No place I would rather be on Friday night of the Northside Fest than the venerable (Can we call it venerable yet? Why yes, I think we can) Death By Audio. Not because it was a chance to see bands that rarely play Brooklyn - as a matter of fact every few weeks it seems you can catch at least one of them around town. But because it was a showcase of some of the most exciting, modern left-field pop our fine locale has to offer. Free Williamsburg organized the lineup and created the poster which featured a multi-scoop ice cream cone—and they delivered: In the back there was in fact free ice cream, to go with your beer. And on stage plenty of different flavors—and not a single one vanilla. (More after the jump)
Air Waves singer and guitarist Nicole Schneit even gave shout out the ice cream — but spent the rest of her time on stage serving up the sweets herself. Along with bandmates Carlos Clark and Daoud Tyler-Ameen, Nicole brought the jangle rock, with “Keys”, the folk-pop wistful with “Lightning”, and finally the utterly charming bounce of “Shine On”. I haven’t met Nicole, but I think the punk in her might hate the word ‘enchanting’. But that’s kind of what she is—and as “Shine On” wound down, there were smiles all around. Or maybe it was the ice cream.
Next up was Real Estate - as anticipated as any young band at the Northside Festival—the Jersey quartet with the hazy, waterlogged pop sound that seems to be winning disciples by the month. I have to say though the much-discussed ‘haze’ in their recorded music clears a bit in the live setting—songs like “Black Lake” and “Suburban Beverage” with its “Budweiser, Sprite” singalong have an added punch. But the mood is still intact on standouts “Fake Blues” and “Beach Comber” — really stunning tunes and the sort of thing that gives pop a good name. Real Estate are playing a variety of special shows in the next few weeks: a Woodsist festival in Bushwick on the 4th, the Whitney Museum with Titus Andronicus, and Bowery with Wavves and Woods (talk about a triple bill). Do yourself a favor and see them.
A beer run meant I lost my spot near the front to much taller people barreling to get close, ready to get their dance on to the funk-from-the fringe of Javelin. It had to be Providence—meaning the city, as well as good fortune—that delivered up to Brooklyn the irony-drenched duo Javelin, electronic eccentrics on the order of Dan Deacon and Future Islands, only more retro-camp: witness the spoken word intro of “Andean Ocean Tape”, the geniusly titled “Lindsay Brohan” and its biker dude sample, the fedora, the stacks of busted boom boxes they use as a backdrop. They definitely managed to get a hipster hop going, especially with set closer, the funky “Vibrationz”, on which they asked the room to imagine they were at a middle school dance. Only I guess, with ice cream and PBR’s.
But where was the popcorn? That’s what we needed because what was to follow was a screening. These Are Powers took the stage to introduce, projected on a sheet held across the stage, their new video, for the jagged, driving, primal “Easy Answers” — and what a video it is: Anna, Bill and Pat in druid drag out in the forest somehere. There seems to be a pagan ritual of some sort going on. There’s fire, boom boxes (again?) Sunkist orange soda, and little candles set off on paper boats. Just go find it, you won’t disappointed. Then came the set — what a band, and what a front woman in Anna Barie — sexy and wry and funny, first in a gold sequined number saying she was there to present an MTV Movie Award to ‘Twilight’ then stripping down to a catsuit and urging the crowd to disrobe as well, to imagine they were in a ‘horror musical’. These Are Powers are headed to China soon (!) God knows what they will make of them over there. Dance rock like it ought to be. And people ask me ‘what’s so great about Brooklyn’? Um, this is.