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REVIEW: NYC Popfest

REVIEW: NYC Popfest

By: Jessica Gonzalez
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A review of NYC Popfest.

 

This past weekend, NYC Popfest and all its indiepop glory dressed Brooklyn in flowers, lights, jangly guitars, fuzzy melodies, and unironic sweetness. Founded in 1996 by friends who wanted to bring together bands that were heavily influenced by the twee pop movement of the ‘90s (popularized by record labels like Factory Records, Sarah, and Labrador Records), NYC Popfest celebrated 10 years strong this weekend at venues including Le Poisson Rouge, Cake Shop, Baby’s All Right, and The Knitting Factory.


The 4-day indiepop celebration is a charming anomaly that simultaneously offers its goers music history and top-rate, feel-good indie pop music. Participating bands hailed from all over the world. No matter one’s preference, there was something for everyone at this year’s Popfest.


While each day of the festival promised a solid lineup, I eventually chose to attend Saturday -- or Day 3 -- at The Knitting Factory. I have been an avid Alpaca Sports fan for a couple years now and looked forward to seeing them, and I was also excited to see Tiny Fireflies perform new songs from their recently-released LP, The Space Between. As for the other bands, I had listened to each of them a big in passing: Cristina Quesada, a solo act on Elefant Records, lends her own quirk to indie girlpop with her choice in vintage covers (French yé-yé girl France Gall’s “Faut-Il Que Je T’Aime”, and ‘90s Spanish cult band Family’s “Viaje a Los Sueños Polares”, just to name a couple); The Chesterfields and The Primitives are British indie rock legends of the ‘80s; Mercury Girls is a new band that is just gaining traction. With the exception of a few lulls and moments of seemingly missed opportunity, the night didn’t disappoint.

   

The Knitting Factory is a mid-sized venue that comfortably hosted indiepop fans of all ages. The humble stage was fittingly adorned with a string of flowers, reminiscent of early-’80s, daffodil-toting Morrissey and all his angsty boy-glory. The night began with a sweetly acoustic set by Cristina Quesada, who played covers and original songs. She was followed by Chicago duo Tiny Fireflies, who played some of their oldies but goodies in addition to some tracks off the new album. “Youth” and “Taken” stood out -- their ethereal melodies brought out by watery synth were taken to the next level when paired with Kristine Capua’s girly drawl and Lisle Mitnik’s flawless lead guitar. The songs were distorted just so and the music hugged the crowd, bringing all of us together in a wall of modern, twee-pop sound.


Alpaca Sports took the stage next with the help of Cristina Quesada and Kristine Capua of Tiny Fireflies on background vocals and xylophone and keyboard, respectively. Lisle Mitnik of Tiny Fireflies also provided more twangy guitar goodness while Alpaca Sports’ Andreas Jonsson sang his upbeat, super-twee melodies. His charming, unironically sweet manner (and Swedish accent) took undeniable hold of the crowd. From beginning to end, we were all singing ba-da-ba-ba-ba together.


I can cite Alpaca Sports’ set as the highlight of the night. From here, the show bubbled and fizzed out, save for a few noteworthy moments during The Chesterfields’ and The Primitives’ respective sets. Mercury Girls brought to the table a more shoegazey take on indiepop, but their guitarist rambled on too much in between songs and tactlessly referred to the night’s show as the “release party” of their new 7” on Slumberland Records. I have to give these guys credit, though, as they somehow managed to become a part of the Slumberland (and Fortuna Pop) roster in addition to snagging a coveted Popfest spot despite having only been a band for less than a year. I enjoyed the lead singer’s vocals -- comparable, maybe, to the fuzziness of The Dum Dum Girls or the melodic wryness of Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino -- but the too-loud, overly moody guitars and angsty drumming felt more “Warped Tour” than twee pop.


The Chesterfields and The Primitives followed, each playing strong sets that resonated with certain parts of the crowd. Both bands certainly revived the atmosphere that was slightly thrown off-course by the seemingly out-of-place Mercury Girls performance. It was truly exciting to be in the presence of these UK rock legends. However, they lacked the eccentric vitality that Alpaca Sports introduced early on in the night. Either way, the crowd continued to buzz, and good vibes were spread.


The night concluded with a reprisal of “Mondo,” described as “New York City’s most celebrated indie dance party”. The set included a variety of genres -- from post-punk to ‘60s mod, girlpop -- and was the perfect end to Day 3 of the festival.


If you missed NYC Popfest this year, not to worry! The festival will likely return to the city next year with some more twee pop goodness.

 

NYC Popfest


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