Our fifth annual Northside Festival takes over Williamsburg and Greenpoint from June 13-20 with a week of concerts, film screenings, and entrepreneurship and technology panels. There’ll even be an expo! Every year our festival gets bigger and better, which can make it seem overwhelming. But it’s not, especially not with this handy guide we created to give you a sense of what you can’t miss and what, maybe, you should experiment with. See you there!
Northside Music: Simplified
It seemed sort of inevitable that Thurston Moore would press on post-Sonic Youth as he always had, making noisy rock songs, dabbling in more sinister experimental pursuits. Kim Gordon’s next move would be more intriguing. One thing she’s doing is Body/Head, a collaboration with drone guitarist Bill Nace, said to take inspiration from “Syd Barret-era Pink Floyd and filmmaker Catherine Breillat.” (A description that doesn’t exactly clear things up.) Recent live gigs have featured the duo spinning out tangled Jazzmaster improvs while Kim provides extremely blown out vocals to go with her general air of unimpeachable metropolitan cool.
Luis Vasquez makes hand-crafted bad-mood music. He overwhelms Kraut-pop beats with bloody pumps of synth noise, surprising you that it still ends up sounding sorta romantic.
Alt-metal warriors closing in on 10 years of triumphant roar, Torche are one of the key bands who’ve lifted loud, sludgy doom music to greater prominence in independent music circles.
From the ashes of dear-departed LA cult heroes Mika Miko comes Bleached, Jennifer and Jessie Clavin’s latest delivery system for bruised punk songs about love.
Arguably the best band from a teeming Olympia punk scene, Milk Music take the stoned-to-shit vibe of mid-80s SST records and deliver it with the in-the-moment urgency of hardcore.
Margaret Chardiet’s noise debut, Abandon, starts with a startling shriek and continues to disturb from there. Her broken metallic scrapes grind slowly toward the abyss. Live, she gets more confrontational, stalking the floor like she’s looking for her next victim.
“I lost the place, lost the girl, and lost my mind” is the obvious pull-quote in an immensely enjoyable Pitchfork interview earlier this year with Phosphorescent’s Matthew Houck. He’s describing the mess his life had become after a stretch of hard touring in support of his 2010 album, Here’s to Taking It Easy, and it’d be a whole lot sadder if all that turmoil didn’t ultimately result in Muchacho, his breakout sixth album and one that’s sure to show up high on year-end lists everywhere. His knack for combining the achingly tender with the sneeringly upbeat has always been one of his greatest strengths, especially in a live setting.
Even with a coveted longtime spot on the Merge Records roster and a 2012 album, Mr. M, that was met with an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the press, Lambchop remains one of indie rock’s most underrated bands. With his sad, deep voice, frontman Kurt Wagner specializes in stately, old-sounding songs that have one foot in classic country and another in an extraordinarily seedy lounge.
Ivan & Aloysha
The Seattle-based duo formed in 2007 and have been turning heads everywhere with their pristine harmonies and their keen ear for classic pop melodies. Unobtrusive, yes, but also wholly charming.
Along with Real Estate and Titus Andronicus, Julian Lynch stood at the forefront of the Ridgewood, New Jersey, scene that started picking up steam a few years back. His most recent album, Lines, is a head-spinning collection of songs that are most easily categorized as electronic folk, a label does no justice to the vast knowledge and wide array of influences on display.
Whether she’s singing in Spanish or English, Xenia Rubinos makes a joyful pop racket. Schoolyard chants or sing-song ballads, rendered with a delicately stripped down instrumental palette.
The So So Glos
Bay Ridge bred, entrenched in the community (members currently live and work at Shea Stadium), and never afraid to critique the borough’s scene—or celebrate its successes—The So So Glos have long encapsulated what it means to be a Brooklyn Band. It’s just now they’re being embraced by the rest of the world (an appearance on Letterman, anyone?), thanks to the strength of Blowout, their most triumphant, caffeinated album yet.
