Northside 2010 : Day Three Recap

For the second year of L Magazine‘s Northside Festival, QRO not only bumped up from press to presenter, but also doubled our manpower, with duties shared between Ted Chase & Mike Gutierrez.  But even though our badges came thanks to the QRO Mag/Ampeater showcase on the final day (QRO event page), we still did our journalistic duty to cover the festival:

 

After watching America at the World Cup, I was at Milk Studio for The Creators Project (QRO recap), and thus missed all of Day Three of Northside.

- Ted Chase

 

Pop Tarts Suck Toasted Presents @ Glasslands

True Womanhood
True Womanhood

Click image for full gallery

Pity the poor bands that had to compete against the US soccer team in the second round of the World Cup on Saturday afternoon.  Soccer (ahem, ‘football’) sucked the life out of most of the early shows.  And if you weren’t glued to the television, mimosa in hand, feigning an air of a certain je ne sais quoi, you were probably over at the other heavyweight gig in town the same day: The Creators Project.  Tough competition that turned great out-of-town acts like New Haven’s EULA and Worcester’s Golden Girls into unwitting sacrificial lambs on the Northside Saturday afternoon altar.

Insult to injury, the match went into overtime – I barely made the last set of the Pop Tarts showcase (there he is again: the Duffster!) at Glasslands (QRO venue review), a set by the Washington D.C.-based True Womanhood.  Unless you’ve got some serious momentum (or ‘relevance’ as some say), the out-of-towners invariably get stuck into the afternoon slot that everyone expects to be poorly attended, World Cup or not.  True Womanhood – an arty three-piece indie rock band – did their best to play to an almost nonexistent crowd, but that’s a hard thing.  They sounded good though.

I got some pictures and said hello to EULA, who played at a Boston showcase that QRO hosted (QRO event page).  I don’t think the frontgirl had any fucking idea who I was.  Maybe it’s because I shaved my beard since then – or maybe I’m just a forgettable asshole!  By the way, that new cotton ball backdrop they have up at Glasslands looks like a major fire hazard.
True fire hazard

 

Frestyl.com Presents ‘A Taste of Italian Indie Rock’ @ Public Assembly

Didn’t have a real game plan for Saturday except that I knew all roads lead to Tayisha Busay’s showcase at the House of Yes.  Also wanted to check out Shoney Lamar’s 9pm gig at the Trash Bar, but until then the schedule was open.  I headed north to Public Assembly (QRO venue review) for a suitably random pairing of showcases: ‘Taste of Italian’ in the front room and ‘Raven Sings the Blues’ in the back.

The ‘Taste of Italian Indie Rock’ was being put on by frestyle.com, a website I know nothing about.  An Italian pop culture site?  Fashion, art, music and so on?  Anyways the girl who runs Frestyl and had booked the showcase was feverishly manning the twitterwaves under the "#northsidefest" hash tag, which was being used off and on by promoters and fans and journos to document the festival.  Never met her in person but she re-tweeted everything good I had to say about the acts and let the negative comments slide.  Naturally. 

 

Serpenti
Serpenti

SerpentiClick image for full gallery

I had nothing but good things to say about the first act I saw, Serpenti, a guy/girl duo that was mostly hard-edged techno spiced up with live bass guitar and the girl emoting in a sequin dress.  Maybe that’s not the most attractive description, but they really were a lot of fun.  The girl gets the other half of the ‘Best Frontwoman’ prize for Northside: super spunky with an exotic Italian flair to die for.  There was sort of a beauty and the beast dynamic between the girl and guy, and a devil-may-karaoke attitude reminiscent of Brazil’s Bando de Rolle.  It was a mistake to put them on during the day – this pair is exclusively midnight fodder.  I heard they were playing a late show at the House of Yes the following night, which was probably phenomenal.

 

Posi

I had nothing but bad things to say about the closer Posi, a clubbed-out, peroxided blah-nde DJ whose apparent claim to fame was opening for Warren G when she was 17.  God, I hope it was 17.  When was Warren G popular?  Like 20 years ago?  And someone better tell her that America never took Warren G seriously.  "Regulators, mount up!" made more people laugh than it got on the dance floor.  You could have chalked that all up to an adorable cultural disconnect, the same way American hipsters feign more interest in soccer than is really appropriate, or the way white suburban boys ‘act hard.’

