Noise Pop 2009 Re-Cap


Although most people mention New York's CMJ and Austin's SXSW when discussing week-long music festivals, San Francisco's Noise Pop certainly has its place in such a discussion. Now in its 17th year, Noise Pop has become one of the premier music festivals in the world. Each year's line-up, activities, and attendance seem to trump the previous year's, and 2009 was no exception. It was a confluence of some of the best artists, the incredible venues of San Francisco, the wonderful, hard-working people at Noise Pop, and the beautiful people of this beautiful city.

The opening night party was held at what is quickly becoming one of San Francisco's best venues, Mezzanine. Their attempt to branch out into other genres aside from your average club fare has proved to be quite successful. And, their push for better show production in the form of lighting, visuals, and sound has really upped the ante. The fluorescent-lit smokescreen that blurred Deerhunter's set seemed to create the perfect balance of aesthetics. The fog and colors created a distorted view that aptly complimented the distortion-laden sounds of Deerhunter. Although the set began to get a bit repetitive, the crowd remained electric - a positive sign for the week to come.

On Wednesday night, I opted to catch French Kicks at The Independent. As Emily over at The Bay Bridged mentioned, the crowd did not seem to express the adulation that French Kicks' performance deserved. They put on an inspiring show that showcased the highlights of their last two albums, Swimming and Two Thousand. And so, the show was a solid performance, despite the lack of fervor in the audience.

I took a break on Thursday and dove back in Friday for Ra Ra Riot at The Independent. Now, I thought The Rhumb Line was a solid effort by a young, emerging band. But, Ra Ra's performance blitzed my expectations of what such a youthful band was capable of doing. It was the most energetic performance of the entire festival and, if you can catch them on tour with Death Cab, it is definitely worth it. Normally, I'm disappointed with a singer who doesn't play an instrument, but Wesley Miles, who played an insignificant amount of keyboard, was quite the frontman. He not only engaged the crowd, but also his band, dancing alongside them as they dance-played their instruments for a close to an hour. The strings came across very well, which I've found to be rare in a live setting. Overall, it was one of the best performances of the week and, if you missed it, you can check it out here.

Saturday was a great day. I started out at The Independent to see my friend Nick Andre play with his new band. Normally, Nick is making ill hip-hop beats for his SF-based label Slept On Records. Now, he's playing well-crafted indie-electro-pop-rock with his friend Matt Shaw in their band City Light. Be sure to catch these guys on tour with Her Space Holiday. After their set, I ran over to Rickshaw Stop to catch Clues. Clues is the new project from The Unicorns' Alden Penner. Although I do like what Nick Diamonds is doing with Islands and even Human Highway, I love Clues and I honestly believe that he is the reason Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? is a classic. I have high expectations for their soon-to-be released debut. What lacked in their stage presence was surely made up in their music. After that, my friend Patrick and I ran over to Mezzanine to try to catch N.A.S.A. Unfortunately, we only caught the very end. Oh well.

Due to a series of mishaps, I missed almost the entire No Age set. I only caught the final song, but fuck! It was amazing! I've never seen a crowd more eager to hear an encore. I caught them at CMJ in 2007, but I'm sure their live show has improved since then. It also couldn't hurt that the legendary Bob Mould joined them on stage. Although I only saw one song, I thought it was the perfect ending to an incredible week of music. So, I opted to skip out on Les Savy Fav and get some rest.

Before I go, I'd like to list some regrets:

Missing Ra Ra Riot's acoustic set at the Diesel/The Fader Party.
- I would have loved to hear the set, but I really just wanted to see the violin and cello players up close. They're hot.

Missing Dent May & His Magnificent Ukelele.
-This guy is the new Morrissey (although commonly compared to Jens Lekman), but he can actually play music.

Missing Kool Keith.
-I heard nothing but good things about his set. (Guest edit: I was there! Kool Keith is fucking insane, but of course it's the only thing that makes his shtick work - if he was trying to pass off his whole schizo hyperbolic act as tongue in cheek irony, it'd collapse on itself in about two seconds. Just the fact that he's 100% hyped about his brand [or brands, counting his many monikers - the whole show was like a rap battle against himself] made his set clutch. Call it Manifest Freshness, delivered unto him from the gods. Except, you know, all of his gods are insane. -Phillip Taylor-Parker)

Missing Cut Off Your Hands.
-Again, nothing but good things. Fortunately, I'll be checking out their set at Popscene on 3/5. Get there early because there's no pre-sale tickets available - they're only being sold at the door. It's not to be missed.

-Caleb Morairty

*all photos courtesy of Patrick at, except for French Kicks photo, courtesy of Reid Williams at

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