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Noise Pop 2005 Preview

Choices Abound Between Indie Acts and Local Talent

As the 13th edition of Noise Pop rapidly approaches, San Franciscans have more than a few reasons to feel lucky. Festival architect Kevin Arnold has managed to infuse the annual dart-around-town musical romp with another splendid combination of top-notch indie acts and local talent, while staying true to the original credo of highlighting acts outside the mainstream (unlike other California music festivals we know). The 2005 version, which takes place from Feb. 22 - 27 has all the makings of another rousing success. Here are 13 more reasons why:

1. Ted Leo: The festival's opening night features one of its best and most well-known acts. Ted Leo and his band The Pharmacists play their brand of energetic, supercharged and downright intelligent punk with the urgency of a stick of dynamite seconds from exploding. Leo is an engaging frontman with an acrobatic voice, impressive as he delivers thoughtful vocals on the state of the world. 2004's Shake the Sheets, his third album, was one of last year's best and vastly impressed the legions whom swear by his name at the altar of indie rockdom. Great American Music Hall, 2/22, 8pm, $14

2. Noise Pop Photography and Poster Show: Also kicking off on opening night is this cool rock art show, featuring photography by Noise Pop's principal photographer Peter Ellenby, all of which will be for sale. The over 100 photos include past Noise Pop performances by the Flaming Lips, Neko Case, Modest Mouse and Frank Black, as well as portraits of Grandaddy, Mark Kozelek, Pinback, James Brown and others. Other photographers are also featured at the show, as well as 13 years of Noise Pop posters. Local popsters Oranger provide live music during the opening night reception. Bottom of the Hill, 2/22, 7pm, $7 (also open for viewing during other BOTH shows at Noise Pop)

3. The Ebb and Flow: One of our favorite local acts, the eclectic three-piece takes the stage opening for Enorchestra, Devotchka and Our Lady of the Highway. The band will preview songs from the upcoming full-length Time to Echolocate. Café du Nord, 2/23, 9pm, $8/$10, 21+

4. Mission of Burma: The beauty of an all-festival pass: you could easily catch The Ebb and Flow early in the evening, grab a beer next door at Lucky 13 (an ideal Noise Pop venue, especially this year) and cruise over to Bimbo's for a dose of Mission of Burma. The East Coast post-punkers had a brief but significant career in the early '80s, but they disbanded in 1983. They reunited in 2002 without much warning and released their well-received second record, Onoffon. 22 years didn't alter their darkly cerebral and vigorous sound, and remarkably the band has made a return to relevance. This should be one of the best performances of the week. Bimbo's 365 Club, 2/23, 7:30pm, $22.50/$25

5-8.The best night of the festival is Thursday the 24th (or the worst, depending on how you look at it, since you have to make such tough choices): Do you go with former Superchunk frontman Mac McCaughan's side-project-turned-main gig Portastatic or the uplifting robe-wearing pop spectacle of the Polyphonic Spree? (Whatever you think of their recorded stuff, their live performance is a mind-blowing experience.) Do you check out heralded Santa Cruz psych-rockers Comets on Fire or do you feel like moving your feet a bit to the New Wave punk of Canada's Hot Hot Heat?

Portastic: Bottom of the Hill, 2/24, 9pm, $10/$12, 21+; Polyphonic Spree: Bimbo's 365 Club, 2/24, 8pm, $16/$18 (advance tickets sold out); Comets on Fire: Café du Nord, 2/24, 9pm, $10/$12, 21+; Hot Hot Heat: Great American Music Hall, 8pm, $16

9. Joanna Newsom: The local harpist/folk artist/national sensation (who would ever have predicted that?) took the music world by storm in 2004 with her quirky and critically-acclaimed The Milk-Eyed Mender. Newsom's high-pitched childlike voice is at once grating and mesmerizing, and her live show is one you can easily lose yourself in. Swedish American Hall, 2/25, 8pm, $15 (Sold Out) and 2/26, Afternoon, $15

10. Man With A Movie Camera (a film) featuring a live score by Oranger: A cool Noise Pop treat. The above-mentioned Oranger, known for their sunny California pop tunes, play live during the showing of this experimental Russian film. Look for plenty of theremin, guitar sonics and loops, providing a live music component to the movie-going experience. Castro Theater, 2/25, 7:30pm

11. Earlimart: The LA-based band, which has recently evolved into a Grandaddy sound-alike (a departure from their more boisterous early days), is a sublime pick for Saturday afternoon. Bottom of the Hill, 2/26, Afternoon, $10

12. Rogue Wave: Chances are you've heard of Rogue Wave by now. The success story has been told time and again; and they continue to ride the wave of Out of the Shadow to a prime Noise Pop headlining slot. iTunes recently released an exclusive EP with some re-worked versions of their pop slices of heaven. Their shows are always entertaining and full of good energy. Slim's, 2/26, 8:30, $12

13. Walkmen/20 Minute Loop: The festival's closing night is a doozy. First up comes another local favorite, 20 Minute Loop, whose Yawn + House = Explosion is perhaps the best record of early 2005. The Walkmen are one of the biggest names of the week, having released their major-label debut Bows & Arrows last year. They make sophisticated, inventive and sometimes aggressive garage rock with surprises left and right, giving the music a cinematic feel. Their entertaining live performance will be a terrific finale to an amazing week of Noise and Pop. Bimbo's 365 Club, 2/27, 7:30pm, $18/$20

All-festival badges cost $125 and are available on the website.