10 Things We Learned at Northside Festival
This past weekend, all of Williamsburg's top venues banded together for a celebration of great indie music with the Northside Festival. From the riverside clubs to Metropolitan Avenue, fans from all over flocked to hear some of their favorites and discover some new ones. We cruised from place to place over the four-day festival and found some excellent sights and sounds coming from the north shore.
1. Rapper Will Sheridan owned at Sugarland: Former college basketball player Will Sheridan began his career in music in 2010 with his debut EP Ngoma and he's now a force to be reckoned with two years later as we await the arrival of his debut album. At his performance at Sugarland on Saturday night, the openly gay rapper whipped the whole club into a frenzy with a show that ended with the crowd joining him the stage for a show-stopping finale.
2. Who knew that Bar Matchless is also a nice place for brunch?: Bar Matchless is known for its dark and gritty interiors, two-for-one Tuesday drink specials and great punk rock shows. What was most interesting about the spot this past Saturday, where bands like Magnetic Island and Gold Streets performed, is how different the vibe is during daylight hours. While bands played in its back room performance space, visitors lounged on the outdoor patio while watching the bands and having brunch while the indoor area gleamed of sunlight with Ready to Die by Notorious B.I.G. playing on the speakers. Many of the bar's patrons may go there to grab a cold one and listen to some garage rock vinyl at night, but stopping by Matchless around noon the day after can be just as appealing.
3. Kid Sister's penchant for Mary J. Blige fashion sense: When Kid Sister took the stage at Sugarland for a midnight set, the Chicago MC sported a red football jersey, sunglasses and black cap for her performance looking like Mary J. Blige in her "Real Love" video. She took over for Will Sheridan who had all ready riled the crowd into full fledged party mode for a great end to Saturday night's slate of shows.
4. Some of our favorite acts of the '90s are still great in 2012: Over the course of the weekend, we saw GZA, Kool Keith (both solo and with Ultramagnetic MCs) and the recently revived Olivia Tremor Control. All had the crowds rabid as if it were still 1997 all over again.
5. Field Mouse are one of Brooklyn's best kept secrets: From the second the band launched into their first song at Spike Hill, it was clear that Field Mouse had more spring in their step than most other dream-pop rockers on the scene. Lead singer Rachel Browne's vocal melodies were pitch perfect while guitarist Andrew Furtal's tremolo arm made his fretwork sound like a wash of sound over the extremely tight rhythm section. Browne also has a pretty sweet tattoo based on a drawing her father made (pictured). When asked if she got anything good for her Dad for Father's Day she answered "I hung out with my Dad" she said. "That was my present."
6. Glasslands' flowery decor: Glasslands, which stands at the top of Northside on Kent Avenue, has a visually entrancing setup. Aside from its Warhol-esque projections that shine over the bands, the backdrop of the stage is fitted with a flowery installation that wafts throughout like a cloud. Best viewed from the venue's balcony.
7. Mas Ysa's on-stage rituals: Thomas Arsenault ,who now goes by the moniker Mas Ysa, makes highly improvisational electronic music. While his songs have the insular quality to bedroom-pop artists, his layering of sounds sounded right at home on a sunny Saturday afternoon at McCarren Park, where the musician played a range of styles that varied from calm, synth-based crooners to expansive Balearic-beat bouncers. On stage, Arsenault (who shares an apartment with Light Asylum keyboardist Bruno Coviello) typically has a selection of four beverages; a can of beer, a bottle of whiskey, a glass of wine and a cup of water, which he says he keeps on hand because he's not sure which he'll be in the mood for. For this particular performance he kept it simple, sticking with a bottle of rosé which he casually swigged from as he played.
8. North 6th is a the ultimate Brooklyn hotbed for great music: North 6th has a lot to offer. Aside from it having Academy Annex, one of Brooklyn's best record shops, it also has three venues all within a block of each other — Cameo Gallery, Public Assembly and Music Hall of Williamsburg — to form a trifecta for music lovers looking to make the most of their night out on the northside of the borough.
9. PopGun puts on some great parties: At PopGun's Lazerpop showcase Friday night at Glasslands, Pictureplane, Teengirl Fantasy and Hooray for Earth all put on DJ sets that packed out the venue with music fans eager to get their weekend started right. That was merely one of five sets of parties the booking company hosted over the course of the festival which kept bodies shaking all across Kent Avenue.
10. Bowling can really rock after all: The phrase "Rock & Bowl" has been around for some time but it usually entails a lot of tacky dark lights shining on neon bowling pins. Venues Brooklyn Bowl and The Gutter actually live up to the tag, where at both spots, visitors can knock down some pins while watching their favorite bands play.
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