Live Review: Noise Pop 2011

Noise Pop festival was held in San Francisco for the 19th time from February 22-27. The roster of artists ranged from The Urinals and Yo La Tengo, bands that have been around for 20 years or more to emerging acts like The Frail, Jhameel and Dirty Ghosts. The format of the festivities, where several shows are held simultaneously in different clubs around town, makes this a true enthusiasts’ festival.  It requires either knowledge or time investigating the bands to select the shows you want to attend, as you can’t easily get from one venue to another in the middle of the evening.  The organizers did a great job curating the shows thematically, building concerts where bands not only supported each other but also provided delightful surprises to the audience.

On Thursday, February 24 there were four great bands playing at The Independent. All four drew influences from blues, rock and country and gave the music their own modernized look and feel. The Soft White Sixties opened the evening up with a high-energy set of soulful rock. Borrowing sounds and style from ’60s British rock and soul gave the band its own voice. Their stage presence and charisma won the audience over and set high expectations for the rest of the evening. The Ferocious Few are a duo that has spent a lot of time playing on the street corners of San Francisco selling their homemade CDs while occasionally being chased down the streets by the police. Their up-tempo guitar and drum rock features the gritty texture of the streets wonderfully woven into the music. What is missing in delicate nuances is more than made up for with the raw energy the guys leave on stage.

Voxhaul Broadcast was the only band on the bill that doesn’t call San Francisco home. Musically the SoCal rockers were a perfect match for the show. Their roots-inspired rock was performed with a confident swagger that got the audience howling and screaming along to their catchy choruses. The evening was topped off by The Stone Foxes, a group of very young and talented guys with old souls. The band simply played and sang their hears out. The kind of musical talent the group possesses doesn’t come about often. All four members sang, played several instruments and performed like old veterans on the stage. In an era where music is often constructed of synthesized and compiled montages built on computers, it was refreshing to find showmanship that still had the power to amaze, entertain and take an audience by their hearts.

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-Miikka Skaffari


With countless musicians over the course of four days at six different venues, Noise Pop 2011 featured everything you would and wouldn’t expect, including stage diving, stage falling, beer spewing, half naked singers, crowd surfing, workshops, movies, bunny masks and scuba gear; and that’s only about half of what the festivities had to offer. Kevin and Allyson Seconds are the best male/female duo since The White Stripes (too soon?). Nobunny reminded us that when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll, skipping showers and wearing leather is better than glint and glamour, and The Growlers helped close out Sunday with the lingering question, “Was Brooks Nielson a love child from Johnny Cash and Patti Smith?”

However, the most notable aspect of Noise Pop 2011 was a DJ so funky he made you stop and check the year on your cell phone to make sure the hot tub you got into last night didn’t whisk you back to 1975. Dam-Funk’s show was illustrative of both his exuberant nature and old-school style. Offering up more than your run-of-the-mill DJ, Dam-Funk presents old tracks in ways that make funk relevant, taking a seemingly outdated genre and renovating it like an old house. 

In a time when it’s uncommon to find a DJ skilled and confident enough to play without a laptop, Dam-Funk performed the entire set not only without a computer, but armed only with 45s. The amount of emotion spilling from the stage was inspiring. Dam-Funk noticeably poured out his heart and soul into the set, often singing the lyrics to himself behind the DJ stand or reaching a hand out to the audience to feel more connected with the crowd. The ever-present smile on his face revealed that he was perhaps playing this show for himself, spinning the tracks he loved the way he loved them, knowing that once everyone else heard them they’d love them, too.

The crowd’s reaction to Dam-Funk was warmer than the first rays of light after a storm. Everyone was dancing and having a good time, from the people in the rafters to the folks behind the dance floor, even up to the photographers on stage. It seemed as though everyone knew what a treat it was to have such a grooving, high-caliber DJ in their midst.

Noise Pop 2011 was filled with truly amazing artists, and not one of them disappointed. Dam-Funk’s talent didn’t overshadow the other performers at Noise Pop. It simply showed that he has the ability to transcend his genre and make his peers wish they could take faster notes.

-Daniel Hills


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