13 Must-See Artists at This Week’s Northside Festival

Northside’s unique geographical situation and organizational openness makes it an ideal alternative to what has become the cookie cutter weekend-long concert experience in America.

It’s early June in Brooklyn, which means that the days are getting longer, the odors are getting stronger, and the Northside Festival is upon us. The festival has done an admirable job of adapting with its steady growth over the past nine years, and the 2017 edition looks as promising as ever. This year the focus is bifurcated into the spheres of Innovation and Music, the latter of which is our concern here.

There are now in the continental United States more music festivals per capita than there are laundromats, but Northside’s unique geographical situation and organizational openness makes it an ideal alternative to what has become the cookie cutter weekend-long concert experience in America. Three days worth of shows, and a big finale in McCarren Park on day four are spread out between 30 different clubs, bars and other venues across Williamsburg and Bushwick. Among other things, that means gig-by-gig there are reasonably sized crowds, tolerable waits for beer, and, for the most part, no Honey Buckets.

The following are 13 bands and artists who shouldn’t go overlooked among the 300-plus that will be playing this year, not to mention the big names you were probably planning to check out anyway: Miguel, Dirty Projectors, Girlpool, Timber Timbre, William Basinski, Julia Holter, and a fairly well known post-hardcore band. For those who can’t get into Mary Timony’s sold-out Helium set at Rough Trade, fear not, there is plenty else to see…


Kamasi Washington

7:30pm at McCarren Park, Bedford Ave at N 12th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Northside’s flagship shows take place at McCarren Park, and opening night this year is headlined by Dirty Projectors. Before that, Kamasi Washington will make jazz converts out of everyone within earshot who hasn’t already been turned on to the LA saxophonist’s breakthrough album from 2015, The Epic, or his latest 14-minute piece, “Truth”.

Cuddle Magic

10:00pm at Sunnyvale, 1031 Grand St, Brooklyn, NY 11211

This six-strong crew straddling Brooklyn and Philadelphia specialize in making high-minded music for the masses. The list of artists they have worked with is more than impressive, ranging from Beyonce to Okkervil River’s Will Sheff to Henry Cow guitarist Fred Frith. Their irrepressible album, Ashes/Axis, came out earlier this year on Northern Spy records.


10:30pm at Union Pool, 484 Union Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Montreal duo Audrey Ann Boucher and Kyle Jukka began making music only a few years ago, but their collagist post-ye-ye pop finds a firm identity on their new self-titled debut album. The two possessed surprising presence on stage at the Music Hall of Williamsburg last year when they opened for Psychic Ills and Weyes Blood.

Laetitia Sadier

11:30pm at National Sawdust, 80 N 6th St, Brooklyn, NY 11249

Same as last year, National Sawdust has a stellar schedule for the festival, including Julia Holter, and a Saturday night with both Julianna Barwick and William Basinski. Thursday night features Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, who has put out some very fine solo albums on Drag City this decade, including Silencio in 2012 and Something Shines in 2014, which were recently joined by the Laetitia Sadier Source Ensemble’s Find Me Finding You.


PC Worship (Solo)

6:30pm at Terra Firma, 119 Ingraham St, Brooklyn, NY 11237

Brooklyn’s PC Worship are Northside regulars at this point, and their art-schooled outre-garage sets always bring something different each time. That should hold true with this solo set from leader Justin Frye, which kicks off an Ears to Feed x Impose showcase at Bushwick’s Terra Firma.

Bush Tetras

8:00pm at The Hall at MP, 470 Driggs Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Friday is No Wave Night at Williamsburg’s The Hall at MP. Lydia Lunch emcees Downtown Trip, with headliners Craig Leon and Martin Rev, and the under-appreciated old-school dance punk forerunners Bush Tetras holding it down in between.


9:00pm at Music Hall of Williamsburg, 66 N 6th St, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Christoph and Anton Hochheim have been in groups like the Depreciation Guild and the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and for some of that time they have also been polishing their sophisti-pop side under the alias Ablebody. Adult Contemporaries, their debut album, came out last fall on Lollipop Records.

Dead Leaf Echo

10:45pm at Our Wicked Lady, 153 Morgan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11206

Another local band that regularly makes an appearance or two at Northside, Dead Leaf Echo have a busy Friday night ahead of them. The durable psych-gazers, who delivered the killer Strawberry Skin EP this March, will be playing a set at Cape House before heading two blocks north to headline a PaperCup Music and Indie Shuffle showcase on the roof of Our Wicked Lady.


Gold Dime

4:00pm at Alphaville, 140 Wilson Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11237

Andrya Ambro is one half of the aggro-drone duo Talk Normal, and the whole of Gold Dime, her physical and freed up solo project. Gold Dime’s debut, Nerves, just came out, and was made with the help of the above-mentioned Justin Frye of PC Worship, and Jonathan Schenke of Eaters.

Horse Jumper of Love

8:00pm at The Knitting Factory, 361 Metropolitan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11211

At Northside last year, on a sun-beaten Sunday afternoon in the light-deprived Aviv (RIP), as one large fan in the middle of the room provided the only air conditioning, Boston trio Horse Jumper of Love carried the slowcore torch that too few are willing to walk with. A Saturday evening in the surely cooler Knitting Factory will suit their magnetic languidness songs even better.

Two Inch Astronaut

9:45pm at Sunnyvale, 1031 Grand St, Brooklyn, NY 11211

Exploding in Sound’s showcase at Sunnyvale this year is over ten bands deep, highlighting many of the weapons in their alt-rock arsenal: Stove, Fond Han, Big Ups, and so on. The penultimate band of the night is Two Inch Astronaut, who have been doing DC’s post-hardcore legacy proud with great records like Foulbrood in 2014. Their latest, Can You Please Not Help, is another big leap forward for Silver Spring’s sharp-witted sons.

