5 Questions with Noise Pop Festival guru Jordan Kurland
Time is short 'til my departure to San Francisco (okay, via Oakland) tomorrow afternoon for the six-day fiesta of Noise Pop, the Bay Area's best independent music festival. Its proximity on the calendar to the pricey and crowded SXSW means that many of my music blogger friends are opting for Austin and not S.F.
I say: their loss.
Not that I wouldn't love to go to SXSW (and should probably start saving my kopecks now for 2008), but Noise Pop is just the right size, high quality, varied, and not to be missed. I'll be covering all the shows I attend for your musical enjoyment, and my distinct pleasure. Noise Pop kicks off tonight with a (filled to capacity) free show with Tapes 'N Tapes, and features a boatload of other fantastic shows highlighting a thriving independent Bay Area music scene.
Jordan Kurland and Kevin Arnold are the two Bay Area music lovers behind the fest, celebrating its 15th anniversary this year. In February 1993 Arnold booked five bands into a small club and called the event Noise Pop. Since then, it's grown exponentially, and this year features over 100 bands, parties, independent films, panels, art exhibits and more. How did we get here?
5 QUESTIONS WITH NOISE POP GURU JORDAN KURLAND
1) When you started/got involved with Noise Pop, what hopes did you have for it -- did you ever think it would look the way it does now? How have those hopes crystallized or changed, looking back over 15 years?
I started working with Kevin on the festival in the fall of 1997 and we didn't really have a game plan other than to keep things moving forward and try to rope in some bands that we loved and admired. We slowly became more ambitious: introducing the film festival and Educational Series in 2000, doing a second festival in Chicago in 2000 and 2001, etc.
Over the last seven years these 'extra-curricular' things have ebbed and flowed but we have had a goal of making the fest more of a celebration of independent art and culture. Now that we have some great folks working on the fest year round we are actually able to try to achieve this with things like art openings and the Noise Pop Expo.
2) Also looking back over the past 15 years, name one favorite/most memorable/fantastic show that just sticks out in your mind.
Can I cheat and name 3? The below are in no particular order:
-Bob Mould at Bimbo's in 2000. Husker Du/Bob are undoubtedly, in our minds at least, the founding fathers of Noise Pop. Bob played a solo acoustic show (he was supposed to play some electric but the airlines lost his guitar in transit) and Kevin and I watched the show from the side of the stage . We were both extremely nervous when we approached him to sign a poster after the show.
-Creeper Lagoon/Grandaddy/Death Cab for Cutie at Great American Music Hall in 1999. This was back when Creeper Lagoon was considered the great hope of indie rock, Grandaddy's first album was just getting noticed in the states (it already had some traction in the UK) and it was Death Cab's second ever show in the Bay Area. It was exactly the type of balance we wish we could achieve with all the shows that we curate.
-Flaming Lips at Bimbos in 2006. The Lips had to cancel a show at Bimbo's on us in 1999 and their manager, Scott Booker, always said they'd make it up to us. Well, the stars lined up last year and their new record was coming out the Tuesday after the festival and the timing made sense for everyone. It was just magical seeing the show which had been tailored to much bigger rooms at an 800 capacity club.
3) The Noise Pop website is so complete this year, with links and mp3s for all the bands. How do you think that technology has changed the independent music scene since the inception of Noise Pop?
It used to be that the only way to hear about the bands that played the festival was college radio, press, clerks at record stores, and word of mouth. The internet has completely transformed how people learn about and digest music and has given independent bands and labels an inexpensive or free way to reach millions of people. Love 'em or hate 'em, sites like Pitchfork have the ability to expose a band to more people in one day than a label like, let's say, Absolutely Kosher, would be able to reach throughout a whole album cycle seven years ago.
I remember when it seemed unfathomable to think that Modest Mouse could sell 50,000 albums on Up Records in 1998 and now Joanna Newsom - a woman who plays harp and has no commercial radio airplay - has already sold that on her new album in less than six months.
Because I am an indie rock nerd or maybe just have too much time on my hands I often think about things like what if Neutral Milk Hotel was releasing "In An Aeroplane Over the Sea" today? It would probably rival the success of the Arcade Fire.
4) What is one thing that you'd like to add to the Noise Pop Festival in future years?
A Pavement reunion.
5) What are you personally most looking forward to at this year's festival?
Hmmmm, that's always such a hard a question and the answer varies from day to day. Right now, as I drink my morning coffee on the first day of the fest I would say I am most looking forward to getting some sleep next week :-)
Amen, Jordan. Anyone who has spent time with me out at night knows that my motto usually is "We can sleep when we're older." For my Bay Area peeps, come on out to Noise Pop this week, have some fun, and support local independent culture. Your ears & brain will thank you.
Here is the schedule of what I am planning on seeing -- and (!!) I just got added as a panelist to the Noise Pop Expo Sunday afternoon at the Swedish American Hall. Come listen to me pontificate about how to get your music reviewed in typical brilliant and enlightened form. Ha! I'm actually freaked out. So come cheer me on.
**Where I'll (probably) be**
Happy Hour @ Diesel Store with Rogue Wave DJ set
6pm to 9pm
Ryan Auffenberg @ Cafe Du Nord (previous post)
Under All The Bright Lights
Josh Ritter (acoustic) @ Swedish American (previous post)
Girl In The War
Happy Hour @ Thee Parkside with photographer Peter Ellenby
5pm to 8pm
Happy Hour @ Diesel Store with Scissors for Lefty DJ set
6pm to 9pm
The Coup @ Fillmore (supposed to be "a standout")
My Favorite Mutiny
Lyrics Born @ Fillmore
I Changed My Mind (Stereo MC's Rattlesnake Remix)
New Amsterdams @ Slim's
Street To Nowhere @ Slim's
Screamin (think Weezer)
The Actual @ Slim's
If You See Her
State Radio @ Slim's
Black Cab Motorcade
State Radio features Chetro of Dispatch - remember:
Dios Malos @ Rickshaw Stop
Feels Good Being Somebody (love this!)
The Changes @ Rickshaw Stop
Water Of The Gods
The Old-Fashioned Way @ Rickshaw Stop
The Spinto Band @ Rickshaw Stop (previous mention)
Crack The Whip
Money Mark in-store @ Amoeba Records (previous post)
Nice To Me (hey, this one's got harmonica by G. Love)
Participant in the Noise Pop Panel 3:30-5:30pm
"Indie Night School: Getting Your Music Reviewed Online & Off"
Money Mark @ Bimbo's
The Botticellis @ Bimbo's
Up Against The Glass (demo)
Scrabbel @ Bimbo's
Chicago New York
CAKE @ Bimbo's
Hem Of Your Garment