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The Best and the Rest of Noise Pop 2013

We're starting the week here at 7x7 HQ with a serious case of Noise Pop bangover, and we're okay with that. After six solid days of shows and general after-hours mayhem, we're surprised we escaped relatively unscathed–except for the fact that our ears are now permanently ringng. Here's what we saw, loved, or barely lived through.

Body/Head and Burmese at Rickshaw Stop, Night 1
Burmese took the stage first. Their dark, thrashy and metallic set said, ‘Hello Noise Pop!’ in an appropriately energetic fashion for opening night of the festival. Being seasoned vets of the underground noise and hardcore scenes, their set never grew tired. Next came the equally dark, but delightfully moodier Horsebladder. Oakland’s Elaine Kahn played her sometimes church-y-sounding Yamaha keyboard (with a tambourine duct taped to it) along with pedals and loop effects and used an S&M-looking chain on a stick for percussive flogging. She received some heckling (including being called an “asshole”), simply because her music required a little more patience than the crowd was prepared to give. In response, she manipulated feedback to grab their attention, as if to say ‘shut the fuck up!’ We considered her ballsy set the evening's highlight.

A post-Sonic Youth Kim Gordon took the stage last as part of her new outfit, Body/Head, a guitar-drone duo often accompanied by feedback and Gordon's shrieking vocals. “Torture, torture” were some of the only lyrics I could make out. Unfortunately, that’s what this set felt like. Not much from this act seemed inspired–it came across like a rehashing of what’s been done before, minus the creative energy. People started to filter out of the Rickshaw Stop during their set. I’m not sure if it’s because it was a Tuesday night, but I followed suit shortly after she broke out the harmonica. –Andre Torrez

Ceremony, Terry Malts, Comadre at Rickshaw Stop, Night 2
This night had a certain sense of nostalgia going for it, thanks to Bay Area hardcore stalwarts Comadre and Ceremony, who brought out the scene kid in all of us and gave us a chance to forget our 9-to-5 lives for one blissful, screamy night. It was almost strange seeing Comadre high above the audience on a proper stage (they usually eschew the stage for playing on the floor amidst the crowd), but they delivered a set full of old-school gems and their more hook-laden, newer material. SF's Terry Malts broke the ice by ripping through their buzzsaw pop anthems (and debuted some new stuff!) at breakneck speed and a glint of mischief twinkling in their eyes, as always. At one point, a fake rep from fake corporate sponsor Subway jumped on stage and yelled at the band for not plugging their $5 FebruAny sandwich deals. They then threw actual Subway sandwiches into the crowd (and the crowd threw them back), and ended their excellent set 30 minutes later by saying "THANKS EVERYBODY, EAT FRESH." What can we say about Rohnert Park's Ceremony? Though their sound has evolved in the past years to a more mature, melodic version of their hardcore roots, that didn't stop the bodies from flying, the mic being commandeered by zealous audience members on the regular, and smiles and good vibes all around. –Laura Mason

OBN IIIs, photo by Andre Torrez

OBN IIIs, Fuzz, Blasted Canyons, and G. Green at The Knockout, Night 3
Austin, Texas's OBN IIIs delivered one confrontational party anthem after the other. Their unhinged frontman (who reminded us a lot of Iggy Pop, but with less spilled blood) manically milled about the audience, getting in people’s faces, and repeatedly damaged the mic during barnburners like "If The Shit Fits" and "No Enemies." He asked for beer (they were cans flying everywhere) and told the crowd to shut up and not ruin the moment. The appropriate reaction was laughter. Don't miss the chance to see them when they play the Bay next.

Fuzz burned through a set of Sabbath-meets-Zeppelin stoner jams. Ty Segall almost gives off the impression that he has more fun on drums than on guitar, and looks a little possessed sitting on the stool. He seemed to have more control (or was it restraint?) this time around compared to last month’s secret Fuzz show at KronnerBurger, but dude still packed a whallop on the skins. Charles Mootheart's guitar work ranged from intricate fret work to out-and-out wailing solos and heavy riffage, while Segall did seemed hellbent on resurrecting John Bonham, turning songs on a dime with atypical time changes. Bassist Roland Cosio not only held it down, but kept things interesting with his pulsating low end.

