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NOISE POP NIGHT 6 :: 03/04/07

Words & Images by: Andy Tennille

Midlake, Minipop, Ester Drang, Minmae
Bottom of the Hill :: San Francisco, CA

"We're gonna send this one out to an old friend, Sally Walker."

Midlake :: 03.04.07 :: Noise Pop
From the darkened depths of a sweaty Bottom of the Hill, a grateful "thanks, guys" drew wide smiles onstage from the fellas in Midlake as they launched into "Balloon Marker" off their 2004 debut, Bamnan and Slivercork.

As the band wound the song down, a rogue "yeeehaaaaaaaaaw" erupted from the back of the over-stuffed venue to the delight of the band members.

"Was that a yeeehaaaw?" guitarist Eric Pulido sarcastically queried. "Because we haven't heard one of those in a while."

"I think they're making fun of us," deadpanned frontman Tim Smith, no doubt referencing the band's North Texas heritage.

Despite being more than 1,500 miles from their Denton, Texas HQ, Midlake was apparently feeling right at home with the comforting presence of old friends in attendance during their mid-afternoon set on Sunday, the final day of Noise Pop 2007. Opening the show were locals Minipop, Oklahomans Ester Drang and Minmae from Portland.

Midlake :: 03.04.07 :: Noise Pop
Mixing tunes from Bamnan and Slivercork and last year's widely lauded The Trials of Van Occupanther, Midlake slipped seamlessly between the lush, synthesizer-driven psych-pop of their first record and the more pastoral, Laurel Canyon rock vibe of Van Occupanther.

The haunting howl and character-laden lyrics of Smith lies at the center of Midlake's ambitious, diverging musical personalities. Tunes like "Balloon Maker" and "Some of Them Were Superstitious" were sonic kin to The Flaming Lips and even Radiohead, blending dance-ready beats with woozy guitars.

"Roscoe" and "Head Home" reek of '70s-era rock with melodies borrowed straight from the Fleetwood Mac catalogue and multi-part harmonies ala The Eagles from Pulido, keyboardist Eric Nichelson, bassist Paul Alexander and drummer McKenzie Smith. On "We Gathered in Spring," Smith channels vintage Neil Young vocally as clouds of fluffy synthesizers float anachronistically in the background.

Merging disparate influences into a unique sound is the bane of every young band trying to establish themselves in today's world of derivative garage rock, emo wannabees, and post-punk hijackers. Thankfully, unlike most of their peers, Midlake's talent runs deep.

Words by: Kayceman

Cake, Money Mark
Bimbo's 365 Club :: San Francisco, CA

After six nights in a row, you really start to feel your age. It doesn't seem long ago that I could blast through a summer with a pair of tennis shoes, a block of cheese, and five shows a week for months on end and never get tired. That was a different time, different music, and a different way of life. Back then I probably wouldn't have chased anything called "Noise Pop" around town, but if there is any joy in getting older it can be found in the development of one's tastes. These days I crave a bit more sleep. I also like sushi and olives and all kinds of shit I used to laugh at. I've also come to appreciate well-crafted pop of all types, especially the noisy kind.

Money Mark
The 15th Anniversary of Noise Pop brought huge lineups to the majority of San Francisco's premier music venues for six straight nights. The styles of "pop" ranged from the freaky rock of bands like Clinic, Dead Meadow and Ghostland Observatory, to the gentler, song-based offerings of acoustic troubadours Josh Ritter and Vic Chesnutt. There were aging legends like Roky Erickson and Sebadoh and brand new hot shots like Malajube, Trainwreck Riders and Sea Wolf. Looking over the roster it almost begs the question, "What is pop music?" Back when I was living in station wagons and sleeping on the dirt it meant anything on the radio and MTV. After ten years in the music business and an unhealthy obsession with sound, I have no idea what it means.

The final evening of Noise Pop blurred the notion of pop even further with Money Mark and Cake performing to a sold-out crowd at the plush, velvet-draped Bimbo's 365 Club. Looking back over Mark Ramos-Nishita's (Money Mark) storied career, he turns out to be an embodiment of what Noise Pop is all about. Just like the festival does every year, Mark has shuffled his way from one end of the pop spectrum - starting with his pivotal role in the making of Beastie Boys albums Check Your Head (1992) and Ill Communication (1994)- all the way to the other end with Jack Johnson whose Brushfire Records just released Money Mark's Brand New By Tomorrow. In addition to his work with the Beasties and Johnson, Mark was a leading player on albums by Yoko Ono, Banyan, Porno For Pyros and Beck.

Money Mark's gig at Bimbo's didn't bring the house down but it did have its moments. The set focused on Mark's funky, groove-driven keyboard work, sunny radio-ready vocals, and an accomplished lead guitarist who knew exactly when to step up. At times, the vibe dipped into Vegas lounge act but when needed the band would kick-in and raise the intensity a notch. While not built to drive listeners mad with ecstasy, the beauty in Money Mark's music is his ability to blend styles. Melding a poppy blend of funk, jazz, hip-hop, rock, Latin, Afro-Cuban and folk, Mark had a little something for everyone, but perhaps not enough of any one thing to really drive into the soul of the crowd.

