Noise Pop Is An Imaginary Music Festival

It's that time of year again—when we celebrate a week of local music in the Bay Area by boasting Noise Pop: the Bay Area's premiere indie music festival. Truly, it's an exciting time to be alive. Bands will influx. Tickets will sell out. The Bay Guardian will do a puff piece-turned-cover story on up-and-coming bands that are on the middle of the marquee list of Noise Pop artists. All those bands will share their newfound exposure on their facebooks, and the wheels of blogocracy will keep turning.

Except, here's the thing about Noise Pop: it's just a week of San Francisco shows. We live in a major metropolitan area with vast appeal and resources, any given week of shows is good, and Noise Pop makes a random week of the year out to be, somehow, a thing. To call this week of shows somehow spectacular (or even, particular), is a bombastic and perplexing tradition that serves little tangible meaning in the Bay Area music scene. It's a waste of energy that distracts—not highlights—from the terrific and unwavering musical draw and appreciation the Bay Area has.

Perhaps the greatest misdemeanor Noise Pop commits is that the so called 'Festival' suffers from a complete deficit of noteworthy headliners. For example, Noise Pop 2013 headliners include:

Toro Y Moi: Don't get me wrong, Toro Y Moi is a great and tremendously relevant band that does a terrific live show, but fall short of being considered the flagship headliner of a music festival, especially considering they've done three Bay Area shows in the last two years.

Body/Head: You run a real gamble paying money to see a Kim Gordon noise project in concert: you might witness one of the most profound and honest pieces of musical performance art in the modern era, or you might see a totally self-indulgent spectacle of humiliation and shame. There is a good chance, actually, that the concert will be both. As cool as it may or may not be, it is a guaranteed salting of our collective wounds that Sonic Youth will probably never get back together, and that children (us) are the real losers in divorce.

Rogue Wave: Playing the Noise Pop Festival in a rare Bay Area live appearance.

Amon Tobin: That's cool. Amon Tobin is cool, except, he's playing a DJ set. Not putting the 'DJ set' in parentheses next to your music festival's feature headliner is kind of like padding your bra in the giant middle school that is San Francisco.

!!! (chk chk chk): !! was the most bloggable band of 2005, immediately before people began to realize the psychedelic jam rock they were listening to was the very same psychedelic jam rock they don't care for very much at all. Almost immediately after their plateau, the band would become largely marginalized by a new influx of electronic bands. A more accurate name for this band today would be '…', which will also be your reaction when you realized you payed $23 to see this band in concert.

Look, no offense to Portland or Los Angeles or New York, but fuck those cities. We live in the greatest city in America. We don't need to create imaginary music festivals to make ourselves cool. Go to—a website that outlines every show happening in the Bay Area on any given night, for weeks into the future—and you'll find that every week in San Francisco is a relentless deluge of awesome shows both with big and small bands.

Spend a few dollars to go see some shitty band's first show at Bottom of the Hill. Sell some jorts at Buffalo Exchange so you can get $12 to go support that new venue on Valencia. Don't do it under the guise of a festival, do it because it's a fucking Wednesday. We don't need to waste our time making a big deal about a Thao And The Get Down Stay Down show, pretending it's part of a some big art and culture festival. It isn't. So before you spend $150 on a Noise Pop lift pass that gets you into (some of) the Noise Pop shows, remember: Noise Pop is all in your head.

Comments (30)

Applause. Could not have said it better myself. Cheers.

Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article.
I’ll make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful information. Thanks for the post. I will certainly comeback.

totally agree. if anything, I attend less shows than normal during the week of Noise Pop.

Naw. NoisePop is awesome.

Huge bowl of crack ready for the tokin’= check!

Jackson 5 greatest hits lp spinning on the record player= check!

This white entitled misogynistic pepperoni pizza lover being blissfully lifted away to paradise= PRICELESS!

Wanna go to Noise Pop together? I’ll even spring for a bucket of Popeye’s.

Great post, and pretty much exactly how I feel.

This is the sanest thing I’ve ever read on this blog.

DIIV is playing. Whatever brings them here is OK by me.

I have a very good friend that works for Noise Pop. That being said, it blows large amounts of shit through tiny venues like a rectal tsunami. Even when I got into the shows for free I found myself walking out shaking my head. The Goblin Cock and Warship gig a few years back was awesome. My taste tends to run to heavier anyway.

Uh, isn’t Amon Tobin a Ninja Tune DJ? It stands to reason that he would DJ at Noise Pop unless you’re disappointed that he’s not bringing out the entire ISAM2.0 setup.

I don’t get it.

Amon Tobin is a Ninja Tune recording artist. Sure, he DJs sometimes, but he also makes tons and tons of his own music. (Eight albums worth.) And he can certainly perform it without the full ISAM setup; I’ve seen it several times back in the day.

I completely agree, but I can also get behind the attempts of Noise Pop’s promoters (who are mostly good people who care about the Bay Area music scene) to lure bands to the area by calling it a “festival.” I have no idea about the history of SXSW, but presumably it started small and grew over time… maybe some day Noise Pop will become significant enough to draw a critical mass of bands from outside the area? One can hope, anyway.

You could say this is an apples-to-oranges comparison, but if we’re going to relate the two, SXSW is only 6 years older than Noise Pop and has been a bigger deal for longer than that time difference.

Whatever, having SXSW in town would probably be pretty fucking annoying.

One of the good things about Noise Pop is that it’s not SXSW. We don’t need one. SXSW get’s pretty miserable and SF doesn’t need one more event that spikes the city’s population for a week.

I think the point is that there is no need to ‘lure’ bands to SF. There are great shows happening all the time. This is already a huge tour destination given our cultural history and the fact that we are 1 of 4 major US cities on the West Coast (Seattle, PDX, SF/Bay Area, LA). If anything, Noise Pop is way behind the curve of what is happening here all the time. I’ve managed to catch 4 shows in the past week with 2 more this week as a mid-30s married dude with a day job (noting that there’s a lot more I’d like to see if I had the time and energy).

If you’re already the type of person who sifts through show listings on a regular basis, then yeah there’s nothing that significant about NoisePop - congrats, you’re already cool. There are way more people out there with a casual level of involvement.

could not agree more. good post.

I’ve gotta say for rookie sf music scenesters its still a good bet. I saw some good and weird stuff when I came to this city when I didn’t know shit. That said, I still don’t know shit and you are right on the money for those who know what they want to see and hear.

It’s funny how DJs pretend to be musicians.

Sam, I was with you all the way up until you made fun of Thao & the Get Down Stay Down. Now you can shit all over this made up festival and how they promote shows that would already happen here anyway. But Thao is a San Francisco artist we should be celebrating. Maybe her genre isn’t your favorite, but she makes honest music and attempts to be a part of the community, it’s not cool to make that your parting line in this shitfest. If you claim to be such in the know scenester, you should celebrating Thao.

Again, it’s less making fun of Thao as an artist and more saying people’s access to her & band is already fairly high (never mind she did Noise Pop a few years back), so why pretend like NP is providing a unique opportunity to see her perform?

Maybe it’s helpful to think of it as something like Bike to Work day? It makes more accessible something that plenty of folks are interested in, but maybe intimidated by or cautious about. I mean, you can dismiss it with a “lol bro I ride my bike every day just fuckin’ man up and start riding” attitude and that probably seems reasonable if your circle runs heavy on the bike stuff already. It’s just a fallacy to assume that everyone else who might be interested already shares your level of involvement.

NoisePop is the same sort of deal with music for the set who isn’t already intimately familiar with what venues usually provide a good time, what bands are worth seeing, yadda yadda. It’s a guided tour, but you can still have a good time if you put the cynicism in check.

Here’s You: taster Heres’s the Point: Imaginary Noise pop

(now add tons of space between the two)

Here are bands I’m pumped to see and don’t come around often: Diiv, OBN III and Fuzz (Ty Segall’s new band), Body/Head, Damien Jurado, and Rouge Wave. This years seems to be missing a big headliner though (e.g., last year’s Flaming Lips). Putting that aside, the quality of music during noise pop week is pretty solid. I can only imagine early to mid-April being a better time (when all the coachella bands swing though).

change the headline of this to “Boring White Boy Discovers At Early Age That Having Edgy, Cynical, Opinions Will Get Him Attention and Shield Him From Criticism”