Being that NYC is a certain tour stop for so many household-name bands, it’s easy to chase the stars, sink into stadium seats, and forget about the gritty small-show magic that makes this city so special. Luckily, we have annual rituals like Brooklyn’s Northside Festival to remind us of the romance of tiny rooms and being inches from the artists on stage – not to mention the fun of discovering new music the old fashioned way. Celebrating its tenth year, the now-mostly-indoor festival opened up a wide range of options for live music in small venues around Brooklyn last week. We joined in the fun and soaked up some good stuff on Friday night in Williamsburg, catching three bands at Muchmore’s and three more at the Knitting Factory.
Rocking out with Missouri band Mouton was especially cool in the cozy confines of Muchmore’s, a venue that conjures up the feeling of a house party in your living room, sticky floorboards and all. The four-piece rock-and-roll outfit, who mentioned it was their first time in New York, seemed right at home with the Northside crowd they pulled into the room, who enjoyed their full sound and unpredictability – whether they were surging to fast tempos, or even switching instruments, as their guitarist and drummer did for a song. “We were jamming before we left – just screwing around with different instruments – and we realized that would be fun to do, two days before tour,” frontman Pete Mouton told us after the show. Following up their set at Muchmore’s was a freshly-formed Minnesota band known as Services, whose offbeat vibe and somewhat stream-of-consciousness lyrics kept the Brooklyn audience on their toes.
Topping off our Muchmore’s experience on Friday was a rock-solid performance from Gesserit, a pensive and powerful Brooklyn band fronted by Lyzi Wakefield, whose warm vocals soared above their many-layered indie rock sound. With the badass guitar work of Tui Eleven (aka S. Kidd) carving out each impact, they were really a force in the small space and coaxed the attentive crowd even closer to the stage. While there were more acts coming at Muchmore’s (and numerous other Northside-hosting venues in the area), we accepted the age-old festival struggle of having too much to see, and started making our way over to the Knitting Factory, one of our favorite small venues. The Knit was knee-deep in their own stellar Northside lineup, and we made it just in time to catch some tunes from Peaer, a fine Brooklyn band led by singer-songwriter Peter Katz, who hooked the festival-goers with infectious songs from their self-titled second EP.
Northside attendees squeezed in close to the stage for the next act at the Knit, Active Bird Community, another strong Brooklyn band in the indie rock realm. With edge-of-your-seat lyrics and fast-moving guitar licks supplied by both Tom D’Agustino and Andrew Wolfson (who rolled all over the stage shredding), they had the crowd dancing hard and even singing along, their fans showcasing impressive familiarity with the words. After final songs “After Party,” “Pick Me Apart” (resulting in a snapped guitar string), and “Swimming,” the audience let out big cheers and squeals for Active Bird Community – and strategically, stayed right in place for the upcoming act.
Excitement was high for Weaves, the much-loved Toronto quartet fronted by the vocally-blessed Jasmyn Burke, whose whole performance was exuberant and impossible not to love. Reeling in any newcomers with their ultra-catchy tunes and eclectic, grungy-pop sound, Weaves confidently busted out fan favorites like “#53,” “Slicked,” “Coo Coo,” and “Walkaway” right off the bat – almost shockingly early – and kept the tightly-packed crowd riled up all the way through their set. Their unique brew of percussive hooks, rich harmonies, and honest lyrics was as addictive as caffeine – and set a high bar for the rest of the fest as the Northside crowd sipped it happily.