SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A San Francisco institution ever since it began as one night of loud, tuneful local bands back in 1993, the 24th annual Noise Pop Festival has grown from stretching over the better part of a week to the latest expansion to ten days of music, film and art featuring some of the most respected names in independent music.
One of the biggest stories of last year’s festival was the reopening of the venerable Swedish American Hall to serve not only as Noise Pop HQ but as a year-round venue for live music and cultural happenings. Once again, the Hall will be hosting sponsored happy hour events and performances throughout the festival.
Noise Pop 2016 got a soft launch last week with a smattering of shows and the start of the festival’s annual film series, but rolls into this week with a full slate of concerts including a series of free Noise Pop After Hours concerts at Cafe Du Nord that will feature special unannounced guests. Below are some recommended highlights as busy festival kicks into high gear. Many shows may be sold out in advance (though festival badge holders can still attend if they arrive early enough), so be sure to check the Noise Pop site or call the venue ahead of time to ensure ticket availability.
Monday, Feb. 22
David Bowie Tribute Party at the Independent 8 p.m. $10 (SOLD OUT)
The departure of iconic rock chameleon David Bowie from this mortal plane on January 10th was an earth-shaking cultural event that continues to have reverberations. Festival organizers couldn’t let the passing of the Thin White Duke go without recognition, so they’ve scheduled with sold-out screening of “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars,” the classic D.A. Pennebaker film documenting Bowie’s final performance in his Ziggy Stardust guise that had made him a massive star in the U.K. Following the movie, fans will be treated to a performance by Everyone Is Bowie, a tribute by Oakland art rockers Everyone Is Dirty in collaboration with projection artist White Light Prism.
Tuesday, Feb. 23
Happy Hour with Swiftumz, Silver Shadows and Quivers at Bender’s Bar and Grill 5 p.m. FREE
Presented by Gibbsmo and sponsored by Jack Daniels and Mavericks Brewing, this happy hour show offers up indie-pop songwriter Chris McVickers fronting his beloved local band Swiftumz, playing songs from their most recent album Everybody Loves Chris that came out on SF imprint Melters. Like-minded Bay Area jangle rockers Silver Shadows and Quivers also appear.
Astronauts, etc., Hunny, Naytronix and Kid Trais at the Independent 7:30 p.m. $13-$15
Founded by keyboard player Anthony Ferraro, Astronauts, etc. explores the tuneful, jazzy end of the indie-tronic spectrum you might expect from someone who is also part of Toro Y Moi’s touring band. Releasing his first bedroom-studio recordings under the moniker in 2012, Ferraro built his shimmering analog soul around falsetto vocals and chilled-out beds of Fender Rhodes and fuzzy synths. Several EPs and singles led up to the release of his proper full-length debut Mind Out Wandering last September. Astronauts, etc. shows off the live versions of their electronic psych-soul sound as heard on the brand new concert EP Live Out Wandering when they headline the independent with SoCal band Hunny, tUnE-yArDs bassist Nate Brenner’s dance outfit Naytronix and Kid Trails.
Wednesday, Feb. 24
Ringo Deathstarr, Bed., Plush and Crush at the Bottom of the Hill 7 p.m. $12
Texas-based shoegazers Ringo Deathstarr have built up a solid following over the course of almost a decade in existence. Founded in 2007 by guitarist Elliot Frazier in his hometown of Beaumont before relocating to the more viable music hot spot of Austin, the group has earned international accolades with the high-volume, melodic roar of the songs heard on their four full-length albums and three EPs. The band focuses on material from their latest effort Pure Mood when they headline the Bottom with Portland, OR act Bed. and local alt-pop band Plush.
Kneedelus at the SFJAZZ Center’s Joe Henderson Lab 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. $25 (8 p.m. SOLD OUT)
A bold collaboration between Grammy-nominated L.A. indie-funk outfit Kneebody and renowned Bay Area experimental hip-hop producer Daedelus, Kneedelus has its roots in the working relationship between saxophonist Ben Wendel and Daedelus that stretches back a full decade. First working together as a unit for an improvised performance at the 2009 Jazz A Vienne festival, the group released its acclaimed eponymous debut album on cutting-edge producer Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder imprint late last year.
Thursday, Feb. 25
Bill Callahan, Guy Blakeslee and Peacers at the Swedish American Hall 7:30 p.m. $35 (SOLD OUT)
First coming to fame during the early ’90s with his experimental lo-fi recordings under the moniker Smog, songwriter Bill Callahan would become one of the more respected indie-rock artists of the decade thanks to a string of seminal albums for Drag City. Callahan refined his sound during collaborations with such noted producers and musicians as Jim O’Rourke, Tortoise mainstay John McEntire and Royal Trux principle Neil Hagerty and eventually began releasing songs under his given name with 2007’s Woke on a Whaleheart. He is joined by The Entrance Band’s Guy Blakeslee (who recently released a new all-instrumental guitar album, The Middle Sister) and the band Peacers.