As a multi-instrumentalist hired hand, Ahmed Gallab played for bands like Of Montreal, Caribou, and Yeasayer. His own music, released by DFA Records, evokes his Sudanese heritage with pleasing, experimental Afro-funk pop.
Smart, punked-up hip-hop from Harlem-based (mostly underage) spitfires, Ratking exists in a post-Odd Future world, ready to be wooed, won over, and kicked around a little by youth. Not dumbed down by it.
The basement clubs of Denmark have launched a slew of acts now gaining international attention. Iceage’s sophisticated sophomore record Your Nothing suggests they still lead the pack, but Lower are gaining. The punk ferocity of last year’s Walk on Heads EP has been surpassed by their 2013 singles. The principal force behind Lust for Youth’s gloomy pop is the work of a Swede named Hannes Norrvide, but he shares the Danes’ outlook and a touring band member in Loke Rahbek (who plays in VÅR with Iceage singer Elias Rønnenfelt and Lower bassist Kristian Emdal, illustrating how entwined it’s all become).
All the way from Cape Town, South Africa, comes Yannick Iluga, a crooner in the classic style—slow, deep, soulful. That voice is set off by the modern, minimal version of pop R&B that’s very of the moment.
He was founding member of French pop heroes M83, back when they went for tasteful ambience more than radio hooks, but Parisian Nicolas Fromageau now makes dark, catchy music as Team Ghost. Their shoegaze fuzz is balanced with synth-punk rumble.
The addition of guitarist Brody McKnight made 2012’s Sundowning the very heaviest moment from Vancouver punks Nü Sensae to date. No mercy should be expected from their noisy live set.
Chance the Rapper
Chancelor Bennett is just a few months out of his teens, so he’s only been at the game for a short time, forming his first hip-hop group as a freshman in high school. Acid Rap, his breakthrough mixtape under the moniker Chance the Rapper, feels like it’s spinning out of control at points, skidding at hyper speed across patches of blues, gospel, rock and everything in between. In the end, the way its huskily cartoon-voiced star manages to make sense of it all establishes him as an exciting new voice on the scene.
Yet another band needing “Xs” on their hand in rock clubs, it’s hard to say whether Twin Peaks sound like the best “battle of the bands” winner Chicago-area high schools have ever seen, or totally seasoned garage rock veterans.
Sad man with laptop makes 2013’s version of Bright Eyes breakout Lifted, or the Story is in the Soil…, cutting away any glitch-pop trimmings that could potentially interfere with the bleeding heart at the center. What’s left is a direct line of emotion from the maker to the listener.
Firsthand accounts of buzzy bands that you can brag to your friends about is something Northside strives to provide, but its primary goal is to allow those largely undiscovered an opportunity to become, well, discovered. If we had to put money on it, Brooklyn’s Spires is one of many (many) to watch, with a talent for 60s psych-rock revivalism that rivals Tame Impala and Ty Segall.
Lead guitarist and principal songwriter Greg Ginn leads this reformed version of the legendary punk band along with singer Ron Reyes, who fronted the band in their prime Decline of Western Civilization-era iteration.
The Jazz Butcher
The Jazz Butcher were the epitome of the eccentric British wit that defined a certain strain of post-punk. Pat Fish and company produced a string of devastatingly clever mid-80s records, running influences like Ray Davies and the Velvet Underground through a distinctive songwriting voice. Fish’s lyrics veered from mundane topics to global politics, his skewed black humor intact. The lineup has undergone many changes over the years, but for the band’s first New York City since 2000, Fish will be joined by his longtime guitarist Max Elder.
Though he didn’t achieve quite the same level of popularity with his post-Uncle Tupelo band as his songwriting partner Jeff Tweedy did with Wilco, Jay Farrar and Son Volt made some invaluable contributions to the alt-country canon—sturdy, sentimental songs that are full of surprisingly vivid imagery about a way of life that is no more.
Ruben Amar and Lola Bessis, codirectors of Swim Little Fish Swim (June 20, Wythe Hotel) A Teacher by Hannah Fidell (June 17, Nitehawk) is one of the movies we’re the most excited about seeing at Northside. It was selected with our film at South By Southwest and at Maryland, but we never managed to see it, even though we really wanted to. We heard so many good things about it and, in particular, about the performance of Lindsay Burdge. Lindsay worked on the castings for Swim Little Fish Swim and brought really great people, so we’re sure she’s an amazing actress, too! Also we really recommend “#PostModem” (June 18, Wythe Hotel), a short film that we saw at SXSW and couldn’t stop thinking about since then; it’s such an amazing work: weird, poetic and powerful!
Jonathan Goodman Levitt, Follow the Leader
(June 20, Videology)
What a far-ranging and forward-thinking program! Films aside—rare screenings of landmarks Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One (June 17, Nitehawk) and David Holzman’s Diary (June 20, UnionDocs)! Innovative shorts “Amateur” (June 18, Nitehawk) and “Flo” (June 20, Videology)! The new Michael Winterbottom (June 20, Nitehawk)!—I’m actually most excited about the wonders promised by the NExT Conference (June 13-14), which is bringing together such an impressive list of our city’s creative business community. If the most recent creative destruction of our already fledgling documentary industry in the wake of the recession has taught me anything, it’s that we as filmmakers and creatives need to reimagine ourselves as entrepreneurs if we’re going to build lives around our art. Thanks to Andy, Jaime, Kyla, Tiff and the rest of the Northside team for organizing such a remarkable line-up that looks guaranteed to inspire!
Brandon Harris, Curator of Hammer to Nail’s program (including Joy de V., June 18, Wythe Hotel)
Nicolas Provost’s The Invader (June 20, NItehawk) is an inspired immigration nightmare, a dark howl in the night, a movie as seductive as it is illusive. It’s the first feature from Belgian video and installation artist Nicholas Provost; I first heard about it in Rotterdam, after it had been in Toronto and Venice, but it never wound its way Stateside in the year-plus since I first encountered it, so I’m happy it’s landed at Northside. It opens with a shot of an open vagina on a rock strewn beach before depositing us in the Invisible Man-like hell of an African immigrant (Issaka Sawagogo, a keeper) in Brussels who more or less washes up to shore in the same shot. Next we meet him in the city, where he’s part of an illegal labor force doing dangerous contract jobs, but after an altercation with a crime boss he’s out on the street, hustling away, when he spies a pretty blonde executive (Stefania Rocca) whom he charms into bed. Quickly insinuating himself into her life, he can’t overcome his anxieties and resentments about European culture and his own lack of a place in it; much consternation and a bit of bloodletting ensues in a way that leave the wages of colonialism, of sexual and racial domination, all up in your unsuspecting brain.
