Northside Music Fest: Our Top 10 Picks

Some 300 artists will perform this week at the giant Brooklyn event; we offer a few essential choices

Brian Wilson performing at last year's Northside Festival (Photo courtesy of Northside)

The Northside Festival, which runs this week Wednesday through Sunday, is often described as Brooklyn’s answer to Austin’s South by Southwest extravaganza. “South By,” as aficionados call it, is still the big enchilada of music-tech-arts festivals, but Northside is growing mightily. This week the Brooklyn festival, now in its ninth year, will present more than 300 bands and solo performers on music stages all over Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Bushwick.

The innovation component of the festival, focusing on technology and business, will feature more than 150 speakers. New this year is the Northside Report, a timely deep-dive into politics and media with partners BuzzFeed News and The Intercept, which will take place at the William Vale Hotel in Williamsburg on Thursday and Friday. The Report’s theme is fake news and politics in the age of Donald Trump. In one segment, BuzzFeed News editor in chief Ben Smith will interview Mayor Bill de Blasio. A selection of highlights from the innovation festival can be found here

Back to the music. A festival with 300 acts in multiple venues is affirmation of Brooklyn’s thriving music business, but a bit overwhelming when it comes to making choices. We offer our selection of the 10 essential performances to catch, based on the judgment of a small committee of our contributors.

1. The Bush Tetras

One of the oldest groups, the Bush Tetras are a female-led quartet that has influenced everyone from Modest Mouse to Franz Ferdinand. Frontwoman Pat Place formed the group in the early ’80s and they quickly became a major force in the downtown NYC post-punk/no-wave movement. See them at 8:30 p.m. Friday at The Hall at MP.

2. Container

The current moniker of Ren Schofield, a stalwart of the American underground noise scene, Container might be considered the stadium rock of noise, churning out headbangable, left-field techno anthems. Providence native Schofield just came off of a tour with Wolf Eyes and Pharmakon (also playing the festival). You can see him at 1 am Saturday at Brooklyn Bazaar. Pharmakon is playing at 10:45 p.m. Saturday at the same venue.

3. Dirty Projectors

This is a band that gets compared to just about anybody in popular music, from Zappa to Bowie and Byrne, Mariah Carey to Beyonce. One of their most notable albums consisted entirely of Black Flag covers with the band’s own experimental baroque pop twist.  See them at 8:45 p.m. Thursday at McCarren Park (on a bill with Kamasi Washington and Jay Som that starts at 6:30).

4. Foodman

Takahide Higuchi a/k/a Foodman is a Tokyo native who performs abstract, almost goofy dance music influenced by Chicago Footwork, the frenetic urban dance music birthed out of the House music scene of the south side of Chicago in the mid ’90s. Foodman is playing on the bill at midnight Friday at Brooklyn Bazaar followed by Container and Jlin, as well as at 9:45 pm Saturday at Cape House.

5. Jlin

Jerrilynn Patton is from Gary, IN, and is another devotee of the Chicago Footwork scene who initially got attention for a track called Erotic Heat. Receiving early support from the late DJ Rashad, she takes Footwork and puts her own abstract spin on it. It’s danceably bizarre, and her story of life as a steel-mill worker makes her even more compelling. Her second album, Black Origami, came out this year. She’s playing at 2 a.m. Saturday at Brooklyn Bazaar.

6. Gary War

Massachusetts native Greg Dalton performs as Gary War, a one-man outfit of noisy pop/psychedelia played on guitar. When he covered the Alan Parsons Project, it seemed fitting. He is part of the Sacred Bones 10th anniversary showcase beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday at Brooklyn Bazaar; he’s scheduled to play at 11:30 pm.

7. Ikue Mori

Ikue Mori has been around the New York music scene long enough for Lester Bangs to have praised her in a review. She began as a drummer, originally from Japan, who played in DNA, the seminal no-wave group featuring Arto Lindsay. More recently, she has explored sound through electronic instruments. Like the Bush Tetras, Mori is another iconic performer who should not be missed. She is playing at 10:15 p.m. Friday at The Hall at MP.

8. Julia Holter

A Milwaukee native whose music seems equally at home with Kate Bush or composer Michael Pisaro, with whom she studied at Cal Arts in L.A., Julia Holter plays ethereal baroque pop utilizing her voice and electronics. Her 2011 album Tragedy was named one of NPR’s “Best Outer Sound Albums Of 2011.” She’s playing at 10 p.m. Saturday at National Sawdust.

9. Macula Dog

Vice has called Macula Dog “the cross between Devo and Pee Wee’s Playhouse you’ve been looking for.” There is no doubt these two guys from Boston are inspired by Devo right down to their crazy costumes, manipulated vocals, MIDI drums and synthesizers. They seem like the perfect band to be seen before heard. See them at 8:45 p.m. Saturday at Union Pool.

10. William Basinski

A composer in the mode of minimalist Steve Reich, he uses synthesizers and drones to create avant garde sounds. He is best known for his four-volume album The Disintegration Loops, released in 2002, that was constructed from old tapes of his earlier music. As the name indicates, the old tapes did not weather well and that was the point. You can catch him at 9 p.m. Friday at National Sawdust.

Former Carroll Gardens resident Dan Callahan is a frequent visitor to Brooklyn, keeping up with his millennial son who in five years has had four different Brooklyn addresses.