled in quickly to soak in as much as possible. It's a weird fanciful affair I have with these boys from NYC; my first love introduced them to me, and undoubtedly me and him and the band have each grown into our respective persons since I first caught them at Noise Pop in 2005. With a Bob Dylan-like voice rooted in front man Hamilton Leithauser, a cross between a wail and a growl nestled in the depths of his throat, The Walkmen delivered a completely solid set full of new material and old; "Wake Up" off 2002's Everyone Who Pretended To Like Me Is Gone garnered as much attention and dance moves as "All Hands And The Cook" off their recent full-length Lemon Hill. It's old modern music for the pretentious indie kid and ardent music lover. I was just bummed my favorite song, the title track, wasn't in the set.
I hopped back on a 21 to witness Quasi back at the Rickshaw, Weiss's poundings on her drum kit evident from across the street before I walked in. They did old favorite "It's Raining" as a closer, a Ted Leo-inspired vibe from singer Sam Coomes radiating throughout the venue. Furious piano and heavy bass saturate the band's work, and I am curious now as ever to find out more about them.
At this point, it was already a quarter to 1, and I was planning on getting shitfaced the next night. I bid farewell to the band a bit early and contemplated getting $1 frozen pizza from Walgreen's or a donut from a 24-hour shop around the corner from Rickshaw. I decided if I was going completely unhealthy, I better do it the right way, so I made it over to pick up a maple custard Ã©clair and walked up Van Ness to my bus stop. Somehow, everything seemed so perfect; all my connections, all my goals for the night were met, and I was eating a delicious piece of dough dipped in sugar. I wiped my mouth before grabbing my bus pass, and hoped it would be this good all week.