All photos by Dom Powell except for photos of DIIV, which are by Ash. 

Over the last few years, San Francisco’s Noise Pop Festival has grown into our favorite week for music in the Bay Area. Taking place at venues across the city, the logistics can get tricky, but the venue hopping and set-time speculation is completely worth the broad variety of music the lineup offers. As is true for any festival. there’s no way to catch everything and there was plenty of FOMO to go around between the surprise guest filled late night Cafe Du Nord shows to the various events at Noise Pop’s home base, Swedish American Music Hall. With a couple years of experience under our belt, we definitely feel like this was both our best go-around thus far as well as the festival’s. The one great thing about the staggering number of events is that every publications experience is slightly different, each choosing different favorite takeaways based on their schedule. Take a trip back with some of our favorite sets, songs and moments from the week below.

1. Astronauts, etc. @ The Independent, 2.23

Astronauts etc.’s Mind Out Wandering, with its soft yet addicting piano-driven ballads, was easily one of 2015’s strongest debuts. With close ties to Toro y Moi, the chillwave parallels are plenty but Anthony Ferraro and gang have carved out a silky smooth niche all their own. The Bay Area-based five-piece took the stage with no intro or greetings—Ferraro simply sat at the keyboard and started the set. What at first may have seemed like an abrupt start quickly transformed into an absolutely captivating performance showcasing soothing vocals and unrivaled keyboard chops from Ferraro, a classically trained pianist. The rest of the band was equally impressive and the guitarist, in particular, injected some energetic jams that got the dance floor moving on songs like “Eye to Eye” and “I Know.” The shows most moving performance came during the beautiful standout “No Justice,” but this Ninja’s personal favorite was seeing “Up For Grabs,” the song that introduced us to Astronauts etc. nearly two years ago.

’Astronauts, etc. – No Justice’
’Astronauts, etc. – Up For Grabs (Live)’


2. ILoveMakonnen @ 1015 Folsom, 2.23

You’d be hard-pressed to dream up a more jarring back-to-back than Astronauts etc. at The Independent to ILoveMakonnen at 1015 Folsom. Regardless, we were so ecstatic to arrive from one to the other with perfect timing that it was no issue jumping right into the peculiar world of the Atlanta emcee. With off-kilter singing, Lil B-inspired flows and ATLien flavor, ILoveMakonnen’s music feels like a delightful hip-hop caricature and his set brought that persona to life in the best possible way. Primarily running through his countless infectious choruses, ILoveMakonnen pranced his way across the stage with ridiculous dance moves while cracking jokes and professing his love for the Bay Area mentioning that he’s considering a move out west. His close relationship with Lil B definitely had us hopeful for an appearance from the Based God, but he quickly cleared the air noting that Lil B couldn’t make it because he was working on a song they just recorded together (silver lining!).

Moves that might have seemed gimmicky by some come off as genuine and natural for ILoveMakonnen. Even his incessant Snapchat & Periscope-ing during the performance didn’t seem to take away from the crowd’s energy. At one point, he noticed a member of the crowd with a broken wrist and made sure to Periscope it out yelling “this guy has a broken wrist!!” (in reference to him and Father’s hit track “Wrist”). During the show, my friend turned to me and said jokingly, “he probably should hire a choreographer.” Based on the audience, though, it would appear ILoveMakonnen is doing just fine as is.

’Carnage – I Like Tuh Feat. ILoveMakonnen’
’ILoveMakonnen – No Ma’am Feat. Rome Fortune & Rich The Kid (Produced by Ceej of Retro Sushi & ILOVEMAKONNEN)’

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3. Day Wave @ Rickshaw Stop, 2.25

Written by Dom Powell

The Rickshaw Stop will likely hold a special place in Jackson Phillips heart for some time to come. Last week’s performance at this narrow, yet long double-decker venue – which is also particularly notable for some of the strongest drinks in the city – marked the first headlining show in his hometown since creating the band Day Wave. The Oakland-based Phillips has been making waves with his indie rock tunes since the release of the Headcase EP in July of 2015. Since last summer, Phillips has toured in support of Headcase, while also working towards his sophomore EP, Hard to Read. While his catalog is not extensive at this time, it is certainly an instance of quality over quantity, especially when performance is taken into account. Playing for a hometown crowd who seemed to know each lyric and every note, attendees sung along to his more popular tracks – new and old – like “Headcase”, “Total Zombie”, and more recently “Gone”. If Day Wave play next year’s Noise Pop, expect the act to follow up on a spectacular headlining performance this year by playing a much larger venue next time around.

’Day Wave – Total Zombie’
’Day Wave – Gone’

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4. Kamasi Washington @ The Independent, 2.25

Written by Michael Fortune, of Make it Funky SF, who opened up for Kamasi Washington’s second set.  

“I’ve known everyone on this stage my entire life.” That’s a surprising thing to hear at a show considering everyone can recall at least one shitty band member the’ve put up with in the past. This doesn’t apply to Kamasi Washington, who grew up playing around talented musicians his whole life. It was his father, Rickey also a jazz musician, who encouraged Kamasi to join their church in Inglewood, California where he cut his teeth on the tenor sax.

