a guide to NYC Popfest 2016 (which is this weekend)
The 2016 NYC Popfest starts tonight (Thursday, May 19) with all manor of jangly, winsome, shambolic, synthy, veteran and new indiepop bands converging on the city for four days. This is the 10th edition, and here’s a little guide to what’s going down. There are streams of every band playing this year’s fest, plus set times and more, below.
Tonight’s show at Le Poisson Rouge (tickets) is headlined by Scottish pop greats Trashcan Sinatras whose literate, heartfelt and exceedingly tuneful songwriting filled a void in many peoples hearts after The Smiths broke up. The band’s new album Wild Pendulum finds their craft still in fine form.
Also on the LPR bill are fellow Scottish group, The Hermit Crabs, who’ve released records since the mid-’00s and evoke the gentle sound of Sarah Records (and Camera Obscura), plus three relatively new bands: UK act Young Romance (the fuzziest, spunkiest band on the bill tonight); Philly’s Free Cake for Every Creature (aka songwriter Katie Bennett); and jaunty Brooklynites Big Quiet.
Friday night’s show at Baby’s All Right (sold out but there may be tickets at the door) features an all-UK lineup headlined by the always charming Allo’ Darlin who haven’t made an album since 2014’s We Come From The Same Place, so hopefully we’ll get a few new ones and an update. Also on the bill are The Spook School who make a punky, socially-charged brand of indiepop, and they’ve also got a drummer funny enough to have his own talk show.
The early portion of this show also features the two new bands I’m most looking forward to seeing for the first time. London’s Chorusgirl make breathless, heart-on-their-sleeve guitar pop that recalls the past but sounds utterly modern. They also sound like they’ll be good live. Opening the night is another Londoner, Simon Love (formerly of The Loves), who may be the oddest ball of the weekend. His 2015 album It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time, an explative-ridden chamber pop (think The Kinks or Nillson) tour de force that sashays through tales of love, heartbreak, and voluntary penis amputation.
If you’re still awake, there’s an afterparty a few blocks over on Broadway at Trophy Bar with DJ sets by Emmanuel and Joanny (Another Sunny Night, R2D-Fi – Paris) and Sean and Morgan (Fortuna POP! Records – UK).
And if you’re free Friday afternoon, there’s a Popfest matinee show at Cake Shop, with Oregon’s folky Aveleya & the Glitterhawks, California dreampoppers Silver Screen, scrappy Boston band Halfsour, and Brooklyn’s indiepop vets The Hairs. It’s free and bands start around 3 PM.
Saturday (5/21) has three events, the main one being the evening show at Knitting Factory (tickets) which is headlined by UK band The Primitives. Best known for their 1988 hit “Crash,” they epitomize the friendliest end of the culty C86 scene with their punky, sugary powerpop. The band reactivated in the early part of this decade, and have released two good LPs since: 2012’s covers album Echoes and Rhymes, and 2014’s Spin-O-Rama which is probably their best record since their debut.
Also on the bill: Fellow UK mid-’80s cult heros The Chesterfields who were Subway Records labelmates with Razorcuts, Soup Dragons and The Shop Assistants, and made ultra-jangly minor chord pop; great new Philly band Mercury Girls who just released a single on Slumberland; achingly winsome Swedish duo Alpaca Sports; Chicago dreampop outfit Tiny Fireflies; and the delicate, ukelele-and-strings sounds of Spain’s Cristina Quesada.
After the bands, Knitting Factory late night turns into a just-for-Popfest return of indiepop danceparty Mondo.
Earier Saturday, there is a free matinee/brunch showcase at Baby’s All Right, featuring Design, the new band from The Chesterfields’ Simon Barber, plus California band Soft Science, Spain’s Los Bonsais, Boston’s terrific Bent Shapes, and Philly’s Snow Fairies. 1 PM start.
NYC Popfest wraps, like usual, with an all-day show at Littlefield on Sunday (5/22) featuring eight bands. It’s sold out but there may be some tickets when doors open at 2:30 PM. The band that people are most excited about (including, I’m guessing, a bunch who don’t normally attend Popfest) is New Zealand legends The Chills who will be playing their first NYC show in 20 years here. One of the most-loved bands on the Flying Nun label, The Chills released a string of classic, influential singles in the ’80s and one of the best albums of the early ’90s with Submarine Bells, which continue to influence bands now. Main man Martin Philipps reactivated the band for last year’s Silver Bullets, which was easily the best Chills album since Submarine Bells. The Chills also play NJ’s WFMU Monty Hall on Monday, May 23 and tickets are still available.
Right before The Chills are The Railway Children who haven’t played the U.S. in even longer. From Manchester suburb Wigan, The Railway Children were signed to Factory Records (who hoped they would be their The Smiths). The band made moody, ringing, guitar rock best exemplified on their debut album Reunion Wilderness. Though they haven’t released new music since the ’90s, the band have been going in some form or another since.
