So, this was my first Northside Festival rodeo. For a tidbit of information about it, this is a direct quote from the event’s homepage History tab: “Since [its] inaugural run in the summer of 2009, the Northside Festival has grown from a small DIY-affair to a full-fledged discovery festival taking [more than] 50+ venues in Williamsburg and Greenpoint and featuring [more than] 350 bands.” Yeah, I edited their history [in brackets].
Well, this prick — as in myself, of course — took a half-day off work Thursday to beat NYC rush hour in the rain, and went straight to my Gram’s house to gab and bury a nip of cognac in my tank/flask. I told Grams all about the bands I was interested in seeing, of which I built a list by conveniently making a personalized schedule on my Northside Festival profile. She smiled a lot and then I split, arriving at the press-pass tent within 30 minutes, after a “local” fellah stopped and questioned me about my Wendy’s hat, cause some website-company he knows makes designs just like it. Eh?I found parking in Bed-Stuy and got lit up at my pal Seth’s place. Wasted wasn’t a requirement, and ISN’T a problem, yo. But being with my pal Seth really helped ease that awkward waiting period between bands. And added inevitable adventure. But let’s get farted, shall we?
Took us a minute to get in because Brooklyn Bowl has about three to seven lines upon entry, and Seth needed to pay. We waited in the rain, brought our piss to the urinals, bought Brooklyn Brewery’s Blast beers on tap, and watched Hubble telescope images flash around us on screens bigger than both our televisions combined. It was gorgeous; people were bowling, and then Walter TV dawned the stage:
Walter TV: “Now, that’s Mac DeMarco on bass,” I yell/whisper to Seth, popping a vein from my neck, “Right?” He didn’t hear me. The lead singer looked like the Wavves dude, and they pretty much sounded that way too. Only, maybe more Burger Records-style stuff. But it was fun, no doubt. People were swaying a bit, but mainly just into DeMarco eating it up on stage, which in a way was distracting. Walter TV’s cute ditties diddled around my body as I danced, and noticed the lead singer wearing a Jurassic Park trucker hat. I’m no fashion police, but I feel like that move may have been a dated one. As dated as Wavves. Yo, but it was that original pre-fame, Wavves-style rock. And by the last track, people started a shove-mosh up front, and this girl, whose looks I’d been ignoring thus far, turned away from her friend, and told me she liked my hat. The reply I gave her was simply, “Walter TV, yes!” She turned away, and the band left.
White Fence: I’m unfamiliar with the ">White Fence travelling band-mates, but there was more than just Tim Presley adorning the stage after about a 30 minute wait. Yet, they rolled straight into the music with the crystal clarity of how they sound on record. And by crystal-clarity I mean, I was nervous during pre-show how he would pull off the candid recording qualities of Cyclops Reap and Family Perfume as a live act, but through pristine sound precision, White Fence not only had a handle on their signature “retro” aesthetic, but they were precise about when executed it. Example: the first song they played was that “Harness” single on the Is Growing Faith album, and when that smashed-out solo happens toward the end, Presley kept looking at the bassist and drummer to work off their rhythm and timing as far as when to heighten and stop the guitar-fuzz madness.
Third Brooklyn Blast in, and I’m noticing these looks happened throughout the act, as they played tracks from the three previously mentioned albums, and introduced themselves, but I didn’t get all that, since it was the quietest part of the show, and people were bowling directly to my right. But the fellas seemed jovial, and the quality of vocals seemed to fare better through the music than alone in the atmosphere. It didn’t feel as though I were being transported back to my pop’s car listening to oldies on the radio (White Fence has that distinct effect on me), but the element of rock they brought haunted the audience in a way that possessed most (if not all) to dance and sway hips as they should be swayed to the simplicity of rock. Their finish is directed offstage, and the lights come back on the crowd.
Mac DeMarco: Turns out, the Walter TV lead singer plays bass with Mac DeMarco live. OK-OK, so they went on quick, but are totally, like — lingerers; too much clapping, too much tech shit, too much waiting. But I was into their live sound, and full aware they were playing “Annie” to start out. No: “Ode to Victory.” Fucked at my slim knowledge of DeMarco’s discography, beyond the Rock & Roll Night Club EP, my instinctive influence radar points to post-Ween. I mean, as they played, they weren’t deliberately ripping off Ween, just DeMarco has them quick-wit/gig lyrics and warps his voice just right. Seth and I were sipping our fourth Blast (seriously not tryna plug Brooklyn Brewery or nothing, it was just heavy and delicious; pay me) before realizing we had to bounce to just barely catch Swans at Warsaw, and Mac DeMarco didn’t wave us goodbye, but was playing my jam “Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans,” and OK, maybe he winked at me while I gulped the last bit of beer I had. Maybe it was magic.
Having spoken about Swans before, while I was smoking and drinking in Bed-Stuy, Seth was intrigued to watch them live at Warsaw, after a mutual pal presented a picture to him with the subtitle: “Angry White People.” Which we ended up being, waiting on line outside in the rain, hearing them set up and sound check inside, and our hoods/jackets eventually rung into a puddle. Yet, our boii Miles was waiting inside, and nothing was stopping me from getting to him, not even the “red-light” they put on press entry.
Swans: “Nah-nah. That’s fine, I’m just soaking and gotta piss,” I tell ticket-takers, and mingle with the crowd entering the concert area, as they try to yell over Michael Gira belting out age and longevity. And as they were trudging instruments on stage, I was verbing the same through the crowd, and took off my hat as I saw through people’s armpits and faces that security was snooping for me. Having already seen Swans this year, they came off just as solid and stable as before. The wall of sound continued to hit me with wave after wave of mass density, as I texted Seth outside, who was actually around the corner waiting and sobering up at Uro. My phone began to digitally pixelate and fall apart as Swans got louder and louder. Gira, with all his man-dome, conducted the whole gang, layering smoldering levels of reverberation throughout my body as my blood boiled.
