Manhattanites won’t really know what you mean when you say you’re going to the Northside Festival this weekend, but Brooklynites will. For nearly a decade, New York creatives have flocked to North Brooklyn to celebrate the best of music, innovation and content. The Northside Media Group‘s flagship event, Northside Festival plays host to over 400 bands (along with 100+ speakers and content creators) each year, cultivating a community of sharing and appreciation.
What started out as a pipe-dream music festival has developed into a much larger and far-reaching phenomenon – as the festival team admits, “At Northside there’s a stage available for artists and thought-leaders at all different points in their creative life-cycle.” Music remains a central part of the Northside experience, as is evidenced by the 60+ music showcases featuring over 400 (again, that number: 4 0 0 ) artists from all over New York and then some. With a large majority of performances by small acts and only a smattering of larger label-signed acts booked as ‘headliners’, Northside boasts an impressively independent focus.
In fact, you’re guaranteed not to know half the bands performing on any given night – and that’s perfectly fine, because you can only really see them one at a time, anyway. Last year, Northside Festival offered “unlimited discoveries,” and when you’re dealing with such a wide breadth of artistry, such a statement isn’t that far off. Thus, Atwood Magazine is here with (y)our guide to Brooklyn’s most Brooklyn festival – for Brooklyn, by Brooklyn is how they put it – a festival preview with everything you need to know to make the most of your Northside Festival 2016 music experience!
NORTHSIDE FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS
This year’s Northside Festival lineup is overshadowed by one name: Brian Wilson. The Beach Boys’ musical mastermind will perform Pet Sounds live in its entirety at Williamsburg’s McCarren Park as a part of his “Pet Sounds 50th Anniversary Tour” on Sunday, June 12, effectively closing out the festival. It is sure to be an historic performance, and one that brings together all walks of life in celebrating one man’s genius contributions to music and culture.
There’s plenty of great music to keep festival-goers on their feet until Sunday night, too: Headliners Grandmaster Flash, Conor Oberst and Kacey Musgraves make McCarren Park a exceptionally attractive and diverse place to camp out each evening, but performances from the likes of Ava Luna, Colleen Green, ROSTAM, Jack & Eliza, Frankie Cosmos and hundreds more are where the true Northside experience lies. “Indie music” thrives at the Northside Festival, and you will find a quality artist you likely haven’t heard of at nearly every venue in North Brooklyn.
Take a chance and discover someone new; walk into a place for fun, and see who’s there. You never know what you’ll find! Atwood Magazine has provided our personal music recommendations for the weekend, but use this merely as a template. There is no “ultimate resource” for the Northside Festival: Just keep an open mind and experience it for yourself… with a little help from Atwood Magazine, of course! 😉
Get out of work as soon as you can and make your way over to the Northside Festival’s second day of music (sorry Thursday, we were too late for you!) as there’s much to enjoy. The first shows of the day begin in the mid-afternoon – and we remain extraordinarily jealous of those who have “Summer Fridays” – but the action really heats up around 8:00pm. Get your Northside swag together on Friday so you know where to be and how to get there all weekend long.
Grandmaster Flash @ McCarren Park
“Hip-hop and DJing pioneer” is just the tip of the iceberg in describing Grandmaster Flash’s contributions to music culture at large. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to catch the legend himself performing a free (with RSVP) show in McCarren Park!
Jack & Eliza @ Shea Stadium
If you’re in the Citi Field parking lot, you’ve gone to the wrong place. Jack & Eliza preach “love and harmonies,” and they deliver strongly on that promise: Their delicate balance of pure boy/girl vocals over emotive guitars and percussion show that they know how to make the most of what they’ve got.
Diet Cig @ Baby’s All Right
A self-descriped “slap pop” duo, Alex Luciano and Noah Bowman started making music in New Paltz, NY in September 2014 and have grown somewhat of an underground favorite. Their music is stronger than a cup of coffee, so you’re guaranteed to stay bright-eyed throughout their set.
Colleen Green @ Baby’s All Right
If you can stay out past curfew, do so. Colleen Green revels in the enthusiasm and regret of being young while rocking hard enough to be taken seriously.
Spend your Saturday hustling: This is the time to be ambitious. Showcases begin as early as noon, and you can always grab a quick bite to eat as you’re walking between gigs. Be open to new sounds and unafraid to pop your head in on the unknown. Do what you will with your mornings; our recommendations start at 4:00pm. Also, stay hydrated: It’s going to be a long day!
PWR BTTM @ The Lyft Stage at Williamsburg Walks
PWR BTTM play such pure and unadulterated garage rock that the vowels in their name shattered. A “queer punk duo,” theirs is the kind of forward music that indie fans love to cherish, and for good reason: PWR BTTM are extraordinarily talented on their instruments and they enjoy making a loud raucous. Their album Ugly Cherries came out in September 2015.
Haybaby @ Palisades
“Easily digestible punk rock” sounds a little oxymoronic, but the garage-y atmosphere Haybaby set up in each song give their music a distinguishable twist. Flavorful guitars explore their sonic space over warm vocals – listen to the band’s Fall 2015 debut Sleepy Kids to prepare!
