Northside Fest Day 2
The Woodsist showcase was a no brainer and the Music Hall was the perfect place to support the amazing lineup that was going to be trading the stage all night.
I've wanted to see Sic Alps since I saw grainy dark youtube videos of them playing in basements . They're a substantial force, Mike Donovan and Matthew Hartman who actually were joined by Noel von Harmonson... not quite sure when they became a 3 piece and it drove their already massive sound way over into the red. I don't think anyone was thinking that insane sound really needed another guitar, but then maybe this latest tour, and opening for Sonic Youth and Pavement inspired them to get even bigger. The over all direction felt even more psychadelic than usual. Maybe it's the result of the three of them on stage, once the wave starts rolling it's harder to stop. The momentum of the jam with the two guitars listening for each other, playing off the last phrase. There's bound to be a delay or a hesitation in reacting to the other person. I didn't mind the jam, all I could really think about was the spirit of what early sonic youth might have been like as Noel and Mike squatted next to pedals and amps digging in and coaxing feedback noise out of the 60's kind of groove they'd been previously driving into.
It makes so much sense to think about Woodsist putting this show together, it was perfectly curated, getting these heavy hitters together who are rooted in that laid back kind of west coast psychadelia. Moon Duo is practically an exact replica of that era from what I've heard, pretty classicly true to replicating that era. Then Sic Alps bring an experimental noise to the guitar driven sound, and the Fresh and Onlys take it into catchy pop places. Woods brings it back into a experimental layered collage animal collective inspired place. How did that sound end up coming out of so many different bands on the East Coast? I wouldn't think that layered sound would come out of the historically urban straight laced east coast. Animal Collective or Black Dice's return to a primal rhythm and collage layers of vocals...but maybe that's the West Beach Boys influence making it's way back in the form of it's pinnacle Panda Bears, Person Pitch. Real Estate surprisingly takes the West coast laid back vibe and exports it to the shores of Jersey. Taking back the shore from the juice heads so you don't forget the little byways and deserted sandy shores. They want to remind you on every track, literally songs about rivers, the seagulls, and for better or worse the clear lazy suburban sprawl.
The Fresh and Onlys came on after the Alps and I had been really wanting to see them for the first time after their self titled full length had so many great tracks. They mixed those up with some new ones off their Captured Tracks EP and it's funny because I had always thought of them as dirty frantic garage rockers. Something in the spirit of that kind of hazy punk but live they seem to be a really laid back, solid, melodic band. With the backbone of Tim Cohens solo stuff they have this quiet, practically romantic base, so maybe it just had been waiting to rise out of the frantic shitstorm that has been their 7"'s up to this point. They can develop and draw out a brief psyche feel in a real full volume way. They benefited from the massive PA system and room of the Music Hall. I never even heard them filling out a space like this until now, and Tim is a character who really wins over the crowd immediately. This joking lumberjack, not the angry frustrated garage punk I might have had them pegged as early on.
After that ear ringing set I thought I'd check out the Pop Tarts Suck Toasted curated set next door at Public Assembly. I was just in time to catch Dinosaur Feathers who I've been hearing good things about and was surprised to see a trio of bass, hollow body guitar and synth - sans drummer rocking out catchy mini electronic jams. Every song launches with a hyped up messy electronic beat to be joined by indie acoustic style pop strumming and piercing harmonies from the three guys. It's like Orange Juice, anti-low-fi, no garage...unpretentious...they want catchy pop songs, and the audience was actually dancing, bouncing around the PA, yelling for them to turn up the vocals. Built out of weirdo tropical (?) sounds it stays grounded thanks to the guitar and harmonies. Plus it's hard not to root for them, they were super thankful and goofy, sincerely comfortable and knowing exactly what they were doing at the same time. Listening to an old EP on their website, they have a densely constructed, precise sound...almost pop Xiu Xiu...there's a lot to take in. Reproducing this live suits them as it gets stripped down a little bit more...a few less layers and more spontaneity.
After they finished I went next door (that's ridiculous when you think about it. I caught myself a few times last night thinking I saw Sic Alps a week ago....or the Fresh and Onlys was another life...not literally an hour ago) and made it in time for the end of Woods' set. I hugely respect what Jeremy has done for his band, the label, and then to take this secondary slot on their own showcase night? Just an all around nice, hardworking guy...they really deserve the attention they're getting for the label and hell ...people seem to like Woods on top of it. I'm not that familiar with their catalog but they seemed to be extending their tracks, teasing them out for the crowd. G. Lucas Crane looks pained, bent over the sea of electronics always in dead front, I think he was burning incense or else the faders and knobs were just in a constant state of near meltdown. It's hard to tell exactly what sounds are created but it definitely adds to the psychedelic haze that the tracks devolve into. It's would seem counter intuitive to add this to the jam pit vibe but then the vocalizations he's creating are just what the otherwise guitar driven songs need. It's done in an organic way, maybe because it's so hands on....it's that delicate high falsetto against this swirling menace that's Woods' trademark.
Real Estate was up next, with the perfect kind of lazy summer odes to New Jersey. The back and forth of guitar between Matt and Martin they both have a great high tone and melody sense that comes together in layered pop. You don't see these melodies coming or that the track chorus gets even catchier. Weirdly all the vocals reference the water, rivers, streams or reservoirs, it's something I never picked up on before, you would never pick out these 4 guys to be in the same band, but it's got to be these varied references coming together that makes it work. Matt even took lead on a new track I didn't recognize. But Etienne Duguay on drums is an insane showman, twirling the sticks between hits, with a huge reach hitting the backside of the crash cymbals flailing around with impressive control of velocity. I couldn't help but think of the wedding drummer video. Back out for the encore they somehow saved their best 7" tracks for last like Fake Blues and they're getting more comfortable every time I see them and the audiences are growing. Not bad for basically their first album.