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:
The Heineken Lounge at Northside Headquarters
Thursday, June 24th, Day One of the Northside Festival, was something less than stocked. The first days are always the slowest/lightest at multi-day industry festivals such as Northside or others, like both sides of the East River CMJ in October (QRO recap), Portland’s own MusicFest NW (QRO recap), or the Austin granddaddy to them all, SXSW (QRO recap). People, whether bands, press, promoters, or record industry creeps either haven’t arrived yet, or are still tired from having just arrived; and if they live in the same city as the festival, then they likely didn’t take that first day off from their day job. And with Northside being Thursday-Sunday, many didn’t take the second day off, either, so had to limit themselves on Day One.
But if there was one place of no limits, it was the Heineken Lounge at Northside Headquarters, a.k.a. the place you picked up your badge. Well, not really ‘no limits’, but free Heineken beer, and the staff there didn’t seem to care if you actually had a badge or not, if you brought outside food in, etc. (word is the special ‘Heineken guitar’ was stolen…). The schwag bag wasn’t anything special (and the actual bags used seemed to be left over from last year), but it was a good place to pick up your badge, plan your Northside schedule, hangout with various other press & bands you’d seen at other shows, and generally get nicely drunk.
– Ted Chase
The air over at the Northside HQ on Bedford Ave. was like the inside of a dog’s mouth, but the beer was cold and free (thanks, Heineken) and spirits were high among the assorted musicians, journos, and promoters that had come to pick up their badges. My name on the list was initially nowhere to be found, so I grabbed myself a drink and chatted up Ted and Company while a helpful girl at the desk checked the list again. Sure enough it popped up on the second run through. And that was pretty much the vibe of the whole festival: not the most organized affair, though you could care less while enjoying free drinks and good music on a summer’s day and night. Picked up a promotional CD from Libel. The HQ on the first day was a complete no-brainer locale for artists to pimp their music, by the way. All the journos at the festival were huddled together like rats, at full strength: easy targets.
– Mike Gutierrez
Quiet Color Presents @ Bar Matchless
As much as I love an open bar, the music was calling. I left Ted at HQ and made my way over to Bar Matchless for the Quiet Color showcase. Most people probably don’t think music when they think Bar Matchless. Not the sort of place that shows up regularly in the music listings. But for Northside it was perfect. A cozy stage in back, smoking patio in front; a very relaxed spot to catch a show. Quiet Color (it’s a blog- check it out) had put together a nice bill with ARMS, Ball of Flame Shoot Fire, Shark?, and MiniBoone, various stars in the Quiet Color universe. One of the guys in Shark? is actually a writer on the Quiet Color site, so you knew Shark? was going to make that bill. As far as I can tell, the guy gets sort of testy when he gets pointed out as a blogger while he’s wearing his musician cap. Not sure why. Independent music has people wearing a lot of caps all the time (you don’t get your own secretary until you work for EMI). And it’s not like Quiet Color is some promotional front for Shark?. The blog and the band each do their own thing pretty well. In fact, along with MiniBoone (who tied them for the most festival shows at seven a piece), Shark? probably took home the Northside prize for hardest giggers. A lot of blood, sweat and beers were spilled during these four days- and isn’t that what Northside is about? It’s an opportunity for talented bands working at just below the radar to surface for a blip.
MiniBoone opening at Bar Matchless would be the first half of my Northside bookend, the other half coming at their QRO/Ampeater showcase gig on Sunday night. The boys were in fine form on Thursday. There was a decent crowd for an early show in the middle of the week – but MiniBoone brings so much energy to a show you don’t pay much attention to the audience. Herky-jerky rhythms, a little bit of brattiness, and bleeding-knuckles riffs are tossed together into a bouncy stew. For a band with six more gigs on the horizon, they certainly didn’t look like they were holding anything back.
Shark? came on next and delivered a relatively more restrained set (though even Pauley Shore looks restrained next to MiniBoone). I saw Shark? later on during the festival and they seemed a lot livelier, noisier, more unpredictable. Maybe the fact that the gig was a Quiet Color showcase sapped them of some of their punch. These guys are straight rock ‘n’ roll. All tattoos, sweat stains and mini Colt 45s. You don’t want to see them with a clipboard. It’s harder to play their fast and loose garage style when you’ve got to play the responsible organizer role.
I cut out early, missing Ball of Flames Shoot Fire and ARMS (QRO album review), which I’ve heard great stuff about. But I had just Bolt-bussed in from Boston and still had my luggage with me. Can’t cut loose in a crowded club on a summer’s night with 60 pounds of clothes, gear, and equipment strapped to your back. After a couple of mind-blowing soft shell tacos at Fresca Tortilla (just around the corner from Bar Matchless) I called it a night and headed back to Ted Central.
– Mike Gutierrez
Northside Presents @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
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When the bartender at the ‘Heineken Lounge’ suggested I be booked on Intervention (get me Ken Seeley!), and the lounge/bar seemed to be closing, finally dragged myself away to Music Hall of Williamsburg for These United States. Last year at Northside, it had been hard to get into events at Music Hall, as the staff didn’t discount when badge holders left an event early – despite the place being the most significant venue of Northside (QRO venue review). But didn’t have that problem this time around, and slipped in to see T.U.S.
