Northside Festival Highlights


The dust has settled from the 4-day whirlwind of music that was Northside Festival, but what an amazing whirlwind it was. There was music just about everywhere, spilling into the street from bars, some people literally playing on a street corner (not part of Northside, but street bands always pop up during festivals), and some great bigger bands on a big outdoor stage sponsored by Steve Madden. There was so much going on that I wasn’t able to see every band I wanted to, but I certainly managed to catch my share of shows. Highlights of what I caught below.


Thursday: The first artist I caught was a great intro to set the scene of all the good music to come. Atlas Sound played in St. Cecilia’s Church in greenpoint, which is – you guessed it – a real church. It was also a perfect setting for Atlas Sound, since the acoustics were AMAZING. The pews were packed with kids solemnly listening with their full attention. Against the beautiful background of the grande church architecture, Atlas Sound permeated the entire space and reverberated beyond.



After Atlas Sound I headed over to 285 Kent Ave to catch Blackbird Blackbird, who actually didn’t make it to the show. Instead, I got Tiny Victories, a sampler/live drum duo who kept things interesting by sampling crowd members singing their songs for them, and incorporating those samples.




Then I headed next door to Glasslands, where Mr. Dream made my night. These guys are straight up punk rock. They had all the punkers in the front fist pounding and head banging. I think they had a couple groupies too. I found their sound and attitude really refreshing, since Brooklyn Bands much of the time tend to fall into the dream pop realm of things. Sometimes I really want to rock out to somethign harder and more raw, and Mr. Dream Dream gave it to me good. I could go for more of that.




Friday: This was the first day of shows at the Steve Madden stage in McCarren Park. I got there right in time for Sharon Van Etten‘s first chords. I’ve been trying to catch her for a while now, but all her shows keep selling out here. Today was the day for the masses in the park to enjoy her deep folk.


Sharon’s song “Tornado” is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve heard recently. She knows how to write a melody with deeply poetic lyrics.


We also got treated to a guest appearance by Aaron Dessner from The National towards the end of her set.



Next was the definite highlight of my day: Beirut. This was my first time ever catching Zach Condon and his extremely talented band, and I’m not even exaggerating when I say it was the most joyous concert I’ve ever been to. There was so much good feeling in all the songs the entire time, set to Beirut’s strong trumpets and amazing accordion player. The bassist switched between electric and electric double. The drummer was also beaming the entire time. Zach’s right hand man provided trumpet, french horn, piano, and harmony vocals, next to a separate trombone player who picked up a tuba at times. This show was sold out for good reason.





Zach Condon singing with perfect pitch.

I was planning to catch Woods this same night, but Beirut went on longer than I anticipated, and I just couldn’t tear myself away. Next time. Instead, I headed over to Music Hall of Williamsburg to see Darlings. After reviewing their Warma EP, I had been meaning to check them out live. Their lackadaisical attitude carried over into their live performance, not bothering with much small talk between songs and just playing through. They actually sounded just like their record, but with a couple more guitar solos.



On their last song, the bassist and guitarist switched instruments, and the bassist ended up having the most impressive guitar solo of the show.


I cut out after Darlings’ set to see what the hype was about this band from West Palm Beach, FL called Surfer Blood. They played a sold out show at Knitting Factory, and I have to admit that they know how to put on a show, and front man John Paul Pitts knows how to work a crowd, and also flirts from some indie “scene kid” moves I do remember from my Florida indie scene days. His little twirls were my favaorite.


Pitts jumped into the crowd several times, with and without his guitar.




I’m glad I caught them at this club venue, because the immediacy of the crowd and the smaller space really fueled their show. They played the next day at the larger outdoor Steve Madden stage, but Knitting Factory is where they really rocked.

Saturday: This was maybe the hottest day of the Festival, but it was the best day for me. Mostly because of the sick lineup at the Steve Madden Stage. It’s pretty awesome when a band can boast that they shared a stage with Guided by Voices, and that’s just what Surfer Blood did.




Again, Pitts jumped down from the stage, but this time he brought a group of kids from the crowd up on stage with him


Up next was the noise/punk/surf rock band Wavves.


Nathan Williams has a killer band now, with a very photogenic bass player.



They played their hits like “No Hope Kids” and engaged in witty banter between themselves, and thanked GBV and the “surfer boys” which I think now Surfer Blood may have to change their name too.



I know Guided by Voices is far from being a new band, btu I have to mention them. Their set was without a doubt the biggest highlight of Northside Fest for me. This was part of their reunion tour with the classic lineup. They are all so badkass.



They played for about 2 hours, with 3 encores.


“We’re so glad you like to ROCK, Brooklyn!”


After being a witness to their brilliant and kickass performance, it was hard for any other band to compete, but I still caught up with my Slowdance friends at Coco 66, as well as catch a new band I’m glad I am now aware of.




The band band after Slowdance was A Lull (who’s name is kind of a tongue twister), from Chicago. I had just recently heard of them and listen to some tunes, but I don’t think their reccorded material does them justice. This is a band that flourishes in the live setting, and that is how they should be experienced. Many times, 4 of the 4 members were pounding on drums. Between their tribal percussion, interesting lyrical melody lines, guitar and some samples, they were really great to watch.




Sunday: Last day of the Festival. I was still on a music high from the days before, and ready for more. I caught up with Deleted Scenes again, who I’m starting to make ubiquitous on They should really just do a residency and get it over with, and maybe I’ll mention that the next time I see them. Here are some photos of their show at Cameo Gallery:




I hadn’t heard The Loom before, but they went on right after Deleted Scenes and pulled out their french horns, trumpets, ukelele, and tribal drum beats.




The band BELL had also recently peaked my curiosity, so I checked out their set at Europa. The band is based around the electronic project of Olga Bell. She has a wide-ranging voice that she uses to maximum capabilities, while she controls the electronic beats and keytar. Who can resist a keytar? She was very gleeful during the set, smiling big like everyone in the room was her friend.




After that, I headed to what would be my final destination: Glasslands. I had previously previewed Air Waves’ CD release show at Glasslands but didn’t actually make it to the show, so now I’ve made up for that. Air Waves played some tunes I hadn’t heard before, plus my favorites “Knockout” and “Gems.”




The last band of the night was Asobi Seksu, who I’ve covered before, but they’re always fun to watch.





Although I didn’t see every band I wanted to, I can’t complain about what I was able to see. Thanks, Northside! That was awesome, but now I need a minute. Whew!