Arriving at The Independent for Kamasi’s sold out double header, the first thing that struck me was the amount of instruments on stage. It’s not everyday you see a 7-piece band that plays with as much cohesion as Kamasi Washington and company. I’m admittedly not a jazz fanatic, but given the pace of the show, their chemistry as a unit was impressive particularly during the first set. While Kamasi Washinton is clearly the front man with respect to melody and stage presence, he was quick to deemphasize that role when he spoke to the crowd. He kept the mood light mentioning that if you wanted to go home with any of his boys on stage, you would need to buy them a lot of liquor. In general, his stage banter was on point as he jokingly chastised a heckler who prematurely accused him of not introducing his vocalist, who he of course credited later in the show during her captivating solo.

Sonically the second show was more soulful and sounded less like his signature abstract and jazzy material from his 2015 debut The Epic. The energy of the show hit a peak when Kamasi introduced his bass player Miles Mosley to play an original called ‘”Abraham.” The place literally went off and didn’t let up until the end. Its easy to see why people say Kamasi Washington is changing the game by introducing a very young and noticeably multiracial new audience to what many consider an aging genre. What I think is even more admirable, though, is that at the root of it all there is a group of friends with a shared passion for music who have been doing what they love together for their entire lives.

’Kamasi Washington – ‘Re Run Home”

5. Vince Staples @ The Independent, 2.27

If Makonnen was focused more on his showmanship than rapping, Vince Staples was the polar opposite. Just as his stellar debut album Summertime ’06, Staples’s live set features no frills bringing full attention to his creative street storytelling and no-nonsense delivery. His performance the night before at Social Hall SF received subpar reviews so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going in to The Independent. Adding to that uncertainty, Vince made a last second decision to disallow any photographers, likely after seeing those reactions online. My concerns were alleviated pretty quickly, though, as he took the stage opening up with the powerful “Life Me Up.” Vince isn’t a flashy performer nor does he beg the crowd for approval, which falls squarely in line with the type of music he makes. Even so, I found myself captivated, hanging on every word because the content itself is so strong. His, perhaps valid, skepticism of the crowd (he canceled a show in SF a few years back due to a lack of ticket sales) made for some rather uncomfortable mid-performance exchanges but when he rapped, the crowd listened.

It’s unfortunate that the bad press interfered with the way Staples perceived the audience and, as the show closed, it was unclear if he really felt any redemption from a successful second night at a venue with more favorable acoustics. In reading some of the content around his Social Hall show, it quickly became evident that a substantial part of the issue was the sound–I’ve been to several shows there and the vocals can get rather drowned out. For a performer like Vince Staples, who doesn’t exhibit much emotion or animation on stage, the lyrics are front and center so it makes sense that his show seemed lackluster in that environment. Hopefully, SF fans who were disappointed will give him another shot next time he’s in town and visa versa.

’Flume – Smoke And Retribution feat. Vince Staples & Kučka’

6. Neon Indian @ Mezzanine, 2.27

Written by Dom Powell.

Following up his most recent visit to the Bay Area, a late summer opener at the newly minted SF Social Hall, Neon Indian returned with new aesthetics and in support of his latest album. While Vega Int’l Night School was a bit of a sonic deviation from Era Extrana and Psychic Chasms, Alan Palomo was able to bring those worlds together during his set.

The range of his productions was put on display, as Palomo played a solid mixture of psychedelic jams. By getting the crowd involved with his past cult hits like “Deadbeat Summer” and “Mind, Drips”, Palomo was able to keep the energy at a fever pitch as he introduced his newer productions, “Glitzy Hive” and “Dear Skorpio Magazine”. Just as the show wound towards a close, attendees were treated with one last treat during the encore, his instant classic, “Polish Girl”. In overcoming the sound issues that plagued his last SF visit, Neon Indian fulfilled and exceeded all expectations as a performer and musician, swaying and vocalizing behind his KORG analog synthesizer.

’Neon Indian – Slumlord’
’Neon Indian – Polish Girl’

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7. DIIV @ The Independent, 2.28

DIIV were the final act I saw during the Noise Pop festivities and going into the show I was both exhausted and on my own. Openers Creative Adult and Dirty Ghosts, who’ve become a mainstay at Noise Pop events, warmed the crowd up perfectly for DIIV. Frontman Z. Cole Smith emerged during sound check rocking a DIIV crewneck and, even before the set began, his charisma was in full effect as he wished a fan a happy birthday and offered her the setlist at the end of the show. Songs from their latest album, Is The Is Are, translated into emotional performances starting with the title track through fan favorites such as “Bent (Roi’s Song), “Dopamine” and my personal favorite “Under The Sun.” Given that the show took place on the same night as the Oscar’s, Cole even made sure to shoutout Leonardo DiCaprio during “Dust.” DIIV’s dedicated fanbase contributed to the show just as much as the band itself bringing me back to life even after 7 shows in 3 nights. Up front, a group of fans formed a friendly mosh pit–a perfect embodiment of DIIV’s rambunctious, textured and uplifting brand of rock.

’DIIV – Dopamine (Official Single)’
’DIIV – Under The Sun (Official Single)’

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