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Dispatches from Noise Pop: Friday 2/26

Bolting out the door once again, and heading right out to Benders as the work week ended, I arrived for my third consecutive day of Happy Hour shows (slash fuel up on beer and food music session) this time hosted by our good friends over at the Bay Bridged. Well put together on their part, The Bay Bridged had arranged the Happy Hour show I was most anticipating with a strong line up featuring Hunx and his Punx, Spencey Dude and the Doodles, and Weekend. Sadly, as I would be compelled to leave and skip across town to my next destination, the only band whose set I had enough time to check out was Weekend.

Taking the stage, Weekend started off a bit reserved and trepidatious about their sound as they were unable to use their own amps. Ultimately, that fact was irrelevant and they gained more confidence as their set progressed, but at the beginning they seemed to be holding back. Mustering up some great shrill guitar backed by hard-hitting and up-tempo drumming Weekend filled every empty crevice of the venue with sound. Best as I can say, if My Bloody Valentine went punk rock you’d get Weekend.

Scuttling across town, I headed over to The Independent for my Friday night respite from all things Indie Rock and settled in for an evening of electronic flavor. First up were the duo NewVillager. Mixing both synthesizers and live instruments NewVillager, played for something of a sparse crowd, that had yet to fully flush out to the sold out statues the venue had promised. If you took Prince’s falsetto and epic lyrical style subtracted the guitar shredding and added electronic beats then surely you’d have the recipe for their sound. Continuing with the food analogy, NewVillager were a lovely down-tempo appetizer for the bands to come.

Taking something from the Fiery Furnaces circa Biter Tea (only less experimental, to use that poisoned word) Rainbow Arabia, up from LA, took the stage second to a more densely crowd populated, peppered with several hardcore fans. Much like the band before, Rainbow Arabia implored a mix of live instruments and synths to create their fairly unique sound. Tiffany Preston could easily be compared to Eleanor Friedberger of the Fiery Furnaces, who in turn has been compared to Pattie Smith in her presence as a front woman. Prancing around the stage, sometimes with a hyper sense of sexual tension, Preston’s performance was a joy to watch.

The first of the two British electronic musicians to take the stage, Nathan Fake prepped the crowd’s electronic pallet for the evening. Pairing glitchy electronic sounds with dance beats, Nathan Fake set down the path of electronic music that interests me. I can get bored with the merciless mundane thudding that many electronic musicians are want to do, but this wasn’t the case with Nathan Fake. His arrangements were intricate and complex and I must admit I caught myself sheepishly dancing along to them at several times. Of course I’d be remiss not to point out that if this electronic road is one you like to journey down on a regular basis do check out these local artists at your next convenient opportunity: The Luxury Tax and Business 80.

Nestled up in the Independent’s balcony area, far from the fully fleshed out crowd and amidst clouds of something very skunky smelling that had gathered in the rafters from said crowd, I found myself a nice perch to listen to Four Tet. I’ve always found his brand of electronic music to be much more cerebral than dancy so I spaced out (perhaps with a contact high) and explored the music as he spent the next hour or so arranging and composing his intricate soundscape. With the faintest of touches he delicately placed his fastidiously mixed sounds together for a beautifully sounding, near seamless set. It was quite the show to be a part of.

Past the halfway point now through this year’s Noise Pop, I wait with baited breath for the last of the Bender’s Happy Hour shows tonight followed by personal favorites Maus Haus and !!! at the Mezzanine.


-Words and Photos by Ada Lann


Noise Pop 2010: Love Is Chemicals

Love Is Chemicals as a band name is something I, well, love. The name is catchy, honest and even a bit dismal which is a pretty fair way to describe thier music.  Love is Chemicals play fairly basic, straight forward rock songs that are moody at times and have the occasional male/female voice harmony thrown in. The quartet headlined Wednesdays Noise Pop Happy Hour set at Bender's. Their set consisted primarily of material from their 2008 release, Song of the Summer Death Brigade, the most impressive track of which is below for your listening pleasure.

