Northside 2011: A Guide to Summer's Biggest Music Fest

Nonstop Sound has a handy guide designed to bring you the best of Northside 2011.

More than 200 acts, many locally grown, will perform at venues in Williamsburg and Greenpoint from Thursday to Sunday. And after compiling an eclectic and massively talented lineup in 2010, Northside had the good sense to bring back some of last year’s most exciting performers — including Questlove, Wavves, Dom, Twin Sister, and Mr. Dream..

Thursday, June 16:

Thursday presents one of the more wrenching dilemmas of the festival, as Atlas Sound’s set at St. Cecilia’s Church overlaps with the Northside Festival opening party, featuring Theophilus London and unnamed special guests, at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Best bet? Pick between two very different but enticing plans of attack. For the hip-hop enthusiasts, hit London’s show (doors open at 8 p.m.) before hop-skip-jumping over to Brooklyn Bowl, where Roots drummer and superproducer Questlove will start a DJ set at 11 p.m. For the more indie rock-attuned, art-rock savant Bradford Cox’s solo project will be one of the highlights of the weekend. So start at St. Cecilia’s, where Atlas Sound is set for a 9:15 p.m. start time. Then head over to Glasslands Gallery for a showcase curated and headlined by Mr. Dream, music critics-turned-Pixies-styled alternative rockers with impeccable tastes and chops to match.

Friday, June 17:

Friday’s schedule is similarly robust, with three noteworthy showcases scheduled for the evening. We recommend checking out breakout Massachusetts glam-rockers DOM, who take the stage at the Brooklyn Bowl at 6 p.m., or hitting McCarren Park at the same time for a showcase featuring Yellow Ostriches, dreamily dramatic singer-songwriter Sharon Van Etten, and headliner Beirut, the Balkan folk project who recently announced new album The Riptide, the follow-up to 2007 classic The Flying Club Cup. Regardless of which evening set you pick, head next to the Knitting Factory for a Kanine Records showcase for minimalist post-punk Virginia duo Eternal Summers. If you’re so inclined, stay for a midnight set by Surfer Blood, the Florida indie darlings who made one of the best guitar-rock albums of 2010 with their debut Astro Coast.

Saturday, June 18:

Saturday features the festival’s best and biggest showcase, a four-plus hour extravaganza at McCarren Park hosted by Ground Control. First up is the Woods/Vivian Girls side project the Babies, who are scheduled for a 4 p.m. start and will give way to Surfer Blood an hour later. If you missed them the night before, don’t miss the chance to see a rising star of traditionally conceived indie rock; if you didn’t, stick around to recharge your batteries for Wavves at 6 p.m. With a repertoire equal parts post-punk and jangle-pop, their second album King of the Beach was another one of last year’s best. Last up is nostalgia-inducing headliners Guided by Voices, indie royalty and Northside 2011’s best-loved attraction.

The evening sets don’t pack quite the same punch, but Music Hall of Williamsburg has a nonetheless dynamic late-night lineup with London twee-pop outfit Allo Darlin’ at 10:30 p.m., opening for one of Brooklyn’s most justifiably buzzed-about new bands, Twin Sister. The electro-leaning pop group, led by endlessly compelling vocalist Andrea Estrella, earned accolades with their debut LP Color Your Life.

Sunday, June 19:

Northside’s Sunday afternoon sets offer a chance for exploration and appreciation, as three venues offer a kaleidoscopic view of some of the lesser-known acts in perhaps the most vibrant local music scene in the world. Stop by the Cameo Gallery at 1 p.m. for the languid jangle-pop of Merrickans and the jammy surf-rock of Right On Dynamite; skip over to Spike Hill for the Appalachian-inspired folk of Whale Belly at 4 p.m.; hit up Shea Stadium (the Williamsburg one) at 6 p.m. for the minimalist synth productions of Forma and the impressively emotive R&B vocals of Autre Ne Veut. Get creative; mix and match. You won’t be disappointed.

The closing evening showcases again present one of those decisions where personal preference is your only guide: the alt-country stylings of Deer Tick (on the bill as Deervana) at the Brooklyn Bowl, where opener WATERS starts at 9 p.m.; the Neil Young-esque compositions of Air Waves and Asobi Seksu’s spacey shoegaze beginning at 10:15 p.m. at Glasslands; or our own favorite, the reggae/electro/dance/new wave/krautrock/awesome DFA signee YACHT, onstage at Music Hall of Williamsburg at 10:45 p.m.

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