Judgement Day and the Mumlers headline for the first time this year.
By Jeffrey Callen
From its humble beginnings in 1993 as a single club show of five bands, Noise Pop has grown into a week-long “celebration of indie music and culture.” It now includes a film festival, art shows, a music industry mini-conference, and a design fair and marketplace. However, music remains Noise Pop’s focus with more than thirty shows in large and small venues scattered around San Francisco and, for the first time this year, at the Fox Theater in Oakland.
While there are no designated headliners at Noise Pop, each year’s lineup includes internationally prominent performers. This year it’s the Yoko Ono Plastic Band and the Magnetic Fields. Star acts add excitement to the festival but Noise Pop’s national status is based on it being one of the premier showcases for that most loosely defined musical genre, indie rock. Noise Pop prides itself on bringing exposure to emerging bands, (to read more go to the East Bay Express).
The Noise Pop festival of indie rock in San Francisco (23 February to 1 March 2010) for its 18th year. I’m checking it out and pondering what exactly is “indie rock?”
- NOTES FROM THE NOISE POP FESTIVAL (24 February)
- Wondering what exactly “indie” rock is? Is it a genre or a sensibility?
- Anton (violinist) of “string metal” band Judgement Day told me Noise Pop is not about genre but about showcasing innovative bands.
- So this is where the ’80 new wave led: The Fresh & Onlys (REM meets The Cure meets Live) at the Rickshaw Stop.
- Sean Lennon at The Independent — mostly neo-psychedelic singer-songwriter stuff (competent but not interesting or engaging) . Only time he seemed to have his own voice was on the encore song ‘This World is Made for Men.” Then, with only a solo acoustic guitar and a harmony vocal, he made a statement — simple, unadorned, poetic
- NOTES FROM THE NOISE POP FESTIVAL (25 February)
- Art of Noise cocktail party — only thing more boring than the art was the party.
- Tape Deck Mountain at Cafe du Nord: a great psychedelic trio with no stage presence but great songs with piercing, funny, sometimes touching lyrics. Play those pedals! Look at all those pedals! Ended the set with a straight-forward, funny, touching song: “I’ll Tell You Lies.”
- Greg Ashley followed Tape Deck Mountain: interesting finger-picked psychedelia on a Les Paul. No lyrics — seemed like a collection of intros. Got bored and left during the third song.
- Picture Atlantic: good hard pop rock band with good vocals but a little heavy on the hooks. How many pedals do you need to play pop rock? Tight song structure but ultimately nothing to set it apart from other competent, enjoyable bands. Three songs and I’m out.
- Indie rock – is it a continuation of ’80s new wave (also not well-defined) without the sense of style or the attitude but keeping the sense of humor (like new wave even when it’s morbid, it’s funny)
- NOTES FROM THE NOISE POP FESTIVAL (26 February)
- No club hopping tonight – spending the evening at Cafe Du Nord where the Mumlers close the show tonight.
- Four band bill:
- The Ferocious Few: guitar/drums duo that began busking the streets of San Francisco — great roadhouse vocals (singer with standard hipster — skinny jeans, scraggly beard, little hat — I should open a little hat store with nothing but little hats)
- Sonny and the Sunsets: bass/guitar/drums trio that plays catchy, quirky tunes a la Jonathan Richmond
- The Growlers: five piece local band with a devoted following — good bar ban
- The Mumlers: six piece ensemble out of San Jose — neo retro Memphis soul — absolutely great! Could be big with a little seasoning and a little luck
- NOTES FROM THE NOISE POP FESTIVAL (27 February)
- Industry Noise conference on the business of music
- Highlight is keynote by Claudia Monson who handles the business side of Stephen Merritt and also plays with his Magnetic Fields ensemble.
There isn’t one Stephen Merritt style — I like this one:
- NOTES FROM THE NOISE POP FESTIVAL (28 February)
- Dizzy Balloon at Bottom of the Hill (all ages / afternoon show)
- One of the best bands at Noise Pop and one of the youngest — good poppy, almost bubblegum songs with Green Day panache. I was skeptical when Kevin Arnold, festival creator, touted them as one of the bands that the festival might give a bounce but, lo and behold, they are that good. Live, they’re completely professional, musically tight and FUN!
- They ended the show with a good and very fun cover of the Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back.”
- The clip below is “Crazy Jane”
The exoticizing of the non-Western other in World Music is a continuing phenomenon — freely used in marketing and eagerly accepted by most fans. “Music of resistance” is one sub-category of that phenomenon. In a recent preview of a San Francisco concert by Tinariwen, I avoided emphasizing their music as born out of resistance (it’s only part of the back story) but the headline my editor wrote included “rebel music” as a descriptor (see: It’s only rock ‘n’ roll – also links to two other recent pieces on Tinariwen).
Today (February 20, 2010), the Touareg website Temoust posted an enlightening interview with sociologist Denis-Constant Martin of the Cité de la musique museum in Paris. Martin discusses the “musics of resistance” phenomenon. Must reading for World Music fans.
Musique touaregue de résistance : La marchandisation des sons (reposted from the Cité de la musique website: )
“Un mythe, voire une mystique de la résistance s’instaure à partir de discours tenus sur la musique qui ne correspondent pas nécessairement à ce que l’analyse musicale pourrait elle-même déceler.”(“A myth or a mystique of resistance is established from discourses about music that does not necessarily correspond to what music analysis itself could detect.”)
