The Hemlock seems an unlikely venue for Noise Pop. The oversized cutesy animated Noise Pop banner looked out of place behind the tiny stage in the dingy nethers of a club that prides itself on featuring “a bleeding-edge, non-mainstream mix of local, national and international bands…subgenres, scenes and microscenes.” Like putting a Hello Kitty sticker on a murky bong. That said, it seemed like any ol’ night at the Hemlock — a veritable mix of the too cool for school, too stoned for school, and TL party party people (some of which I wager to guess have never stepped foot in the back music room).
AAN played to an accepting and sparse crowd in that ubiquitous early festival bill slot. They were tight and energetic in their deconstruction of indie pop, with psych, electronic and math rock overtones, but at that stage in the evening, it proved a feat to truly stir the room. While they are touted as a “psych” band in part, some of their tunes called to mind Dismemberment Plan or Grizzly Bear’s noisier antics. Overall they may have had the best energy of the night, different though well-intentioned.
Chile’s young Föllakzoid followed (tour support and labelmate of Psychic Ills) with a spellbinding half hour of NEU!-inspired jams, impressing the growing crowd with their lock-tight rhythms. A little more vocal presence and melodic variety from the guitars would have cut through nice. At times I reached intolerance for their repetition, but at other moments their extended vamps would morph over the course of a ten minute jam into a new sound, though you were hearing the very same sound. Kind of like the effect of someone making you say a chain of words over and over, and by the 20th time saying them, hearing a new utterance altogether.
Next, Mike Donovan‘s set provided a sonic breather for the room. The Hemlock (and especially its overworked engineers and usually well curated calendar of bands) would benefit from some upgrades in the way of room insulation or PA equipment. Mike and his acoustic trio (a drummer and lead acoustic guitarist) drew heavily from a record they reportedly just finished that will see release in the fall. Like Sic Alps, the off center melodies and unlikely pop blemishes drove the character-heavy songs — and you could actually hear Mike’s vocals in a live setting.
After working through a chaotic stage set-up due in part to feedback, Psychic Ills brooded on stage with distant NYC coolness until about their third song, when they themselves couldn’t seem to resist any longer just how good their brand of sludgy Royal Truxian psych was sounding (Neil Michael Hagerty produced some of their latest release One Track Mind). Downer deadpan vocals (think Kurt Vile + Robotussin), creepy Farfisa runs, slowly thudded bass and guitar delays enveloped the woozy, half-drunk room. 90% noise, and about 10% pop, which proved to be the right prescription for the evening.