While Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, there’s something about the Northside Festival that really feels like the season is truly kicking off. With hundreds of bands and a few dozen venues to consider on the music side of things, it can be overwhelming, so we’d like to offer some sincere recommendations; who to see, where to go, and where you can grab a drink.
Thursday: 10 years after breaking up, Dean Wareham’s post-Galaxie 500-band, Luna, are back together this year for some select dates and they headline a free show at McCarren Park which kicks off at 6:30pm (RSVP required, though a badge guarantees entry). Their intricate, Velvet-Underground-esque tunes should prove a low-key but inspired introduction to the festival. If you’re in the mood for something a little more synth-based, I’d suggest heading to Music Hall Williamsburg for Lower Dens and TEEN, though if you don’t have tickets already you’ll need a badge as the show is sold out. I also like what’s going on at Muchmore’s for The Deli’s showcase, with Exocomet being my tip of the bunch, they play at 9:45pm. Out in Bushwick you can also hit up Palisades where PC Worship, Guerilla Toss and Ed Schraeder’s Music Beat offering an impressive lineup. (Chris Quartly)
Where to Pregame: With things kicking off pretty early at McCarren Park, you’re talking happy-hour close by, which generally means getting a little down and dirty at The Charleston, or our unofficial office, Zablozki’s. Need to wolf down something quick and delicious? Head to Old Poland Foods (North 8th and Bedford) and grab some pierogies or a pizza piza slice at Vinnie’s.
Friday: Things start getting a little more serious on Friday and Alphaville hosts what is for me, the best show of the festival as Sacred Bones & Ad Hoc host Chilean psych group The Holydrug Couple, whose latest record, Moonlust, sees the band shift into a more synth-led, almost poppy direction, but the band still pack a punch when they want to as well. Also on the bill is Ben Greenberg’s Hubble, and the cramps-esque Lodro. One of the flagship shows of the festival feels like power-trio Ex Hex and Spider Bags at Music Hall Williamsburg, while if you want more of a marathon session then Aviv plays host to an Exploding In Sound, Ipsum & Gimme Tinnitus showcase which features the likes of Kal Marks, Vulture Shit, Washer, Mannequin Pussy, Sleepies and more. (Chris Quartly)
Where to Pregame: Hit up Tandem before catching the Sacred Bones showcase at Alphaville, they have a decent beer selection and the vibe is good.
Saturday: With a little something for everyone, the heart of Northside’s weekend lineup wastes little time and neither should you, making a warp-speed bee line from your bed to Muchmore’s for Godmode’s third birthday bash, which features the likes of Courtship Ritual, Kill Alters, Malory, Yvette, and more over the course of 12 insane hours. If you’re not feeling that, Palisades is hosting a similarly foot-arch-flattening marathon, starting with a Miscreant Records showcase highlighted by PWR BTTM and Jawbreaker Reunion before switching over to an ad hoc blue light special with Xiu Xiu, Bottoms, and Eula. If you’re looking to keep things outdoors instead, then make sure to check out Against Me!’s free McCarren Park appearance with Mitski and Cayetana before strolling over 50 Kent for the big kahuna featuring Bully, Alvaays, Built to Spill, and Best Coast. On either side of that sunset-stained chillout tent are some worthwhile alternatives, including controversially named post-punks, Viet Cong, at Music Hall of Williamsburg and a free-with-RSVP House of Vans hip hop hangout headlined by Vince Staples and Pusha T. Those of you looking to put your ear drums through a gang initiation beat-in, however, should head toward Shea Stadium, where the Wharf Cat Records showcase will be clubbing fools with sets from Ukiah Drag, Anicient Sky, and Psychic Blood, or Saint Vitus, where Pitchfork host crushing Seattle doom duo, Bell Witch, and punk-as-fuck Quebecois black metallers, Akitsa, before Blanck Mass—the new project from founding Fuck Button, Benjamin John Power—take the stage for a late-night hearing aid sales seminar. (Coleman Bentley)
Where To Pregame: Given the McCarren-centric bent of Northside’s Saturday, let’s break down the options in a totally reductive and probably unfair way. Are you wearing a polo and madras shorts? Berry Park. Do you have a Crass tattoo? Turkey’s Nest. Somewhere in between? Matchless, where the vibes are good and—you guessed it— there’s even more music.
Sunday: It’s probably easier said than done, but try to pace yourself this weekend, because unlike some fests, Northside is strong all the way through. If you’re looking to get an early start on things, Muchmore’s Cold Brew and an equally chilled and caffeinated set from local surf/garage act Raccoon Fighter at 12:15 is the perfect way to start your day. Stick around for Bodega Bay, but after they hop off the stage, make your way down to the UO Live Stage at Williamsburg Walks for the 4-tracked bedroom vibes of American Wrestlers at 2:00 PM.
Slackgazers Honduras and new-wave revivalists Light Asylum also shouldn’t be missed, but here’s where the decisions start. Run The Jewels are perhaps the most vital rap duo we’ve seen since Killer Mike’s two dope boyz in a Cadillac rolled into the Source Awards back in 1995. They’re one of Northside’s biggest gets and they’ve got strong support from Long Beach emcee Vince Staples and Sleigh Bells, so the Inlet show is the perfect option to close out your weekend. RTJ’s set at also 8:45 PM leaves the door open for some late night sets. If you feel like hopping around a bit earlier in the night, favorite OTC Bjork-approved producer Container kicks off a night of experimental electro at the Warsaw at 7:00 PM. He’s followed by Fuck Buttons’ more danceable side project Blanck Mass (which shouldn’t be missed if you skipped Saturday night’s performance) and the always captivating Zola Jesus.
If you’re looking for something a bit more… well… turnt, LE1F and Princess Nokia are holding it down at Brooklyn Bowl’s Pop Montreal-curated show (9:00 and 10:00 PM, respectively.) For the more guitar-minded, head over to Northern Spy’s Rough Trade showcase for psych punks PC Worship at 8:00 PM and then sprint off to Music Hall for Girl Band, Sannhet and Viet Cong. (Peter Rittweger)
Where to Pregame: Let’s see… Brooklyn Bowl. McCarren Park. George and Jack’s. Rough Trade. Warsaw. It’s looking like a Northwest Williamsburg/Greenpoint evening. Anywhere but the brotastic Whiskey Brooklyn!
No Name Bar works.
Visiting from out of town? Check out some useful guides below:
• The Best Bars In Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick
• The 20 Best Restaurants in Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick
• The Best Places To Drink Outside In Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick