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The 15th annual Noise Pop festival kicks off with a bang tonight in San Francisco at Mezzanine. Noise Pop originated with and is still centered on music, and tonight's gala will feature performances by the possibly over-rated Tapes 'n Tapes, the always entertaining (although occasionally tactless) Har Mar Superstar, and the full on crash of the Extra Action Marching Band. Before, between and presumably after the evening's sets there will be sound courtesy of DJ Diabetic, which is the turntable alter ego of avant media mogul Shepard Fairey, who most probably know as the man behind the Obey Giant poster/sticker/clothing movement. Fairey will also be displaying his art, which is generally of the urban/iconographic variety, and the visual component will be furthered by a Dubbo video installation. To feed the consumer culture cow and ensure a lasting memory for the backs of showgoers, the D.O.R.K.S United collective will be on hand with a batch of custom t-shirts. If all that wasn't enough, veteran funnyman and indie rock junkie David Cross will be the evening's emcee. Those with an aversion to expletives are advised to bring earplugs, if not for the bands then for Cross' salty banter. Since this is the only official Noise Pop happening for opening night, it is kind of a no-brainer. Things will get shaking around 9pm, with a reception for VIPs and badge holders getting underway a bit earlier at 7:30.
Lets face it, Wednesday is hump day and San Francisco has a long history of inebriation. There are two happy hour engagements for the festival's first proper evening, and of the two the best bet is at The Diesel Store (101 Post St.). There will be DJ sets by Rogue Wave and DJ Ryan, The Fader magazine is sponsoring it, and it's free. The shindig is supposed to start at 6pm, but why not show up around 4, get stoned on the sidewalk, and then spend a few hours trying on clothes that you'll never buy? Sounds like a plan.
Festival organizers have lined up five showcases for hump night, and although the other four - Josh Ritter at the Swedish American Music Hall, Will Mason (with the adorable Watson Twins) at Cafe Du Nord, resurgent elder statesmen Sebadoh at the appropriately stately Great American Music Hall, and local kingpin John Vanderslice at the Independent - all have merit, the real money is going to be on NorCal freak duo Hella at Bottom of the Hill. After all, the last thing anyone needs on opening night (and a Wednesday of all days) is a solo acoustic show, Will Mason isn't man enough to call himself Willie, the Sebadoh show is $20, and if you're in San Francisco chances are you can see John Vanderslice without much hassle at a later date. The Hella show will be where it's at. There are three openers (Pop Levi, Macromantics, and Tartufi), the rock starts rolling at 8pm, and it will set back all legal adults (18+) $12.
If your ears just aren't feeling it, you can also catch a double bill of cinematics at The Roxie, where Who Is Harry Nilsson (presumably you'll find out) and You're Gonna Miss Me (a documentary about Austin, Texas' rock and roll pioneer Roky Erickson) will show back to back, at 7pm and 9:15, respectively. Although Noise Pop is presumably aimed at the underemployed and underachieving, big city ticket prices will be in full effect and each film will set you back $10.
Of additional note is the evening's art focus, which will be with a display of Alissa Anderson's portrait photography, spanning her entire career, at the Triple Base Gallery (3041 24th Street) from 7pm-10pm. The event is free, open to all ages, and promises to be "Anderson's most comprehensive show to date."
Tequila Corralejo, Seagram's Vodka & Fernet Branca are teaming up for a Thor's day happy hour at the Noise Pop Headquarters. That's right, tequila and vodka and a digestif, so make sure you scarf down a big lunch. Dodo Bird and Loquat aim to have you dancing up a storm, and you don't want to blow chunks all over local photographer Peter Ellenby, who will be perched behind a table signing copies of his new book, Every Day Is Saturday. This all goes down starting at 5pm at Thee Parkside and is free.
The music taking a back seat this evening will be the recently resurrected French Kicks at Slim's, Langhorne Slim and the Trainwreck Riders at Rickshaw Stop, Alexi Murdoch (with Aqueduct and Midnight Movies) at Cafe Du Nord, Matt & Kim (with Erase Errata) at Bottom of the Hill, and Rocky Erickson and the Explosives at the Great American Music Hall. There aren't really any reasons I can think of why any of those shows would outweigh Lyrics Born and the Coup at the Fillmore. Sure, the show will set you back $25, but who goes to San Francisco not expecting to get ripped off? Hopefully you can save some cash by shacking up with some Bay Area B-girls.
I would also suggest checking out "A Night of Instant Calm" at Mezzanine, which you can hit up at 7pm before heading over to the Fillmore. McSweeney's and it's digital video sister Wholphin are co-hosting this event, which is only $5, so there's an outside chance that you can rub shoulders with editor/author Dave Eggers (he wrote that overwrought A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius that everyone was raving about a few years back). To catch his attention, ask him what he thinks about Chief Illiniwek being retired, and to keep him listening tell him you were one of the 12 people who saw Nirvana at Mabel's on Green Street. You won't know what you're talking about (and all the booze from happy hour probably won't help matters any), but try and sound like you do. Additional visual stimulation can be had at Park Life with the ambiguously titled "SIGHTS OF SOUNDS: Works of art from the music community," whatever that is.
Start the weekend off with either more booze back at Thee Parkside with the Noise Pop administrators or another round of shoplifting at the Diesel Store, the latter of which will be soundtracked by DJ sets from The Dandy Warhols and DJ Morse Code. I'll let you make the call on that one, but either way don't stick around too long, as the Sonic Youth film, Sleeping Nights Awake, will be making its world premiere at the non-profit Artists' Television Access facility at 7pm. That will be followed by a David Kilgour documentary, Far off Town: From Dunedin to Nashville, at 9pm. Each film is $8 and all ages.
As far as music goes, if you don't have a badge the evening might be bust. The Donnas at Bottom of the Hill, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists (with post-Q and Not U outfit Georgie James) at the Great American Music Hall, Autolux at the Independent, and The Dandy Warhols at Mezzanine are all sold out. Which leaves Annuals at Cafe Du Nord (9pm, $10, 21+), Jolie Holland at the Fillmore (9pm, $20, all ages), State Radio at Slims (8pm, $13/$15, all ages), and Vic Chesnutt at the Swedish American Music Hall (7:30pm, $15, all ages). The obvious pick for a Friday night is the Ted Leo and the Pharmacists/Georgie James show, but again if you don't have a festival badge you're out of luck. As it stands there will be long lines at any of the shows, sold out or not, so grab an oil can of Fosters on your way to the venue, and scope out any graffiti you see along the way as there is no visual art component to Friday's schedule.
Apparently the powers that be at Noise Pop HQ figured everyone would sleep late and start drinking early on the weekend, as there are no happy hours scheduled for Saturday. Sure, happy hour on the weekend isn't the norm, but Noise Pop isn't supposed to be about the norm, is it? No worries though, you can get your weekend started properly with a trip to the Noise Pop Expo at the Swedish American Music Hall (1pm-6pm, $5, all ages) and then a jaunt back over to the Artists' Television Access facility at 2pm for the $8 world premiere of a documentary on 924 Gilman Street, the celebrated all-ages, volunteer operated venue across the water in Berkeley. Unfortunately the artistic ball was dropped and there are no art installations scheduled for Saturday.
As far as music goes, Saturday is pretty stacked with The Ponys (with Lemon Sun, Gris Gris and Rum Diary) at Bottom of the Hill, Dead Meadow at Cafe Du Nord, Brightback Morning Light at the Great American Music Hall, Ghostland Observatory at Mezzanine, and Spinto Band at Rickshaw stop. However, the pick of the evening will undoubtedly be the sold-out show by Clinic at the Independent. Not only are the organ-infused hoots of the surgically masked British band's stellar 2002 effort Walking With Thee still regular components of Clinic's live set, they will be supported by Earlimart, Sea Wolf and The Mumlers. Earlimart craft some of the best fuzzed out, hazy, surf and sun pop that California has to offer (think Grandaddy without all the tweaked out bleeps and zooms), and Sea Wolf has been highly touted as well.
To wrap things up on Sunday be sure to stop in at the Noise Pop Expo if you didn't get a chance to do so on Saturday. It again runs from 1pm until 6pm at the Swedish American Hall and will still set you back $5. Otherwise you can rest your weary bones at the Artists' Television Access facility with a 2pm, $8 screening of "a short documentary about Oklahoma prison rodeos" filmed by a Noise Pop staffer and the feature Dangerous Highway, a documentary on the obscure southern soul musician Eddie Hinton, who along with being "widely regarded in the industry as the finest blue-eyed soul singer-songwriter-guitarist" lent his hyphenated skills as a studio musician for the likes of Elvis Presley and Otis Redding. Dangerous Highway's filmmakers, Deryle Perryman and Moisés Gonzalez, will be at the screening and will presumably field questions either there or at a post-film reception at Annie's Social Club.
To wind down the weekend badge holders will be able to check out Sacramento's sarcastic Cake (with Money Mark) at Bimbo's, or a couple of shows at Bottom of the Hill; an early set by Midlake and a late show by The Dwarves. The Magic 8-Ball says that the former, presented by hipster art cadre Fecal Face and also featuring sets by Minipop, Ester Drang and Minmae, will be the best musical outing for Sunday. The show starts a bit early (doors are at 12:30pm) but is all ages and only $10, so hopefully you'll be able to drag yourself out of whatever church pew or ditch you spent the night in. The Dwarves' late set isn't until 10pm but is also all ages and is the only show for Sunday that isn't already sold out, likely because everyone who isn't a local will be headed out of town at that point.
By this point if you're tired of everyone laughing at you for not reading this article until 8pm on Wednesday night (we're going to lie and say we posted it at noon, so don't point the finger at us), shift everyone's attention to something really funny. The Onion A.V. Club is hosting a Comedians of Comedy show at the Independent, with standup sets by Patton Oswalt, Brian Posehn, Maria Bamford and "special guests" that have yet to be announced. I'm not exactly sure what Maria Bamford looks like, but Patton Oswalt and Brian Posehn are two of the funniest looking dudes going. So, if David Cross happened to do a standup set, his aging indie rocker visage would fit in pretty well. The laughs will run for two shows, starting at 6pm and 9pm, and at $24 they won't come cheap.
After Sunday you're on your own. Noise Pop will be over and San Francisco will probably close down or fall into the ocean altogether. Watch out for landslides, don't over pay for weed in Golden Gate Park, and try to resist throwing something off of the bridge. SEE ALSO: www.noisepop.com
Eric J Herboth
Eric J. Herboth is the founder, publisher and Managing Editor of LAS magazine. He is a magazine editor, freelance writer, bike mechanic, commercial pilot, graphic designer, International Scout enthusiast and giver of the benefit of the doubt. He currently lives in rural central Germany with his two best friends, dog Awahni and cat Scout.
See other articles by Eric J Herboth.
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