Flock of Dimes

1:00am at Baby’s All Right, 146 Broadway, Brooklyn, NY 11211

The dimes keep coming. Jenn Wasner of Wye Oak closes out the night at Baby’s All Right with her new solo outing, Flock of Dimes, which continues to explore Wasner’s multi-layered relationship with the guitar rock that her main band cut its teeth on, and the modern pop that has become a stronger presence in all of her music.


The Hotelier

5:05pm at McCarren Park, Bedford Ave at N 12th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11222

There’s really only one choice on Northside’s final day (unless staying in to recover from three days of rocking out is a choice, which it isn’t), but it’s one you were probably going to make anyway. At 2:00pm on Sunday afternoon the gates will open at McCarren Park for a final show featuring Tony Molina, Jeff Rosenstock, PUP, and modern emo (go on, just say it, it won’t hurt you!) favorites the Hotelier, whose latest album Goodness was received with open arms last year. Also, some band from New Jersey called Thursday are headlining. Seems they’ve been around for a while. It’s probably worth checking them out, too.





The Dance of Male Forms in Denis' 'Beau travail'

Claire Denis' masterwork of cinematic poetry, Beau travail, is a cinematic ballet that tracks through tone and style the sublimation of violent masculine complexes into the silent convulsions of male angst.


The Cradle's 'Laughing in My Sleep' Is an Off-kilter Reflection of Musical Curiosity

The Cradle's Paco Cathcart has curated a thoughtfully multifarious album. Laughing in My Sleep is an impressive collection of 21 tracks, each unapologetic in their rejection of expectations.


Tobin Sprout Goes Americana on 'Empty Horses'

During the heyday of Guided By Voices, Tobin Sprout wasn't afraid to be absurd amongst all that fuzz. Sprout's new album, Empty Horses, is not the Tobin Sprout we know.


'All In: The Fight for Democracy' Spotlights America's Current Voting Restrictions as Jim Crow 2.0

Featuring an ebullient and combative Stacey Abrams, All In: The Fight for Democracy shows just how determined anti-democratic forces are to ensure that certain groups don't get access to the voting booth.


'Transgender Street Legend Vol. 2' Finds Left at London "At My Peak and Still Rising"

"[Pandemic lockdown] has been a detriment to many people's mental health," notes Nat Puff (aka Left at London) around her incendiary, politically-charged new album, "but goddamn it if I haven't been making some bops here and there!"


Daniel Romano's 'How Ill Thy World Is Ordered' Is His Ninth LP of 2020 and It's Glorious

No, this is isn't a typo. Daniel Romano's How Ill Thy World Is Ordered is his ninth full-length release of 2020, and it's a genre-busting thrill ride.


The Masonic Travelers Offer Stirring Rendition of "Rock My Soul" (premiere)

The Last Shall Be First: the JCR Records Story, Volume 1 captures the sacred soul of Memphis in the 1970s and features a wide range of largely forgotten artists waiting to be rediscovered. Hear the Masonic Travelers "Rock My Soul".


GLVES Creates Mesmerizing Dark Folktronica on "Heal Me"

Australian First Nations singer-songwriter GLVES creates dense, deep, and darkish electropop that mesmerizes with its blend of electronics and native sounds on "Heal Me".


Otis Junior and Dr. Dundiff Tells Us "When It's Sweet" It's So Sweet

Neo-soul singer Otis Junior teams with fellow Kentuckian Dr. Dundiff and his hip-hop beats for the silky, groovy "When It's Sweet".


Lars and the Magic Mountain's "Invincible" Is a Shoegazey, Dreamy Delight (premiere)

Dutch space pop/psychedelic band Lars and the Magic Mountain share the dreamy and gorgeous "Invincible".


What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .


Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" Wryly Looks at Lost Love (premiere + interview)

Singer-songwriter Alexander Wren's "The Earth Is Flat" is a less a flat-earther's anthem and more a wry examination of heartache.


Big Little Lions' "Distant Air" Is a Powerful Folk-Anthem (premiere)

Folk-pop's Big Little Lions create a powerful anthem with "Distant Air", a song full of sophisticated pop hooks, smart dynamics, and killer choruses.


The Flat Five Invite You to "Look at the Birdy" (premiere)

Chicago's the Flat Five deliver an exciting new single that exemplifies what some have called "twisted sunshine vocal pop".


Brian Bromberg Pays Tribute to Hendrix With "Jimi" (premiere + interview)

Bass giant Brian Bromberg revisits his 2012 tribute to Jimi Hendrix 50 years after his passing, and reflects on the impact Hendrix's music has had on generations.

Jedd Beaudoin

Shirley Collins' ​'Heart's Ease'​ Affirms Her Musical Prowess

Shirley Collins' Heart's Ease makes it apparent these songs do not belong to her as they are ownerless. Collins is the conveyor of their power while ensuring the music maintains cultural importance.


Ignorance, Fear, and Democracy in America

Anti-intellectualism in America is, sadly, older than the nation itself. A new collection of Richard Hofstadter's work from Library of America traces the history of ideas and cultural currents in American society and politics.

By the Book

Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto (excerpt)

Just as big tech leads world in data for profit, the US government can produce data for the public good, sans the bureaucracy. This excerpt of Julia Lane's Democratizing Our Data: A Manifesto will whet your appetite for disruptive change in data management, which is critical for democracy's survival.

Julia Lane

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.