Directed by Neil Jordan
Marking director Jordan’s first return to the vampire underworld since 1994’s Interview with a Vampire, this movie glows with less star wattage, but it’s a livelier, more original meditation on the promise and peril of eternal life. As with Brad Pitt’s Interview character, the eternally teenaged vampire played by Saoirse Ronan wants to be heard; forbidden from seeking out an actual listener, she tells the long, gothic backstory on paper and casts the pages out of windows. The movie shows us this backstory in bits and pieces as different characters come across it, which is an ambitious structure (that only occasionally invites silly pressing questions). Byzantium has some quiet, artsy flourishes, but it’s also a pulp workout with moments of human—and neatly inhuman—feeling. (June 18, Wythe Hotel)
Directed by Franck Khalfoun
Overwrought is too weak a word to describe this bloody and unhinged remake of William Lustig’s 1980 cult classic. It’s shot almost entirely in the first person; like 1947’s The Lady in the Lake, the hero is only glimpsed in mirrors, though we also hear his trembling mutterings or anxious dialogue. Elijah Wood stars as that title character, a schizo killer and scalper of women who freaks out, trashes rooms, screams, kills, hallucinates, has flashbacks, and suffers blinding migraines. (He looks a bit too boyish and frail to believe as a serial killer, but his wounded eyes help make this gonzo gorefest almost seem like a tragic love story.) He slices off the tops of his victims’ heads so he can gift their hair to the antique mannequins he restores and positions around his room and bed. He’s a literal objectifier of women: he destroys their humanity, robs them of their personhood, and recreates them as things. (June 19, Nitehawk)
What We’re Most Looking Forward To
All the Light in the Sky
Directed by Joe Swanberg
Swanberg is probably contemporary cinema’s most prolific filmmaker, directing 11 features since 2011. At such a pace, you might think some of these would be throwaways, but we’ve never found that to be the case, though we haven’t had a chance to see them all, as some get lost in the flood. So while his buzziest film currently on the festival circuit is Drinking Buddies, we’re more excited to see this one (featuring fave indie up-and-comer Sophia Takal, who’ll be in attendance for a Q&A, as well as Swanberg regulars Jane Adams and Kent Osborne), because who knows when you’ll get another chance to? By the time someone thinks to pick it up for distribution, he’ll have made 11 more movies. (June 18, Nitehawk)
The Look of Love
Directed by Michael Winterbottom
Winterbottom is one of those anti-auteurist directors whose output is so varied across genre, style and theme that it’s hard to pick out any potentially unifying threads. This is not to say, however, that his films aren’t good; more often than not they’re great, especially when he’s collaborating (as he is here) with Steve Coogan, who plays Paul Raymond, who published of soft-core porno magazines in England. If you’re unfamiliar with their work together, check out 24 Hour Party People and The Trip, and you’ll be psyched for this. (June 20, Nitehawk)
A Taste of Tropfest
While short stories are published in reputable magazines and collected into books, short films occupy a much weirder and more marginal space in cinephilia; filmgoers might—might!—see one if it gets nominated for an Academy award, or if the IFC Center is showing one before a feature or something. But mostly they go unseen by even non-mainstream audiences, which is too bad, because so many of them are awesome! So bless Tropfest, the world’s largest short film festival, which this year sets up shop in Brooklyn for the first time, in Prospect Park on June 22. But if you just can’t wait, you can check out this advance sampling on June 17 at Williamsburg Cinemas and support short cinema!
Who Took the Bomp: Le Tigre on Tour
Directed by Kerthy Fix
The other day, over beers with friends, we got to talking about the Norwegian movie Reprise, which then quickly turned to a conversation about the Le Tigre song “Decepticon,” which we all pretty much agreed is the best party song ever. This portrait of the band on tour—directed by the person who made that Magnetic Fields doc—features live performances and backstage footage; it promises to be fun. And smart. (June 20, UnionDocs)
“The Story of My Acquisition” with Wiley Cerilli
I’m biased because that was an investment I led at First Round, and I helped the company get acquired in a pretty accidental way: I introduced Wiley to a potential hire, who decided to decline the offer but loved the company so much he did a big writeup of it for Forbes in his new job as a journalist. Turns out the corporate development folks from Constant Contact read the story and decided to visit the company because it sounded interesting. The rest, as they say...
Charles Adler, because the Kickstarter guys don’t get out too often. They’re heads-down building a terrific business and are focused more on that then publicity, so getting to hear them at any time is worth going too. Plus, they’re moving back to Brooklyn!
The Scott Belsky event is a must attend, too. I’d love to hear how he got comfortable that Adobe was going to be a great fit for his community—because he’s deeply invested in the quality of that ecosystem. Plus, Adobe is a company in transition to the cloud, making a lot of interesting acquisitions, so he’s got great perspective on that.
Lastly, I can’t wait to hear Guy Livingstone—not only because I’ve done a Tough Mudder, but because it’s a terrific example of how not all businesses need to sell bits. They’re a business that relies on the web and social media for customer acquisition, but that exists in real life with terrific margins to boot.