February in the Bay Area is so much damn fun. As SF Beer Week staggers to a close, Noise Pop enthusiastically takes over. If there was ever a week to check out a slice of the local live music scene, this is it.
I host the bi-monthly Noise Pop Podcast, and a lot of the artists playing the 26th annual Noise Pop Fest this year have either appeared as guests on the podcast or had had their music featured it. You’ll find some of those artists in the round-up of shows below, as well as some others that you’re definitely going to want to see live. I’ve also taken the liberty of including a song selection for each and skewing these show picks towards the non-sold-out variety — because damn the secondary-ticket market!
And if you’re feeling saucy, you can still pick up a festival badge ($205) to get access to all the week’s shows, including the opening party featuring S.F.’s own The Dodos playing their seminal album Visiter, in full, as a celebration of its 10th anniversary.
with The Genie and Ghost In The City, at The Chapel, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 7:30 p.m., $27.50.
Former Digable Planets member Ishmael Butler (aka Butterfly) has found career longevity through his Shabazz Palaces project on Sub Pop Records. This is avant-garde hip-hop at its finest and a trip into Butler’s cosmic mindspace.
Listen to: “Shine A Light”
with Sylvan Lacue, Madegroceries and DJ FTK, at Mezzanine, Wednesday, Feb. 21, 8 p.m.,$27.
I can count on one hand the number of times enigmatic MC Jay Electronica has played in San Francisco in the last 10 years. This is a big fucking deal. A product of NOLA, he rose to prominence with a 2007 quasi-spoken word rap album over Jon Brion’s Eternal Sunshine score, and famously dated Erykah Badu for years. On the selected times he’s laid down bars on a track, it’s been nothing short of brilliant. Also, make sure to arrive in time to check out Miami’s Sylvan Lacue, whose career is inextricably tied to the Bay. Dude’s got the juice.
Listen to: “Exhibit C”
Palehound & Weaves
with The Total Bettys and Remember Karen, at Bottom of the Hills, Thursday, Feb,. 22, 7 p.m., $14-16.
This is a killer co-headline bill, and my dark-horse show of the entire fest. Palehound is the introspective indie project of Boston’s Ellen Kempner. At times, she can gaze like Mac DeMarco or Jay Som, while at other times, she’s delightfully reminiscent of ’90s indie greats like The Breeders. But she’s always shining with her stellar, hushed vocals. Weaves are a Canadian indie-rock band led by the fierce Jasmyn Burke, who’s flat-out one of the best lead singers I’ve seen on stage. Both acts are riding the wave of fantastic sophomore LPs from 2017.
Listen to: “If You Met Her” by Palehound, and “Gasoline” by Weaves
with Iman Europe, Cash Campain & Yeek, at Cornerstone Berkeley, Thursday, Feb. 22, 7:30 p.m., $18.
Pound-for-pound, Caleborate is the best lyricist in the Bay right now — and no, that’s not a joke about his short stature. Dude straight up rips on the mic, with his visceral and existential hip-hop musings. A one-time recipient of SF Weekly’s Best Bay Area Hip-Hop Album of the Year (2015’s Hella Good), the Berkeley MC delivered again in 2017 with his third LP, Real Person, featuring production from some of the Bay’s finest beat-makers in Drew Banga, JULiA LEWiS, Mikos Da Gawd, et al. This show will be a hometown triumph if there ever was one.
Listen to: “Real Person” and Caleborate’s “My Mix” Noise Pop Podcast episode.
Text Me Records Happy Hour at Bender’s Bar & Grill
with Coke, Bruh From Last Night and Same Girls, Friday, Feb. 23, 5 p.m., free.
Noise Pop Fest always hosts a series of free happy hours at Bender’s, and local upstart label Text Me Records will showcase a slice of their diverse roster. Come for the music, stay for the tots.
Listen to: “Bang My Line – A VDay Mixtape” by Text Me Records
San Fermin & Magik*Magik Orchestra
w/ Alex Edelman at The Fillmore, Friday, Feb. 23, 8 p.m., $25.
Brooklyn’s San Fermin is a touring machine, and for good reason. The eight-piece chamber-pop band is one of the best live acts on the planet. In a rare performance, they’ll be joined by S.F.’s Magik*Magik Orchestra (of Pop-Up Magazine fame) at the Fillmore. San Fermin’s Ellis Ludwig-Leone says the groups will be playing San Fermin songs together in a mind-boggling 13 person set-up “with additional strings and brass, filling out the arrangements in a way that’s more similar to the richness of the recordings.” Down.
Listen to: “Better Company”
with Melkbelly, Club Night, and Boy Scouts, at Great American Music Hall, Friday, Feb. 23, 7 p.m., $18-$20
Under the tutelage of recording legend Steve Albini, Bully frontwoman Alicia Bognanno developed the chops not only to write the band’s music, but also to produce and engineer both of the Nashville band’s powerfully guitar-driven records. On the mic, Bognanno is like a more talented Courtney Love, belting the hell out of all of her expressions — in all of their alterna-punk glory — with roughed-up grace and defined melodies.
Listen to: “Feel The Same”
opening for Real Estate, at the Fox Theater, Saturday, Feb. 24, 8 p.m., $29.50.
Yes, Real Estate is the headliner of this well-matched bill, but it’s Syrian-born Azniv Korkejian’s Bedouine project I’m really intrigued by. Her self-titled album was released on Richmond, Va.’’s Spacebomb Records (home to Natalie Prass and Julien Baker) and it’s as lovely of a folk record as I heard last year. Fun fact: Korkejian was also the music editor for the Oscar-nominated The Big Sick.
Listen to: “One Of These Days”
at Swedish American Hall, Saturday, Feb. 24, 7:30 p.m., $18.
Every year, I discover an artist I’d never heard of by going through the 100-plus acts on Noise Pop’s lineup, and this year Sevdaliza was my favorite find. The Dutch-Iranian singer’s 2017 debut, Ison, could easily be mistaken for an album of Massive Attack’s vocal-heavy tracks with the modernity of Banks’ early work. Her sultry, electro-R&B is a fine canvas for a sexy Saturday evening.
Listen to: “Hero”
Our Noise Pop Picks
From the host of the podcast, no less.
Noise Pop: Crooked Colours
What’s it like for a band’s members to live in three separate cities?
Noise Pop: FEELS’
The rising garage-punk quartet know where they come from.
Noise Pop: Jeff Rosenstock
New Year’s Day release POST- is a poignant and pointed protest album.
Noise Pop: San Fermin
The chamber-pop band is set to cast a spell with Magik*Magik Orchestra.
Noise Pop: Mount Eerie
Musician Phil Elverum confronts the death of his wife in a beautifully painful manner.
Noise Pop: Shamir
The 23-year-old wunderkind with the remarkable countertenor had a rough patch, but he’s back.
Noise Pop: Mister Heavenly
Doom Wop, a tropical rock storm.