Be it baby bands or old hands, Brooklyn’s Northside festival this weekend showcased more than 300 artists throughout the borough’s Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods. With indie legends Beirut and Guided by Voices in the headlining slots, the fest was a four-day smorgasborg of panels, film, art, and — of course — music.
Up-and-coming hip hop artist Theophilus London kicked off the festival Thursday (June 16) at festival organizer the L Magazine’s official opening party, hosted at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Meanwhile, Deerhunter frontman Bradford Cox performed a breathtaking set to rows of overflowing pews at St. Cecilia Church, under his solo project moniker Atlas Sound. Other Thursday acts of note were Lady Lamb the Beekeeper at local bar Union Pool and, of course, a DJ set from Questlove of the Roots, whose weekly residency at Brooklyn Bowl was resurrected this month.
Orchestral favorites Beirut met some bad luck in the form of a torrential downpour before their Friday (June 17) performance at Williamsburg’s McCarren Park, but the sold-out crowd and the group’s members were hardly fazed once the show began. The band pulled out 19 of its best songs, complete with accordion and horns, to a delighted (albeit damp) audience.
One of the weekend’s most-buzzed-about acts was Iceage, the teenaged Danish post-punkers who made their brash and blistering U.S. debut to a packed (and moshing) crowd at local bar Public Assembly Friday night, headlining a showcase presented by Brooklyn label Sacred Bones. The band also played a secret show Saturday night, promoted only by word of mouth, at a DIY venue in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick.
Friday night also featured stunning performances at Brooklyn Bowl, from both Rye Rye, the explosively talented hip-hop protégée of M.I.A., and Oh Land, the Swedish pop singer whose spooky live show wowed an audience of screaming fans.
Saturday (June 18) afternoon was a big one: featuring members of underground favorites Woods and Vivian Girls, the Babies opened the afternoon show with their blend of lo-fi and folk rock, followed by Wavves, who broke out their surf-punk slacker anthems and tore up the stage with ever-snarky and energetic frontman Nathan Williams in the lead.
Then, Florida’s Surfer Blood provided festival’s most adorable moment, inviting three children from the audience onstage. The kids threw up devil horns and attempted to sing-along to the band’s song “Take It Easy.”
As night fell on McCarren Park, however, nearby residents surveyed the scene from their fire escapes and rooftops across the street, as a packed crowd pumped their fists to headliners Guided By Voices and the band’s original lineup ripped through a massive three-encore set. Fans hollered along with Robert Pollard, who took regular swigs of tequila throughout the performance.
Finally, the festival wrapped up in true rock’n’roll fashion, with “Deervana,” a show at Brooklyn Bowl that featured alt-country band Deer Tick playing a full Nirvana cover set. The night was pure chaos — mosh pits, stage diving, and at the end, bowling ball-induced carnage, as band members demolished their instruments amidst a roar of feedback and ballistic crowd cheers.