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.
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The timing couldn’t have been better. Two days after the landmark 5-4 Supreme Court ruling that found the Constitution affirms same-sex couples have the right to marry, New York City’s Pride March, like others around the country, felt celebratory and joyful. As the New York Times reported on the fruitful effects the decision had for organizers, “Odd-numbered years we do well,” James Fallarino, a spokesman for the parade, said. One of the organizers, Chris Martin, said there were about 20 volunteers earlier last week to help inflate balloons. After the Supreme Court decision, his Facebook page was inundated with requests to be included.”
Before the March kicked off, there was a moment of silence as well as a proclamation that the event was not a parade, not until equal rights were obtained for all LGBT people. The New York Times also stated, “At East 36th Street, the actor Ian McKellen, a grand marshal, waved his rainbow flag at spectators. An announcer asked the crowd for a brief period of silence in honor of those who could not be there: those who died of H.I.V./AIDS, those who committed suicide, those who fell victim to hate crimes. Moments later, the gravity gave way again to festivity. The actor Tituss Burgess broke into the national anthem, and scantily clad men wove their way through the marchers.” Check out photos from the festivity below.
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.
On any given night in New York City, there are a multitude of free ways to entertain yourself or get inebriated and still have hours left in the evening. On June 4th, I did just that bringing along my camera to capture the events.