20th Noise Pop Kicks Off with “Soft Bulletin” Live, Craig Finn


7x7SF: “Mr. Indie Bar Rock Craig Finn takes the stage at one of San Francisco’s finest bar-venues. The Hold Steady frontman is taking to the lonesome road by himself, but his idiosyncratic vocal approach remains.”

San Francico Weekly: “Race for the Prize,” preceded as it was by a long, tension-building wash of piano and noise, did not start like a mere song. It erupted into being, like some tantric climax: A perfect, immaculate feeling rushing the blue-blackness inside Bimbo’s into a hurricane of confetti and a bright carnival of colored light. That bendy little melody — humble, a little wounded, but hopeful — washed over the room; Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne grinningly bashed his baton into anything nearby; and the 20th Anniversary of the Noise Pop festival, San Francisco’s best showcase of independent music, began in ecstasy.”

All videos  in this post via youtube/jsandler1

For the week spanning February 21st to 26th various San Francisco clubs are hosting dozens of bands for the 20th Noise Pop Festival.  The anniversary celebrations include sets by Built to Spill, Cate Le Bon, Surfer Blood, The Fresh and Onlys, Disappears, Talkdemonic, Grimes, Sleigh Bells, and Bob Mould’s première live performance of his 1992 Sugar album Copper BlueThe festivities began on Tuesday night with a solo show by The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn and a very special Flaming Lips performance of The Soft Bulletin (even “Slow Motion” – for only the third time ever).  Prior to the launch, Wayne and Bob stopped by KQED to chat and play – stream here.

The Bay Bridged: “Between songs, Wayne shared his interpretation of the record. As much as we want to enjoy the beauty of life, we must do so with the understanding that a lot of horrible shit is going on all around us. There is more horror than beauty. Yet WE, WE can create more beauty (for ourselves and those less fortunate than us).”

The Flaming Lips premiered The Soft Bulletin live in the first hour of 2011 at New Year Freak Out #4. A few additional performances followed last year at various locations.  In contrast to other, larger festivals the Lips have played their 1999 classic album at, The Noise Pop performance was a very rare opportunity to experience the album in an intimate setting in its absolute entirety.  So tiny is Bimbo’s 365 Club the band could not even use their video screen.  Likewise Bob Mould’s performance of Sugar’s debut Copper Blue at Noise Pop will be a first, though a “very limited” number of to-be-announced performances are slated to follow this year. Mould’s band includes Telekinesis bassist Jason Narducy and Superchunk drummer Jon Wurster (also recently of Mountain Goats). Mould’s Facebook notes, “stay tuned for more information on COPPER BLUE and Bob’s touring plans for 2012” – and lists his current tour dates.


Noise Pop co-producers Kevin Arnoldto sfgate.com: “Over the years, I feel like we’ve expanded… It’s more about the approach and industrious nature of the artists than their style.” Hear the festival’s creators discuss its evolution on California Report.

For the past two decades, San Francisco’s Noise Pop has hosted legends like Television, Wire and the Plastic Ono Band along side some of the hippest new bands (Spoon for example, way back in 1997).  But their start in 1993 was modest: 5 bands at one venue on a single night.  They quickly expanded to three days by the next year, then to four (1995-96), and six for its fifth anniversary.  By 1998 Noisepop regulars The Fastbacks – the only band to play the first ten festivals – were joined by Frank Black and The Catholics, an upcoming band from Washington named Modest Mouse, Elephant 6ers The Apples in Stereo and Beulah, Imperial Teen, Harvey Danger, John Doe Thing and dozens more.  A break-out year of sorts for the festival, it also hosted The Flaming Lips’ “Boombox Experiment #4” (Wayne recently discussed that show in-depth here).  By 2000 they had expanded to two festivals: one in the Bay City, another in the Windy City (the  former with The Magnetic Fields, Bob Mould and X; the latter with Jeff Tweedy, Sleater-Kinney, Jim O’Rourke and Wire).

