Northside Festival

Various Venues / Brooklyn, NY

Diarrhea Planet By Pooneh Ghana
Diarrhea Planet By Pooneh Ghana

Diarrhea Planet

Tennessee might have gotten Bonnaroo last weekend, but we had Diarrhea Planet.

The Nashville party punk band that was “supposed to be a joke college band that people drank beer and listened to, without taking too seriously” ended up being “a very serious band that people drink too much and watch,” joked Diarrhea Planet in the green room minutes before performing on NBC’s Late Night With Seth Meyers. Later that night, the band took the stage at Brooklyn Bowl on the eve of their record release for Turn To Gold.

Initially, four guitars seemed superfluous for a rock band, yet if you were to take one of those guys off stage, an obvious deficit would ensue. Living in Nashville and learning to play together while in college, the band has cultivated a rapport with one another that is no doubt as entertaining to be part of as it is to watch. From the stage, dozens of daring DP fans dove from where the band stood into the arms of strangers who similarly shared a penchant for the gleefully cheesy live act that is Diarrhea Planet. However, the one fan sporting his DP tattoo outshone everyone else’s dedication.

Eager to perform tracks off Turn To Gold, the band powered through a visceral set of blistering guitarmonies underpinned by heavy bass lines, comedic banter and impressive chops like Emmett Miller playing guitar with his teeth. The album was received with anticipated excitement, and if that wasn’t obvious, you need look no further than the constant beer flinging overhead or that one guy who perpetually managed to crowd surf all night long. By the time the band whipped out “Ghost with a Boner” and “Separations” from their 2011 and 2013 albums respectively, all bets were off.

In 2012, I had a +1 to one of Diarrhea Planet’s first shows in Brooklyn. “I’m not going to see a band that calls themselves Diarrhea Planet, Melissa,” was the unanimous response. Funny how all those friends somehow ended up at Brooklyn Bowl for that very same band. Perhaps that’s because Diarrhea Planet reminds us all that anyone can be a punk.

Musgraves at the Starland Ballroom by Steven Sandick
Musgraves at the Starland Ballroom by Steven Sandick

Kacey Musgraves

“It’s actually cool that New York likes country music,” Kacey Musgraves beamed during her headlining show at Northside Festival. Performing for over an hour, the Nashville ‘Pageant Material’ singer pulled material mostly from her second major label album, Pageant Material, like “Late to the Party,” “This Town” and “Biscuits,” along with a few hidden gems.

Though one might have expected a rusty set—they admitted they hadn’t played a gig in well over a month– Musgraves and her Country & Western Rhinestone Revue were equal parts confident and articulate. Her voice, breathy and organic, hung in the air like the moon, only to be accentuated by pedal steel arrangements that swept over Brooklyn before the rain started to pick up. Responsively, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” came out of the woodwork to lift spirits.

Her gregarious nature took force in between songs as she shed light on inspiration and challenges faced in her trajectory to stardom. Coming from a small town, trying to make it in a big city—a sentiment the plethora of NYC transplants could find solace in; or the obstinate stance she took when the music industry tried to dictate her debut plans to release “Merry Ground,” a song they believed to be too depressing. “If this is what I had to say to the world and it went down in flames, I would stand by it,” she told the crowd. Poignantly, she sang: “We think the first time’s good enough. So, we hold on to high school love. Sayin’ we won’t end up like our parents. Tiny little boxes in a row, ain’t whatcha want, it’s whatcha know.” For Musgraves, the ability to blend rhyme with reality, lyric to life, hardly goes unnoticed.

Earlier in the evening, Conor Oberst invited Musgraves on stage during his set to perform “Back On the Map” from her Same Trailer Different Park (2013) that blended the Bright Eyes singer and country girl’s voices together wonderfully. Additional highlights included a duet with Oberst on Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin’” (“It’s like country and emo mixing perfectly, and I love it!” the Nashville songstress exclaimed) and asides from Musgraves about her stay in the Big Apple. A nod to TLC also surfaced (“No Scrubs”), and was received with ambivalence. But what took the cake was when the band dusted off Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” with Musgraves’ outfit replete with light-up sparkly cowboy boots.

If there’s one thing to note, the music that Kacey Musgraves has chosen to become a master of—or in her case, a mistress of—places her in a colorful corner of the universe, one adorned with five-foot neon cactus stage props and a merch store with enough Mary J paraphernalia to keep Willie Nelson smiling.

Brian Wilson by Brian Bowen Smith
Brian Wilson by Brian Bowen Smith

Brian Wilson’s Pet Sounds

Northside ended with a bang come Sunday as 73-year old Brian Wilson celebrated the 50th anniversary of seminal Beach Boys album Pet Sounds. Along with his band, which included other surviving Beach Boy member Al Jardine, son Matt Jardine and Blondie Chaplin, known for his contributions with the Rolling Stones and 70s-era Beach Boys, helped to create a wall of sound that could be heard throughout the streets of Williamsburg. To begin the 23-song set, staples like “California Girls,” I Get Around,” and “Surfer Girl” had band and crowd uttering in universal dialogue. Matt Jardine lent his falsetto on “Don’t Worry Baby,” which was met by some opposition by fans pining after a sound from half a century ago. For less fortunate fans that have never seen the Beach Boys live, Jardine’s approach satiated our fix. Afterwards, donning a denim jacket with a matching cool demeanor was Blondie Chaplin with the emotional grit of “Sail On, Sailor.”  In 1973, the Beach Boys hired the South African musician to sing lead on the Holland track because of his soulful voice. Punctuating every verse with a heartening “Sail on, sail on, sailor,” he invited the crowd to belt along; hard it was to not be caught in the undertow of its ebb-and-flow melody.

Pet Sounds got the attention it deserved with two drummers, a plethora of guitarists and keyboard players, horns, and sax to create that classic Beach Boys sound. Though a lot could be said for this act—the seductive sax solo on “Let’s Go Away For Awhile,” Wilson’s banter in between songs—the highlight came by way of “God Only Knows.” Bathing in a pool of blue lighting with his piano, Wilson tugged at heartstrings, and his voice must have possessed the power of the moon, because during those three minutes, everyone gravitated towards love. Wrapping up the album, “Caroline, No” chugged along with its notable train whistle blasting over the speaker to which fans nearby hoped it would not conclude the set. In response, Wilson exclaimed that it was a good vibration, before the band jumped into the psychedelic anthem Rolling Stone called one of 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time: “Good Vibrations.” Harnessing energy from the crowd, Wilson and company did an exceptional job of transporting us to a place less chaotic than today. One thing worth mentioning was right after the bridge (gotta keep those good vibrations), and that split second when the band stops on a dime… the crowd was in such a frenzy for that final chorus, that when Wilson did finally utter, “Gooooood, gooooood” everyone exploded like a can of soda that’s just been shaken. Afterwards “Barbara Ann,” “Surfin’ U.S.A.” and “Fun Fun Fun” capped the night on an evening we are so fortunate to have experienced. For many, it was a nostalgic time to reminisce over a catalogue that has stood the test of time. “Pet Sounds is so enduring for me,” Wilson once remarked, “because it is music that brought love to people. That’s what I was feeling in my heart…” In retrospect, the night took on new meaning having later learned of Orlando’s tragedy. Thank you, Brian Wilson, for reminding us what it’s all about.

-Melissa Caruso

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