Now in its 24th year, beloved arts and culture festival Noise Pop is no longer just a Bay Area establishment — it’s a career-defining celebration. Catapulting indie royalty like Death Cab for Cutie and Best Coast into prominence and showcasing the broadest array of acts this side of SXSW, Noise Pop is your best shot to catch acts — big and small — before they erupt and reach global success.
This year’s Noise Pop lineup is perhaps its most eclectic. With the comeback of ‘90s legends Drive Like Jehu and American Football and the Bay Area welcome of rising rap icons Vince Staples and ILOVEMAKKONEN — along with its familiar bevy of local and indie acts — Noise Pop will be a sonic buffet for all.
Here are five acts that Daily Cal A&E staff are excited to check out!
Metric at the Masonic on Feb. 23
With her raspy, contorting voice, lead vocalist Emily Haines channels the ultimate clever, cool-girl vibe for Canadian indie synth rock band Metric. The group, which consists of James Shaw on lead guitar, Josh Winstead on bass and Joules Scott-Key on drums, excels together in a mixture of traditional rock styles and electronic grooves to provide a synchronized, harmonious atmosphere. With Metric’s most recent studio album, Pagans in Vegas, its sound has become a unique blend of danceable, driving-around tunes with top-down, deep-thinking music.
These generally feel-good tunes feature up-tempo beats, but Haines also sings provocative, often thought-provoking lyrics. They become memorable statements in their own right, such as “buy this car to drive to work / drive to work to pay for this car,” from the song “Handshakes.” They’ve had many hits in popular films, such as the butt-kicking anthem “Black Sheep” featured in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.” Haines’ enthusiastically earnest voice and its music’s empowering nature ultimately make Metric a band that should be experienced live.
Kamasi Washington at the Independent on Feb. 25
Kamasi Washington’s oft-repeated, near-mythic story is one of sudden musical epiphany. When he was 13, he picked up the saxophone for the very first time, and with no previous training, played one of his favorite compositions. And he’d found his calling. The busy rising star has been playing alongside a diverse array of artists, from Wayne Shorter to Herbie Hancock to Snoop Dogg, for years.
But 2015 was perhaps Washington’s busiest and certainly his most high profile yet. He played saxophone on Kendrick Lamar’s powerful, acclaimed album To Pimp a Butterfly, and then he released his own solo album The Epic. The Epic lives up to its name, an ambitious, dizzying three part masterwork. It all adds up to nearly three full hours of gorgeous, absorbing, positively grooving jazz.
His live set should be a little shorter, though no promises when it comes to jazz. Not that you’ll mind. Washington is a legend in the making, hailed as a groundbreaking reinventor of his genre, promising an all-consuming, explorative, downright historic experience. Washington is performing with Make It Funky, a San Francisco-based collective devoted to sharing the good vibes of funk.
Vince Staples at Social Hall SF on Feb. 26
On Twitter and in interviews, Vince Staples provides great comedy in his playful critiques of pop culture and merciless trashing of beloved celebrities. But on record, that bon vivant personality melts away under the heat of the stinging social commentary and urgent flow he delivers in his intense, tightly-wound raps. His debut album, Summertime ‘06, was an ambitious blast of gangster rap in true West Coast tradition. It touched on the inevitable loss experienced during his childhood in North Long Beach: the loss of his family, his friends and most of all his innocence while raising pointed, thought-provoking questions about why all of this tragedy happens. These uniquely poetic and poignant observations are delivered over some of the most hard-hitting and dark beats heard in all of 2015. When listening to Vince Staples’ music, one taps into a trenchant perspective and uniquely directed energy that will no doubt be on full display at Noise Pop 2016.
American Football at Regency Ballroom on Feb. 27
When Illinois math-rock band American Football released their self-titled album in 1999, it had no intention of burgeoning the cult following that it gained in the years to follow. Now, nearly 17 years after the release of the group’s only full-length album, American Football is finally reaping the rewards of its seminal emo success.
Following its much-anticipated and highly attended 15-year anniversary tour in 2014, brothers Mike and Nate Kinsella, Steve Lamos and Steve Holmes have been touring with the same album for the last two years and are starting off 2016 with a headlining spot on this year’s Noise Pop lineup. Gracing the Regency Ballroom alongside Her Space Holiday and Onelinedrawing on Feb. 27, American Football fans, often nostalgic for the wistful youth-filled melancholy of the ‘90s, can expect to be taken back in time with tracks such as the introspective “Never Meant” or the moody “I’ll See You When We’re Both Not So Emotional.”
Carly Rae Jepsen at the Warfield on Feb. 27
Revel in the giddy, neon-bright love-fest orchestrated by pop sweetheart Carly Rae Jepsen at the Warfield on Feb. 27.
As she rides into 2016 with a starring role in FOX’s TV-musical adaptation of “Grease” and top marks on an immeasurable number of critics’ year-end lists (including the Daily Californian’s own Top 10 Albums list) with last year’s outstanding Emotion, Jepsen’s chops as a performer and an auteur are ostensibly at its peak with no signs of letting up. Her set for the appropriately-dubbed Gimmie Love tour is bound to feature her Top 40 hits — the still-infectious “Call Me Maybe” and the deliriously lovable “I Really Like You” — but Jepsen will undoubtedly bring some surprises to the table. Chances are she’ll bring some club-ready delights of her breakthrough Kiss to round out the of nostalgia-fueled love anthems of Emotion, all packaged neatly with her beguiling charm.
After all, Jepsen’s rolling through the West Coast capital of free love — she’s preaching to the choir with her sonic proclamations of youthful, emphatic adoration. Nonetheless, fans of all stripes can delight in Carly Rae’s bold, grand and outright fun arrangements for her set in San Francisco. Jepsen’s undoubtedly got some tricks up her shimmery sleeve for the night — and she’s going to make the most of it.