The beginning of the fourth annual Northside Festival arrived amongst a rather hectic week here at Exploding In Sound, but as we always say, an awesome concert is the cure to most of life’s problems. This theory has proven itself time and time again for me, and Thursday night was no different. Ill prepared with a rapidly dying cell phone and no camera in sight, I made my way to Public Assembly for the first of many great shows the festival had lined up. The Strange Victory Touring showcase delivered an exceptional bill of bands, welcoming the start of Brooklyn’s finest music festival with a triumphant bang… and that special kind of loud ringing sensation. Apologies for the lack of pictures on night one, but stay tuned for the next few days when we came camera ready (though I'm not promising anything great). Check out some of our highlights...
The crowd at Public Assembly had shuffled from the mainroom into the venue’s back room, a slightly smaller space with a perfect square layout (I’m a sucker for the sound of a truly square room). The enthusiastic crowd was packed in for Baltimore, MD’s mighty scuzz punks, Dope Body. The anticipation of experiencing their infectious noise in a live setting had been building for what felt like years for me, and when the moment arrived, it was everything I hoped it would be. The band burst with explosive energy from the very beginning, as lead singer Andrew Laumann convulsed and danced (often reminding me a sinister chicken dance) around between distorted shouts. Lashing around to the chunky as all hell riffs, Laumann’s revved up energy proved to be too much for the microphone cable that managed to come unattached several times during openers “Road Dog” and a particularly scathing track from their split with Orphan. When offered tape for his microphone cable, Laumann quickly quipped that the problem wasn’t with the cord, but rather himself.
Enormous, loud, and destructive, the guitar noise rang out during the entire set, as guitarist Zachary Utz blanketed the audience with brilliant harsh distortion and the band's signature scuzzy tonality. Dope Body played a new song from an upcoming split with fellow charm-city grunge/punk friends Roomrunner, which Laumann described as a song, “about wearing a leather hat”. The band rounded out their set with “Weird Mirror,” “Youth Relic,” and “Lazy Slave,” the vicious lead single from one of this year’s best records.
Back in the main room, Brooklyn’s Starring had taken the stage, offering an expansive mix of experimental prog, kraut, and art rock. The band were celebrating the release of their brand new album “ABCDEFG-HIJKLMNOP-QRSTUV-WXYZ” (yes, that’s the title), comprised of synth, guitar, violin, bass, and one incredible drummer, the quintet gave a dazzling performance that left much of the audience jaw dropped. I spent the majority of the set transfixed on their drummer, Matt Marlin (also of Pterodactyl), who’s polyrhythmic attack was mesmerizing, adding a constant shift in time while the rest of the band offered a minimalistic hypnotic energy creating a complex and highly enjoyable sound. It’s always great to discover a new band at a festival, and catching Starring sure as hell beat killing time between sets.
Hartford, Connecticut’s Magik Markers took the backroom next, opening with a full on slaughter of guitar noise that swarmed like a thousand blistering amps. I've seen some loud shows before, and Magik Markers were residing in My Bloody Valentine levels this night. Lead singer/guitarist Elisa Ambrogio assaulted her guitar for a wall of sound that was messy yet full of focus and direction, swirling as she began ripping out strings… this was only the first song. The rhythm section of Pete Nolan (drums) and John Shaw (bass) held everything together with a psychedelic stomp, as Ambrogio continued her wild attack, even opting to at one point to lay the guitar down on the stage and proceed to step on it with her boots, sliding back and forth over the guitar's neck. The blaring noise sounded vibrant and well placed; a constant avalanche of ruckus that didn’t end until the last note of their set had rung.
CHAIN AND THE GANG
My night was closed out by Ian Svenonius’ latest project, Chain and the Gang, promptly wishing everyone a “happy flag day,” before announcing… “I made a vow to always celebrate flag day at a mayonnaise factory, and that’s exactly what this is.” Svenonius, the infamous former Nation of Ulysses/The Make-Up frontman, is a true entertainer, offering a high octane set of hilarious commentary, punk inspired 50’s garage rock and R&B. Cutting a rug in his light orange mod suit, he was joined by The Gang’s latest member, vocalist Katie Greer for classic rock n roll back and forth that works in the most bizarre sort of way. The highlight of the set was “Why Not (Who Cares),” which came about midway through the set after Svenonius claimed he still felt they needed to break the ice. Joined by James Canty (Nation of Ulysses, The Make-Up, Ted Leo, etc) on drums, the band’s set was pure fun and a great close to a gloriously noisy evening.