A rare live performance from UK electronic duo Basement Jaxx, packed in as much wild fun as they could before a 10pm curfew in Central Park. Apparently the band hadn’t performed live in New York for at least ten years (though they have come around for a DJ set at least). But unfortunately, for whatever reason, three openers (Fei Fei, Masters at Work and the Internet) were allotted time before Basement Jaxx, cutting into what could have been a longer set from the duo. When they finally went on around 8:45, Basement Jaxx had the crowd going crazy (one woman in the front row wore a unicorn horn). But for all the craziness offstage, there was more on stage, with outlandish costumes (including multiple gorillas at the end) and multiple kinds of dancers (including a ballerina) instead of the standard, trippy projected visuals other acts use.
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Jukebox the Ghost have a high probability of experiencing some technical difficulty during one of their shows. Fortunately, at Central Park’s Summerstage the greatest difficulty the band encountered was a microphone that was too close to pianist Ben Thornewill’s face, or one he got too close to, as he bumped into it at one point. Could it be their “curse” doesn’t apply when they are openers? I don’t know for sure, but I would rather have dealt with some technical difficulties and watched a longer set than catch them in abbreviated form. But I take what I can get. And the piano driven pop trio, Thornewill, Jesse Kristin on drums and Tommy Siegel on guitar, were in fine form.
Although not as publicized as Northside Festival sets by the likes of Luna and Run the Jewels, the Northern Spy Records showcase at Rough Trade exemplified the festival’s mission as well as any throughout the four-day, Brooklyn-based festival. Much of this is due to the presence of Shilpa Ray on the Northern Spy bill. Ray has been a standalone talent in the bustling Brooklyn scene for years, cutting her teeth in countless small-to-mid-sized venues before landing a touring spot with Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and releasing her full-length, Last Year’s Savage, last month. Last Year’s Savage consists mostly of songs Ray has been developing in those Brooklyn and Manhattan clubs, material that sounded more potent than ever in Rough Trade’s pristine acoustics. Sandwiched between label mates PC Worship and the Sun Ra Arkestra (on loan from El Ra Records), both of whom gave similarly immersive sets, Ray’s performance held sway in its largely minimal presentation, captivating many a weary festivalgoer on Northside’s closing Sunday night.
Having seen Josh Ritter twice already this year, I was aware that he’s been giving a lot of time on stage to honing new songs. The new material is fascinating and it is a treat to see him perform songs like the enthusiastic “Henrietta” alongside crowd favorites like “Kathleen” and “Joy to You Baby”. However, unlike the most recent time when I saw him perform with Zachariah Hickman, Ritter went solo for this set, on par with headliner Damien Rice. Unfortunately, this resulted in Ritter being drowned out by the collective audience chatter.
The Northside Festival has tons to offer, and is perhaps the biggest series of shows outside of CMJ in New York. The weekend after Governors Ball, this series is more like CMJ than a getaway, as the festival has shows across tons of venues. While the entire festival encompasses music, film, and tech, we were only able to attend some of the music nights, notably the second (Friday the 12th) and the last (Sunday the 14th).
The rain on Sunday night might have been a surprise but it was not a deterrent to the throng of fans attending the final headlining set of the 2015 Northside Festival from Run the Jewels. El-P and Killer Mike (with one arm in a sling) were devastating together and even more so when Nas made a special appearance. Friday night had a headlining set from Neko Case, but I wanted to catch Malawian group the Very Best along with Heems at another one of the multitude of showcases. The Very Best are supporting their new album Makes a King while earlier in the day Dutch artist Jacco Gardner was performing tracks from his new album, Hypnophobia. Following Gardner and Irie Maffia, former Das Racist, Heems took the stage solo, save for a portable music device providing beats, spitting out rhymes from his album Eat Pray Thug. I, like some others in the audience, were confused by the guitar he occasionally strapped on and “played” but it didn’t appear plugged in so… ? Check out photos from these sets below.