In an instant burst of creativity, Gira opened himself up to the universe, and it swallowed him and Swans whole, into the vastness of their collective noise. Flayed at the chords, the electric meter outside of Warsaw must have been pinwheeling into oblivion. Someone yelled out, “I can’t read,” and maybe it was me, but nobody heard it. Nobody could hear nothing, as I made an early escape out the side exit, littering me into the side-alley, allowing me to bear witness to the actual electric meter and its dance. Convenient? If you can’t hear someone yelling at you in Brooklyn, either ‘cause your hearing is busted-as-fuck, or because of a live show, you can thank Swans for that.
Seth and I met up; the only thing I heard was him suggesting Japanese food and more beer, to which I nodded happily.
Proudly I was sober Saturday, seeing how my adventurous Thursday lead me to a heavy-hangover work-day FriFri. And after having lunch with my pal Leo at Maria Hernandez Park, I made my way to Muchmore’s by 4 p.m. to hear the less-heard, which I’m always into. The heat outside is bearable, and wearing my Champion shorts makes it that much better. Upon entering the quaint little coffee/bar shop, I recognize there’s a side room for shows between the café area, myself, and the server pointing to the location of the bathroom. After I expel my waste, I hit up the server again, this time for a hot coffee (whhyyy??), and I head into the side concert room. People know each other and are talking on couches surrounding the room, against all the walls in a U-shape, and the room is abuzz with chatter-noise. I ain’t no mingle-mangler, so I park myself on the closest couch (alone) to the stage.
ThreeB_: Having overheard that the first band canceled, or something like that, I settled down for ThreeB_, consisting of Isaac Tentenbaum on keys and sounds and Jake Falby on sounds, (light/minor) vocals and violin. The music was pleasant, and along the lines of that sweeping orchestral stuff Godspeed do, only ThreeB_ have much more sustain in their sound, swelling more interest and fervor into their craftsmanship than the electronic warp they frequently use. The setup was as it sounds (keys and violin and mic), accompanied with maybe a laptop, or some sort of electronics stations each wielded: Falby openly on what looked like a sheet music-holder, placed parallel to the ground, containing a pad of electronics, and Tentenbaum’s was hidden behind the key’s front partition. And if you were to imagine a slow montage of the summer fading into the fall, shedding the eventual winter white, all within a 30-minute video/film time frame, employing visions of NYC street corners, parks, alleys, shops, and building tops, ThreeB_ scored the soundtrack.
Jerry Paper: Jerry Paper (a.k.a. Lucas W. Nathan; named after a character in the animated film version of Puff the Magic Dragon, maybe?) infatuates my musical sensations in a gyrating way; less sexually, and more romantically. And as I watched him from the bar, through the entrance to the showroom, with light grazing different parts of his face, hair, and chest, the glare I mostly experienced, aside from the bright purple flowers he adorned the microphone with, was his sharp melodies on keys. Jerry Paper is like João Gilberto, only way more wobbly in beats, and sharper in melodies. Also, I believe Mr. Paper sings mostly in English. But they way his vocals sound is just ear-wax melting. No: It’s like he caresses your ear-wax to subside within your body, moving it as though your canals had taste, and caramel were the flavor. Pops for beats, making soda songs of sweet beauty, embracing the feel of satin hibiscus flowers on your shoulders.
It was a fucking mad house tryna get to McCarrenl. All along Ninth Street, as Muchmore’s was in walking distance from the park, vendors and kids, cyclists and shoppers, food trucks and grease, artists and tits all came together in sort of a rat-king formation of happiness. Like, they were all happy to be there sweating on each other, yelling, “What?” a lot, ‘cause who speaks the same language anymore? The crazy part was nobody here was focused on the music being played inches from where they were hanging out. Moreover, it was neat to see the local people gathering in the streets that weren’t interested in the musical aspect of the festival, ridding Brooklyn (super) momentarily of the “hipster” aspect usually overrunning the area. Then you got this prick — again, myself — traipsing through with a smart-ass hat and Urban Outfitters muscle shirt poppin’, getting a few looks, but more ignores, and that was fine too.
Phosphorescent: Yeah, I’m one of them suckers that likes Phosphorescent. Feel in love with the fellah (Matthew Houck), in fact. So out of nostalgia and happy memories, I walked into the big-tent area of McCarren Park, on the press side, and there was nobody there. At least, not on the press side, which was separated by metal partitions from the ticket side. I took a leak (I pee a lot, what?) and emerged to see a shoulder-to-shoulder audience, where there once was but open space. I pushed my way up just a smidge before feeling four different types of sweat on mine. I calmly took it and watched the Phosphorescent band take the stage and start banging out them feel-good jams. Starting with “Ride On/Right On” everyone was feeling it, swimming with each other, skin on skin, enjoying the bump and fling of Houck’s desperately joyful voice while reacting and pointing to band members occasionally getting a chance in the limelight on organ or drums or drums or bass. But when “Song For Zula” began playing, everyone was feeling the friendly grind, and possibly meeting someone new.
Most of the act was from the Muchacho album, which I was chill with, even though I’m more on the page of Pride, but I felt the love, the depravity of Houck’s crackling cowboy voice carefully narrating the sonics. And as he finished up, while I organized a dinner at my place out on Long Island between friends, Phosphorescent was a nice closure for me and Northside Festival, his voice, in retrospect, echoing throughout the event, as if “Down To Go” were playing as the credits rolled.