The Noise Pop Music and Arts Festival isn’t the only multi-day indie music festival featuring an array of different venues — Hopscotch in North Carolina and Treefort in Boise also come to mind — but few others in the country can match this San Francisco event for its fearless lineups and commitment to a diverse, rewarding set of acts.
This year’s slate of artists might be the best gathering in the festival’s nearly three-decades of existence. From Grammy Award-winning titans to up-and-coming local artists, there is truly something for everyone in this weeklong event, which kicks off on Monday.
Noise Pop 2020 Preview Coverage
The creative vehicle of Brittney Denise Parks, Sudan Archives peddles in moody, atmospheric R&B — the kind of sensuous, moving tunes that make true believers out of the ASMR theory (Google it). Oh yeah, expect to hear plenty of violin. While everyone’s first grade instrument might not be the first thing that pops into the mind when you think “love-making music,” Parks is a classically-trained violinist, and the orchestral elements of her songs give Sudan Archives a unique and eerie sense of depth. Inspired by traditional Sudanese tunes, the Cincinnati native has managed to meld them with contemporary electronica and soul, creating a truly placeless vibe. This is the kind of music that would feel at home in any corner of the globe. Fans will be treated to a double dose of Sudan Archives at Noise Pop, with Parks set to perform in Oakland and San Francisco during the opening two days of the fest.
Monday, Feb. 24, 7 p.m. at the Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market St. $16 – $18. Tuesday, Feb. 25, 7 p.m. at the Starline Social Club, 2236 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Oakland. $16 – $18.
Jenny Lee & TT
Can we all take a moment to reflect upon the greatness that is Warpaint? The Los Angeles rock quartet somehow makes Doors-influenced music feel cool and there might not be a better, spookier-sounding debut this century than their 2010 self-titled LP. With the group taking a break at the moment from live shows, bassist Jenny Lee Lindberg and guitarist Theresa Wayman are teaming up for a special gig at Noise Pop. If the duo’s music is anything like Warpaint, expect plenty of ’80s goth tunes in the vein of Tears for Fears, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Echo and the Bunnymen, plus a little of the Los Angeles-at-night feeling courtesy of Jim Morrison and company. It has been four years since Warpaint released an album, but this show at Bottom of the Hill should be a nice little antidote for fans suffering from withdrawals.
Tuesday, Feb. 25, 7:30 p.m. at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. $20 – $22.
Pavement “The Slow Century” Screening
Okay, this one is a bit of a cheat. The iconic Stockton indie rockers will not be performing at Noise Pop, but fans of the slacker legends will be treated to the next best thing — a screening of their 2002 documentary directed by Lance Bangs. Bangs will be in the house to answer questions about the film, as will Pavement’s own Bob Nastanovich, the group’s resident screamer, occasional percussionist, and all-around team mascot (he’s also a huge horse racing aficionado, weirdly enough). Along with archival interviews and candid footage of the band, Slow Century contains some of the most searing live footage of Pavement in action — a mouth-watering preview for anyone lucky enough to see the band at their two scheduled performances in Portugal and Spain later this year. Those shows will be the group’s first in a decade.
Wednesday, Feb. 26, 6:15 p.m. at the Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St. $16.
One of the great things about Noise Pop is the showcase it offers for local bands. The last round of artist announcements always includes a slew of Bay Area musicians, which this year includes Oakland musician Christopher Adams, who records as Pendant. A veteran of the East Bay music scene, Adams’ latest project has him exploring gorgeous dreampop sounds and languorous shoegaze approaches, evoking luminaries like Slowdive and Autolux. Noise Pop will be a welcome opportunity for Adams, who signed to prominent indie rock label Tiny Engines just as it imploded in a wake of controversy. Unfortunately, that meant little exposure for Pendant’s exhilarating debut album, Through a Coil. Fortunately for fans of great music, there should be plenty of albums to buy up at his show.
Wednesday, Feb. 26 7 p.m. at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. $13 – $15.
This Oakland native is an absolute legend. Whether constructing visionary neo-soul tunes as a founding member of ’80s mainstays Tony! Toni! Toné!, pushing genre limits as a relentlessly creative solo artist, or mentoring cultural fulcrums like Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar as a producer, Saadiq has found success in all his stops. Embracing an amorphous, ever-changing sound, Saadiq’s solo work weaves between pious gospel tracks, doo-wop revivalism, minimalist soul, buoyant R&B, and searing blues tunes. His latest album, the brooding Jimmy Lee, was inspired by his late brother, who passed away from a heroin overdose. Released in 2019 after an eight-year absence between albums, the grand scale of Jimmy Lee has reinforced Saadiq’s reputation as an uncompromising innovator.
Friday, Feb. 28, 7 p.m. at the Fox Theater, Oakland, 1807 Telegraph Ave. $35 – $175.
Bursting forth from the creative wellspring of Chicago, this jazz combo is led by trumpeter Will Miller, a touring member of the soft-rock group Whitney. Miller’s past work extends well beyond the bucolic folk tunes of Whitney, as he’s collaborated with an eclectic roster of musicians, including Lil Wayne (!) and the late Mac Miller. That range of influences is evident in the languid tunes Resavoir volleys in post-rock tracks a la Chicago predecessors Tortoise to hip-hop inflected recordings to classic jazz compositions. The movements between songs feel effortless, with Miller deftly handling a mood and ambience that evoke welcoming feelings. With its amorphous characteristics and iconoclastic history, jazz music can be intimidating for novices, but the sounds of Resavoir always make you feel like you belong.
Saturday, Feb. 29, 7 p.m. at the Joe Henderson Lab at SFJAZZ, 201 Franklin St. $20
Frances Quinlan has released 2020’s first great album, Likewise. Quinlan’s solo debutis everything you want to see from someone going solo — it is inventive, risky, and distinct enough to draw distance between her own work and that of her group, Philadelphia indie heroes Hop Along. Likewise has a breezy, Sunday morning vibe, with warm synths, plinky keys, and gentle acoustic strumming setting the cozy scene (even a celestial-sounding harp makes a few appearances). All of those instruments, however, play a complementary role to Quinlan’s unforgettable voice, a soulful, imploring vehicle that brings a heaping of pathos to every song on the album.
Sunday, March 1, 7 p.m. at the Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market St. $20 – $22.