“We are not going to play any songs; this is performance art” were the first words spoken jokingly by opening act Maggie Y/O on Tuesday, Feb. 21, at the cozy Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco. The Noise Pop festival event also featured Hazel English, Elsa Y Elmar and The World, and Tanukichan in a series of enticing sets to an intimate crowd as fairy lights twinkled above between shows.
This statement had a larger connection to the concert because outside the venue, I overheard two men discussing how “this music” (meaning pop music that girls make) was too emotional. I couldn’t help but feel that, despite the incredibly eclectic array of pop music from the women that played that night, their work was discredited as emotional girly pop music. Their playing together with the biggest common identity of being women, and not the emotions in their songs, was performance art in itself. In between the sets of all these musicians, exclusively 60s French Yé-Yé music played while the bands were setting up. The genre’s nature to be women musicians felt like a precedent to the rest of the show.
Maggie Y/O continued their opening with a playful set with a distinctly laid-back mood. As SF based musicians,they had no trouble interacting with the audience, with banter in between their songs.
Tanukichan’s set started off with a shy, creeping buildup to a more energetic voice that demanded the audience’s attention. Deliberate and elegantly placed guitar feedback reverberated in the room, and the audience felt the power of the music. Someone behind me commented that the guitar is nearly as big as her [Hannah van Loon, the lead singer] , and while that may have been true, her size didn’t diminish her control of the room.
Elsa Y Elmar and The World picked up the intensity with her charming presence and interactions with the crowd. Elmar explained how she had moved from Colombia, which she spelled out on stage, to the Bay Area where everyone is definitely “cool” here. She said it was her first English speaking audience, but you would have never known there was a language barrier for any folks because of her engagement and eccentric body language. There was no dull moment in her set, as she was constantly dancing through her 80s synth pop with contemporary electronic music beats.
The Oakland-based singer from Australia, Hazel English, was a dreamy way to end the night. Despite saying she only had 3 hours of sleep the previous night, she performed with plenty of relaxed energy. The blurry essence of her music felt like driving down Highway 1 on a cloudy beach day. She covered fellow Australian band The Go-Betweens and songs from her latest EP “Never Going Home.” The show was a great kick-off to her tour, and she is definitely an artist to watch for in 2017.
The Noise Pop festival is celebrating their 25th anniversary this year with a wide array of entertainment. The series of music and art showings at different venues around Oakland and San Francisco will be playing through Feb. 27. More information can be found on their website.