Where Money Mark mixes a wide variety of pop stylus with fairly generic results, Cake utilizes just as many influences to create a sound that belongs only to them. Trying to put a name on exactly what style of music Cake plays is difficult. The sound is defined by the dry, sarcastic talk-vocals of frontman John McCrea and would have to fall under the post-modern pop moniker. But, that's just what sticks out. Behind McCrea is a stellar band with tight chops, deep bass, rock and roll guitar, and the critical counter-point of trumpet man Vince DiFiore. There's the radio smash "The Distance" that pushed 1996's Fashion Nugget into the Top 40, but then there are whiffs of country and folk, weird keyboard blips, spacey jams, and this great Tropicalia vibe that somehow fits perfectly.

Cake :: 03.04.07 :: Noise Pop by Kayceman
All of these influences were presented with great results at Bimbo's. Where Money Mark kept it open and easy for the casual listener to have a few drinks and enjoy the atmosphere, Cake was more like a secret club. Most of the capacity crowd was clearly dyed-in-the-wool fans, screaming every word with McCrea, laughing at his antics, and generally bowing to the music.

From the weirdo vocals and sinister bass of opener "Comfort Eagle," Cake took over the club, pulling songs from their entire catalogue. Off their major label debut, 1994's Motorcade Of Generosity, Cake busted out "Comanche" and from their latest offering, 2004's Pressure Chief they played the groovy, quirky "Wheels," which was a clear highlight.

There was one point in the show, after expressing his distaste for all the cameras, that McCrea orchestrated an interesting moment of crowd participation. Love him or hate him, he's a unique frontman, and ultimately what sets Cake apart. With McCrea's trademark style at the helm, Cake has come to define a section of popular music and their placement as Noise Pop's final act was brilliant.

Noise Pop isn't a festival in the traditional sense. There is no central location, nothing that really brings the people together, and certainly no muddy fields and passed our wookies. Noise Pop has its own vibe and it certainly packs San Francisco with a condensed offering of music that is loosely connected under the umbrella of "pop." Considering that Noise Pop started 15 years ago with one night at the now-defunct Kennel Club and now stretches six nights over fifteen venues with stand-up comedy, a film component, industry panels and over 100 artists, it seems clear that whatever pop music is it's growing. And now, after gorging ourselves on all kinds of pop-rock, we must rest, regroup, and prepare for the swing into Festival Season. From Langerado to SXSW, Jazz Fest to Bonnaroo, 10KLF, and High Sierra there's a scene for everyone, and JamBase will be there!

Continue reading for complete Noise Pop coverage...

JamBase | San Francisco
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NOISE POP NIGHT 5 :: 03/03/07

Words & Images by: Kayceman

Clinic, Earlimart, Sea Wolf, The Mumlers
The Independent :: San Francisco, CA

Saturday night of Noise Pop would once again feature a strong four-band bill of pop-laced rock at The Independent. After San Jose's The Mumlers, L.A.'s Sea Wolf quickly grabbed the crowd's attention.

Sea Wolf :: 03.03.07 :: Noise Pop
Featuring the acoustic guitar and introspective vocals of Alex Brown Church, Sea Wolf was surprisingly good. With seven people on stage - including violin and viola - the band worked a delicate, potent blend of mellow rock. Throughout their impressive opening spot, it was impossible to not think about Margot and The Nuclear So & So's. From the large ensemble packed with strings, plucked guitars and especially that voice, Sea Wolf is clearly tapping the same well as Margot, but the results are no less gratifying.

Also from L.A., Earlimart work the pop-rock model but in far more melodic and deeper way than Sea Wolf. Having seen the quintet not long before in the same room, the elevated level of performance during Noise Pop was remarkable. The hushed vocals of Aaron Espinoza over crashing walls of guitar at times brought to mind Silversun Pickups without the screaming. After a driving, jazz-tinged keyboard composition, Espinoza looked out over the crowd and explained how great the band felt, that they were trying some new things and loving it. From the reaction of the Noise Pop crowd it seems clear Earlimart is onto something. Should they continue to develop at this rate there's no reason they can't be headlining Noise Pop in the future.

Clinic :: 03.03.07 :: Noise Pop
Clinic in the intimate setting of The Independent was one of Noise Pop's most highly anticipated shows. Having sold out long before Saturday night, San Francisco welcomed the UK dance-freakers with open arms.

They took the stage dressed in their trademark surgical masks, top hats and matching brown hospital garb as some sort of demented whisper creeped through the speakers. Wasting little time, Clinic dropped right in with bombastic bass and drums. Most of the songs were short and punchy with a heavy 60's psychedelic overtone. Often driven by simple bass lines and swirling keyboards, they stirred up a dark acid surf meets The Doors vibe. Contemporary American rock band The Black Angels also came to mind, but overall, Clinic is on their own trip. The frequent appearance of the melodica and constantly searing guitars filled out the sound and kept the kids dancing. With the huge success of their latest release, Visitations and live shows at this level, it's no mystery why Clinic is a current favorite on the circuit.

Continue reading for more Noise Pop coverage...

