The Eleventh Time's the Charm

Our critic handicaps the latest installment of Noise Pop

The Noise PoopBy now, just about everyone knows what Noise Pop was -- a one-off for a handful of distortion-crazy bands beloved by S.F. music maven Kevin Arnold -- and is -- a plethora of (mostly) loud rock, spread all over town. Presently more like Austin's South by Southwest industry sprawl than Jeff Ray's all-local Mission Creek Festival (albeit with far less schmoozing), Noise Pop is a well-oiled machine that serves up seasoned out-of-town headliners and cool Bay Area openers. You know what they say: If it ain't broke, don't get a guitar tech to fix it. About the only thing new for this 11th version -- taking place Tuesday through Sunday, Feb. 25-March 2 -- is the participation of Seattle's Experience Music Project, the interactive music museum founded by Microsoft kajillionaire Paul G. Allen. (Remember when philanthropists used to do silly things with their money, like start colleges and create scholarships?) No word on exactly what EMP will offer, although there are rumors that one crowd member per show will be deep-frozen and forever enshrined in the museum's halls.

Perhaps the EMP brass would be better served working on cloning technology, since it's nearly impossible to see everything you'd like during Noise Pop, what with more than 20 shows in six days. That's why we've handicapped the festival's hottest bills, cutting through the hype so you'll know which to choose:

Tuesday at Bimbo's Headliner: Stephen Malkmus, who wants to be the king of indie rock -- no wait, he doesn't. What you'll get: a taste of Malkmus' second post-Pavement album, Pig Lib, sure to have just enough ironically insightful lyrics and sugary melodies to make you hate the rest of it. Local reason to go: Western, a power-pop quartet with a touch of ennui.

Wednesday at the Great American Music Hall Headliner: Trans Am, which loves '80s synthesizers, cheesy metal, and playing fast. What you'll get: hard rock smarties Rush, with blander vocals and fewer chops. Local reason to go: Tussle, a guitarless outfit that snatches the drum circle away from the hippies and gives it to the punks.

Thursday at the Bottom of the Hill Headliner: Folk Implosion, now reduced to Sebadoh Lite with the absence of co-founder John Davis. What you'll get: more of Lou Barlow's mopey lyrics about how all the girls hate him and he hates himself, but not as much as he hates you. Local reason to go: Citizens Here and Abroad, a foursome that combines the best parts of Dealership and Secadora to make the kind of perfect pop this fest was built upon.

Friday at Cafe Du Nord Headliner: The Go -- from Detroit, motherfucker! What you'll get: a fistful of feedback, a ton of 'tude, and the lingering impression that the MC5 did this a whole lot better. Local reason to go: The Cuts, an Oakland combo that embraces '60s psychedelia and '70s punk.

Saturday at Bimbo's Headliner: Calexico, which is Dust Bowl Americana for people who like arty German movies. What you'll get: The Eagles, with higher pretensions and uglier voices. Non-local reason to go: Nicolai Dunger, a Swede trying hard to be soul moaner Van Morrison. (Hey, at least oneperson is trying.)

Sunday at Bimbo's Headliner: Tortoise, a boring band unless you're in one, or you listen to a lot of modern classical and have a soul patch. What you'll get: instrumentals that people will insist are "brainy," when in fact they just go on and on like a drunk at 4 a.m. Local reason to go: Roots of Orchis, a group that understands that hip hop scratching is the best way to liven up post-rock grooves.

Sadly, the most exciting show of the week is off-limits to people who don't buy the $125 all-event badge. Har Mar Superstar -- a short, chubby, former indie rocker from Minneapolis -- lives out his R&B pimp-daddy fantasies at the opening night party on Feb. 25 at the Parkside. If you miss him, take solace in Gouge, a 50-minute documentary about the Pixies (playing March 1 at ATA) that'll make you wonder (and then realize) why the band wasn't the biggest thing ever. But be forewarned: The doc comes riddled with idiotic comments by pasty British people, including Bono, David Bowie, and Badly Drawn Boy. Gouge indeed.

 
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