Last year's NYC Popfest was the first festival that I had the opportunity to cover. I don't think I could have picked a better one to start with. There is something so wonderful about the entire operation. The music is highly enjoyable pop fare (hence Popfest), and the crowd it draws (including people from across the country and even some from different parts of the globe) is just so warm and friendly. The entire experience is just welcoming. The festival remains about the music, first and foremost. It aims to bring the best in indie pop from around the world, and that's exactly what it does.
I think that is what sets it apart from a lot of the bigger events out there. The bands set up and take down their own equipment. They drive the vans to and from shows. And they also play kick-ass shows.
I was introduced to some really awesome bands last year that I probably wouldn't have heard of otherwise. Groups like Allo Darlin, Seapony, Burning Hearts, The Pooh Sticks and Saturday Looks Good To Me would never have been on my radar otherwise. This year, 29 bands will perform across four days and nights in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Here are eight you definitely shouldn't miss.
THURSDAY (Cake Shop, Manhattan)Literature (PA)
Literature is a four-piece band from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania made up of Kevin Attics, Nathaniel Cardaci Seth Whaland and Chris Shackerman. They have a Brit-pop sound, filled with plenty of reverb and catchy guitar jangles (which will be a common theme on this list). Their song "Push Up Bra" is two really fun minutes, and I am anxious to hear more of them.
The School (UK)
The School hails from Cardiff and has a heavily layered but beautiful sound, complete with gorgeous female vocals at the front and back. The sound is throwback, but in a wonderfully tasteful way. It's very She & Him meets a day at the beach. You'll see what I mean when you listen to "Let It Slip" below.
FRIDAY (Knitting Factory, Brooklyn)
The Monochrome Set (UK)
This band of Brits formed in 1976 and remained in existence until 1985. The group's songs were characterized by humorous and witty lyrics, and after seeing veteran band The Pooh Sticks last year, I'm eager to see what these guys are like almost 40 years since their inception as a group.
SATURDAY (Spike Hill/The Bell House, Brooklyn)Silkies (MA)
This group sounds like it should be on the soundtrack of a Diablo Cody film. There's quirkiness, angst and levity all wrapped into one with this group, and they are going to be starting things off on Saturday at Brooklyn's Spike Hill.
I am going with a lot of female-fronted groups here, but I'm a sucker for great female voices. Rachel, the female vocalist of Flowers, does not disappoint. It's smooth as could be and meshes perfectly with the loud, sometimes thrashing pop music behind it. The Saturday show at The Bell House will actually be the band's US debut.
SUNDAY (Littlefield, Brooklyn)
Ski Lodge (NYC)
This NYC group (pictured above) have a wonderfully elegant sound. It's simple music, but the poignant lyrics and sharp vocal harmonies really shine through. This is a band I've been excited to see since I saw they were going to be playing the fest, and they will certainly be a great way to start off the final day/night of music.
The Orange Peels (CA)
This California group manages to maintain a laid-back feel in their upbeat and catchy songs. I guess that should be expected from a California band. Their sound is dreamy, and it really comes out in their song "Back in San Francisco" below with the guitar really taking prominence.
Close Lobsters (UK)
This band is another example of NYC Popfest beautifully mixing the past and present of indie pop. There is a great variety of artists, and the festival's closers, Close Lobsters, really personify a terrific indie pop group. They began making a name for themselves in the late 1980s, and they will be sure to end the festival on a classy note.
For the full schedule and lineup for this weekend's NYC Popfest, head on over to their official website, and to get a taste of what kind of fare will be on display over the weekend, listen to the festival's Spotify playlist.