The Northside Festival: It Turns Out Punk Is Dead -- To Hipsters

by Seth Colter Walls


Breaking: Williamsburg threw an indie-style music festival over the weekend, and it seemed pretty well-attended! The organizers at L Magazine did a nice job mixing heavily-sweated acts with lesser-known artists (never an easy balance). Though I continue to believe the lo-fi grind of the Woodsist label is in large part an aesthetic counterfeit job — Neil Young’s worst-reviewed 70’s record, Journey Through the Past, reconciled wispy pot-headed-ness with nods to gravitas a lot better, which is maybe different from saying it did so “well” — it’s certainly claiming a lot of mind-share at the moment. (The label’s showcase at Music Hall of Williamsburg on Saturday night was solidly packed from the drop.) Apparently the scuzzier sound put over by Wavves was also a big draw (and it got the typically smart Jon Caramanica treatment in the Times as a reward).

This current lo-fi thing going around is obviously punk-inflected, but also too uncertain about something — clarity, maybe? — to merit the unmodified genre classification.

Meantime, you know what didn’t draw a lot of people? Actual punk stuff. The Saturday evening set by Fucked Up at the Barge Park “metroPCS” stage was only about half full. Oh well: more room for Pink Eyes to run around hugging people (and carrying them on his back, as in the sadly too-short YouTube clip above). They played “Generation,” as well as “Crusades,” and also “No Epiphany” — so I was pretty damn pleased. What’s interesting is that, even though Fucked Up are clearly interested in experimenting with the boundaries of “hardcore” — writing long-ass songs and such — they never seem anything less than 100% committed to the form. It’s a cool trick, nailing that sweet spot between well-executed reverence and the excitement of moving things forward.

Pink Eyes even closed the set with an appeal to populist solidarity straight out of the hardcore-scene playbook. “Anyone can get up on stage and do this,” he said. “I’m proof that you don’t need to have talent to be in a band.” By the time Liars followed in the 8 p.m. hour, the hard-court concrete park was actually filling up to a respectable level. If I had to guess, I’d say it was because the punk was becoming comfortably hyphenated and masked behind conceit again.

Of course more people show up as it gets later in the evening, you might argue. But my Friday night Northside highlight was also more proudly hardcore than is currently fashionable, played later in the evening — and did not wind up being very well attended, either (competing as it did with the Woodsist showcase). You may recall a brief discussion of Minneapolis rapper P.O.S. from our Pazz + Jop autopsy, but it bears repeating: the Minneapolis-based punker cum rapper is something special!

About 18 people showed up to Bruar Falls at 11 p.m. to hear him do his thing — and about 10 of them seemed to know P.O.S. personally, bear-hugging him like old pals after the half-hour set. What his new 3-piece band lacked in polish (P.O.S. said this was their fourth show together, scheduled at the last minute on the margins of this weekend’s Afro-Punk festival), they made up for with intensity, sticking mostly to tracks from last year’s Never Better. P.O.S. even picked up a guitar to do a little extended vamping on “Graves,” which was dope.

Here are some of the official videos from Never Better, because, y’know — you’ve probably already enough about Wavves and Woodsist-related stuff already.

Oh, and right: a bunch of scary stuff also happened, with event publicist Andrea Rosen harassed by an angry, drunk jerk — plus another thrown beer bottle that drew the cops out to quash a Pitchfork event. But the Observer’s chief Pitchfork correspondent has got you covered on that latter score.

Seth Colter Walls has a day job.