I used to say, "I don’t like jam bands, but I like These United States" – but that’s really unfair, as not only is that a quite backhanded compliment (trying using that on a hip-hop act…), but T.U.S. are more than a jam band. In fact, they don’t engage in the out-and-out jam-wankery that is the genre’s most annoying feature. Yes, the singer has a country-twang voice; yes, the band veers from high fun to deep sadness; yes, they’ve got some roots heritage (Kentucky-by-way-of-D.C.); yes, they have opened for the likes of Dr. Dog (QRO live review) – but the country-twang is almost as infectious as the high fun, they can do both that & sorrow well, and, most importantly, they’ve been getting better & better, both live (QRO review) and on record, most recently with last year’s Everything Touches Everything (QRO review). And you don’t have to be drunk to appreciate it (though it doesn’t hurt…).
GBH.TV Presents @ Warsaw
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Once upon a time, Brooklyn’s Polish National Home venue, Warsaw, was a semi-regular venue that hosted the likes of Wilco (QRO live review), Dead Milkmen (QRO photos) and others, but the events their dwindled to seemingly nil in the last couple of years. So when Brooklyn’s Knitting Factory (QRO venue review) booked Au Revoir Simone (QRO spotlight on) there for its only event of Northside, there was more reason than just the lovely ladies to check it out. And even if it was for gbh.tv, the people who throw sweaty three-floor dance parties at Webster Hall (QRO venue review – including Studio @ Webster Hall – QRO venue review) and Tribeca Grand (QRO venue review), I actually won tickets for a non-badge-holding friend through Knitting Factory.
Past the initial foyer, the stage floor is a large, semi-converted ballroom – less Bowery Ballroom (QRO venue review) than Brooklyn Masonic Temple (QRO venue review), minus a balcony, and with the stage taking up only a third-to-a half of its wall. And, for some reason, the walls all contained posters from the same ad campaign (like some large subway stations do): ‘Don’t be so Mayo’ campaign by Miracle Whip – the one that showed young actors-playing-hipsters eating it to screwy camera work, and was mocked for its attempt to make a product like Miracle Whip ‘cool’ by none other than Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA (with which Miracle Whip one-upped the faux pundit/real mayonnaise-lover by purchasing all the ad time on one of his Colbert Report episodes; to that, the recipient of the ad buy replied, "I guess you… win?"). Oh, and the drinks at Warsaw seemed expensive, but maybe that was just in comparison to the ‘Heineken Lounge’…
On the Greenpoint side of McCarren Park (R.I.P. Pool – QRO venue review), like Europa (QRO venue review) a few blocks to the north, the clientele was similarly more bro than hipster, even for the three ladies/four keyboards, Francophile Au Revoir Simone, who can’t help but be girly. Their songs were as sweet as always, but in such a big place, the three girls seemed particularly small, trapped behind their keyboards, even when Erika Foster breaks out a bass on "Shadows". But particularly appropriate was their closer, a cover of Don Henley’s classic "Boys of Summer"
– Ted Chase
-The Forms (QRO spotlight on) @ Coco 66, 10:00 PM – 12:00 AM. When the Northside schedule was being announced, one of the nicest surprises was the inclusion of The Forms, who I hadn’t heard much of in a while. Unfortunately, These United States were too good, and I was too drunk, to skip out early from Music Hall for The Forms.
-Thao (QRO spotlight on) & Mirah with The Most of All @ Music Hall of Williamsburg, 10:30 PM – 11:15 PM. Didn’t stay at Music Hall for any of Thao (QRO interview), as my interest in her has waned a bit, plus don’t know what ‘Thao & Mirah with The Most of All’ actually is.
– Ted Chase
-The Jen Lyon & Ruth Heronemus ‘Crush’ showcase @ Public Assembly (QRO venue review), 9:00 PM – 2:00 AM. Any gig that opens with Tayisha Busay (QRO album review) and ends with Yes Giantess is going to be wild. This showcase was a whole night of dancing and debauchery that I just didn’t have the energy for after six hours on the bus from Boston.
-WAVVES (QRO photos) @ Knitting Factory, 11:00 PM – 12:00 AM. Admittedly, I haven’t listened much to WAVVES since I decided he was overrated, and then he had a meltdown, but it’s not like he’s gotten any less hyped since then (friggin’ New York Times covered the show!…).
-WAVVES after-party with DJ Ryan Schreiber @ Shea Stadium, 1:00 AM. At a WAVVES after-party last year, fight broke out with drunken Black Lips (QRO live review); this year, someone threw a bottle from the balcony and broke the back window to a police car. Oh, and DJ was the guy at Pitchfork whose praise is solely responsible for hyping WAVVES.
– Ted Chase
-WAVVES and Cloud Nothings @ Knitting Factory, 10:00 PM – 12:00 AM. I saw both of these bands in Boston a couple of nights before and was completely unimpressed. WAVVES is a Pitchfork creation that can be entertaining, but really doesn’t have the chops to do more than open for more talented bands. Cloud Nothings are another internet phenomenon: awesome drummer and a great Memoryhouse remix, otherwise completely ordinary (of course, this was the gig that the New York Times reported on).
– Mike Gutierrez