Northside Festival: These United States at Knitting Factory
Natalie Merchant with the San Francisco Symphony

Northside Festival: Beach Day, The Black Belles, and Turbo Fruits

by Laura Wasson Beach Day at Jameson Lounge Northside Festival

One of the best parts about being a member of the press is that sometimes you get to go to really cool press-only events. For Northside Festival, Jameson took over Good Co., creating a veritable whiskey-filled Valhalla for press, bands and the bartenders that have to deal with both. It was pretty sweet, and I could see how easy it would be to spend the entire weekend throwing back “Black & Stormies”, eating roast pig, and listening to whatever buzzy, cool band was playing.

Unfortunately, whatever sound system there was was either not functioning or turned down excessively low so only those closest to the makeshift stage/porch could hear. That was a shame, especially when Beach Day took the stage on Saturday night to play an acoustic set with just Kimmy and Natalie strumming gently on their guitars while drummer Sklyer stood in the audience. I wasn’t previously familiar with this band’s work at all, but I’m glad I sat close enough to hear them play. Soulful and romantic, songs like “I’m So In Love With You Again” felt wonderfully appropriate for a breezy June night. Kimmy’s pure voice shone brightly, reaching every note with ease and elegance and perfectly matching the folksy, love-centric lyrics. Yes, Beach Day’s sound is extremely beachy, and exactly the sort of thing you long to hear as you tilt your head back and imagine you’re on some distant sandy shore far from Brooklyn.

Black Belles at Knitting Factory for Northside Festival

After watching a demonstration from a Jameson rep involving a whisky barrel and fire, I rushed around the corner to Knitting Factory to catch The Black Belles. The place was packed, and as the hipster/goth ladies took the stage,one could sense that this would be a great show. The Belles are protegees of Jack White, and his indomitable musical prowess could be felt in each and every one of their songs. Toeing the line in some shadowy place between Black Sabbath and Siouxsie Sioux (with a little jaunty No Doubt and grungy sixties garage rock thrown in for good measure), songs like “Wrong Door” and Lies” had an undeniable catchiness, like the better numbers from some angsty fifties prom from hell. Shelby Lynne’s mesmerizing drumming could best many of the little drummer dudes I’ve seen lately, and Olivia Jean's arresting guitar playing would do St. Vincent proud.

Turbo Fruits at Knitting Factory for Northside Festival

I’d pity any band that had to follow such commanding ladies, but Nashville’s Turbo Fruits proved that hip-shaking, gut-busting rock still has enough swagger to conquer a crowd without apology. An interesting blend of late sixties rock stalwarts (think: Sabbath, MC5) with an unexpected dash of grunge, the Fruit’s sound manages to be both reverential and forward-thinking. Hair-shaking songs like "Trouble!" force you to move your body, and I was hardly surprised when a proper mosh pit popped up behind me.

The Fruits closed their show when lead singer Jonas Stein leapt from the stage, guitar and microphone still with him, and performed the entire last song in the audience. Rushing in and out of the mosh pit, leaning heavily into various audience members, Stein never faltered or relied on theatrics to connect with the crowd. In fact, he didn’t miss a single note during his raging guitar solo. It isn’t often you get to be so extremely close to that kind of wailing, and the effect was completely thrilling. It might just have been better than all that free Jameson.