For the closing night of Noise Pop 2009, Les Savy Fav, The Mae Shi and The Drums played a mayhem-riddled show at Mezzanine.
First of all, if you were in town, you know it was raining (and has been raining and there's no end in sight. Hopefully, of all the impending doom, at least we might not have a drought.) I was in no big rush to leave my cozy apartment, but I'd seen Les Savy Fav before with The Faint and remember them as a whole load of crazy fun, so I rallied.
And that’s an understatement. Easily the best performance of Noise Pop 2009, Portugal. The Man delivered nearly a 2-hour set cruising through almost the entirety of Censored Colors and even a few previews from their upcoming album.
Lead singer John Gourley and bassist Zachary Carothers played a good portion of the show with their backs to the crowd (we can’t help but wonder if John’s slight stage fright had something to do with this). Nonetheless, the performance was somewhat reminiscent of Jim Morrison in his early days - no talking, no frills, no direct connection with the crowd, but somehow one of the most solid and touching sets that we’ve ever seen.
It’s only appropriate that the Los Angeles duo No Age wrapped up Noise Pop ‘09 at Bottom of the Hill on Sunday afternoon with their noisy brand of Thurston Moore-inspired dissonant punk rock. The following are optional at a No Age show: wailing in tune, bass guitars, lead guitar solos, and tracks over three minutes. Guitarist Randy Randall, who looked disturbingly like Val Kilmer as John Holmes in the movie Wonderland, and drummer/vocalist Dean Spunt wasted no time in putting the noise back in Noisepop, jumping into “Teen Creeps” off Nouns, their Subpop debut album. Every time one of No Age’s songs veered toward pop melody, they made sure to interrupt it with a crunching power chord progression or a wave of distortion. But pop compromise is not what No Age is all about.
At first, Noise Pop Happy Hour at Benders Bar and Grill on Saturday felt like an indie rock version of an antique sale. The aging of the 90s Pacific Northwest-SubPop Records-heyday set was evident. The opening acts (the aptly named Aim Low Kid and Audio Out Send) struggled through poor sound on a tiny stage. The lead singer of Aim Low Kid pointed to a crowd member and said that Starbucks and Pabst Blue Ribbon was a dangerous combo. It used to be heroin-chic and meth. Now it’s Starbucks and PBR.
The Syracuse band Ra Ra Riot has always been tough to categorize. No matter what you call them (champer pop, orchestral crooners, shoe-gazing mods), their sound has a way of evoking a range of past hitmakers from Pat Benatar or Talk Talk to Belle and Sebastian or Joy Division. At the band’s sold-out show at the Independent last night, ever-earnest lead singer Wes Miles made sure to let the crowd know that he loved San Francisco and the crowd let the band know that San Francisco reciprocated.
The entire lineup of last night’s Noise Pop show at Slim’s was perfectly billed. From Rademacher and The Mumlers to co-headliners, The Submarines and Bay Area sweethearts, The Morning Benders, everything flowed pretty smoothly for the bouncy, indie pop show. The vibe was light and fun and every band carried their weight. The Submarines even played their infamous iPhone commercial song, “You, Me & the Bourgeoisie,” much to the crowd’s pleasure and cheers.
Recording an album a year clearly isn’t enough for these Portland-based fellas. After recording and writing all 15 songs on Censored Colors (their September 2008 release) in 15 days, Portugal. The Man just finished another 3-week stint recording their latest album in Boston (still unnamed and without a release date). Those loveable boys originally from Wasilla, Alaska have been on tour for nearly three years straight (nearly 300 shows a year) and recording albums on their few weeks off a year, but after Alternative Press named lead singer John Gourley the “Best Vocalist of 2008,” they began blowing up in the press and we can’t say they don’t deserve it. With people like Paul Q.
Amongst a mellow head bobbing crowd, there's always a few showing off their spasm-like dance skills, thrusting their shoulders and flinging their hair close enough to smell what shampoo they use. Then again, personal space doesn't exist at standing room only shows, so a scuff on your new kicks is usually excused and well worth the sacrifice when FMTM is headlining.