Summer was well and truly ushered in this last weekend as the Northside Festival concluded its 8th year. With a 400+ roster of bands among dozens of venues, there was no shortage of entertainment; Free Williamsburg staff made a credible stab at doing as much as possible, and our thoughts are below – the best sets, what we sadly missed, and looking to the future. All photos by Chris Quartly
Peter Rittweger: I mean, Brian Wilson probably should win this one by default, but he doesn’t really need my platitudes so much as he needs a handkerchief (those who were close enough to the stage will know what I’m talking about.) So, I’ll go ahead and say that the best set I saw at Northside was arguably the only act booked from this past weekend that I’d leave the legend’s set early for (I made it all the way to “Fun, Fun Fun”), Into It. Over It.
That distinction instead belonged to Eagulls—a perfectly mismatched crew of post-punk crate-diggers from the factory floors of Leeds—who took to Baby’s All Right a little after midnight for what held up, over the next several days, as the weekend’s finest set. Sure, Eagulls’ audiophilic breed of brood may be more time capsule than trailblazer, but standing at the feet of a band at the feet of neither fashion, nor politics, nor beer—but instead the almighty dominion of Sound—is about as rare a “festival” experience as you can get here on Planet Diarrhea, 2016 A.D.
However, I’ve got to hand it to Brian Wilson. Yes, he does sound like the 73-year-old man that he now is and can’t possibly hit all those wonderful notes, but hearing Pet Sounds (and various Beach Boys hits) was a genuinely thrilling experience. Backed by a fabulous ensemble, the sheer ambition of the songs were realised and belted out around McCarren Park. As far as rarities go, and with few genuine legends that are even still alive, this was a must see. While there was a strong wind that brought a chill to the air, there are no warmer songs than the likes of Wouldn’t It Be Nice. Wilson was the headline act for the whole festival, and it may seem a little obvious as a pick, but credit where it’s due, he delivered the goods and then some.
Honourable mentions: Into It. Over It, Yowler, Psychic Ills
The One That Got Away
Peter Rittweger: Like the Mr. T to my Homer Simpson (“I’ll go a little later! I’ll go a little later! But when I got there, they told me he already left.) Slonk Donkerson are probably my “one that got away” for all-time. I’ve missed them play virtually every venue in the city over the past five years, despite being Chris Quartly’s favorite band not called Rush and nabbing a well-deserved spot on our top 25 albums of 2015. That includes their Friday night set at The Grand Victory, which hurts doubly because the Grand Street venue will be joining the long list of shuttered Williamsburg music venues in short order. Next time, fellas, I swear!
Coleman Bentley: Considering Into It. Over It are responsible for one of the half-year’s finest records in Standards, missing them was a bit of a gut check…literally, as I found myself sidelined by a stomach ailment on arguably the best-booked night of the weekend. So much for what was surely an uproarious, fun-filled evening of misty-eyed emo introspection I guess…
Chris Quartly: After catching Slonk Donkerson‘s fine set at the Grand Victory I wandered over to Baby’s All Right for Diet Cig, Childbirth and Colleen Green, but unfortunately it was a bit of a zoo (mostly on behalf of the crowd who just barged through when the doors opened) and they weren’t taking any badges despite arriving early. These things can always be a bit of a lottery… alas, I saw most of what I wanted to see overall this year. I always try and see Priests when they play in New York but Saint Vitus proved a bit too far out the way with everything else going on at the same time.
Peter Rittweger: You wouldn’t know it from our preview coverage, but I was a bit underwhelmed going into this year’s Northside Festival. But as I walked to the subway at the end of it on Sunday night, I realized that it was a pretty solid Northside overall.
Coleman Bentley: Part of the beauty of Northside is that it still resists the urge to become a food-truck circle-jerk/Instagram currency ATM, unlike so many of its glossier peers. The downside to Northside’s actual musical focus, however, is that one’s enjoyment is pretty much tied to the booking, which, for me, was a bit of a letdown this year.
There were just two “extreme music” bills (courtesy of Fox’s Noisey and Condé Nast’s Pitchfork, ironically enough) and virtually no hip-hop shows spread throughout the tide-like crash of bands, bands, bands. And those left? Almost as generic the well-furnished behemoths that now tower above them, making previous marquee draws like Against Me!, Black Flag, Chance the Rapper, Fuck Buttons, Iceage, and Merchandise seem like a forgotten relics of some lost (and much cooler) city.
Perhaps next year will be different. Perhaps it’s just a sign of the times in North Brooklyn. Either way, kudos to Northside Media for keeping this thing kicking against all odds (not even CMJ is a guarantee this year), but here’s hoping that 2017 welcomes back a music slate as diverse at its constituency.