Kamasai Washington and DJ Turf-Yard at the Independent 7:30 and 10 p.m. (SOLD OUT)
Saxophonist Kamasai Washington has made a meteoric rise over the past year, but the adventurous jazz talent has been making a name for himself for well over a decade. A precocious musical talent, Washington studied at the prestigious Alexander Hamilton High School’s Academy of Music in Los Angeles before getting accepted to UCLA on a scholarship to study with the Department of Enthnomusicology. Washington would perform with noted faculty members like guitarist Kenny Burrell and drummer Billy Higgins and began independently releasing his own albums in 2004. Equally adept with jazz and hip-hop (he has collaborated with his hero Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock as well as such rap luminaries as Nas, Snoop Dogg and Flying Lotus), last year Washington was a major contributor to Kendrick Lamar’s landmark To Pimp A Butterfly album in addition to releasing his own celebrated three-disc opus The Epic. If you didn’t score tickets to one of his two sold-out shows at the Independent, the musician will also appear for free at the Swedish American Hall in conversation with SF musicologist and industry vet David Katznelson at 3:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 26
The Cave Singers, Current Swell, Foxtails Brigate and Jacob Golden at the Chapel 7 p.m. $15-$17
Formed by members of Seattle post-punk bands Pretty Girls Make Graves, Hint Hint and Cobra High, The Cave Singers moved the musicians in a decidedly different direction towards twangy indie-folk with the release of the band’s 2007 debut Invitation Songs for Matador Records. Later efforts for Jagjaguwar Records would add more of an electric element to the proceedings, particularly on the lively Naomi in 2013. The band’s latest, their brand new self-released album Banshee, finds the band introducing more fuzz and reverb to their songs.
Drive Like Jehu, Feels, Fug Arakas and Zeitpop + Horsebrand DJ Set at the Independent 8:30 p.m. $25-$29 (SOLD OUT)
One of the most corrosive post-punk guitar bands to emerge in the ’90s, short-lived San Diego quartet Drive Like Jehu only released two albums and a 7-inch single during their initial four years of existence. Formed after the demise of their noisy post-hardcore outfit Pitchfork in 1990, Drive Like Jehu found guitarist/singer Rick Froberg and lead guitarist John Reis working with explosive rhythm section of bassist Mike Kennedy and drummer Mark Trombino. Reis may have found greater fame fronting Rocket From the Crypt, but Drive Like Jehu would become a hugely influential alongside contemporary bands like Fugazi and Quicksand with the intricate guitar onslaught heard on their seminal 1994 album Yank Crime. The group dissolved the following year with Reis and Froberg reuniting to collaborate in the band Hot Snakes in the late ’90s, but the underground clamor for a Drive Like Jehu reunion never went away. Last year, the group played incendiary sets at Coachella, ATP Iceland and the Treasure Island Music Festival.
Saturday, Feb. 27
Pins of Light, The Birth Defects and Dirty Denim at Bender’s Bar and Grill 5 p.m. FREE
A leading light of San Francisco’s experimental punk rock fringe, Pins of Light features a talented quartet of musicians with solid pedigrees (veterans of such noted SF bands as Dead and Gone, Triclops!, Hightower, Peace Creep and Night After Night) and a desire to push the boundaries of heavy music. The band’s 2012 debut for Alternative Tentacles showcased bassist Shane Baker’s growling vocal delivery and a sound that split the difference between two bands anchored by late bass legend Lemmy: the pulsing, riff-driven space rock of Hawkwind and the pummeling, raucous attack of Motörhead. Their latest self-released collection of songs Home boast more sci-fi sound effects and some of the group’s most compelling songwriting yet. They are joined by feral LA-based punks The Birth Defects. Led by SF expatriate Jason Finazzo, the high-octane band issued its ferocious Ty Segall-produced debut First 8 Mistakes last year to solid reviews.
Soft White Sixties, Taxes, B. Hamilton and Growler at the Chapel 7 p.m. $14-$16
Bristling with energy and ear-pleasing hooks, local heroes Soft White Sixties have been touring relentlessly since first coming together in 2010. Fronted by kinetic lead singer Octavio Genera, the quintet delivers a crunchy style of soulful rock that touches on classic ’60s and ’70s grooves without sacrificing a contemporary pop edge. A festival favorite who ably commanded the main stage at Outside Lands three years ago, the group is likely to sell out this Noise Pop showcase like it has several in the past.
Escort, Mobley, Collaj and Push the Feelings DJs at the Rickshaw Stop 8:30 p.m. $15-$17
A modern, large-scale disco ensemble, Brooklyn-based group Escort finds its roots in the studio collaborations of Dan Balis and Eugene Cho who made house music together while students at Vasser College during the early 2000s. The duo expanded their horizons towards live music and gradually pieced together the group of players including singer Adeline Michele that has established itself as one of NYC’s surefire party starting outfits.
Sunday, Feb. 28
DIIV, Dirty Ghosts, Creative Adult and Fine Points at the Independent 7:30 p.m. $20-$22
The creative outlet for songwriter Z. Cole Smith, Brooklyn indie-rock outfit DIIV has earned praises from cultural web outposts like Pitchfork and Stereogum. Signed to noted imprint Captured Tracks on the strength of several songs recorded by Smith alone, the musician gathered a group of friends to form the band and craft its debut album Oshin that mixed elements of krautrock, early ’90s alternative sounds and global grooves. Though work on the band’s follow up effort was slowed by false starts and struggles with drugs (Smith was arrested with girlfriend Sky Ferriera and later entered rehab, while drummer Colby Hewitt would depart to focus on fighting his addiction), the recently released Is the Is Are has met with rave reviews. DIIV is joined by San Francisco’s own powerhouse post-punk trio and Noise Pop vets Dirty Ghosts, who released their sophomore album Let It Pretend last year.