As the ’90s came to a close and the new millennium began Noise Pop developed a reputation for booking bands at key points in their careers, before they were widely known: Grandaddy (1999, 2000 Chicago), Death Cab for Cutie (1999-2000), Mountain Goats (2000), Mates of State (2000-2001), Modest Mouse (2000 Chicag0), OK Go (2000 Chicago).  In retrospect 2001 was a particularly ahead-of-the-curve year.  On the bill: The White Stripes (who had literally just finished recording their would-be-break-out LP White Blood Cells and were still touring on De Stijl) and The Shins (before debut Oh, Inverted World was released).  So were Spoon, Bright Eyes, Pedro the Lion, The Papercuts and Blonde Redhead (not to mention “old-timers” Superchunk – and at the Chicago festival Television and Yo La Tengo).  Though they cut back to one festival in 2002, it was their biggest yet: 88 artists at 7 venues over 6 days.

And the line-ups continued to grow in size for the next couple of years – 102 artists in 2003 (Cat Power, Joanna Newsom, M Ward, smog, Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks) and 139 in 2004 (British Sea Power, Low, Super Furry Animals) – as it cemented its reputation as the first great indie-leaning rock fest of every year, a position it’s held since the middle of last decade.

It’s with all of this in the rearview that Noise Pop’s 20th anniversary music marathon shaped up at the start of 2012.  Certainly they deserve a celebration like none other – for they have established themselves over the past two decades like no other fest.  Besides Wye Oak and Talkdemonic, the big news in early January was the booking of Built to Spill – on the Noise Pop wishlist for years.  But bigger news came on January 11th: more shows, additional artists (Sleigh Bells; a solo show by Superchunk’s Mac McCaughan, Merge Records’ co-founder), and two classic ’90s albums to be played in full (the aforementioned Copper Blue and The Soft Bulletin)…

Noise Pop co-producers Kevin Arnold to sfgate.com: “With the 20th anniversary of “Copper Blue” we had been talking about something to commemorate it for a long time and the idea was that doing it at Noise Pop would be a good warm-up for a series of dates. Flaming Lips, I pitched them on doing “The Soft Bulletin” a long time ago. It was only after we confirmed them for the festival that they said they were going to do it...

Built to Spill is a huge deal for both of us. It’s a band we’ve been trying to have at the festival for a very long time...

The show I’m really excited about – and there’s probably only 250 people in San Francisco excited about it – is Christie Front Drive…

They’re a mid-’90s emo band. They only put two records out and broke up. It means a lot to a small group of people.”

Above photo one of several by Charlie Homo at thebaybridged.com.  Also check out Lips pictures at Deathandtaxesmag.com and sfbg.com

Noise Pop’s format – various venues holding isolated concerts over a week – resembles industry showcases SXSW and CMJ – not typical outside music festivals (where three days baking in what would most likely be an empty field any other weekend of the year is the norm, i.e. Coachella, Bonnaroo etc).  But it’s booked (and priced) more like the latter.  A $150 general badge admits “access to all general admission (non-seated) concerts, films, happy hours, Culture Club and other events during the festival” (but not to Die Antwoord or Flaming Lips shows).  A $200 badge offered the same access plus a Flaming Lips ticket.  Tickets to individual shows were also available, though both the Mould and the Lips concerts sold-out quickly.

Fans wanting to attend Noise Pop who couldn’t make it can check out most of  these artists now on tour.  Cate Le Bon and her “dream team” band have been taking the US by storm the past few weeks supporting their new and excellent CYRK (click for tour dates and info).  Sleigh Bells is currently touring sophomore album, Reign of Terror – including an album release gig at Los Angeles’ The Mayan on February 21st.  The tour – originally just of Derek E. Miller’s home state Florida – is expanded to Washington DC, New York, Toronto and the West Coast. In March they visit Europe. Check the full dates and ticket links at facebook/sleighbells.

