Photos by: Nicole Browner
As Noise Pop 2010 entered its closing weekend, packing or selling out many high profile venues in the city, badge holders, photographers, and various press folk were confronted with all kinds of competing choices. Friday and Saturday’s lineups featured a smattering of sterling singer songwriters (John Vanderlice, Mirah / Thao, Laura Gibson, Mark Kozelek), including a murkier permutation of this breed in Atlas Sound, the solo project of Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox.
Cox’s musical and personal backstory continues to elicit attention concerning his dual persona as introverted bedroom recording recluse and front man for one of the most acclaimed indie rock bands of the past decade. While solo offshoots sometimes fall shy of the collaborative dynamics and the immediacy of a full band, on Friday night Cox’s wall of loops, stream-of-consciousness lyricism and candid stage banter made a 600 capacity room sound like a pair of world class headphones. The quietest moments were just as affecting as the heavily saturated sonic textures cast between them.
Donning a navy blue cable-knit sweater, vintage wool-flapped ski hat, and a harmonica entrapment around his neck, Cox seemed to emanate a recent Neil Young fetish for segments of the set. At times, he sang uncharacteristically sans effects, only using simple and steady harmonica runs to spell his self-psychoanalytic lyrical ruminations. These sparer compositions helped accentuate moments later in the set which more closely resembled the Atlas Sound recorded material, with Cox pasting vocal loops and acoustic guitar strokes in hypnotic fashion.
Occasionally, and especially later in the show, chit chat between the artist and the audience disrupted the flow a bit, but it was mostly amusing and good spirited. A long encore ensued culminating in the title track from Logos, and nearly no one headed for the door until the very last strum.
Leading up to Atlas Sound’s intoxication of the senses were a trio of bands from the West Coast: SF’s Geographer, Portland’s Nice Nice, and Magic Wands, who formed in (and once hailed from) L.A. Gaining some notoriety last year via Daytrotter, the Wands began their set with effective space rock-tinged tunes over slowly prescribed beats, sounding like a Blondie 45 at a 33 pace. Clad in VU-inspired Ray Bans, the foursome came off a bit style-over-substance, like they might stare me down coolly in some hipster bar, but singer Dexy Valentine certainly deserves some praise for her bewildering mix of assuredness and detachment on stage.
Geographer, one of the most prominent local risers in the past year, encountered the tall task of preceding Atlas Sound. Their set noticeably grew on the surprisingly unfamiliar sold-out audience, and they pounced on the opportunity armed with a mix of subtly constructed dance hooks and singer Mike Deni’s yearning vocals, reminiscent of Grizzly Bear’s arc of dramatic delivery. Deni even gave a shout to his mom who flew across the country to see him perform for the first time. Hard to imagine a more fitting capsule of an independent music festival.
Inevitably, due to an extended attendance at a happy hour show, not to mention the travails of our cab-deficient city, I missed a supposedly wicked onslaught by WARP newbies Nice Nice. After checking out this video, I won’t make this same mistake twice. Nice, Nice Nice.