Noise Pop festival enjoying adolescence 

This week,one of San Francisco’s most widely celebrated events, the Noise Pop festival, is coming to a venue near you. With events planned at nearly every intimate live-performance setting in The City, this year’s festival will be difficult to miss.

"For us, it’s mostly just about an opportunity to shine a larger spotlight on this particular part of alternative or underground culture," founder Kevin Arnold says. "To me, it still seems to be working to some degree."

This year’s festival marks the 15th for Noise Pop, whose humble beginnings date back to 1993 with a single-night engagement at the now-defunct Kennel Club.

The event has grown to include multiple concerts, film screenings, art exhibitions and stand-up comedy in venues across The City in six nights.

"Part of the fun — or frustration, depending on how you look at it — is making it hard for people to choose where to go," Arnold says. "There’s a lot of stuff — the Roky Erickson show [Thursday at the Great American Music Hall], which is really special, because it’s the first time he’s played in the Bay Area in about 25 years, is very cool. Sebadoh [tonight at the Great American Music Hall], being one of the defining indie rock bands and heroes of mine for about as long as they’ve been around, is also a great thing to be able to bring to the festival."

Other headliners include the brass-infused alternative band Cake (Sunday at Bimbo’s), all-girl Palo Alto punk-rock outfit the Donnas (Friday at Bottom of the Hill) and glammy power-pop sensations the Dandy Warhols (Friday at the Mezzanine).

Even with its ability to draw big-ticket names, the real elements Noise Pop looks for when filling its annual roster are much more down-to-earth.

"Just quality, and sincerity and passion," Arnold says. "For the most part, we’re looking for bands that have hit their strides to a degree … people that we think are doing cool and interesting things.It’s always been about, ‘Are these guys doing something that we like?’"

Fortunately, it’s a mission that has helped give many independent musicians an opportunity to grow and thrive, and it has contributed quite a bit to the growth of San Francisco’s music scene overall.

"What happens to the music scene influences Noise Pop, and what Noise Pop does influences the music scene to a degree as well," Arnold says. "We’re always careful not to take credit for the successes of a band, but it is nice and rewarding that we can see bands come in that play one year as an opening spot, and then move up the bill — I think it certainly has given people something to aspire to. We try to include a lot of local flavor throughout the entire scope of the festival, and include these bands that will go on to bigger and better things, will come back and headline for us someday."

Ticket prices for individual shows vary. For details, visit

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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