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NOISE POP NIGHT 4 :: 03/02/07

Words & Images by: Kayceman

Autolux, Snowden, Malajube
The Independent :: San Francisco, CA

The Independent has quietly established itself as one of San Francisco's premier music venues. Not as vast or steeped in history as landmarks like The Fillmore and Great American, the Indi is a bit smaller, more localized, and has become a hotbed for burgeoning rock bands.

Malajube :: 03.02.07 :: Noise Pop
For Friday night of Noise Pop not only was the club packed with people, it was also crammed with music. Having missed Oakland's Death of a Party, it was Montreal's Malajube that quickly engaged the swelling crowd.

Sung entirely in French, the vocals were charming, adding support to the music and filling in space but rarely pushing forward or demanding attention. The focus for this five-piece indie rock outfit is clearly on quality song structure, tight changes, and subtle shifts in the music. There were times when the sound would build to massive crescendos embracing an almost stadium aesthetic and at others the punchy tension-release was almost proggy in nature. There was something in the swapping of keyboards for guitars and the friendly flow coming off the stage that vaguely recalled fellow Canadians Broken Social Scene. By the end of the far too short set, Malajube had won over the crowd and it was obvious this would be a hard act to follow.

It's hard to tell if Snowden felt a little lame simply because of the power displayed by Malajube, but the placement of a melancholy, new wave band after an energetic, hungry group like Malajube proved a bit difficult to roll with. Although it was easy to enjoy the enthusiasm of female bass player Corinne Lee, overall the lack of energy and originality were impossible to overcome. That and I'm always a bit pissed off by bands who sound like they're from England when really they live in Atlanta.

Autolux :: 03.02.07 :: Noise Pop
Taking the stage after a few minutes of looped, echoey entrance music, L.A.'s noise-rock trio Autolux began slowly, gently, sort of the calm before the storm. Easing in with drummer-singer Carla Azar's vocals, bassist-singer Eugene Goreshter and guitarist Greg Edwards strapped on their matching silver axes and quickly got to work. The set shifted into high gear with the band's hit "Turnstile Blues," off 2004's critically-acclaimed Future Perfect, and didn't let up for some time.

As the heavy drug rock, screeching guitars and clouds of feedback built in intensity it was shocking to think that Azar's career almost ended in 2002 after a tragic fall from the stage. She shattered her elbow and was only saved by experimental surgery and eight titanium screws in her elbow. How a lady with that much metal in her arm can slam so hard is a mystery, but she clearly didn't seem impaired at Noise Pop.

About halfway through the band's set, Edwards's gear crashed. He's got one of the most extensive effects rigs I've ever seen, and with that many electronics something is bound to go wrong from time to time. Watching Edwards play it was clear he's not the most technically accomplished guitarist around. He relies on his pedals to help beef up his sound too much, but when he gets it going it's a huge sound and it's often impossible to determine where all the noise is coming from.

After about ten-minutes of droning loops and tinkering behind the stage, Autolux finally emerged with a new speaker cabinet and finished strong. Building on Goreshter's gigantic bass, the final segment of the show was overwhelming as the band deconstructed into a total, drive your guitar into the ground, instrumental meltdown.

While not as dynamic in the songwriting department, Autolux's music is languid and druggy like The Secret Machines, and it's no surprise bands like Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead have brought them out on the road. As impressive as Autolux's performance was, with the technical difficulties weighing them down the youthful Malajube almost stole the show. Almost.

Words by: Robyn Rubinstein

The Dandy Warhols :: Mezzanine :: San Francisco, CA

I was introduced to The Dandy Warhols about a year ago on a hung-over Sunday afternoon when the documentary Dig! came up on IFC. The film chronicles the initial friendship and eventual tension between The Dandy Warhols and the Brian Jonestown Massacre over the course of seven years. Anton Newcombe is the genius behind the BJM, and he is as deeply disturbed as he is profoundly talented. Early in the film, he strokes The Dandy Warhols for the filmmaker, saying that together the two bands are going to start a musical revolution that is going to throw the whole industry - in fact, the whole world - upside down. BJM is eventually torn apart by internal strife, mental instability, and copious drug use, while The Dandy Warhols reach commercial success by being the self-described "most well-adjusted band in America." And maybe just slightly less copious drug use. The film was powerful and captivating, and it quickly slid both bands into the "must-see" category.

I arrived just as opener Audrye Sessions took the stage at San Francisco's Mezzanine. The best thing I can say about their set is that it was short. Self-indulgent, heavy-handed emo-rock has definitely been done before, and with less whining. The whole crowd seemed to breathe a collective sigh of relief when they were finished.

When the Dandys came on, I was overflowing with anticipation and excitement, which sadly dissipated quickly. The sound quality was fair at best, and at times it was impossible to hear keyboardist Zia McCabe. Frontman/singer/guitarist Courtney Taylor appeared largely inebriated and unfocused. Bassist Peter Holstrom and drummer Brent BeBoer were mostly unremarkable, except for of DeBoer's slightly off-key vocals. Their set seemed very hurried and haphazard. Even their high profile hits like "We Used to Be Friends," "Bohemian Like You," and "Not if You Were the Last Junkie on Earth," lacked the passion and precision that made them great to begin with. There was slight redemption with "You Were the Last High," but only slight.