 Our Darkest Days and Nights

-Nicole Leigh
words and photo


Montana Slim String Band at Freight & Salvage

Friday, February 19, 2010
The first thing I noticed when Montana Slim String Band took the stage was the imposing statue of their rhythm guitar player. At well over six feet tall, Jesse is impossible to ignore, until the music starts. The only thing bigger then Jesse is MSSB's sound. Their sound immediately filled the room at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley and put a death grip on your senses. The band began playing with no discussion and Brent quickly focused attention on his nimble fingers tearing up the fretboard on his mandolin while Dave, and his bass called Trumptet, held down the bottom end with spot on timing. Dave breaks out his bow on one occasion to provide an eerie, haunting sound. Most of the band shares vocal duties, blending subtle harmonies into a full-bodied sound that fills out their music and consumes the audience. I was initially skeptical when I first saw Turi setting up the effects peddles for her fiddle, but she, and the rest of the band, use them judiciously to ad a depth to their sound that gives them a refined, modern edge. Their style of music most certainly falls into the Newgrass or Jamgrass territory, but with Brent's smoking mandolin and Sean's unearthly flat-pickin' breaks, they pay due homage to the masters. When I heard Sean's first break I expected to see smoking frets, but his calm stage presence and smooth, relaxed pick hand belies his intricate melodies and break neck speed. His use of the entire fret board makes me think that there's a rocker somewhere inside that wants to get out, but just can't overcome the bluegrass.

The band also managed to provide a musical marathon, blending one song into another, lulling you into a sense of contentment that makes you forget that you've been listening for over ten minutes. They kept the audience connected with their honest lyrics that provide a vehicle for the band to display their emotional connection to the music. Their extended jams were highlighted by Brent and Turi’s instruments occasional back and forth arguments. Though, neither mandolin or fiddle were ever able to claim dominance, they did manage to push each other to greater levels of virtuosity.

The most difficult thing about seeing Montana Slim String Band is catching them in town. In Jesse's words they tour, “pretty much all the time”, but they are more than worth the effort. They put on a show that will be sure to get you toes tappin’ and you neighbors dancin’; even at a seated venue like the Freight. To take some of their music home you can find their LP Slim Pickin's at either iTunes or CDBaby and they will be back in town for a major show at the Independent in San Francisco on March 25th. These guys are sure to deliver.

-Jonathon Miller


Dispatches from Noise Pop: Thursday 2/25

At the second night of free Happy Hour shows, things seemed a little less organized. Perhaps my mind was still paying its indulgences for the previous evening’s sins but things seemed to be moving slow and unguided. Be that as it may I sat and watched what little I could whilst fueling up on beer and greasy food before heading out to my next stop, Bottom of the Hill.

Shark Toys were first to take the stage and set the bar real low. Perhaps this may be garish of me but there is a certain gravitas and arrogance (or toughness to put it plainly) I expect from music that peaks my interest. The muted and introverted nerd-aesthetic of bands like the Moldy Peaches really has a hard time impressing me. Yet another indie kid, at one time unpopular in high school, whining about on stage and the world keeps turning. It may well be that it could work, but lesson to those who choose this musical direction, diversify your sound! Twenty minutes of a clean guitar being banged, supported by a faint keyboard track (whose volume in the mix may well mirror the shy stage presence of its performer) rarely maintains attention for more than a few moments. We get it, you’re expressing yourself, and we move on.

After a bit of delay, Social Studies followed. I had been under the impression they were last, and I would be totally missing them, but it seems that wasn't the case. Sadly, having to make my next appointment, I wasn't able to stick around and listen long enough to formulate an opinion but I can report they played.

At Bottom of the Hill throw back seemed to be, for the most part, the name of the game. I am well aware that within the parameters of the twenty year decade resurgence rule, that as in the last decade the 80s made their return, the next will certainly see the 90s having it's heyday once again (you can already see the rise in flannel). Within that context it's no surprise that we will be seeing bands bringing back some of the musical styles of that decade, and for the most part last night the 90s where very much present.

While it may seem most logical in this context to hearken back to the better parts of 90s music (of which there weren't many) openers Trophy Fire saw it fit to recall that desolate post-post-post-godit'sgettingridiculousatthispoint-post-grunge wasteland of the late 90s early 00s when we were all sitting around praying for something new to come along. They sounded as though they could have been contemporaries of bands like Fuel or Three Doors Down, and though not as horrendous as either, you get what I'm grasping at.

Picture Atlantic came on second and certainly did not deviate from this general them. Oscillating between a hooky pop sound and a very enthusiastically heavy rock, that at more than one time recalled the Red Hot Chili Peepers (another band low on my list), Picture Atlantic power-popped to a devoted crowed, a few whom I surprisingly spotted singing along. My preference towards their style aside, they were certainly entertaining to watch practically falling all over each other as they leaped around the stage... all that is for the drummer who played contrastingly reserved.