Except that Posi did just about everything to make the crowd dislike her, including: not learning a single phrase of English (at least a "hello"?), showing a nonstop montage of ‘Posi looking cool in da club’ pics on the white screen behind her, and arranging to have her own private photographer ostentatiously take shots of the performer during the entire set, from every angle, on stage and off, with an enormous hugely expensive camera.  Not to mention the music was pretty old-fashioned techno.  It was all very 1980s wannabe strike-a-pose frippery.  Luckily there’s a backroom to Public Assembly, so I made my escape.

 

Raven Sings the Blues Presents @ Public Assembly (back room)

Viernes

The ‘Raven Sings the Blues’ showcase was put on by a blog of the same name.  I turned up in the middle of a set by Viernes.  There was a decent crowd for a 7pm show, but the mood in the room was absolutely depressing.  Couldn’t quite put my finger on it.  The music of Viernes is kind of labored, touchy-feely guitar indie.  You could tell these guys were ‘sensitive’.  They would probably ‘cry’ if you punched them in the face.  Go figure.  I don’t even remember if I took any pictures [editor’s note: he didn’t].  I don’t think I even bought a beer.  Even Posi was a better show than the Viernes snoozefest.  I don’t know if that’s a reflection on Raven Sings… or not.

As a side note, this is one of the blogs riding Pitchfork’s jock with the new P4K subsidiary, the Alternate Drones ‘blog collective’ (a genuine collective is an unsponsored partnership among equals, by the way, like Strangers In Stereo).  Apparently Pitchfork wants to extend its influence into blogosphere niches.  Judging from the Saturday showcase, it was betting hard on the ‘shit ass music’ niche.  Finally I gave up on Public Assembly altogether and hoofed it to the southeast towards the Trash Bar for Shoney Lamar.

 

Northside Presents @ Trash Bar

The Trash Bar was putting on one of those unsponsored shows, meaning the bands had to rely on strictly their own promotional networks to draw fans in.  Most of the time that’s what the numbers through the door amount to: the preexisting fanbase’s interest in the artist and the show.  PR is way overrated.  And from the looks of the crowd for the first act at 8pm, the bands’ draw was just fine.  A nice crowd in your prototypical dive venue.  Dirty walls, garish neon, cheap booze.  In fact, 8-9pm was open bar for the essential Pabst Blue Ribbon (Heineken?  Fuck that shit!).  What a blessing.  Free booze is the best PR: everyone should know this already.

 

The Wicked Tomorrow
The Wicked Tomorrow

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The Wicked Tomorrow were about halfway through their set when I secured my first PBR.  They’re basically a less fun White Stripes (QRO live review) guy/girl combo, except the girl is better at drums than Meg and the guy is worse at guitar than Jack.  I saw Shoney (QRO interview) and we had a little chat before his set.  He introduced me to a ravishing, dark haired photog named Lara who had a kick-ass looking camera.  I begged her to send me her Shoney photos to use in the wrap-up, so we’ll see what turns up.

[click below for all photos of Shoney; click here for Lara’s photos of the following Doctors Fox, and click here for her photos of the subsequent Gypsy West]

 

Shoney Lamar
Shoney Lamar

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Prize for the most adventurous set at Northside probably goes to Shoney Lamar for pulling off a complete set of The National (QRO live review) covers.  Some people are crazy about this band.  I’m not one of them.  Sort of remind me of a soft rock Spoon (who are already sort of soft rock – QRO live review), though rabid fans have instructed me to check out earlier albums.  Regardless I knew Shoney Lamar would give an interesting spin to the proceedings.  Plus he was working with two other musicians in unfamiliar roles: a violinist and a backup male vocalist, Chris Peck, who plays drums in Shoney’s regular backing band the Equal Rights.  Peck was rocking a kind of Bruce Willis circa Moonlighting vibe with a serious 5 ‘o’ clock shadow and a glass perpetually half full of whiskey.  Throw in a beaten up acoustic guitar into the mix and that’s pretty typical ambience for a Shoney Lamar show.  He’s a throwback a-la Tom Waits, real black midnight voodoo folk with a bent sense of blues.
Shoney Lamar & violin