I freely admit that I can be a cynical, salty bitch, especially when it comes to music. Tonight I was a cynical, salty bitch fighting the flu, and I'm sure that had an effect on my interpretation. However, great music has temporarily ameliorated illness in the past, and tonight that didn't happen. I love the Dandys on record and film, and as much as I wanted to love them live, I didn't.

Words & Images by: Andy Tennille

Vic Chesnutt, Zach Rogue, Thao Nguyen, Alela Diane
Swedish American Hall :: San Francisco, CA

Thao Nguyen :: 03.03.07 :: Noise Pop
"I think this is the quietest room I've ever played in. And that's a good thing."

Zach Rogue smiled warmly from atop his stool as the seated audience politely applauded through the Rogue Wave frontman's solo acoustic set.

The dark serenity of the Swedish American Hall is the perfect place to take in solo acoustic music. The room holds 350 people and is tiered between floor seats and a small balcony. With the dark mahogany woodwork and a high gabled ceiling, the hall emits a warm, old-world feel that fosters intimate, engaging performances. Friday night's lineup of Alela Diane, Thao Nguyen, Rogue and antebellum rock poet Vic Chesnutt promised to live up to the hall's rep.

Rogue & Spurgeon :: 03.03.07 :: Noise Pop
Arriving just as Portland-based songstress Alela Diane left the stage, I grabbed a cup of coffee (sorry folks, no beer here) and headed for my perch in the balcony. Thao Nguyen is an SF singer-songwriter that wears her influences on her sleeve. Her raspy, breathy vocals and foot-tapping, finger-picking acoustic melodies pledge allegiance to Laura Veirs, Cat Power, John Fahey, and all things Lilith Fair. With a new album produced by Tucker Martine (The Decemberists, Jesse Sykes) coming out on Kill Rock Stars later this year, expect to hear more from this talented siren.

Zach Rogue may be the busiest musician at Noise Pop this week. On Wednesday, he deejayed a party at the Diesel store in downtown San Francisco and is scheduled to participate in "The Life in Music: Conversations with Indie Greats" panel discussion this Sunday with John Vanderslice and Mark Eitzel (American Music Club). Friday night provided the rare opportunity to see Rogue perform without a net. Joined by Rogue Wave drummer Pat Spurgeon for most of the set, Rogue treated the crowd to some Rogue Wave songs as well as some unrecorded material that featured his adept guitar playing and soaring voice.

Vic Chesnutt :: 03.03.07 :: Noise Pop
While Rogue may have been the busiest guy at Noise Pop this week, Vic Chesnutt has been keeping plenty busy working on three separate albums for release in the coming year. The Athens, Georgia-based musician has recently wrapped work on a record backed by Elf Power and has another collaborative effort with Godspeed You Black Emperor! in addition to his own solo acoustic album recorded in Nashville.

Flanked by two guitarists, Chesnutt played a terrific set and appeared right at home onstage at the Swedish American Hall. His stark, lonely songs filled with tales of desperation, death and down-on-their-luck folk trying their best to survive reverberated throughout the dark, cavernous hall.

Continue reading for complete Noise Pop coverage...

NOISE POP NIGHT 3 :: 03/01/07

Words & Images by: Kayceman

Trainwreck Riders :: Rickshaw Stop :: San Francisco, CA

Trainwreck Riders :: 03.01.07 :: Noise Pop
Wednesday night of Noise Pop featured big names (Sebadoh and Ritter) from out-of-town but Thursday reminded fans why San Francisco is widely regarded as the music capitol of America. Sure, New York kills it and is clearly SF's biggest competition. Austin is great and Chicago does well, but the Bay Area has always had a lil' something special.

Walking into the intimate Rickshaw Stop you could taste the booze flowing through the room. On stage was local rock outfit Poor Bailey. With a screaming frontman that recalled Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes), the band worked through some intriguing guitar heavy explorations. Yet another band to mark down and check out a bit more closely. Thanks Noise Pop!

Taking the stage a bit before 11 was SF's Trainwreck Riders. The band's debut, Lonely Road Revival, has been burning up my iPod and after the first few notes I just kept thinking how could it be that this was the first time I've caught the band live?

Trainwreck Riders :: 03.01.07 :: Noise Pop
The powerful quartet features brothers Steve (drums) and Andrew Kerwin (lead guitar), along with Morgan Stickrod (bass), and frontman/guitarist Pete Frauenfelder. These young fellas are beautifully sloppy. Music like this is meant to bleed over the lines and skid out from time to time, but the Riders are also able to slam on the brakes and pull out tight changes and quick, painful guitar notes when needed.

It's got a Johnny-Cash-on-meth meets Drive-By Truckers vibe, both in terms of the content and the delivery. Speaking of the Truckers, it was hard not to think of Hood and Cooley during "Trainwreck Heart," a new song about falling in love with a girl in your family. While there are reference points to other bands, Trainwreck Riders are clearly onto something original.

Trainwreck Riders :: 03.01.07 :: Noise Pop
It was during an emphatic rendition of "In The Wake Of It All" that the name Trainwreck Riders really started to make sense. Slashing around onstage, guitars flying, sweat dripping, there was carnage, metal, pain, and distortion. It sounded like, well, a train wreck, and we loved it. If there was a questionable moment in the set it was when the band's friend Evan came up to play the saw, creating a sound that could only be compared to a UFO hovering. It was cool, but didn't exactly blend with the gut-wrenching rock show.

When music is genuine - with tattered vocals, lonely harmonies, desperate cries and truly great guitar interplay - it's hard not to get caught up in the moment. Looking around the Rickshaw it was clear that Trainwreck Riders had the Noise Pop crowd under their spell. There was some friendly shoving going on up front, a dude was screaming at the top of his lungs, and beer was spilling from cups. I stood there scratching my head, and almost kicking my own ass for waiting till now to catch this local treasure. I'll be riding the Trainwreck again soon.

Words & Images by: Andy Tennille

Roky Erickson, Howlin' Rain, Oranger, Wooden Shjips
Great American Music Hall :: San Francisco, CA

Roky Erickson :: 03.01.07 :: Noise Pop
While Noise Pop's unofficial credo has been to shed light on noteworthy bands who don't necessarily swim in the mainstream and offer fans an opportunity to see musicians perform in intimate settings, festival organizers have also done a tremendous job at raising the visibility of the San Francisco music scene and pimping its most alluring exports.

Thursday night's (3/1) festivities drove this point home as more than half the bands playing at venues throughout the city represented homegrown talent. Locals Lyrics Born and The Coup partied down at The Fillmore while across town their East Bay brethren Poor Bailey and The Morning Benders supported San Francisco's Trainwreck Riders co-headlining gig at Rickshaw Stop with Langhorne Slim. Current can't-miss Bay Area disco-rockers Scissors For Lefty tag-teamed with local faves Magic Bullets to open for French Kicks at Slim's. At Bottom of the Hill, Brooklyn blogosphere darlings Matt & Kim headlined a multi-band bill featuring San Francisco's Erase Errata and Oakland's Pants Pants Pants.

Wooden Shjips :: 03.01.07 :: Noise Pop
Nowhere was this synergy between local talent and like-minded imports better personified than at the venerable Great American Music Hall, where psychedelic rock pioneer Roky Erickson made his triumphant return to SF after a more than 20-year absence for a much-anticipated performance with his band, The Explosives. Joining the journey was local psych-rock outfits Wooden Shjips, Howlin' Rain and Oranger.

Despite their absence on the glowing marquee on O'Farrell Street outside the Great American, Wooden Shjips' opening set may have been one of the most highly anticipated performances of the entire festival. Where most bands grow their fanbase playing dingy clubs for beer money, Wooden Shjips have taken an entirely different approach, building demand by not playing at all. Since the band was formed a few years back, frontman and guitarist Ripley Johnson has spent considerable time tweaking the lineup and recording a vinyl-only EP before finally making their debut live performance at Café Du Nord this past January.

Howlin' Rain :: 03.01.07 :: Noise Pop
As was the case with their debut the month before, Shjips' set Thursday night was short in length but not short in mind-expanding ambition. Johnson's whirling guitar odysseys danced and snaked through thick, muddy fields of distortion and dark, menacing rhythms. Nash Whalen provided a potent melodic foil on organ. Like fellow locals Comets on Fire or English space rockers Hawkwind or Spaceman 3, Wooden Shjips' magic is created by a mix of pummeling hypnotic grooves and otherworldly guitar that sounds like Hendrix strung out in a methadone clinic.

Howlin' Rain and Oranger were up next. Where Oranger stuck to tighter pop tunes featuring harmonizing vocals and the always-welcome Theremin, Howlin' Rain's set was more fuzzed-out, Neil Young, country-fied rock than Big Star power-pop. Led by Comets on Fire guitarist/vocalist Ethan Miller, Howlin' Rain's sound is free-wheelin' '70s rock captured magnificently on their self-titled 2006 debut on Birdman Records.

Roky Erickson and the Explosives :: 03.01 :: Noise Pop
The opportunity to see Erickson revisit his groundbreaking garage-blues explorations with 13th Floor Elevators, and later with the Aliens, drew disciples from Howlin' Rain, Oranger and Wooden Shjips to the venue's cramped sidestage, anxiously hoping for a glimpse of their psychedelic hero. Erickson arrived to a sea of frenzied, thunderous applause that was met by an excited grin from the near-60-year-old counterculture icon. The band adroitly breezed through Erickson classics including "Creature With the Atom Brain," "Don't Shake Me, Lucifer," "I Walked With a Zombie," "Two-Headed Dog," "You're Gonna Miss Me," and a fantastic reading of Bo Diddley's "Before You Accuse Me."

Though he seemed a bit distant - offering only a blank "thank you" after each song and a slightly more verbose "thank you very much" to close the night – Erickson's passion for music appeared undiminished after years of drug abuse, purported alien abductions, horrid poverty, and a variety of mental and physical health ailments. It was a joy to see and a refreshing end to an evening of mind-expanding rock in the Psychedelic City by the Bay.

Continue reading for coverage of Noise Pop night two with Sebadoh and Josh Ritter...

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NOISE POP NIGHT 2 :: 02/28/07

Words & Images by: Andy Tennille

Josh Ritter :: Swedish American Hall :: San Francisco, CA

Josh Ritter :: 02.28.07 :: Noise Pop
Since its inauspicious birth 14 years ago, San Francisco's Noise Pop festival has provided a soapbox for up-and-coming bands from across the country and around the world to showcase their talents for a city of music-thirsty fans who value diversity and originality over Grammy bling and Billboard chart love.

