The annual indie-palooza takes over the city -- and Dâm-Funk, Peanut Butter Wolf, Dominant Legs, Admiral Radley, Geographer, and Psychic Friend are among the acts we're rarin' to see
MUSIC The 2011 edition of Noise Pop finds the festival stretching the definition of noise pop ever further outward in order to swallow excellent sounds. Back in 1993, when Noise Pop originated, muted My Bloody Valentine-derivative bands with lowercase names evocative of junior-high lunch were the norm. This year, the fest taps into the recent, more sharp-edged shoegaze revival and the current California garage rock zeitgeist, while also making room for hip-hop, freak folk, and deep funk. It's safe to say that, unlike the character assassinated in Steely Dan's "Hey 19," Noise Pop at 19 knows about the queen of soul. Here's our guide to some of the event's best lineups.
PEANUT BUTTER WOLF AND DÂM-FUNK: THE DISCOVERERS
It's the midnight hour on Valentine's Day in Portugal when I reach Dâm-Funk, a.k.a. Damon Riddick, on the phone. He's just outside of Lisbon, his surroundings are "phenomenal," and he's ready to wax enthusiastic about his longtime partner in funk Peanut Butter Wolf. "Me and Chris [Manak, a.k.a. Peanut Butter Wolf] connect on that sound because we remember and we revere," he says, when I ask about their shared love of soul, hip-hop, and funk. "We knew what it was like before cable television and the Internet existed, we remember everything from those early VHS tapes to the way the sun set."
As the sun is still rising on Valentine's Day, in L.A., the man Dâm-Funk calls "Wolf" for short shows similar brotherly love. "When Dâm met me, we had a mutual respect," says Manak. "He saw my record collection and vice-versa. When we discover songs, we'll say, 'Check this out.'" In turn, this shared enthusiasm, and the positive response to Dâm-Funk's albums Toeachizown and Adolescent Funk -- both released on Manak's label, Stones Throw – has recharged funk sounds in Los Angeles and SF, and led to new discoveries of soulful and funky treasures from the recent past.
One such gem is Jeff Phelps' 1985 Magnetic Eyes, a Tascam Portastudio 244 bedroom recording with sensational vocals by Antoinette Marie Pugh, who stars in a terrific no-budget video for the album's "Hear My Heart" currently up on YouTube. "That album is something I've known about for a long time," Dâm-Funk says, when I mention Magnetic Eyes and its hand-drawn yet futuristic cover art. "It's a great project."
Another great project is Tony Cook's Back to Reality (Stones Throw), a collection of mid-1980s recordings by a musician who got his start as James Brown's drummer. Taking on the role of executive producer, Manak has added some extra pop to the already formidable strut of Cook songs such as "Heartbreaker," even drafting in Dâm-Funk to contribute new vocals to one track, "What's On Your Mind." "You'd think they were 24-track recordings, but he [Cook] only worked on an 8-track," marvels Manak. "He was a good musician and producer – when you're bouncing tracks, you have to know what you're doing. In those days it was hard to achieve a full sound like that."