The Northside Festival concluded with a headline set by Thursday at McCarren Park on Sunday the 11th of June. A week on, we’ve had some time to collect our thoughts on what is always a whirlwind and enjoyable weekend.
Peter Rittweger: Thursday was a foregone conclusion for me, despite their festival-headlining set being the third time I’ve seen them in the past six months. A few months ago, my sister, who was also in attendance (along a bunch of other friends I’ve made at different points of my life who were both similarly touched by the band and others who were kinda checking them out for the first time), asked me to send her a list of what I thought were my five formative albums. The first record on my list was a Thursday record. I wrote:
“It’s kind of funny, but Full Collapse might be the most important album I’ve ever heard. It’s far from my favorite record, but it just opened so many doors for me. It was the first “heavy” album I liked, so it taught me to appreciate aggressiveness and abrasiveness in music. It paved the way for me to enjoy punk, hardcore, metal and really anything that isn’t completely melodic. It’s the record that really got me into ego, which pretty much defined my high school experience. Thursday are also the band that got me into DIY and underground culture. They were a local band and I saw them play shows at dingy shitholes like Birch Hill, Chrome and random basements in New Brunswick. I just thought that was the coolest thing.”
Thursday were just that band for me, and their set Sunday felt like a triumphant epilogue for both the band and my adolescence. We both grew up in the “shadow of the New York skyline,” looking across the Hudson River with envy, wallowing in the boredom and apathy of the Northern New Jersey suburbs. Living in New York, and having the ability to immerse ourselves in its culture was the dream. Geoff Rickley has been able to do that, and while I’m just a humble blogger with a day job, I also get to do that in some small way. So while I probably dug their Irving Plaza set list a bit more, there was just something special about their Northside set on a personal level that nothing else this past weekend even had a chance of competing with. Thursday used to be a punchline hipsters would turn their nose up at. Now they’re headlining festivals in Williamsburg and signing critically-acclaimed bands to Collect. It’s like we grew up together and we’ve arrived together. And we’re old. Kind of.
Honorable Mentions: Noveller, Institute, PUP, The Hotelier
Coleman Bentley: OK, so no surprise here. The guy with the metal column picks the one metal show of the weekend, amirite? But fuck being on-brand. The real reason I’m taking Godmaker‘s set at Aqualamb’s marathon Vitus matinee on Saturday is because—in addition to being a killer LOCAL band—Godmaker conjured something near and dear to my heart: The flashpoint of mid-oughts sludge. Between 2004 and 2008, records like Leviathan, Death is This Communion, and Age of Winters (yes, that record still rules), helped to make underground metal artistically viable again, fusing lead-heavy Sabbath worship with a modern hardcore ethos. Godmaker have a lot of that in them (plus a heaping dose of YOB), and on a day when this city felt like a pile of trash in an iron skillet, a tall, cold glass of nostalgia was just what the doctor guy with the metal column ordered.
Chris Quartly: It only dawned on me when I was watching their set, but I hadn’t seen The Pains of Being Pure at Heart in five years (the first time, however, was at the rather tiny Jericho Tavern in Oxford, where the likes of Supergrass and Radiohead got their starts), and it would be apt to say absence makes the heart grow fonder… With a new album out in July, the new songs mixed perfectly well with the old favourites, there was clearly a lot of love in the room too, with some heartfelt shoutouts from Kip. Throw in sets from Ablebody, and Beverly and you end up with one of the most melodic trios you can put together. I will say that Thursday‘s set at McCarren Park was excellent and a fitting cap to the weekend, a very close second place.
Honourable Mentions: Godmaker, Mary Timony.
The One That Got Away
Peter Rittweger: I thought I had beaten a post-wedding hangover by early evening on Friday, but as Pop 1280’s set drew to a close at the Sacred Bones 10th Anniversary party, I began to sweat profusely and feel sharp pangs in my stomach, so I ghosted before I had the chance to see three (3) of my most anticipated acts of the weekend: Pharmakon, Gary War and Destruction Unit. Like I said above. I’m old. Kind of. Gary War was the one who truly got away because I haven’t seen his name on too many bills the last few years.
Coleman Bentley: Not to bring the mood down in here or anything, but I hate myself for missing Tony Molina…twice. The first came on Saturday night at Rough Trade when I waltzed up (naively late) to a packed Rough Trade to catch his Dino Jr. cover set and the second on Sunday, when it was just too fucking hot to exist before 4pm. I’ll probably talk about it with my therapist a bunch this week, so no real need to unpack it here, but needless to say, my self worth is currently more bankrupt than GM circa 2008 (BOOM ROASTED, CAPITALISM).
Chris Quartly: Having seen her live on a trip to San Francisco last year, I was looking forward to catching Julia Holter‘s set at National Sawdust (a very fitting venue to boot), alas, there was a one-in-one-out policy by the time I rocked up, such is the risk of venue hopping at this festival.
Peter Rittweger: Despite the transcendence that was Sunday night’s free park show (and that really extends beyond Thursday to the whole bill), Northside as a whole was pretty underwhelming this year. With the exception of the big park shows, it kind of just felt like any other weekend in Williamsburg. Labels I love like Sacred Bones and Exploding In Sound put on big showcases that were fun, but the bills mostly consisted of bands I could see pretty much any night of the week. There’s not anything necessarily wrong with that, but branding a bunch of regular ass shows as Northside shows almost feels superfluous. It’s possible we’ve just witnessed the slow death of a format. CMJ sputtered out quietly and SXSW has slowly pivoted to being way more about tech and apps than music, but I guess I was hoping Northside would pick up a bit more of the CMJ mantle as the only fest of its ilk in New York these days. Or maybe I’m just old. Kind of.
Coleman Bentley: While I have been privately critical of what I’d categorize as “safe to a fault” booking this year, I actually ended up having a better time this Northside than last, when I still bitched, but probably slightly less. I had to cherry pick like hell to have that “better time”, but the point is I got there, and that’s saying something. Namely that the vibe is still from-the-ground up, the locale is still amenity laden, and that Thursday/PUP/Hotelier/Rosenstock/Molina/Crosby/Stills/Nash/Young lineup was the single best thing you could book in emo(tive)(tional) punk 2017 AD. So cheers to that, at the very least.
Chris Quartly: I will agree with my esteemed colleagues that the booking this year was a little safe and not particularly diverse. I didn’t miss having any particular heavy-hitters in the lineup (a-la Brian Wilson of last year, which I did love), but Northside always feels like a hugely condensed Brooklyn experience in one weekend anyway and in some regards that was more true in spirit over execution this year. It remains possibly the one weekend I look forward to the most every year and long may that continue.
All photos by Chris Quartly