But as much as the festival's historical focus has been to turn the spotlight on relatively obscure but deserving musicians, Noise Pop's success over the years has also hinged on giving fans the rare opportunity to see more established artists in more intimate, relaxed performances.

Josh Ritter :: 02.28.07 :: Noise Pop
Wednesday's (2/28) lineup at Noise Pop featured two such gems: the reunion of alt-rockers Sebadoh at the Great American Music Hall and a solo acoustic set by singer-songwriter Josh Ritter. An ornately decorated former meeting space for San Francisco's Swedish community built shortly after the 1906 earthquake, the Swedish American Hall proved to be the perfect venue for Ritter to display his captivating talents. After graduating from Oberlin College in the late '90s, the Moscow, Idaho native moved to Boston to join the city's vibrant open-mic scene and pursue a career in music. A happenstance meeting with Irish rockers The Frames led Ritter to some gigs opening shows for the band in its native Ireland. Though only a few hundred people saw his Dublin debut, the buzz on Ritter grew as British critics drew comparisons to everyone from Bob Dylan to Leonard Cohen to Steve Earle. Audiences for his frequent return visits now number in the thousands as Ritter regularly sells out small theaters across Ireland and developed a similar following in England.

Josh Ritter :: 02.28.07 :: Noise Pop
Following similar solo performances by Nicki Chambly, Laura Gibson and local fave Etienne de Rocher, Ritter took the stage to the music of Johnny Cash dressed in an off-white pin-striped suit and proceeded to strum and pick his way through a 90-minute set spanning material from his four studio releases as the sold-out audience of 350 people sat in hushed awe. Casual banter between artist and audience filled the spaces between songs as Ritter continually confessed his joy in playing to such a comfy room. Much of the night's music featured songs from Animal Years, Ritter's most recent studio album released last spring to critical acclaim. Poignant takes on "Girl in the War," "Idaho," and "Thin Blue Flame" were standouts but the real treat of the evening – and the reward Noise Pop bestows on attendees each year – was the chance to see an artist deliver an invigorating and engaging performance, up close and personal.

Sebadoh :: Great American Music Hall :: San Francisco, CA

Words & Images by: Kayceman

It was a long time coming, and most of us never thought it would happen. Almost as shocking as the recent reunion of Dinosaur Jr., Sebadoh (which features Dino's bass player Lou Barlow) is back with the original lineup of Barlow, Eric Gaffney, and Jason Loewenstein.

Gaffney left the band in 1993 (coincidentally the same year Noise Pop got off the ground) and grew incredibly bitter about Sebadoh's success following his departure. Somehow Barlow and Gaffney started communicating again and have since buried the hatchet. After 14 bitter years, the original Sebadoh has returned.

Warming up the crowd of younger, wide-eyed hipsters and aging indie rockers was The Bent Mustache, Love of Diagrams and The New Trust. Arriving as The Bent Mustache began playing; Great American Music Hall was filling up fast.

Sebadoh :: 02.28 :: GAMH, SF
By Kayceman
The three-piece Bent Mustache all hail from Europe (Manchester, Edinburgh, and Wormerveer, Netherlands) and they pretty much sound like it. There was nothing particularly inventive about their punkish rock, but there were moments that stood out. At their best, they recalled My Bloody Valentine and The Clash, but overall it was pretty standard issue. And really, it didn't matter, everyone was there for Sebadoh.

Somewhere around 10:30 this strange, high-pitched, sped-up, freaked-out tape recorded intro repeated the line: Say hello to Sebadoh. And with little fanfare, Barlow Gaffney and Loewenstein took the stage. The band jumped right in with a new tune, and for a bunch of guys who haven't really played together in more than a decade (minus a few shows) they sounded pretty damn good.

While there was nostalgia in the air, (you could hear things like "they were my favorite band of the 90s" and "Sebadoh turned me onto indie rock") this wasn't an oldies act. It was, at times, hard to not think of Dinosaur Jr., who a few months earlier had decimated the Great American, shaking fillings from teeth and crushing ear drums. But Sebadoh isn't, nor ever was, trying to be Dino. Where Dino is a dictatorship run by J. Mascis that relies on his insane guitar destruction, Sebadoh is far more democractic, allowing the focus to dip between Barlow's jacked-up folk leanings and Gaffney's psychedelic explosions. At times it was hard to determine how the band was getting so much noise out of an acoustic guitar. I even had to climb up on a chair to watch Barlow get heavy with that same acoustic at one point. Although Barlow has become famous as the bass player for Dino, dude can shred a six-string.

Sebadoh :: 02.28 :: GAMH, SF
By Kayceman
Throughout the set the band would swap instruments, Barlow to guitar (both the aforementioned acoustic and a few different electrics), Gaffney to drums, Loewenstein to bass, and what was most impressive was the music never suffered.

