From February 22-27, San Francisco will be transformed into a music-themed wonderland during Noise Pop, the 19-year-old festival that rocks the city with hundreds of concerts, art shows, happy-hour parties, and rock documentaries. And while national acts like No Age, Dan Deacon, and Ben Gibbard will join the fun, the festival also offers Bay Area bands a platform to break into the big time (Rogue Wave, Mates of State, and the Donnas all started at Noise Pop).
To help you get a jump on the future, S.F. music authority Jennifer Maerz picks the five local bands at Noise Pop most deserving of a wider audience, complete with their vital stats and new tunes.
THE FRESH & ONLYS
Sounds Like: Early R.E.M., 13th Floor Elevators, Camper Van Beethoven
Why They Matter: The Fresh & Onlys opened their critically acclaimed 2010 album Play It Strange with a song titled “Summer of Love” — but this is no hippie jam band. The group drenches jangly indie rock melodies in plenty of reverb, giving a psychedelic sheen to blissfully noisy guitar squalls and tunneling vocals. Last year the band toured with Clinic and was invited to play All Tomorrow’s Parties on a lineup curated by Simpsons creator Matt Groening.
You Should Know: Tim Cohen, the frontman for the Fresh & Onlys, is also a prolific solo artist. He’s released three excellent records under his own name (he does all the album art as well), stripping back the full band punch for whimsical lo-fi ballads about lonely vampires and men with their hearts on fire.
THE SOFT MOON
Sounds Like: Joy Division, New Order
Why They Matter: Luis Vasquez’s solo project gives brooding, sultry post-punk an anxious motorik beat. The sci-fi soundscapes on the Soft Moon’s eponymous full-length debut bloom with new romantic melodies that are scorched by eerie, alien noise and Vasquez’s faraway howls.
You Should Know: Vasquez also juggles multiple instruments in another hype-worthy Bay Area act, The Lumerians. These psych heavies aren’t on the Noise Pop lineup, but look for Transmalinnia, their debut full-length of droning, acid-drenched jams, on March 1 via Knitting Factory Records.
HUNX AND HIS PUNX
Sounds Like: The Shangri-Las as envisioned by John Waters.
Why They Matter: Garage rock has long been dominated by straight dudes, so it’s refreshing to see a flamboyantly boy-crazy frontman in the game. Hunx and His Punx pervert garage’s girl-group side with homoerotic bubblegum ditties about lust and gettin’ lucky.
You Should Know: Hunx’s new record with his Punkettes, Too Young To Be In Love, was recorded by Ivan Julian of Richard Hell and the Voidoids, lending further cred to the group’s retro punk sound. While you wait for Too Young‘s March 29 release, check out Hunx’s entertaining collection of campy, ’50s-riffing music videos here.
Sounds Like: The Ramones, The Archies, The Spits
Why They Matter: The Bay Area has a rich history of costumed punks armed with a wry sense of humor (The Residents, The Mummies, Knights of the New Crusade). Nobunny’s Justin Champlin carries on the tradition, stripping down to his skivvies on stage and spitting out snotty, infinitely catchy odes to hooking up while wearing a giant white rabbit head.
You Should Know: Nobunny is a “big personal favorite of every single person” at Jack White’s Third Man Records, according to the label’s website. Check out Live at Third Man (and Nobunny’s 2010 studio release for Goner Records, First Blood) for a taste of this punk’s twisted animal magnetism.
Sounds Like: Ride, Swervedriver, Lush
Why They Matter: San Francisco’s love affair with shoegazing goes back a couple decades, and it seems every year there’s a newcomer in the genre to watch out for. In 2011, the bets are on Young Prisms, one of the latest acts to catch a buzz from mixing walls of distortion with dreamy melodies and hazy waves of vocals.
You Should Know: Young Prisms recently release their debut record, Friends For Now, which doesn’t reinvent the ‘gazing thing but rather layers the spaced out rave-ups on so thick, that you’re floating in space by the end of the ride.