10th Annual Noise Pop Festival


By Jillian Steinberger

10th Annual Noise Pop Sees Steady Growth Spurt As Organizers Promise Best Fest Ever

The 10th Annual Noise Pop Festival has grown from humble beginnings in 1993, when organizer Kevin Arnold programmed a one-evening party featuring five of his favorite bands at San Francisco’s Kennel Club. The event was a success—800 came. Over the years the festival mushroomed, expanding the number of days, bands, venues and even media. In 1999, organizers launched an annual film festival featuring films and videos with rock-oriented content. The festival also includes an educational series and art.

The goal? For Noise Pop to become a celebration of alternative culture that went beyond simply music. As film fest programmer Doug Jones pointed out WHERETK, independent alternative culture doesn’t have its own MTV. However, when Noise Pop brings together all the elements—music, film, educational panels and art—it becomes evident that it could. That, apparently, is what excites organizers Arnold, Jordan Kurland and cadre.

Of course, the focus is still on pop. So, what is noise pop? It encompasses a diversity of tastes broadly—and palatably—defined as noise. It’s hard to define, but loosely, organizers say it is melody-driven rock unafraid to play with or lay on the distortion. Noise Pop is also about indie music, the DIY spirit and interplay and community between musicians, groups and fans.

As such, the festival is intended to focus on fans and music, not A&R scouts and contracts. Organizers say Noise Pop is the best American “micro-music festival”, showcasing the coolest national and local bands, where real innovation sans the schmoozing takes place. Previous Noise Pop fests have been enthusiastically received, but organizers are promising the 10th Annual Festival will be the best ever.

Today finds the festival with 88 bands in seven San Francisco clubs ranging from tiny, elbow-bumping and intimate (Make-Out Room, Bottom of the Hill, Café du Nord), to swank and classy (Bimbo’s 365 Club, Great American Music Hall), to out-and-out rock club déclassé (Slim’s), to historic and roomy (The Fillmore). This is up from 68 bands in six clubs last year and marks consistent, steady—even planned—growth over the decade.


Bellingham, Washington favorites Death Cab for Cutie open the festival Tuesday night. Guided by Voices and Preston School of Industry wrap the festivities up Sunday. Guided by Voices’ star has risen dramatically this year, toning down its trademark lo-fi sound and garnering a more mainstream audience with the 2001 release of Isolation Drills, produced by former cars member, Ric Ocasek. Preston School of Industry is led by Scott Kannberg, formerly of Pavement.

Acts range from jailbait brat grrl rockers, The Donnas, to alt.country songstress, Paula Frazer, whose 2001 release, Indoor Universe (Birdman), explores the vast emotional territory from pining to longing in a warm alto that hits the minor chords with a vintage style, recalling chanteuses from Patsy Cline to Nancy Sinatra. Frazer opens for a night of what the English call “Americana” at Great American Music Hall, featuring a first time exclusive collaboration between John Doe & Neko Case, plus The Court and Spark and Virgil Shaw. John Doe, formerly of flagship punk band, X, is an alumnus of Noise Pop.

Last year the breaking band drawing the most attention was The White Stripes. This year those honors appear to go to Omaha, Nebraska-based genre-benders, The Faint.

Another treat is The Extra Glenns, composed of John Darnielle (Mountain Goats) and Franklin Bruno (Nothing Painted Blue). Last week, on Jan. 29, the duo released “Martial Arts Weekend” (Absolutely Kosher) to rave reviews. Bruno is a fellow Shrimper label alumnus of Darnielle, who is famous for his voluminous cassette tape distribution methods and extra-quirky lyrics. Darnielle will also play as The Mountain Goats at an Aquarius Records in-store on Feb. 26 or 27, kicking off a tour of the United States’ interior.


Of four options, Friday night’s biggest bill (at Bimbo’s) includes enigmatic emo-rockers Modest Mouse, from Issaquah, Washington, and the Los Angeles-based psychedelic country-pop combo, Beachwood Sparks. Mick Collin’s, formerly of underground garage gods The Gories, headlines at Bottom of the Hill with new band, The Dirtbombs, from Detroit.

While many indie fans look forward to The Moldy Peaches at Café du Nord the Saturday night of the fest, it will be a hard choice with long time Noise Pop participants The Fastbacks at Bottom of the Hill, Big Star and Imperial Teen at The Fillmore, The Donnas and Vue at Bimbo’s, and The New Pornographers and San Francisco’s Oranger at Great American Music Hall.

Vancouver’s New Pornographers features Carl Newman and indefatigable frontwoman, Neko Case, who will make her second appearance after having collaborated with John Doe the previous evening. Case, with many hard miles of attitude, humor, sex appeal and a stunning voice, knows how to work a San Francisco crowd and not take any guff as she swigs back the low balls. The New Pornographers wooed indie fans with their 2001 release, Mass Romantic.

Together with Imperial Teen, the much-loved Alex Chilton will fill The Fillmore Saturday night with venerable band, Big Star. Big Star is also set to play the All Tomorrow’s Parties festival in Los Angeles in mid-March.

Fans of the popular group, Grandaddy, will be pleased that frontman Jason Lytle is set to perform solo in a free performance at The Make-Out Room.

Unbelievable but true, organizers say they will continue to add acts until the week preceding the festival.


Music performances will take place at seven San Francisco night clubs and rock venues, including Bimbo’s 365 Club, Bottom of the Hill, Cafe Du Nord, Fillmore, Great American Music Hall, Make-Out Room and Slim’s.

Tickets for shows at Bimbo’s, Bottom of the Hill, Cafe Du Nord, and the Great American Music Hall are available online at TicketWeb or at the club box offices. Tickets for shows at Slim’s are available at Virtuous, and tickets for shows at the Fillmore are available at Ticketmaster.

Sparklehorse Shorts, Nick Drake Documentary Highlight Film Fest

Highlights of this year’s Noise Pop Film Festival, which will take place in San Francisco concurrently with the annual music fest, include a documentary on British cult figure Nick Drake, a collection of films based on songs from Sparklehorse’s It’s a Wonderful Life, and a humorous documentary about Soul Asylum.

Other works feature The Clash, Radiohead, students trying to make contact with Bob Dylan, an all-girl garage band in Mexico City, and music from the Flaming Lips and Spoon.

Thirteen films and videos—music-related features and shorts hard to see outside the festival context—will be screened during the event, which begins Wednesday, Feb. 27 and runs through Sunday, March 3. All films will be screened in San Francisco at Artists’ Television Access (ATA), 992 Valencia Street (415) 824-3890, except Wednesday’s program, which will be at Delancey Street Screening Room, 600 Embarcadero. Tickets for all showings are available only at the door.

The film program largely avoids forcing audiences to choose between shows. Only Saturday and Sunday matinees are scheduled against music performances. Films during the week begin at 7:30 pm, hours before the music is scheduled to start.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/noisepop2002sf/