Desert Rock — Tinariwen brings rebel music out of the Southern Sahara
By Jeffrey Callen
A slow Hendrix blues riff, deep, rough and insistent, slashes through the aural space. Broken down and repeated, the opening riff is joined by the offbeat upstrokes of a second, trebly electric guitar establishing a shuffle counterpoint. A fast rap barely breaks through the sound of the guitars, becoming louder when it morphs into a sung chorus with backing vocals (three, maybe four words). About four minutes in, the guitars drop out and the song is stripped down: a fast rap over a loopy funk bass line, accompanied by handclaps and soft percussion. The offbeat guitar upstrokes return joined by an arpeggiated riff on a second guitar, then a lead guitar. The vocals become secondary as the guitars propel the song to its ending and the opening riff returns. While the description could fit a performance of an up-and-coming indie band at the Noise Pop festival later this month, (to read more click here for the East Bay Express article)
A couple of other recent pieces on Tinariwen in the New York Times and S.F. Bay Guardian
In 2002, I spent a year in Morocco researching the emerging alternative music scene in Casablanca. Most of my attention went to the creation of a new genre of Moroccan music that soon carried the label “fusion.” Heavily influenced by French fusion bands, such as Gnawa Diffusion, Moroccan fusion blended Moroccan genres (cha’abi, gnawa, houari…) with rock, rap, salsa (and other international–mostly Black Atlantic–genres). Fusion also built upon earlier musical blendings. One of the roots of fusion was the music of the ’70s, which included the folk revival that included bands such as Nass el Ghiwane. Less remembered were solo urban artists, such as Abderrahim Askouri, described to me as a “musician’s musician” from Hay Mohammadi in Casablanca who influenced Nass el Ghiwane and other folk revival artists and also Khaled who spent a couple of years refining his chops in the clubs of Casa before returning to Oran and becoming a rai superstar.
Record producer Maurice El Baz played me some Askouri tracks but despite an evening searching cassette shops in popular quartiers of Casa, I never obtained my own copy of Askouri’s work. I just stumbled upon a posting by Abdel Halim El Hachimi on his Tales of Bradistan on Abderrahim Askouri and had to pass it on. Now, I got to get a copy of the cd Abdel so luckily found. A final note Abderrahim Askouri’s nephew Younes Askouri is a very talented singer-songwriter working in Casa today, a member of the 21st century fusion scene (YouTube clip below).
Abderrahim Askouri -- click on album cover to read the story
Swedish Hillbilly/Western Swing with some bluegrass tossed in? Bring it on! Fiddler Ralf Fredblad and company must have spent many a dark frigid Nordic night listening to the heart and soul of Appalachia. The Original Rockridge Brothers bang out some of the most authentic Hillbilly you’ll hear, without irony or any suspicious modern trappings. “Rockridge Hollerin’” is pure gold. (go to Musical Emissions)
Land of Kush -- Against the Day
Montreal composer Sam Shalabi has played or found his way to be involved in many genres, including punk, free jazz, improv. Lately he’s been composing for large ensembles, one of which is the 30 member Land of Kush. “Against The Day” is a five section piece whose foundation is haunting vocals, strings, and Shalabi’s Oud. Combining aspects of Arab pop with pysch, the piece begins with the eerie “The Light Over The Ranges,” before moving into the more trippy, Arabesque “Iceland Spar.” (go to Musical Emissions )
SPA MUSIC? New Book from Oxford University Press: Water Music Making Music in the Spas of Europe and North America by Ian Bradley.
Many of the most famous composers in classical music spent considerable periods in spa towns, whether taking in the waters, or searching for patrons among the rich and influential clientele who frequented these pioneer resorts, or soaking up the relaxing and decadent ambience of these enchanted and magical places. At Baden bei Wein, Mozart wrote his Ave Verum Corpus, and Beethoven sketched out his Ninth Symphony. Johannes Brahms spent 17 summers in Baden-Baden, where he stayed in his own specially-built composing cavern and consorted with Clara Schumann. Berlioz came to conduct in Baden-Baden for nine seasons, writing his last major work, Beatrice and Benedict, for the town’s casino manager. Chopin, Liszt, and Dvorak were each regular visitors to Carlsbad and Marienbad. And it was in Carlsbad that Beethoven met Goethe. Concerts, recitals, and resident orchestras have themselves played a major role in the therapeutic regimes and the social and cultural life of European and North American watering places since the late eighteenth century. To this day, these spa towns continue to host major music festivals of the highest caliber, drawing musicians and loyal audiences on both local and international levels.
This book explores the music making that went on in the spas and watering places in Europe and the United States during their heyday between (…to read more)
Unsound New York website
“Hello, New York: Avant-Garde Eastern Europe” by Steve Smith (New York Times) — Krakow’s “Unsound” Festival comes to New York City with “programs of club-oriented electronica, indie rock, free improvisation, ambient music and contemporary classical work. In some programs such distinctions become meaningless: at the opening event, for example, Sebastian Meissner, a German electronic artist, will collaborate with the young Polish contemporary-classical group Kwartludium in a project inspired by the seminal California punk-rock record label SST.” (to read more)