27 June 2009

Northside Festival, Day One : Uncensored Interview at Union Pool (Ivana XL, Sharon van Etten, Lisa Li-lund, Emilyn Brodsky)

All right, so, this is a little late. About two weeks late. Okay, maybe a week and a half late. Still. Sometimes it takes me a while to get my shit together, ya' know? Also, I'm lazy.chrome://foxytunes-public/content/signatures/signature-button.png

ANYway, even though most have moved on and the debates about the interesting debacles of the weekend have more or less ended, here's my coverage of Day One at L Magazine's inaugural Northside Festival.

After hitting the press lounge, getting shoes, and eating pricey-but-tasty burgers (note to schedule-writing staff : burgers =/= barbeque. For future reference.) at Studio B (which is supposedly shutting down for the millionth time – I'm amazed by the propensity of city folk to be like, "OMG NOISE COMPLAINT." YOU MOVED IN NEAR A ROCK CLUB. BUY SOME EAR PLUGS AND DEAL. Obviously things should be reasonable, but really.), Jonathan, my brother who willingly accompanied me to take pictures, and I headed down to Union Pool to catch Uncensored Interview's night of alt-folk.

All photos are by Jonathan Costa. Sorry they're so tiny.

First up was Ivana XL, whom I'd heard of a week or two prior to the show, the main impetus for having gone. She was nervous, charming, apologetic. She talked about how it was her first time playing at Union Pool and how nerve-wracked she was, and then later talked about her planned outfit for the night that had to be nixed on account of the rain and gloom : "I had an awesome outfit planned...it was like, booty shorts." Apparently booty shorts inspire confidence.

Even sans assurance-sparking booty shorts, her raspy vocals, oddly-pronounced vowels à la Regina Spektor, and driven acoustic ditties were enchanting. Yeah, she messed up once or twice, but I like when that happens. Some of the songs started to sound alike after a while, but her lyrics are constantly stellar – in "The King," she declares, "So fuck having babies and staying at home / I'm going to the movies and drinking martinis," sentiments I can get behind. At the end of the night, Jonathan declared her his favourite, and I agreed – shame that she couldn't have performed later in the night.

Between sets, I mentioned to my brother how I was glad to be at a show where I didn't have to wear ear plugs. And then along came Sharon van Etten, with her electric guitar big enough to overwhelm her petite frame and stronger voice. Reluctantly, the ear plugs went it. (That's what you get for being half-deaf in one ear already.) I guess I wasn't inspired to note too much about her performance. I liked her; Jonathan found a lot of her songs to sound the same. Inspired journalism, ta da!

After her first or second song, Lisa Li-lund explained to the audience, "I just finished a record where there's a lot of noise, so now I'm trying to turn them into songs," a task I didn't envy her having to do all by herself onstage.

But what an odd child. Switching between her acoustic and a keyboard, she would be angelic at times, get the audience shouting at other, and then say awkward things like, "You're all like 'blood blood blood!'" at others. Which, um. I don't remember any of us being like, "Blood blood blood!" It was an...interesting insight into her mind. The bizarrerie didn't change the strength of her work, with lines like, "I'm tired of guys who cry before I've even held them once."

The handwritten bill at the door said that François Virot was to be up fourth (I think...), but instead was Emilyn Brodsky. We contemplated leaving before her set (I had to be at work, in Jersey, at 9 am), but I'm glad we stayed, even despite the crazy. She was emotive, manic, and, frankly, weird, declaring early on, "Everyone who's interesting is a little batshit crazy." (She calls herself Emilyn "cupcake punk" Brodsky on her MySpace, if that says anything.) She's the first artist I've ever seen tell off – REALLY tell off, like, "Okay, well, you all just keep talking with your friends while I sing this song...I love playing in loud bars..." – her audience for talking mid-set, which others (read : my brother) found obnoxious and off-putting, but I respected her sentiments. (She had a point – if you want to chat with your friends, go in the other bar. There's two of them.) She talked about getting her period the night before and signing contracts in menstrual blood. Oh, and she burped into the microphone mid-song at one point. So make that emotive, manic, odd, brazen and unashamed, all of which make for an interesting performance, in the very least. But beyond that, I genuinely liked a good portion of her songs, played out on a ukulele (apparently she "couldn't bring herself to learn how to play the guitar"), especially "Ebony (Bread Helps)," a song about a woman whose life is falling apart ("Bread helps with anxiety /...Bread helps when men leave"). Like Mama says, "You can always bake a cake."

Ivana XL - "Happy Birthday"
Sharon van Etten - "For You"

We unfortunately did not stay for Olof Arnalds' set - we decided to head out "early," only to have to sit on the train back home for a million hours. Stupid Amtrak signaling problems. *shakes fist*

No comments:

Post a Comment