Northside Festival: A Preview

Class Actress Elizabeth Harper Resized

Northside Festival, Brooklyn's answer to SXSW, is kicking off this week, and to help you sort it out, we'll be highlighting some of our favorite bands playing this block of rock ... and hip-hop ... and synth-pop... and so on..

Northside begins on Thursday, and there's a lot going on that night alone.

First off, hip-hop legend Kool Keith will be performing at Brooklyn Bowl at 7 p.m. As a founding member of Ultramagnetic MC's and the self-proclaimed inventor of "horrorcore" (remember Gravediggaz?), Keith's credentials go way back, and it's doubtful there's a better Brooklyn venue for him. Brooklyn Bowl is also home to Questlove's Thursday night DJ set, Bowl Train, which will be kicking off after Keith's set. Stick around -- you might spot Alicia Keys, Swiss Beatz, or any number of other New York's hip-hop luminaries grooving to Questlove's picks and picking up spares.

Then again, depending on where your taste for '90s hip-hop falls, you might want to be at Music Hall of Williamsburg, where GZA, of Wu-Tang Clan fame, will be playing his now-legendary solo LP Liquid Swords with the Grammy winning Latin funk orchestra Grupo Fantasma. GZA's playing at 9:30 p.m., so it's theoretically possible to catch Kool Keith's set and then hustle on over to relive your mid-'90s dreams with GZA, but it'll be a tight squeeze.

If your tastes run a little less hip-hop and a little more guitar-centric, there's always Public Assembly's Thursday night show, which features Mucca Pazza and M.A.K.U. SoundSystem's album release shows, along with opener Dustin Wong in the front room at 9:30 p.m. Wong is a one-man guitar orchestra, and his loop-pedal symphonies are highly recommended -- show up early to catch him in the front room and you won't be disappointed. Public Assembly's back room, meanwhile, is hosting Dope Body, Magik Markers, and Chain & The Gang, starting at 10 p.m., so if you're saddled with Brooklyn indie-rock ADD, just show up and ping-pong back and forth between the two rooms -- we guarantee you'll find someone to hold your attention.

We will be at the Knitting Factory on Thursday. Their lineup that night is absolutely packed with some of Brooklyn's finest: Sister duo Zambri open the night with their intensely weird but addictive experimental pop, Air Waves' girl-fronted garage rock hits at 8:30 p.m., and Class Actress'  wistful prom-night synth pop comes on at 12:30 a.m. Yes, you might have to work the next day, but it'll be worth it -- you'll probably have fallen in love with Class Actress frontwoman Elizabeth Harper as of about five minutes into the group's set, so staying out a little later will be more of a labor of love than a sacrifice of your precious REM cycles.

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