Published June 18, 2015 on KSDBFM.org
If you ever get the chance to spend time in north Brooklyn, do it. In particular, the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Bushwick are two of the great havens of indie music, art, and culture. It’s the kind of place where every street corner is either a record store or an organic pharmacy. It was in this environment that I had the pleasure of seeing part of the Northside Music Festival last weekend.
The festival’s main stage, nestled up against the banks of the East River, featured seven fantastic artists on Saturday and Sunday nights.
Surprisingly, the Nashville band Bully gave one of my favorite performances of the festival. The female lead alt-rock group played a number of songs from their album Feels Like, which will be releasing next Tuesday.
Despite performing in front of a relatively small crowd, the band brought an energy and excitement that few other opening bands had at the festival. They were kinetic, fun, and sounded great. If you want to see Bully live for yourself, they just announced their first headlining tour and will be stopping in Lawrence on Oct. 8th.
Probably one of the bands I was most excited for, Alvvays followed up Bully in the only way they know how; being super chill. The Nova Scotia based band’s debut self-titled album was one of my favorites of last year.
They played all of the hits they’re known for: “Archie, Marry Me”, “Adult Diversion”, and “Ones Who Love You.” They also treated the crowd to a handful of unreleased new songs. Overall, the band gave a great performance.
Built to Spill
I am not a fan of Built to Spill. I’ve never really had a problem with them, but I don’t actively seek out their music. Keeping that in mind, I’m sorry to say that I didn’t enjoy their performance. It was the only moment in the festival where I found myself checking my watch.
For fans of Built to Spill, the performance was fantastic. The crowd was going nuts the entire time. Their set was a mixture of old and new, and spent a lot of time on many of the band’s (numerous) 6-8 minute tracks. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it as much.
Crowd Reaction Grade: A+++++
Completely Subjective Grade From a Grumpy Imbecile: C+
Saturday night’s headliner, Best Coast, was a band I was moderately excited for. Until that point, I had never had the chance to see the West Coast duo live, and was really hoping they would spend most of their set’s time on tracks from their first two albums. Unfortunately, they decided to focus more on songs from their two newest albums.
The band’s older material was rapturous. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough of it, and the show was brought down by their lackluster newer work.
Sunday night’s opener was Long Beach based hip hop artist Vince Staples. Much like Saturday night’s opener, Bully, Vince Staples used the night to heavily promote his new album. He performed a number of yet to be released tracks.
Musically, the show was great. Vince is a very promising young artist, but he really struggled to connect with the audience. Maybe the audience was off, or maybe he was, but ultimately it just wasn’t working. I am still really looking forward to the release of Vince’s new album on June 30th.
The second act on Sunday night, Sleigh Bells, was an explosion of energy and excitement. Loud, fast, and frantic, Sleigh Bells were the perfect warm up act for Run the Jewels.
The band kept the pace up throughout the entire performance and were extremely fun to watch.
Run the Jewels
Sunday night’s headliner, Run the Jewels, were the last group to take the stage at the Northside Festival, and it’s a good thing, too, because they brought the house down.
The crowd was packed into the venue to the point that it was practically impossible to pull your phone out of your pocket. Before El-P and Killer Mike took the stage, there was constant pushing, shoving, and jockeying for position just to get a couple feet closer to the stage.
Once the duo did take the stage (to Queen’s “We are the Champions”) things went crazy. A surge of people trying to get as close to the stage as possible packed everyone in even more.
RTJ did not disappoint. They brought on a litany of guest performances, including Mr. Len, Lola Chantrelle, Despot, and Nas. The performance was epic, powerful, energetic, and loud. The crowd was completely connected, and when it started to rain halfway through the set, it just added to the experience.