Another stalwart of a Shoney Lamar show is the inevitable broken string, which, surprisingly for a vet gigger, he didn’t seem prepared for and had to borrow a stranger’s electric guitar to finish out the set.  Put that in your pipe and smoke it.  It’s not like he’s switching models of guitar, a Strat for a Tele.  The guy moved from acoustic to electric; that would’ve sunk the entire set for some acts, but he didn’t seem to bat an eye.
Shoney Lamar & Chris Peck

The crowd was generally lukewarm to The National covers.  I’d have to say, if you’re going to martyr yourself over material, at least make it originals.  And Shoney is no cover jockey.  The guy spits out more songs than Old Faithful spits out water.  But artists fall in love with ludicrous projects all the time… I much preferred his closer; a solo number, with smart, cutting lyrics, and a bluesy howl that reminded you why he was put up for best male vocalist in Boston by the local press.
Shoney Lamar & co.

 

After the set I made off for the House of Yes, stopping on my way at Bruar Falls to ask what happened to the Jack ‘Skippy’ McFadden Presents showcase.  The interior of the bar was pretty glum: one couple at the counter and an unhappy looking bartender behind it.  Turns out the entire gig got botched.  Skippy’s been somewhat out of sorts lately, having just lost his regular spot booking at Park Slope’s Union Hall (QRO venue review) and Bell House (QRO venue review), under mysterious circumstances.  New York gossip.

 

Tayisha Busay & The House of Yes Present @ House of Yes

Another long hike to a venue, another bus route I probably should’ve known about.  House of Yes is located at a significant distance east of the main festival hotspots, in an area that’s, frankly, a bit worse for wear.  The sort of neighborhood where a mother can’t let her kids play in the street without watching them nervously from the frontsteps.  Sources (Ted) report House of Yes is a relatively new venue.  The feel of the place is more speakeasy than music hall.  It’s tucked away on a backstreet with no significant foot traffic; there’s no bright, shining marquee above the door; nothing at all except a hand-painted sign standing in front of a door along a dark industrial sidestreet.  But that was appropriate enough for a Tayisha Busay showcase.  The group has got a touch of that old skool Warholian louche.  Case in point, wearing glitter got a discounted ticket and the bartender was rocking the shirtless look.  Most importantly of all the stocked open bar lasted the entire night.  PBRs and SoCo all around.

I had the Tayisha Busay gig marked on the calendar since the day it was announced.  This group is all about throwing down a good time – it was a no-brainer for an awesome night.  Even better, they scheduled the entire bill, so the gig would be a nice sustained look into the bizarro world of Tayisha Busay.  When I arrived a futuristic, skinny Robocop-type DJ, complete with silver visor and exposed biceps, was spinning a dance-friendly set that had people moving on the floor.  There was a nice party vibe going on throughout the whole night.  Unlike some of the Northside gigs where the crowd felt like strangers to each other (resulting in the ever awkward ‘deathly silence’ between songs) there was a boisterous, conspiratorial quality in the air at the House of Yes.  The artists were really playing it up, and the audience wasn’t far behind.

 

Chappo
Chappo

Chief ChappoClick image for full gallery

The first band up was a three-piece glam ensemble (though possibly DJ Robocop was providing an extra layer of sound – it’s hard to tell sometimes whether DJs are playing or just grooving to the beat).  Chappo has a queer sort of Native American aesthetic going (probably more accurate to just say Indian here) with the headbands, feathers and sparkles.  I read an early review of the show that took issue with the political correctness of their look.  Give me a fucking break.  This isn’t the ‘90s.  We don’t need to cry bloody murder every time a subjugated people are referenced in pop culture.  When the frontman for Chappo donned an enormous feathered headdress the allusion was more Village People than Sioux nation. 
Chappo gun

 

