Photos by Matthew Solarski
The 7th annual Northside Festival popped off this past weekend in North Brooklyn. With its consistent growth year after year it seems closer and closer to becoming the NYC based SXSW that we deserve. Bands played all over north Brooklyn, from the tiny clubs of Bushwick to the giant outdoor space at 50 Kent. Many bands played, much fun was had. All in all, it was a weekend to remember.
With their jokey rapport and casual cool, Canada’s Monomyth reminded us a little of another Canadian sensation: Mac DeMarco. The boys also ably traded off lead vocal duties between their two guitarists effortlessly. It all added up to some no frills good times.
Ecuador’s Sexores, meanwhile, kept things poker-faced at Black Bear Bar (the “back room” of the former Public Assembly, essentially unchanged) as they dished out alt-rock and shoegaze sounds. It’s not every night in Brooklyn you get to see a band from Ecuador, and this was a treat.
Friday night belonged to Majical Cloudz, who gifted early arrivals at the massive, glorified parking lot that is 50 Kent (where Neko Case was headlining) with an utterly brilliant set of almost entirely new material (only “This Is Magic” from 2013’s pristine Impersonator made the cut). The Montreal duo sounds completely singular, and when their heady mix of minimal electronics and unguarded confessionals catches you in the right mood, the experience is nothing less than rhapsodic.
Earlier, Berlin-based duo OY captivated and/or confused the crowd trickling in at McCarren Park with costumes and a curious collection of whimsical songs, including one — sung with pitched-down vocals — about having beer and chicken at the same time.
Back at 50 Kent Rhye sexed things up with a six-piece backing band, extended mixes of tracks off 2013’s Woman, and singer Milosh’s seductive, Sade-inspired vocals. The sexiness continued over at Muchmore’s with the dreamy electro-pop of Lavachild, who shared lots of promising new material.
Our night wrapped up at the new Living Room, where great local label Paper Garden Records was throwing down with several of their signature acts. The prolific Arms proved to be an extremely engaging performer, indulging in some rock star moves while never crossing over into hamminess. DC’s Pree, meanwhile, dispatched a knotty, restless collection of songs, never content to settle on one tempo or time signature for long. They harkened back to some of their city’s math rock forebears, while introducing elements of vocal jazz and folk into the mix. It was anything but background music.
Over at the Polish National Church we rocked out to Fort Lean for a blistering set (in terms of sweatiness and guitar) and were brought close to tears by The Eastern Sea’s solo acoustic set in the sanctuary.
Saturday brought the heat, with energetic performances from Cayetana (at McCarren Park) and Bully (at 50 Kent), a druggy, late afternoon showing from the excellent Merchandise in the middle of Bedford Avenue, and an extra sweaty set from GODMODE-signed newcomers Soft Lit at a cramped and balloon-bedazzled Muchmore’s.
Alvvays cooled things down a notch with their breezy jangle pop, winning over the 50 Kent crowd, while Belgian trio Amatorski got downright icy with a chilling cohort of delicate, piano based songs that kept the Knitting Factory audience hushed.
We capped the night with a lively performance from rising Australian folk-pop enchantresses Little May, who had Rough Trade patrons positively squealing with joy.
A nasty little cold cut our Sunday short, but not before bearing witness to the effervescent charm of Brooklyn’s own Eskimeaux, who epitomized all that we love about the DIY/bedroom pop scene. Frontwoman Gabrielle Smith pantomimed some stadium-rock posturing and shouted out her parents, who were in attendance. And if any one image summed up Northside 2015, it was hearing one of the year’s best tracks, “Broken Necks,” in the late-spring sun on Bedford Ave. amid a sea of smiling faces.