Bring on the spring (Part 1 of 4)

    San Francisco is on suicide watch. Never-ending barrages of rain, along with the occasional hail and snow (!), have led some to ponder questions such as, “Is this what life in Seattle is like?” and “If I kill that stupid gerbil from Punxsutawney, will it make winter end?”

    Meanwhile, we have to look to that oasis of the South — Austin — whose dry, warm weather has been playing host to South by Southwest for the past week. To that we say, screw you, Texas, we have our own damn music festival. It may not be as glamorous or industry-infested, but it puts local talent on display and gets us through the cold February ever year — er, unless the organizers move it to the last week of March (or, more specifically, Monday, March 27 to Sunday, April 2), as is now the case.



    So they’ve moved it further away from the usual holiday hangover. Fair enough — perhaps they wished to inaugurate a spring that seems intent on delaying its arrival. Or perhaps they needed something to do for the fourteenth annual occurrence, which doesn’t signify anything in traditional senses (actually, a gift of ivory is suggested, though how that could be borne out in a music festival sense defies our thinking).

    When the first Noise Pop was held in 1993, the name actually referred to some genre or musical mentality. Kevin Arnold booked five bands at the Kennel Club for a night of feedback and chugging guitars. Over time, the festival has kept its commitment to local flavor but has expanded its definitions of musical compatibility. The members of the Flaming Lips brought their concerto in boom box to Noise Pop; Frank Black reprised Pixies songs, and other acts have included Modest Mouse, Guided by Voices, Creeper Lagoon, Superchunk, Polyphonic Spree, Spoon and Death Cab for Cutie.

    Of course, it’s mostly about the rock, but not entirely. Recent years have featured Ninja Tune beat scientist Amon Tobin and politically tinged rapper Sage Francis; this year brings quirky turntablist Kid Koala and the collaboration between Four Tet mastermind Kieran Hebden and legendary jazz drummer Steve Reid.

    Other highlights include a film series, sketch comedy, panels on the music industry from aspiring artists, a record swap/fashion show, the triumphant return of Flaming Lips, and too many musical acts to name in this space.

    In other words, screw the inclement weather. There’s no summer fog to cloud your views of this beautiful city, and it’s dry inside the clubs. While the interiors of Bimbo’s 365 club will hush you into reverent awe, there are just as many charms to be had dropping a Hamilton (like Aaron Burr!) on a show at local club favorites such as Bottom of the Hill and Cafe Du Nord. Welcome to San Francisco: If you’re foolish enough to drive, leave plenty of time for parking, look out for one-way streets, and yeah, don’t forget your umbrella.

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    Noise Pop 2006 (Part 2): The main events
    Noise Pop 2006 (Part 3): A Guide to San Francisco’s Venues
    Noise Pop 2006 (Part 4): It’s not all music