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Noise Pop 2003

Hipster Heaven

Metalheads have Ozzfest, hippies have the Further Festival, punks have the Warped Tour, and hipsters have Noise Pop. The 11th annual indie rock festival kicks off Tuesday, February 25th. Be prepared for the five night invasion of San Francisco by an army of kids sporting denim jackets, Converse shoes, and perfectly mussed hair. The festival, which has taken on a holiday-like status for many Bay Area music lovers, returns with its reliable line-up of indie rocker legends, sweet-sounding unknown gems, and local talent in spades.

Since its humble one night, one club, tadpole beginnings, Noise Pop has swollen to a five night, eight venue Calaveras bullfrog, now boasting a film festival and educational panel series. The first Noise Pop festival was conceived and organized by music aficionado Kevin Arnold for local independent bands to gather, drink and share their music. It has since evolved into somewhat of a San Francisco musical/cultural phenomena - this year pulling sponsorship from Seattle's Experience Music Project.

Unless you spend pocketfuls of cash cab-racing across town from one event to another, inevitably you'll miss the majority of the twenty-plus shows packed into the five day festival. So save your time and drinking money, here are your best bets.

Tuesday, 2/25:
You are fresh-faced and eager, ready for a week-long sonic assault. You go to Bimbo's where the festival begins with former Pavement member and heavyweight headliner, Steve Malkmus with his new band the Jinks. Local bands Western, The Velvet Teen and Trackstar will be the highlight of the night.

Wednesday, 2/26:
Get yourself over to Bimbo's to catch songwriter chanteuse Chan Marshall, better known as Cat Power. On a good night her naked vocals, acoustic guitar, endearing stage banter and quirky covers will leave you enamored. On a bad night after a self-deprecating barrage and on-stage tantrum, she'll live up to her reputation for preemptive stage exits and simply leave you.

Thursday, 2/27:
You have settled into the onslaught of music and are ready for a small, intimate show before the non-stop weekend venue hop. You go to Café du Nord to see M Ward, the quiet giant of the festival. His performance is always captivating, his songs sparse and engaging. You will fall in love with his gravelly Tom Waits-like vocals and heart-on-his-sleeve lyrics.

Friday, 2/28:
You go out with renewed spirit. You are halfway through the San Francisco music scene's version of summer camp. You will go to Slim's to catch indie rock mainstay Imperial Teen and bob your head to the balanced pop melodies of Creeper Lagoon. Local pop shots Junior Panthers are the bonus track of the evening.

Saturday, 3/1:
Barely home from the night before, you head out again to Bottom of the Hill for the afternoon line-up led by Better Looking Records darlings No Knife and Jealous Sound. Your feet sore from toe-tapping you hot-foot it to the Great American for some sweaty, frantic dancing as The Locust and Erase Errata play their fast, jerky, violent, electro-screechy, shake your ass and do the robot style of amped up music.

Sunday, 3/2:
You're exhausted but will somehow muster the energy for a final blowout. The Mountain Goats storytelling songwriting style is the perfect show to watch while recuperating from the night before. John Darnielle and his guitar is all you have the capacity to focus on. Tortoise headlines Bimbo's in the evening, their melodic, well-crafted sound a perfect comforting close to your music holiday.