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NoisePop

Thank goodness for Leap Year! With 24 extra hours in the bank this February, we don't have to feel guilty about spending most of our spare time at shows the last week of this month. Unless you've developed a sudden allergy to great live indie music, you might as well not make any alternate plans for Feb. 24th-29th, the dates for the 12th annual edition of the NoisePop Festival.

A quick refresher course for the uninitiated: NoisePop is San Francisco's yearly opportunity to showcase just how cool it really is, musically-speaking. Hosted by venues across town and featuring over 80 indie artists, as well as an alternative film festival, various happy hours and educational panels, the event has evolved into one of the music world's most relevant yearly stops.

This year's line-up has less of an emphasis on marquee names, but boasts an impressive mix of local talent and bands with a healthy dose of buzz. Not to mention all the opportunities for early bandwagon-jumping. Who knows? The little-known opening act you fall in love with this year may end up being the band you obsess over in '04.

Without further pause, here's a guide to your best options for each day. The full schedule for the festival can be viewed at www.noisepop.com/2004/schedule.html.

Day 1: Tuesday, 2/24/04: Black Cat Music, The Washdown, Audio Learning Center, Truxton - Bottom of the Hill

The Highlight: Local boys Truxton, who open the entire festival with a set of inspired folk-infused rock.

Day 2: Wednesday, 2/25/04: The Unicorns, Why?, Irving, Restiform Bodies - Great American Music Hall

The Highlight: By far, the band I'm most excited about seeing during the whole week, the Canadian-based trio The Unicorns are performing for the first time on the West Coast. Their experimental pop masterpiece Who Will Cut Our Hair When We're Gone? is a fun listen created by talented musicians.

Day 3: Thursday, 2/26/04: Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, Call & Response, Hospital, Kung Fu USA - Slim's

The Highlight: For sheer storytelling value: "Dude, I saw this band called the "Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players. This was some crazy shit. They're actually a family, and the 9-year old girl plays the drums. They show random slides from, like, garage sales and shit and make up songs about them." Sounds hoaky, but the shtick is apparently entertaining and the music an awesome part of the experience.

Day 4: Friday, 2/27/04: British Sea Power, Kaito, Citizens Here & Abroad - Bottom of the Hill

The Highlight: This was easily the toughest night to call, with the festival's biggest name, the Super Furry Animals, headlining The Fillmore, it-band The Stills making their Bay Area debut and indie rock faves Rilo Kiley returning to town. But British Sea Power is the most exciting choice. They put on an energetic show blending elements of punk rock with highbrow allusions, and often donning World War I garb while covering the stage with leaves. Yet none of the weirdness detracts from the straight up vibrant good music the quartet plays.

Day 5: Saturday, 2/28/04 (Daytime) : The Wrens, 28th Day, Henry Miller Sextet, Pidgeon - Bottom of the Hill

The Highlight: Maybe you should just sleep over at Bottom of the Hill, so you're ready for the daytime performance of The Wrens, a seminal indie rock band who released one of 2003's best albums, The Meadowlands. They croon near-perfect tunes, some of them poppy, some more spacey, and some twangy countrified. Go home and take a nap, though, to get ready for…

Day 5: Saturday, 2/28/04 (Night) : The Decemberists, Earlimart, Rum Diary, The Bother - Great American Music Hall

The Highlight: The Decemberists have blown up sufficiently enough to become one of the main draws of the entire week, but The Rum Diary is a talented band which will make this one of the best shows of the festival. The local band plays experimental, instrumental, dreamy spacey stuff incorporating two drum kits, two bass guitars and an organ, along with trippy visuals.

Day 6: Sunday, 2/29/04: American Music Club, Preston School Of Industry, Actionslacks, Dying Californian - Great American Music Hall

The Highlight: One of the most influential and popular local bands of the '80s and '90s, American Music Club achieved some national prominence before disbanding in 1995. They are recently reunited and will close out this year's NoisePop with their brand of melancholy rock which made way for bands like Red House Painters.

Individual show tickets can be purchased at the particular venue or on the festival's website. All-Access Badges for the 5 days are also available for $125 per person.