While most of Blasted Canyons' set was overshadowed by my cravings for pupusas across the street, their momentary meltdown did grab the room’s attention. They kept complaining that they couldn’t hear enough of themselves. Hether Fortune (also of Wax Idols) grew so irritated that she eventually threw down her guitar and left the stage (they were trading instruments the entire set, in a display of multi-talentedness). The band members continued without her for a bit, while Fortune awkwardly watched from the sidelines. She then burst back onto the stage, high on a second wind (or maybe she didn’t like the fact that they seemed fine without her), and anticlimactically finished up their set.

An opening band has an integral role in a show. They set the tone for the night, and in many cases are mindful not to steal the thunder of the acts you’ll hear later. Sacramento punks G.Green played their cards well, got the energy going in the right direction and played a perfectly lengthy set that climaxed like great sex. What else? –Andre Torrez

Golden Void at Bender's, Night 4
We feel totally validated after finally seeing Golden Void–we did name this band one to watch in 2013, after all. I've been meaning to catch them for months, and this performance justified everything I'd been so eager to see and hear. Bender's was packed for this Friday happy hour show, and it was clear that most in attendance came to enter the void via singer-guitarist Isaiah Mitchell's epic shredding and an amazing rhythm section held down by drummer Justin Pinkerton and nimble-fingered bassist Aaron Morgan. Unhindered by Bender's divey, bare-bones atmosphere, the foursome wove such freewheeling, shadowy and complex melodies–peppered by Mitchell's kaleidoscopic solos–that it was difficult not to tumble down their sonic rabbit hole and, to quote Eminem, lose yourself in the moment. –Laura Mason

Amon Tobin, Maus Haus, and Naytronix at Public Works, Night 4
By night four, I was ready to switch up the scene and grateful that Noise Pop delivered a more dancefloor-friendly alternative (to the guitar, drum and bass shows I had been taking in) with Brazilian-born DJ & producer Amon Tobin, noted for his work on the Ninja Tune label.

Naytronix, helmed by Nate Brenner, the bassist of tUnE-yArDs, was playing when I entered the massive club. The vibe was very SoMA, or maybe that’s what the Mission is evolving into. The band members wore blue, sequined t-shirts with matching, geometric shapes on them. I wasn’t sure if they were being serious or just festive for the occasion, but they did seem to take their sound seriously and the crowd ate it up; mostly by bobbing their heads to the beat.

Maus Haus at Public Works, photo by Julie Schuchard

SF's Maus Haus played next, but took their time getting their equipment set up. It was worth the wait, even if it was a step back to the usual live band elements I'm accustomed to. This was easily the most spirited performance I took in that evening. The band even looked like they were having fun.

I found a nice spot on the second floor for Amon’s arrival, which was very well received. The unrelenting, trance-like bass was out of control–the kind that gets inside of you, rattles your organs with no escape–unless of course you leave, which is what I did. There was a much more chill dance party going on inside another part of Public Works called The Chase. Unfortunately, it was non-Noise Pop related. Nonetheless, I danced well past two, to less obnoxious bass levels. –Andre Torrez

Sonny and The Sunsets, Tim Cohen's Magic Trick, Cool Ghouls at Bottom of the Hill, Night 5
I really wanted to see SF's Cool Ghouls, but Bottom of the Hill is far from my homebase. When I showed up, there was a line out the door– it was another sold-out show. I could hear the Ghouls playing their last song to the cheers of a bunch of 19-year-old SF State kids. Kids with good taste, though.

Magic Trick was a pleasant surprise. Clad in a Ralph Ellison “Invisible Man” t-shirt (one of my favorite novels) Tim Cohen seemed totally lost in the music, and artistically spaced out more than once during extended guitar lines (to the point where his bandmate would just laugh at him). These guys were on-point and should get points for solid musicianship, fully audible lyrics (a rarity) and an honorable mention for their pretty harmonies.

Sonny and The Sunsets had BOTH packed deep. I do love his classic, beat-up looking Fender Mustang and its ability to command attention with simple chords strummed in time with driving beats by drummer Kelley Stoltz. And of course, there’s the storyteller side of Sonny, which is a large part of his charm, and what makes him such an engaging live act. The highlight of the night? When Sonny tossed merch t-shirts and assorted records into the audience he said “here, pass these around.” I may have pried it out of a drunk and confused hipster’s hands, but I went home with a new record that night. Sounds real good! –Andre Torrez