We Were There: Northside Festival 2010

Saturday: LIARS/FUCKED UP/HIGH PLACES Though the neighbors weren't too pleased, a concert to benefit local parks advocacy group the Open Space Alliance took over Newtown Barge Park on Saturday, bringing three contrasting bands together. The attendance was sparse at first, creating a relaxed atmosphere; there was no semblance of a crowd until the second act. High Places were first, playing their sweetly melodic dub sounds through a brief bout of rain. To them, however, the weather was more of an opportunity than a challenge, and they honored it with a song called "The Storm" from their 2008 self-titled album. They also showcased many newer songs that abandoned their usual childlike, naïve tone for a darker sound; these were from High Places vs. Mankind, an overlooked album they released this year. Vocalist Mary Pearson's voice seemed to have more maturity and range than when I last saw them in Stuyvesant Oval two years ago, and the musicians' guitars intruded upon their previously idyllic sound. Toronto hardcore group Fucked Up was next, perhaps a polar opposite of those nature-lovin' hippies. Lead singer Mr. Damian/Pink Eyes was a whirling dervish, spending only about two songs on stage (during which he appeared to eat a copy of the Northside guide) and the rest of the set hugging and flipping people in the audience. Liars had a fine magnetism as always; as they kicked off with the excellent "The Overachievers," singer Angus Andrew danced as if possessed by a puppetmaster. His voice shifting between a low croak and a fluid tenor throughout the set, he made mysterious gestures and prowled about the stage, but one could never be sure what he was going to do next. All in all, the perfect show for a humid night in Greenpoint. — Rachel PincusHere's a video of High Places performing "Namer":

<strong>Thursday: WAVVES/CLOUD NOTHINGS/DOM</strong><p>"I'm feelin' squirrrrrrrrellly today," announced Billy Hayes, the drummer of <a href="">Wavves</a>, as he took the Knitting Factory stage for a show celebrating the kickoff of Northside. Though Hayes and bassist Stephen Pope, former members of the late <a href="">Jay Reatard</a>'s backing band, only joined the surf-noise-rock outfit in November of last year, they already seemed a part of the band. The proclamation was made with more of a slight shudder of pleasure, and soon like-minded meshuggenehs from the crowd were embracing the band's gnarly-punk energy, doing crazy dances and stage-diving in tandem. New songs like "King of the Beach" were played at fans' drunken behest and interspersed with Hayes's stream-of-consciousness poetry (example: "Wanted to see Toy Story 3. Had to go to jury duty"). Hayes and Pope were playfully anti-intellectual in the vein of their former act ("if anyone out there is writing anything, I can't read!" warned Hayes at one point). However, the closing burst of bright, scrappy guitars and simple, mesmerizing melody that was "No Hope Kids" reminded me that some of the best music comes from the heart and the ineducable gut. Also equally compelling, perhaps in a more purely musical way, was the Cleveland fuzz-poppers <a href="">Cloud Nothings</a>. Their anthemic tracks, loaded with catchy, well-connected hooks, would have worked at any tempo, but they decided to play many of them at an absolutely blistering speed, which was more than fine with me. <em>— Rachel Pincus</em></p>

<strong>Thursday: GOTHAMIST'S NORTHSIDE SHOWCASE</strong><p>On Thursday night we kicked off the Northside Festival at Coco66 with <a href="">our very own show</a> (co-hosted by Jack "Skippy" McFadden). On the lineup: Luke Folger, Bird of Youth, Caveman, The Forms, and Mr. Dream. Thanks to everyone who came out (including Mr. Britt Daniel—we hear he's single and looking, ladies!), and of course to the bands who performed. We can't pick favorites (we really do love them all!), but we were pretty psyched to finally catch Mr. Dream live after listening to some of their songs over <a href="">at Stereogum</a>. They're LOUD—almost aggressively channeling Nirvana's most aggressive sonic hours—and provided just what we needed to jolt us back awake at the end of a night filled with wine spritzers and hot, hot heat.</p>

<strong>Friday: DINOSAUR FEATHERS</strong><p>Scarcely four months since their debut LP, Fantasy Memorial, the Brooklyn band has already played SXSW and Sasquatch festivals, picking up plenty of fans and press along the way, and we finally found out why. After a set by the feverishly energetic, shake-you-by-the-shoulders-till-you-smile MiniBoone, the Dinosaur Feathers trio took the stage and lead singer Greg Sullo began unpacking the drum machine. Yes, Dinosaur Feathers uses a drum machine, and they use it well. The Jungle Book-esque beats fall right into quirky place under the guitar, the bass, and the seemingly sugar-induced keyboard riffs laid down by a visibly delighted Derek Zimmerman. Best of all, these guys can actually sing. Choruses mean Barbershop-style vocal layering, best displayed in the soaring, tightly controlled "Teenage Whore." Or else they mean crystal-clear backup harmonies, as in "Family Waves." Either way, all three voices get involved in equal measure, and filled up the back room at Public Assembly with something one might have heard on the beach in 1960, filled in around the edges with bits of calypso, plenty of quirk, and gobs of good, old fashioned happy. <em>— Zoe Schlanger</em></p>

<strong>Sunday: POLVO AND LES SAVY FAV</strong><p>Last night the festival went out with a frenzied, freaky bang up at the pleasantly remote <a href="">Newtown Barge Park</a> in Greenpoint. The location is a giant concrete softball field and handball court, framed on all sides by a panoramic view spanning from the Williamsburg Bridge all the way up beyond the U.N. Though there were a couple of cops stationed outside the gates, security was all but nonexistent, and the whole affair was handled in a relaxed, civilized manner that we've <em>never</em> had the pleasure of experiencing at a high-profile rock show. Jelly NYC should flee the East River Park police state and <a href="">have their Pool Parties up here</a>!</p><p>The sun-dappled, early evening concert kicked off with the crunchy, psychedelic instrumental rock of <a href="">Grails</a>, who at their best recalled Pink Floyd at their grooviest, with a couple dashes of Indian raga and jazz fusion thrown in. Their arrangements reach toward the sublime and occasionally just about get there; sitting on the benches along the first base line, you could close your eyes and imagine yourself in some lush suburban backyard, splashing in a kiddie pool with Cheryl Tiegs. Or maybe that was just us? Grails were followed by another one-name band: the Chapel Hill '90s math rock favorite <a href="">Polvo</a>, who reunited a couple of years ago, resurfacing with an enviable bankroll of indie cachet. </p><p>Polvo's labyrinthine set was packed with signature sharp turns and false endings, and absolutely engrossing from top to bottom. Why Grails got an encore and Polvo didn't is baffling—you take what you can get, and Polvo left the crowd wanting more. And we got plenty of it with headliners <a href="">Les Savy Fav</a>, whose frontman, Tim Harrington, didn't disappoint with his typical Flavor Flav meets Chris Farley antics. He first appeared out of the audience wearing some sort of bizarro furry monster costume, sort of resembling an abominable snow creature stained with oil. After running around through the crowd as far as his long mic cord allowed, he finally jumped on stage and stripped down to denim short shorts, drenched in sweat and radiating infectious, ribald energy. </p><p>The corpulent Harrington is not exactly the kind of guy you want to see with his shirt off, but as one attendee remarked, "You gotta give him credit for owning it." To which another fan replied, "Yeah, isn't he owning it a little too much? I'd rather see him give some of that away." All in all, it was a hilarious, wholly exhilarating show, and by the end we'd all but forgotten about having to work the next day—until Harrington suggested we keep rocking all night and play hooky on Monday. We'd follow that lunatic anywhere.</p>