Conor Oberst @ McCarren Park
Former Bright Eyes member Conor Oberst has a unique acoustic folk sound that is not to be missed – so don’t miss it. Grab some food and find a nice place to chill at McCarren Park as Oberst brings in Saturday evening.
Stonefield @ Baby’s All Right
If country music isn’t your thing, head on down to Baby’s All Right to catch Australian psych-rockers Stonefield and their “kaleidoscopic guitar riffs, swirling melodies and hallucinogenic vocals.” Indeed, their press release doesn’t lie – songs like “Stranger” and “Golden Dream” effortlessly channel powerful rock clouded by a light haze. It’s the perfect balance between heavy and light, filling your senses with colorful music.
Kacey Musgraves @ McCarren Park
Say what you will about country music, but there’s nothing wrong with a little light fiddle playing on an easy Saturday night. Kacey’s voice is like silk – her writing is relatively surface level, but there’s a wit to her words that add texture and comfort.
Ava Luna @ Rough Trade
The full title of this performance is actually “Ava Luna Playing Songs from Histoire de Melody Nelson by Serge Gainsbourg.” Ava Luna are an unpredictably experimental indie/genre-less group as it is, so however they pull this off will – if anything – be impressive. Expect the unexpected, and bask in the joy of Serge Gainsbourg’s concept album, a mix of classical, electronic and rock influences that is engaging and far ahead of its time.
Frankie Cosmos @ Rough Trade
The full title of this performance is actually “Frankie Cosmos Playing Songs from Exile in Guyville by Liz Phair.” Apparently Rough Trade is a hotbed for conceptual covers this year, and Frankie Cosmos is pulling out all the stops. Fresh off their latest record, the band will be playing a 1993 “indie classic” if there were such a thing – at the time, it would have been called “alternative rock.” It’s experimental in all the best ways, and has certainly played a huge influence on Greta Kline and Frankie Cosmos.
Sunday is a lighter day: Fewer showcases mean you can relax and take a breath in-between shows. Enjoy Williamsburg for all that it has to offer: Explore a few record shops, eat some OddFellows ice cream, and soak in the sun on the pier. Just make sure you’re situated in McCarren Park at 8pm for Brian Wilson.
Clairaudience @ Paper Box
Clairaudience’s Sun Damage mini album is a psychedelic dream full of jangling guitars and a Phil Spector-like Wall of Sound. The mystical soundscapes of Pink Floyd (think DSOM) and The Beatles (“Blue Jay Way,” “Flying”) mix with a Talking Heads-like sense of wonder that should not be missed!
Malky @ The Lyft Stage at Williamsburg Walks
German pop duo Malky make hauntingly beautiful music, but we’ll be honest: This is the first we’re hearing of them. A mix of soul and indie/electro pop makes the group’s song “Diamonds” attractively sensitive and authentic in every way. Boasting a unique approach to balladry, Malky are bound for great things: Don’t miss their show!
Hinds @ McCarren Park
“Spanish indie rock” should be alluring enough: Madrid all-girl band Hinds mix a garage rock mentality with ridiculously catchy pop melodies that will get your evening dance party into full swing. Think early Strokes, but with a lot more personality.
ROSTAM @ McCarren Park
Rostam Batmanglij needs no introduction: The ex-Vampire Weekend member has been forging ahead in the music space for over ten years, ever since his wee days at Columbia University. These days he makes music under the moniker ROSTAM, and the song “EOS” makes overwhelmingly clear his contribution to Vampire Weekend: Like Jamie xx, Batmanglij is excels in the producer-songwriter space and leaves his imprint where he goes. Expect an emotionally powerful performance as the sun begins to set over Brooklyn.
Brian Wilson @ McCarren Park
Brian Wilson is celebrating the 50th anniversary of The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album by performing the full record live. If you’re unfamiliar with the cultural and historical impact of Pet Sounds, consider this: The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was inspired by, and an attempt to equal Pet Sounds. The Beach Boys helped redefine the pop music aesthetic in 1966, with songs like “Wouldn’t It Be Nice,” “Sloop John B,” “God Only Knows,” “Caroline, No” and more transcending their space and time. Few albums have as lasting import as Pet Sounds – in fact, Rolling Stone ranked it second on its list of the “500 Greatest Albums of All Time.” Don’t miss this historic performance; you likely won’t get the chance to hear its mastermind perform it again.
*The below information is technically specific to McCarren Park concerts, but is generally good advice for your full Northside Festival experience*
- Sturdy walking shoes
- Non-professional film and digital cameras
- Soft sided, collapsible chair
- Comfortable footwear
- Small backpacks or bags
- Blankets or beach towels
- Windbreaker/light jacket for evenings
- Valid Driver’s License for will-call and/or to drink alcohol
- Weapons of any kind
- Illegal substances
- Large coolers
- Hard sided coolers
- Picnic Baskets
- Glass containers of any kind
- Alcohol (alcohol will be sold at the Festival)
- Musical instruments
- Large Backpacks
- Professional still camera equipment (no detachable lenses, no tripods, big zooms, or commercial use rigs)
- Audio/video recording equipment
Be Safe and Have Fun!
For a festival pump-up, check out Northside Festival’s 2015 Recap Video:
For more Northside Festival information, go to: northsidefestival.com