As the band tore through a ton of songs (most of which were around three minutes long), the most compelling parts were when the tempos would slow down and some open-space began to creep into the slabs of sound. Mixing the power of noise-rock and some form of postmodern garage-folk, Sebadoh really drove home the whole Noise Pop idea. While opening night at Mezzanine was fun, the fact that I could be at Sebadoh while my partner Mr. Tennille was at Josh Ritter and we both had to miss John Vanderslice is what makes this festival special.

Keep the dial tuned to JamBase for all your Noise Pop needs. Tonight it's back out for a super-bill at the Great American with Roky Erickson, Oranger, Howlin Rain and Wooden Shjips as well as a drinker's paradise with Trainwreck Riders and Langhorne Slim at the Rickshaw Stop...

Continue reading for coverage of opening night at Mezzanine...

JamBase | San Francisco
Go See Live Music!

NOISE POP NIGHT 1 :: 02/27/07

Words by: Kayceman :: Images by: Andy Tennille

Extra Action Marching Band :: 02.27.07
Last night (Tuesday 2/27) San Francisco welcomed Noise Pop back for its 15th Anniversary shindig. Opening Night, billed as FREEDM Night, was held at Mezzanine, and let me tell you, it was a scene!

Opening night is always a big meet-and-greet, and with an open bar and free food for VIPs, this was indeed schmooze-tastic. While the remainder of the week is packed with more music than any man can possibly consume, the kick-off party was more of a "who's who" of the biz, with lots of booze to grease conversations.

Walking past the long ass line with my badge flying high, I noticed Les Claypool waiting with the masses and quickly rectified the situation by telling the folks in charge to take care of business. Once inside we linked up with lots of familiar faces including Two Gallants drummer Tyson Vogel and shared some drinks as we checked out the free swag that was going around. There were posters, hair products, art, ice cream, key chains, all kinds of shit. And then, there was the music.

Har Mar Superstar :: 02.27.07
Of particular note was emcee and DJ David Cross, who is one seriously funny dude. He was crackin' jokes from the stage and even worked in a "Final Countdown/GOB's Theme" tease ala his hit show Arrested Development during his DJ set.

From there it was skin-skin-skin, and not always the good kind. Billed as FREEDM Night, people were embracing the idea and stripping down. Extra Action Marching Band rolled out heavy with horns and drums and a parade-on-acid vibe. One guy was standing on a speaker with a megaphone, another fella was on the bar, a bunch of 90-percent nude dudes running around with flags, and a slew of girls and guys doing the thong dance on stage as everyone pretty much got weird in the room.

After the Marching Band kicked off the live music, Har Mar Superstar took the stage. While many seemed to be diggin' his vibe, I can't seem to figure out how this guy has a career. It was pretty much glorified Karaoke. It was okay as background music. He had some good beats he was singing/rapping over, but what the fuck is with an overweight white guy stripping down to his skibbies on stage all about? I was at the end of my rope and drank heavily.

Tapes 'n Tapes :: 02.27.07
Closing down opening night was Minneapolis, MN's Tapes 'n Tapes. Easily the most musical of the acts, the band played a hyper version of indie rock in the same vein as The Shins. While not mind-blowing, these kids sure can play and they served the people well by keeping their clothes on.

Although last evening was the official start to Noise Pop, tonight we really dig in for some tasteful songwriters (Josh Ritter) and head-smashing rock (Sebadoh). Stay tuned right here at JamBase as Kayceman and Tennille will be hitting the streets hard and bringing back words and pics every day to keep you up on the Noise Pop onslaught.

JamBase | San Francisco
Go See Live Music!

Continue reading for the Noise Pop preview with John Vanderslice and Oranger...


Noise Pop's 15th anniversary festival begins today (2/27) with the opening, "FREEDM Night" event at Mezzanine. The annual event will feature over 100 artists packed into clubs around San Francisco from Tuesday 2/27 through Sunday 3/4.

In honor of this monumental event taking place in our own backyard, JamBase has put together a little teaser interview with two of our favorite artists set to appear at Noise Pop. Both John Vanderslice, who will be headlining at The Independent Wednesday 2/28 (with Damien Jurado, The Submarines and Black Fiction) as well as Mike Drake of Oranger (who will support Roky Erickson and the Explosives on 3/1 at the Great American Music Hall) are ready to give us all a little insight into Noise Pop's big event.

John Vanderslice

John Vanderslice
Noise Pop is a unique festival, what's your favorite aspect of Noise Pop and what are you most excited about?

John Vanderslice: Well, Noise Pop was my first solo show ever, opening up for Bob Mould and then the Mountain Goats! I've only missed it once and it remains something that connects me to San Francisco. I love the opening night party [taking place Tuesday 2/27 at Mezzanine]. The booking is always eclectic and interesting.

What bands on the bill do you think people should make an effort to check out, and/or, what bands do you want to see?

John Vanderslice: Midlake [3/4 Bottom of the Hill], Vic Chesnutt [3/2 Swedish American Hall], Annuals [3/2 Cafe Du Nord], Ted Leo [3/2 Great American Music Hall], St. Vincent [3/2 Fillmore], Brightblack Morning Light [3/3 Great American Music Hall], tons more [see the complete schedule here].

John Vanderslice
What is it about San Francisco that makes it one of (if not the) greatest city in the world?

John Vanderslice: Well it's definitely not the greatest city in the world! That's like saying America is the greatest country in the world. There's a LOT out there! I would say it's one of the best cities I've ever been to. There are remarkable things about San Francisco you won't find anywhere else: the food culture, the light, Marin and San Mateo county beaches, Golden Gate Park, the Ferry Building...

Do you have a pre-show ritual?

John Vanderslice: I am VERY nervous before shows so usually I'm pacing or pretending to pay attention to a conversation backstage. It is impossible for me to focus until we start playing, then the feeling completely changes, I'm calm and very happy.

What should everyone know about you that they probably do not?

John Vanderslice: I am beyond lazy. If I didn't have a deadline I would never do anything. People have a strange preconception that I'm prolific. I am happiest when doing nothing.

Mike Drake of Oranger

Noise Pop is a unique festival, what's your favorite aspect of Noise Pop, what are you most excited about?

Mike Drake: It's our 25th time. We're excited about playing with Roky Erickson [3/1 at Great American Music Hall].

What bands on the bill do you think people should make an effort to check out, and/or, what bands do you want to see?

Mike Drake: They're all winners in our book.

What is it about San Francisco that makes it one of (if not the) greatest city in the world?

Mike Drake: The psychedelic chowder. Obviously.

Do you have a pre-show ritual?

Mike Drake: Yeah, we get together a day or two before the show and try to remember our songs.

What should everyone know about you and your band that they probably do not?

Mike Drake: We're retired police officers.

JamBase | San Francisco
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Luthur starstar Wed 2/28/2007 01:38PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Nekid dude with his hand down his pants. No thank you.

All Loving Liberal White Guy Wed 2/28/2007 02:03PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

All Loving Liberal White Guy

"Open bar, dude!!!" - Farva (Super Troopers)

biscuits-n-phish star Wed 2/28/2007 04:39PM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


let me get this 'straight', this is in S.F., with naked dudes runnin around. sounds a little fruit-tay. Count me out brah.

Andrew W. starstarstarstarstar Wed 2/28/2007 05:14PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Andrew W.

greatest party of the year so far...

Kayceman starstarstarstarstar Wed 2/28/2007 05:19PM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


I gotta agree w/ Andrew W. While the music left a bit to be desired, this was fun as hellllll! And we have TONS of music coming at us all week... last night was hang time, now we get front row for rock and roll bombast.

j-bizzle starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/1/2007 09:11AM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Kayce - i totally hear you on Har Mar. I mean WTF? This guy is just an indie rocker's novelty act. Did it seem like anybody was into him, or did everyone feel that this guy should just get off the stage?
Can't wait to see Vic Chesnut tomorrow night.

Kayceman starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/1/2007 10:52AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


J-Bizzle - Oddly enough, there were people who seemed to be totally into Har Mar. Me and mine were just waiting for it to end... different strokes i guess, but man, there are so many great bands out there, i would have liked to see some young rock band get that slot... But i hit Sebadoh last night (Wed) - review forthcoming, that was pretty damn good.

blower starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/1/2007 11:28AM
+2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Got to love San Francisco and the freakiness. Looks like a hell of a party. Way more fun than I had on my Tuesday night. Thanks for the review!

All Loving Liberal White Guy Thu 3/1/2007 12:08PM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

All Loving Liberal White Guy

dude, sebadoh rules and as for you kayceman, just consider this as the pre game as for what awaits in austin.

martymkfly starstarstarstarstar Thu 3/1/2007 04:13PM
0 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

Hey check out the Noise Pop acts streaming online at
You can listen to a ton of bands doing live noise pop shows-Cake, Midlake, John Vanderslice, Clinic, Autolux, French Kicks, Ted Leo!

All Loving Liberal White Guy Thu 3/1/2007 05:06PM
+3 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

All Loving Liberal White Guy

much love for showin much love to sebadoh. i saw them at lollapalooza 94 or 95 i think when i was in like 8th or 9th grade and they played on the second stage. apperently the band was dealing with some internal tension and lou barlow hurled a rock at the drummer while he was playing. funny shit. great band

rpmills starstarstarstarstar Fri 3/2/2007 11:27AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

>>>>younger, wide-eyed hipsters and aging indie rockers


Half-joking half not, could you please explain the difference to me between hipsters and indie rockers? Is it that indie rockers just have more balls than hipsters? Is it an age thing as your adjectives might suggest? Or are they simply interchangeable? Thanks.

Not Hip to the Lingo

p.s. I have to leave SF this weekend and will miss Brightblack Morning I'm super looking forward to some Jambase coverage. Have fun this weekend freaks!!!

All Loving Liberal White Guy Fri 3/2/2007 11:46AM
-2 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

All Loving Liberal White Guy

hipsters are narccistic and artsy fartsy at times. and they flock to any brooklyn neo post punk band or whatever band whom gets their balls buttered by pitchfork. but thats just me.

toestothenose starstarstarstarstar Mon 3/5/2007 07:09AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!


Thnk-you all for taking the time to cover this. Sounds like it was a fun week of tunes.

DeadKennyG starstarstarstarstar Tue 3/6/2007 08:18AM
+1 Votes Thumbs down! Thumbs up!

No one went to review Ghostland Observatory?!?!? WEAK. Y'all missed out. Those guys are out to take over the universe.