Last Friday afternoon we grabbed our bags and headed to New York City. But we weren’t there to see the Statue of Liberty, kiss our main squeeze on the top of the Empire State Building or line-up for a cupcake at Magnolia Bakery. No, we were there to walk the streets of Brooklyn in our comfy ankle boots (at least we don’t need our winter boots yet), listen to new music and get to meet some new people at the NorthSide Festival. In fact, the closest we got to Manhattan all weekend was seeing the skyline from across the banks of the East River.
Started in 2009, NorthSide is one the largest festivals in North America. So big, that it’s been called the South By South West of the North. For four days in June the festival takes over Williamsburg, one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Brooklyn (Vice is headquartered there), joining forces with just about every concert hall and venue in the area in order to showcase literally hundreds of bands. This year, 350 bands played over four days. That’s 87 bands a day – a day!
Though you might not recognize the majority of the bands on the schedule—chances are you soon will. This festival is all about discovering emerging bands in smaller, intimate settings. And though most of the bands are relatively “unknown,” the roster is eclectic, and this year festivalgoers could catch everyone from hardcore punk icons Black Flag to post-punk icons Swans to crowd-pleaser Solange Knowles.
Music is what attracts the crowds, especially to the free outdoor shows they put on in McCarren Park, but the festival also includes an emerging talent film fest and a two day conference where you can hear people from companies like Tumblr, Kickstarter and Square Space talk about how they got to where they are and how technology will move us all forward.
But we weren’t there for any of that, we were there for the music, so when we arrived Friday night, we had just enough time to sneak a quick view of the Manhattan skyline from the rooftop of the Whyte Hotel before the rain-clouds sent us scurrying to the closest venue.
FACT: Every coffee shop, restaurant and bar in Brooklyn has a secret room. Over the course of three days we passed hoards of bowlers, bathroom line-ups, restaurant booths filled with dinners and down, dark mirror-lined stairwells to get to these backrooms where the party was already raging.
Over the weekend, we saw at least 16 bands play live and in between the shows we were running round Brooklyn, checking out the live art at Williamsburg walks, stopping people in the park for a bit of street style reporting (more too come), getting to know the bands a little better and trying to stay cool in the hot hot heat. It was an action-packed three days, but we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Check out tunes from some of our favourite NorthSide performers here.
See you next year, NorthSide !
-The Call it Spring Team