I had never been to the Northside Festival and had some doubts on how it would all go down but was really surprised and happy on how the weekends events turned out.
I started the Festival by attempting to go to The War On Drugs show at 50 Kent but severe thunderstorms ended up postponing the gig to Sunday evening. At first I was upset as I really wanted to see the gig but quickly changed plans and caught the stellar set by Albert Hammond Jr. at Williamsburg Music Hall instead. The Punk/Garage band, Drowners, opened and were energetic and loud. Albert followed by putting on a sizzling set of catchy tunes, some similar to his other band who you may of heard of, The Strokes, but dug it far more than the few Strokes gigs I had been to. Exhilarated and buzzing from that show I headed over to catch the last of Nite Jewel’s set at Cameo Gallery and swayed around a bit in the dark room before calling it a night.
Day two started off at McCarren Park and the bands were, by far, the most energetic and enthusiastic sets of the weekend. Mac DeMarco and friends started the day of with some poppy, bass heavy ditties that had the early arriving crowd wondering why Mac was on stage as he wasn’t on the bill. King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard followed with some crazy punk/60’s rock with dual percussionists and a lead singer with some back breaking rockstar moves. Up next was the garage/punk trio, The Blind Shake, who performed at a dizzying pace with some heavy hitting and catchy tunes.
Thee Oh Sees were up last for Saturday’s McCarren park lineup and as soon as the band set foot on the sun drenched stage, the near capacity crowd exploded into a sea of complete madness. As the band tore up the stage with fast paced and spirited songs the crowd went bananas with many crowdsurfers and rail headbangers dominating the scene. The madness was so extreme the security rail was pushed back a few yards by the surging fans and had the pit security scrambling to keep it safe. After over an hour of aggressive tunes, Thee Oh Sees left the stage to deafening roars by the grateful crowd and I, charged up from the experience headed over to 50 Kent to catch Beirut.
After getting a rice ball and a beer I relaxed for a bit before catching Malang Jobarteh who’s primary instrument is the Kora ( an African Harp of sorts) and his amazing voice. Although I had no clue what he was singing about in his native tongue, I felt pain, strife and loss throughout his short set. Rat King followed with a hybrid rap/hip-hop set that was lacking in substance and was a bit confusing with the arrangements they used but a lot of folks were dancing around anyways.
Beirut took the stage as the sun was setting and had a beautiful set full of horns and harmonies. The crowd, as in most NYC cases was eclectic in age and looks but all were a happy bunch listening to the very friendly dance tunes. There was plenty of room for dancing which some couples took advantage of and was a nice site seeing love in the air. Being exhausted at this point my body said to go home, but there’s only one Northside a year and headed over to Brooklyn Bowl to catch local rockers Canon Logic and sure glad I did as each time I have seen them they get better. They have a few tunes that are radio worthy and are so very catchy. Needing some food and a soft place to sit I headed home with some fantastic memories of an exciting day.
Heading on out on Sunday to McCarren Park the weather was perfect for a festival and when I got to the venue the line to get in stretched 3/4 around the block! Having never seen a line that big my morning fuzziness turned into pure excitement knowing it would be a full house for the afternoon. The explosive band Hunters started off the day with some powerful and energetic tunes, and had the crowd bopping along. Lead singer, Isabel Almeida, was hard not to miss while thrashing all over the stage with kicks and jumps and pumping out in your face vocals. The Range was up next and the DJ filled in the next hour admirably to a crowd that only wanted to see Chvrches at this point.
Chvrches is the biggest headliner to date for Northside and the Scottish electronic pop band proved why they have a huge following of young and dedicated fans. When they took they stage, the cheers were the loudest of the weekend and wasted no time in performing a bevy of dance tunes and had the sold out crowd beside themselves. The vocals were pure and sounded amazing while the keys provided many different vibes and sounds and can see why they are huge now although it’s not my typical type of music. After taking in most of their set I waded through the sea of people and out the gate and made my way back to 50 Kent.
Arriving at 50 Kent, the place seemed empty compared to what I had just left but that soon would change and by the time The War on Drugs played it was nearly full. First up was Julianna Barwick and man, can that lady sing! It was just her on keys and a percussionist but the full sound they created was a joy on the ears. Woods took the stage next and hammered out a bunch of jammy type songs, with gorgeous vocals and weaving guitars and piano that was the perfect fit for me at that point.
What happened next was the highlight of my musical weekend as The War On Drugs blew me away and instantly made me a fan. Lead singer Adam Granduciel was something very special and gave me goosebumps a few times with his guitar and voice. I instantly likened them to My Morning Jacket for some reason but have now pulled that thought back as they stand on their own for more than a few reasons. The delivery of the intelligent and meaningful vocals was reminiscent of a young Bob Dylan, but set ablaze with electric guitars and a full band. Honestly I had heard of the band but never took the time to listen, and listen you must as it is smart music, with a huge soul that takes you in and embraces you in warmth. I was so inspired I took this video.
My back was on fire, eyes were twitching from taking so many photos the whole weekend and I wanted to leave, to go home and sleep but I could not pull myself away, it was like I was hypnotized. I stayed the entire set and when it was through I felt complete, I felt great and I know now that I will be attending every Northside Festival I can in the future. Here are the photos, be sure to click for full view!
Article by: Shayne Hanley