Built to Spill will also play 35 Denton, a Texas festival March 8-11, 2012 also featuring The Oh Sees, The Raincoats, Sun Araw, Peaking Lights, Dum Dum Girls, Evangelicals, Mountain Goats and others (the full  line-up is here).  Built to Spill’s Noise Pop show on the 23rd will kick-off their latest string of tour dates: 02/23 – San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore (Noise Pop) 02/24 – Visalia, CA @ Fox Theater 02/25 – Napa, CA @ Uptown Theater 03/08 – Baton Rouge, LA @ Spanish Moon 03/09 – New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jacks 03/11 – Denton, TX @ 35 Denton 03/12 – Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s 03/13-18 – Austin, TX @ South by Southwest 03/22-25 – Boise, ID @ Treefort Music Festival (also of Montreal, Why?, The Cave Singers, Blitzen Trapper, Pictureplane, Delicate Steve, Typhoon, and others)

Check out a twitter recap of The Flaming Lips return to Noise Pop below, followed by Noise Pop 20’s week schedule:



San Francisco Weekly “The first order of business, natch, was securing some “medical marijuana” for the crew. But after that, where would a freaky rock band from Oklahoma end up on a nice Monday night in San Francisco?

Duh: Zeitgeist.”

Rolling Stone: “As the Flaming Lips wrapped up with the tragic and emotionally difficult “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate,” Coyne reminded the audience that music “sends us out in the world to say, ‘We’re in this together!’ The dilemma is that we love the world, and we love life, and we’re curious – ‘What is this stuff that we’re feeling?’ – but at some point, you start to discover that there are horrible things out there and you can’t help but to come to the conclusion that life is more horrible than it is beautiful.”


San Francico Weekly: “Clad in a white dress shirt and thick fur collar, with a spray of gray and brown hair shooting out of his head, the singer occupied the front of the sage like a fiery misfit preacher, constantly making demands of the crowd. “You all got to act like you’re having a loud fucking orgasm, okay?” he implored before “A Spoonful Weighs A Ton.” “It’ll be a great moment that we all fake this orgasm together.” And it was.

Critic’s Notebook

Big boys: The band had to pare down its normal live performance to fit into Bimbo’s, and yet even still its presence felt almost too big — balloons bashing the lines of lights overhead and confetti blasting into a ceiling that wasn’t all that far from the end of the cannon. The band sounded huge, too, with six members onstage playing, a harp, a violin, timpani, a gong, and a battery of keyboards and guitars.

Quotable Wayne: “Motherfuckers talk about God,” he said at one point. “They got it wrong. Music is God.”

dmercurio.tumblr: “At the end of the album, the band returned to offer a bombastic and life-affirming encore of “Do You Realize??” letting the confetti rockets run free and once again providing a finale of non-sensical proportions. At one point during the show Wayne proclaimed that music was his religion…and who could argue that after the psychedelic-church freak show that had been relentlessly bombarding all our senses for the previous hour. I can’t wait till this Church is back in session.”


The complete Noise Pop 20 schedule with ticket links for the individual shows is here. Highlights are listed below (artists/ venue/ time/ ticket link and info):

Tuesday, February 21
The Flaming Lips perform The Soft Bulletin; Release the Sunbird open – Bimbo’s 365 Club – 7pm Sold Out, badges still available
Craig Finn with Sad Baby Wolf, Mount Moriah, and Ash Reiter – Bottom of the Hill – 7pm $15 all ages

Wednesday, February 22
The Fresh and Onlys and Disappears co-headline; with Talkdemonic and Churches open – Bottom of the Hill – 7pm $12 21+
Grimes and oOoOO co-headline; Born Gold and Yalls open – Rickshaw Stop – 8pm $12 advance $14 door

Thursday, February 23
Built to Spill with Sister Crayon – The Fillmore -8:30pm $25 all ages
Sleigh Bells – The Regency Ballroom – 8pm $22.50 advance $25 door

Friday, February 24
-Bob Mould plays Copper Blue – Bottom of the Hill – 7pm Sold Out, badges still available
Wye Oak with Sea of Bees, and Social Studies – Independent – 7:30pm $18 advance $20 door 21+

Saturday, February 25
Archers of Loaf with The Big Sleep, Hospitality, and Built Like Alaska – Great American Music Hall – 7pm $26 all ages
Laura Veirs – Swedish American Hall – 3pm $18 individual $60 family four pack 8pm $16 21+ all ages
Surfer Blood with The Lonely Forest, Cate Le Bon, and The She’s – Independent – 7:30 pm $18

Sunday, February 26
The Dodos with AU, and Cannons and Clouds – Great American Music Hall – 7pm $20 all ages

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