After another cigarette and another beer, the reason I actually came to this show took the stage, Stomacher. I've been catching mummers of them for weeks now, and after being sold by the recording of their song "Police," I was determined to check them out. They certainly did not disappoint. Capturing some essence of bands like Muse (only more interesting), Stomacher delivered a high energy set. With a driving rhythm section that barrels the song down on you like an oncoming train and a creative use of digital loops, they certainly stole the evening. Ending their set with an intense drum solo (a really hard task to not make overly cheesy) battling against a wash of loops added the final touches to an already impressive dish. I'll say it now, keep an eye on them! If they’re not on a rising track, there's something wrong with all of us.

Playing their reunion show Far took the stage last to a surprisingly enthusiastic crowd. Once again returning to that late 90s style (though being from that period it is of no surprise that is how they played), Far played their brand of hard alterna-rock to a crowd that knew all the words. After fighting through the crowd for a bit to attempt snapping a few pictures (more than once getting threatening looks from thick necked meat-heads who could not quite grasp my role as a member of the press) I decided that I had seen enough sacrifice to the alter of rock gods and made my exit a bit early. To all who were worried, surely with such devotion paid the harvest would be good, but by then I was tired of having guitars shredded and microphones shoved in my face for lyrics I didn't know.

With another night down, I look forward to tonight as the festivities continue with Four Tet and Weekend opening another Bender's Happy Hour. Be there or be square (so they say).


-Words and Photos by Ada Lann


Dispatches from Noise Pop: Wednesday 2/24

As I've stated already, the free happy hour shows at Benders this week are nothing to shake a stick at. Looking at the line ups, there are several great bands playing, though sadly with such little time to actually see them. In the hopes of capturing some of the music, it was with that rest-be-damned ethos that I set out after an 8 hour work day to catch the early Happy Hour show, with the promise of some quality punk rock later in my evening.

Mist and Mast were the first band at the happy hour show I found myself at when the clock hit five. I have gone, and will likely still go, back and forth on Mist and Mast's sound. Having heard their recordings, there is very little space in my life for the conventional, tired indie rock style that doesn't grasp at even a few straws outside the middle of the road. That may be my selfish desire to be assaulted by sound, but for indie rock perhaps  I can be overly critical. Regardless I was impressed with Mist and Mast's performance. They are accomplished musicians and with their performance they pushed at some barriers of dissonance that I would have loved to see them break further, so for that they garner some credential. If nothing else, they were a perfect band to prep the pallet for what was to come.

Taking the tone in a radically different direction (a theme for these noise pop shows) The Ian Fayes followed, performing a sincerely sweet pop set. With Coco Rosie backed by a drum machine as likely the easiest comparison, and infused with some form of tender sadness, their saccharine and delicate pop sounds were certainly something to call home about. Of course with my preference towards dissonance, I would like to say their sound is the exception to the rule, though such as that is irrelevant; their sweetness impressed.

Sadly I missed Love is Chemicals, but I had a grittier calling awaiting me.

Moving on to the Cafe du Nord with great anticipation for Harlem, I arrived early enough to be rewarded with a wonderful surprise - The Young Prisms. As best as I can describe it they inhabit some space between Asobi Seksu (especially with the female vocals) and My Bloody Valentine. Their swirling and cavernous soundscape, though at times slightly unsteady, was a pleasure to be smothered with.

Slowing the evening down momentarily were crowd favorites The Sandwitches. Inhabiting a similar space as the Ian Fayes, I was for the most part underwhelmed by their set. The sound was precise and their tone certainly much more dower than The Ian Fayes, generally a strong selling point, but by the end I was left with something to be desired. Maybe I was just antsy to get on to Harlem.

Best Coast followed, reeving the crowd back up with their harder indie rock. Again, certainly not an unaccomplished band but as with Mist and Mast earlier, the generic indie rock style is not a very strong selling point. They were enjoyable, and they certainly brought the energy back up, but as far as breaking any interesting new ground, they did not. Again, perhaps I'm a bit too picky but what can I say, I look for a challenge.

Something of a fury hit the stage as Harlem rounded out the evening with a performance that was everything it promised to be. They were loud, obnoxious, and confrontational in all the right ways. There is certainly nothing down low about their sound. Seeing their wild antics and hearing their slamming punk songs can't help but conjure up the spirit of The Replacements. Bopping around on stage screaming at the microphone, each other, the audience, their empty beers, and whatever else the room had available, they unleashed their set with all the insanity you could ask for.

All in all, a good night in music. Tonight, another Benders happy hour and Stomacher playing at Bottom of the Hill.  For now enjoy this ridiculous robot.

-Words and Photos Ada Lann


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