For an easygoing, wander-around kind of festival like Northside, there couldn’t have been a better day for it. Summer was finally feeling like summer on Saturday, at its brightest and breeziest, and we happily headed to Brooklyn to catch three bands at Alphaville, followed by four more on the rooftop of Our Wicked Lady. To top it off, both venues are located in the street art mecca of Bushwick – and the annual Bushwick Collective block party had brought fresh paint to its many colorful walls just weeks before – so the stroll between shows was wrapped in jaw-dropping new murals.
Starting our day at Alphaville, where the disco ball spins in daylight, we were grooving right away thanks to the fast hard rock of Monograms, a self-described new-wave-garage-psych band based in Brooklyn. As their building riffs made everyone dance like it wasn’t 4 in the afternoon, frontman Ian Jacobs made full use of the small stage – precariously balancing on the amp with only the mic stand for support, swinging it over his head, and even climbing up behind the drums as he sang. Soon after, the growing crowd enjoyed an upbeat post-punk set from fellow Brooklyn locals Big Bliss, who showed off their latest singles, “Override” and “Contact.” “I’ve never been here with light coming through the window. I think that’s pretty sweet,” said singer/guitarist Tim Race of Alphaville’s daytime vibes; though somehow, the stage was still draped in darkness. Rounding out our taste of Alphaville was a badass performance by THICK, the much-loved Brooklyn punk outfit made up of Nikki Sisti on guitar, Kate Black on bass, and Shari Page on drums, with all three on vocals. Treating us to songs from their just-released EP, Would You Rather?, among other faves, they were a blast to watch as they kicked, shredded, screamed, and harmonized beautifully, serving up relatable, fuck-that lyrics that felt as good as giving the finger.
In a cool coincidence, we even spotted Nikki, THICK’s guitarist, when we arrived on the rooftop of Our Wicked Lady a few hours later, affirming we’d chosen wisely from Northside’s many evening options. As if the sunset and sweeping city views weren’t lovely enough, Pow Pow Family Band kicked off the lineup with an insanely cool psych-pop set, led by the indelible Miles Robbins, who performs as “a disgruntled housewife” named Millie (and who we’d be remiss not to mention has a pretty fascinating background). The one-of-a-kind performer not only wielded a ukulele bearing the warning, “This machine kills tiny fascists,” but amazing lyrics like “She’s trying out this new thing with the girls at work where you’re only allowed to eat lemons, and if you’re hungry you can nibble on your napkin.” The 8-piece ensemble was an explosion of brass (“my horn sons” as Millie called them) and whimsical progressions, and everything Robbins did was dripping with wit and passion. As the sky morphed into a vivid sunset over Brooklyn, the party continued with a high-energy performance from Montreal synthpop band Anemone. Their fast-paced French pop tunes pleased the crowd as much as watching Chloé Soldevila on vocals and keys, a vivacious singer who seriously never stopped dancing – inspiring the tightly-packed crowd to do the same.
The sky over Bushwick was getting dark by the time NYC art rock quintet Bodega kicked off their set, first setting up homemade lights and twisting antique computer mouses around the mic stands. Splitting the standard drum set into just a floor tom and snare, with a high hat at the front of the stage, they seemed intent on turning things upside-down. Playing new material like “I Touch Myself While Staring at Your Chat Text Box,” among other TMI songs, they dissed “life on the internet” with intense delivery and fast recurring riffs. Leading up to the night’s headliner, local rockers The Mystery Lights, there was tons of hushed excitement as fans scurried around grabbing drinks and good spots. Taking the stage after 10:30pm, the fiery band – comprised of Mike Brandon, LA Solano, Alex Q Amini, Zach Butler – was a thrill to witness up close on the roof, their bold sound reverberating in the open-air setting. With organ-infused impacts, psychedelic riffs, and lyrics the crowd knew impressively well, The Mystery Lights were as exhilarating to hear as they were to watch, playing searing songs from their self-titled debut record. Lead singer Mike Brandon had the stage presence of an uncaged lion, jumping high in the air and tearing into his guitar strings with awesome ferocity. Whether or not they realized it, the audience was pushing so close to the stage that there was hardly room to move on Our Wicked Lady’s rooftop – but there was no doubt everyone loved being trapped.
Article Olivia Isenhart
Photos: Shayne Hanley