Other Sunday highlights: this will be the debut live performance by New Lines offshoot Lake Ruth which, for this show (4:15 PM), will feature most of SAVAK in the band. If you like Broadcast, The Soundcarriers and vintage baroque like The United States of America, you’ll be into this.
I’m also looking forward to UK band Witching Waves whose excellent new album Crystal Cafe fills the void left by Veronica Falls. They’re on tour with Eureka California who play right after them.
Also on Sunday’s bill: two bands from the vaults of storied label Sarah Records (Aussie indiepop vets Even As We Speak and UK shoegazers Secret Shine); and the day starts off with a 3:30 PM set from Alabama’s drifting Catholic Easter Colors.
And finally, NYC Popfest is hosting two screenings of the documentary BIG GOLD DREAM – Scottish Post Punk and Infiltrating The Mainstream which happen Monday, May 23 at Rough Trade (6 PM) and Tuesday, May 24 at NYU (721 Broadway, Room 674 at 6:45 PM). Here’s the synopsis:
Ten years in the making, Big Gold Dream, the exhaustive documentary on the Edinburgh and Glasgow Post-Punk scene premiered at the 2015 Edinburgh International Film Festival, winning the Audience Award. The BFI’s Sight and Sound magazine also listed Big Gold Dream as one of its top films of 2015.
A tale never before told; the film’s focus is on trail-blazing Independent record label Fast Product, and its subsidiaries Pop Aural and Earcom. Featuring candid interviews with those behind the scenes, those on the periphery and the main-players – Rezillos, Scars, Fire Engines, Josef K, Dirty Reds, Flowers, Thursdays, Boots For Dancing, Associates, The Twin-Sets, Joy Division and The Human League, and of course the city itself – Edinburgh in the late 1970’s is painted in all its dark and gritty realism.
You can watch the trailer for BIG GOLD DREAM below.
NYC Popfest daily lineups and schedules and streams and/or videos by every band playing this year, also below.
THURSDAY MAY 19th @ LE POISSON ROUGE | 18+
07:00pm BIG QUIET (NYC)
07:45pm FREE CAKE FOR EVERY CREATURE (PA)
08:30pm THE HERMIT CRABS (UK)
09:15pm YOUNG ROMANCE (UK)
10:00pm TRASHCAN SINATRAS (UK)
FRIDAY MAY 20th – AFTERNOON SHOW @ CAKE SHOP | ALL AGES, FREE!
03:30pm AVALEYA & THE GLITTERHAWKS (OR)
04:15pm SILVER SCREEN (CA)
05:00pm HALFSOUR (MA)
05:45pm THE HAIRS (NYC)
FRIDAY MAY 20th @ BABY’S ALL RIGHT | 18+
08:15pm SIMON LOVE (UK)
09:00pm CHORUSGIRL (UK)
09:45pm THE SPOOK SCHOOL (UK)
10:45pm ALLO DARLIN’ (UK)
FRIDAY MAY 20th – AFTERPARTY @ TROPHY BAR – 11pm – 3:30am | FREE!
DJs Emmanuel and Joanny (Another Sunny Night, R2D-Fi – Paris)
DJs Sean and Morgan (Fortuna POP! Records – UK)
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SATURDAY MAY 21st – AFTERNOON SHOW @ BABY’S ALL RIGHT | FREE SHOW
1:30pm DESIGN (UK)
2:15pm SOFT SCIENCE (CA)
3:00pm LOS BONSÁIS (SPAIN)
3:45pm BENT SHAPES (MA)
4:30pm SNOW FAIRIES (PA)
SATURDAY MAY 21st – EVENING SHOW @ KNITTING FACTORY | ALL AGES
07:00pm CRISTINA QUESADA (SPAIN)
07:45pm TINY FIREFLIES (IL)
08:30pm ALPACA SPORTS (SWEDEN)
09:15pm MERCURY GIRLS (PA)
10:00pm THE CHESTERFIELDS (UK)
11:00pm THE PRIMITIVES (UK)
Midnight: Mondo! Afterparty (free!)
SUNDAY MAY 22nd @ LITTLEFIELD | 18+
03:00pm CATHOLIC EASTER COLORS (AL)
03:45pm SUNNY SUMMER DAY (INDONESIA)
04:30pm LAKE RUTH (NYC)
05:15pm WITCHING WAVES (UK)
06:00pm EUREKA CALIFORNIA (GA)
06:45pm SECRET SHINE (UK)
07:45pm EVEN AS WE SPEAK (AUSTRALIA)
08:45pm THE RAILWAY CHILDREN (UK)
10:00pm THE CHILLS (NEW ZEALAND)
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