Tayisha Busay
Tayisha Busay

Tayisha BusayClick image for full gallery

My recollections grow hazier as the night progressed, which is a sign of a great party and a terrible reporter.  I remember Tayisha Busay coming onstage, two gorgeous girls and a handsome man, clad in spandex favoring the pastel end of the spectrum.  Glitter exploded.  The trio had an impossibly athletic choreographed routine that had them rolling around the stage like day-glo circus seals.  In the mix were all their hits, including the irrepressible "WTF You Doin’ In My Mouth", which sounds dirty as hell, but is probably a reference to junk food.  The lyrics, the entire approach, constantly straddles the line between naivete and insouciant filth.
hazy Tayisha Busay

dancing Tayisha BusayPersonally, I think Tayisha Busay’s fucking genius.  They’ve appropriated the madcap thrills of the gay dance club scene and reinterpreted it through a glitter aerobics aesthetic that is just absurd enough to make it palatable to a more mainstream audience.  This band could open for Hannah Montana one night and Marilyn Manson the next without missing a beat.  Their set was infused with weirdo innocent thrills.  Like Britney Spears was trying to force herself into an old Mousketeer uniform.  I’m not sure if it feels right, but is so, so wrong.  Or if it feels wrong, but is so, so right.  Either way, Tayisha Busay are highly recommended.  They played other sets during the festival, including an opening spot for the Crush showcase, but you’ve really got to see them as a headliner so that their night builds up to their hotpants absurdist glory.
hands in the air Tayisha Busay

 

Bad Brilliance
Bad Brilliance

hazy Bad Brilliance Click image for full gallery

Bad Brilliance was the last band of the night, followed by a DJ set from Planet Rump.  Nearly blacked out at this point, but I distinctly remember a guy in a red suit with a huge yellow balloon head.  I had been fishing for some harder chemicals for Northside but hadn’t come up with anything.  Likely just as well.  That big balloon head would have sent me over the top.  Almost zero memories of the music – possibly hip-hop flavors?

By this time the circus atmosphere was bugging me out.  Blue gym mats lined the walls.  Someone told me that House of Yes is normally used to train circus acrobats, trapeze artists, and clowns.  I can believe it.  The vaulting ceiling above the stage extended at least three stories with white metal girders crawling up the wall on either side.  The only thing that was missing was the tightrope.  A small staircase led up to a narrow corridor at a second level where racks of clown uniforms were kept.  I snuck up there to get a good photog vantage point at various points during the set but the hangover from the smoke machine clouded up the long distance shots.  So I concentrated less on photos and more on dancing, and that’s pretty much how the rest of the night went.
bow before the Brilliance

 

Unfortunately Missed:

-Golden Girls, 5:00 PM – 5:00 PM @ Glasslands, EULA, 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM @ Glasslands, Male Bonding (QRO album review) & Cults, 1:30 PM – 3:30 PM @ Newtown Barge Park: all victims of the World Cup.

- Mike Gutierrez

-(almost) Everything, but more specifically:

-Titus Andronicus (QRO album review) & Male Bonding, 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM @ Newtown Barge Park.  Jersey pride!

-Liars (QRO album review) @ Newtown Barge Park, 8:30 PM – 9:30 PM.

-Paul & The Patients (QRO live review) @ Cameo (QRO venue review), 9:00 PM – 10:00 PM.

-BRAHMS (QRO photos) & Savoir Adore (QRO live review), 10:00 PM – 12:00 AM @ Brooklyn Bowl (QRO venue review).  Already ran into Savoir Adore drunkenly on Day One (QRO Day One recap)

-Twin Sister (QRO album review), 10:30 PM – 11:30 PM @ Music Hall of Williamsburg (QRO venue review).

-The Apples in Stereo (QRO live review) @ South Street Seaport (QRO venue review), 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM.  Okay, not Northside, but is the kick-off of the River-to-River Festival – complete with fireworks afterwards!

- Ted Chase

 

 

Fortunately Missed:

-Fucked Up (QRO album review) @ Newtown Barge Park, 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM: These dudes are clowns, right?  Hardcore poodles that the indie world is dragging around on a leash.

- Mike Gutierrez

-The Shivers, 3:15 PM – 4:00 PM: There would be forty-five minutes I could never get back.

-Fucked Up, High Places (QRO live review) @ Newtown Barge Park, 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM.  Both are overrated.

- Ted Chase

 

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