Words and photos by JENZ
Traditionally, the Friday of Noise Pop tends to be the shit day for me. Dudes who I had relations with three years ago come by, I lose a shoe, I never get the carne asada tacos I am promised. I was hoping I was not going to go 0-3 for the 2009 Noise Pop season, but things get disguised in mysterious ways.
While Wednesday and Thursday’s installments of the Diesel and Budweiser happy hour had been a good place to hang with friends and musicians alike, Friday’s edition proved that our little known secret had been discovered. A line snaking up from the happy hour room greeted us when we arrived, and by the time I made it downstairs with a little contact help, it was near impossible to navigate amongst the sweaty bodies and some damn mannequins populating precious floor space. I suppose it wasn’t without reason: Ra Ra Riot were right in the middle of a free acoustic show, and I slowly regained breath to catch the tail end of their set. For such a short few songs, I immediately was drawn to the NY ensemble; having that string arrangement being pulled off in a fucking retail store was remarkable, and there was something about Wes Miles’s voice that was picking at me -- but I couldn’t discern what exactly.
Also, various WonderCon attendees who had been getting their geek a couple blocks away were now wandering into a hipster clusterfuck of plaid and Anthropologie accessories while The Submarines guest DJed, so the mix was interesting to see gel.
Somehow, though, despite the wonder of Ra Ra Riot being presented, I wasn’t able to shake my feelings of frustration in not being able to connect with anyone I needed to. A new guy who I’d had the hopes of pursuing something with was not returning my texts as he promised; his friend was now looking at me awkwardly at the happy hour; a dude who I’d gone on exactly three dates with and ended us via Facebook was there with his new girlfriend; my New York crush was wandering around, and I was horribly blushing. All this coupled with some stumbling in scheduling band interviews left a sour taste in my mouth, and I drunk smoked outside while trying to collect myself.
Girl, it is Noise Pop, and all about the music, period. Fuck these bros. Get with the program.
In a good change of pace, I unexpectedly was dumped into Cut Off Your Hands’ laps at the Independent shortly after departing our happy hour. New Zealand lot Nick, Brent, and Jono began to tell me of their San Francisco travels as well as how much shit they get for their band name. “If you cut off one hand, how do you cut the other one off?” said Nick amusingly. “We get that one a lot.”
“We get your average amount of shit,” said Brent. “80 grams of shit, to be precise.”
Details were scant as to how they met (teaching and going to the same college seemed to be the dispute), and various percentages were also thrown my way on a variety of subjects.
“We are all vegetarian,” said Nick. “But 20 percent of us are not in New Zealand. I mean, that’s how we all met, we were all eating meat, then changed.”
“We were very concerned for our carbon footprint,” Brent chimed in. “It’s very big. I mean, 30 percent of the country is affected.”
“And we eat lentils and tofu,” replied Nick, which made everyone think this was super funny.
But at the end of the day, world domination and improving bowling scores seemed to be on the foremost priority (“God, I’d just like to get over 150,” lamented Nick). With new EP Happy As Can Be recently out and full-length You & I at stake, Brent described the 24-hour flights from his hometown to London as worth it: “I want to see the future happen, and I want to have fun. That’s it.”
Then the band tried to take pictures of me and also of picking their noses after their manager stole my camera to take a phallic picture involving water being spilt from a water bottle. Alas.
After the COYH interview, I wandered upstairs fighting back some tears. In the middle of this festival where I should have felt a surge in energy being in the epicenter of such great music, I was feeling so, so lousy. It’s weird what takes precedence at the most unexpected moments, and thinking about the shambles my dating life was currently in the spotlight. Instead of being jazzed about meeting awesome musicians and seeing some stellar live performances, I was having some doubts about love.
I meekly flashed my wristband to head up to the mezzanine level and watch Ra Ra Riot. A long time ago I heard “Ghost Under The Rocks” and was absolutely floored. I love bands like Annuals and The Velvet Teen because it seems like the chemistry and all my favorite things warp into one giant trap of talent: strings, a good drum hook, voices forlorn of hope and despair. As I sat up in the balcony being completely depressed about dudes, “Ghost Under The Rocks” came on and at that moment I felt a pang of something hit me. It’d started to poke out when I was at Diesel, but now it was becoming more powerful. I was finally letting the music fill my veins, and losing myself to the experience in melting into the audio at hand; this was what was supposed to happen. I became the star in Ra Ra Riot lyrics; I let the guitar pierce my temples; I tapped along to the percussion. And it was exactly what I needed. I walked out the end of the show half-smirking, half-smiling to myself. I guess sometimes you really do just need to shut up and listen.