Dispatches from Noise Pop: Saturday 2/27

With the last of this weeks free happy hour show starting much later than advertised, That Ghost took the stage with the most blasé of attitudes. From the Kinks’ tradition of pre-psychedelic 60s garage rock, though minus their raw energy, That Ghost doled out their songs like it was punishment. Their front man, seemingly unable to match the key, stood nonchalantly moaning the songs while chewing gum. He couldn’t have seemed less interested in his own music. On the other side of the stage there was another guitarist who didn’t seem to be contributing anything to the overall sound. He appeared to be playing but I couldn’t hear it. To their credit their bassist was very talented and held together a strong backbone for their songs. Inject some life into their members and I may be back to check them out.

Following That Ghost The Baths took to the stage, with a front man sporting his best Ringo Starr handle bar mustache, and continued with the theme of 60s garage rock. Fairly conventional sounding they were enjoyable but nothing terribly innovative.

Heading downtown to the Mezzanine, a place I would normally avoid like the bubonic plague for fear of catching an Ed Hardy disease, I geared up for the dance party to come. First up were the cute and quirky band My First Earthquake. With an air of 50s girl pop sans lyrics about “be my baby” and more about tits and wet dreams, filtered through 80s synth rock like The Cars, My First Earthquake did nerd rockers of the world proud. They were as if a group of theatre kids from your high school formed a band to endear their way into your ears.

Sugar and Gold followed and really hammed it up for the crowd. Imploring his best Prince performance (right down to his diminutive stature) their front man strutted around stage licking his guitar and shaking his ass for a dedicated crowd. I’ve never been much of a fan of their disco-revival sound but it certainly was a show to watch. The music is catchy and serves as a perfect background for a dance party, but as far as depth there isn’t much to it.

After several months as recluses, Maus Haus are back and could not have sounded better. Playing tracks from their debut album and a few from their forthcoming 7-inch (available for download on Tuesday), and weaving together their fascinating and intricate sound. Hearing the new tracks was quite exciting and I wait with great anticipation to give them an in depth listen latter on. Additionally, as a performance it was quite nice to see Josh, one of their front man, really come out of his performance shell getting into the groove and almost rapping one of my favorite songs of their initial album “Reaction.”

!!! closed the evening, laying down their fantastic groove, to a thoroughly devoted crowd. Truly living up to their reputation of assaulting your hips with their rhythm and groove, !!! put out as much energy as they demanded from the crowd. Though I would greatly loved to hear a few tracks from Louden Up Now, I can understand why they would choose not to play them. The downside to writing directly political tracks somewhat dates them. It’s hard to tell a different President, that you may or may not support, to “suck your dick” with the same meaning behind it. All that aside, they certainly did their job energizing the crowd, so much so that during their encore the stage was bum rushed by overly zealous dancers who were swiftly shut down by the bouncers. It was wild to see.

Nearing its end, I head out to my final Noise Pop show tonight, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Bimbo’s.


-Words and Photos by Ada Lann


Noise Pop 2010: Hunx and his Punx

Midway through the Noise Pop Happy Hour set on Friday, Seth a.k.a Hunx took a second to connect with the audience at Bender's. "Are you guys having a good time? Yeah? You just came here cuz its free huh? Thats cool, I wouldn't pay for this shit either."

The funny thing is, with over the top outfits, catchy retro 2 1/2 minute songs and tons of confetti, who wouldn't pay to see this show? Watching a Hunx and his Punx show is like watching a live action John Waters film that features only the musical numbers. Its highly sexualized, its campy and its meant to either shock or entertain [often times both]. The set consisted of mainly songs from their latest release Gay Singles and included a few new songs towards the end. Hunx's Punx were dressed as grannies while Hunx himself was dressed in spandex, a frilly shirt and a studded chest harness. While this current project is a slight shift from Seth's last band Gravy Train!!!, the dancability of the songs remains and there were several times when it was difficult to take photos because all I really wanted to be doing was dance.

After a long week of several 12, 13, 14+ hour days, the energy of this show helped to keep me going on a Friday night. If ever you hear that Hunx and his Punx are playing remember that they're worth the money and if you find yourself bored at the show, check your pulse becasue you're probably dead.

-Nicole Leigh
words and photo


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