Northside Festival Report: Saturday

Posted by Tobias Carroll

Rebecca Gates, Ida, Ted Leo, Eleanor Friedberger / Europa

As one might surmise from the interview I conducted with her a few months ago, I’m quite impressed with the music made by Rebecca Gates. Her set, played early in the evening at Greenpoint’s Europa, included songs from her EP Ruby Series and The Spinanes’ Strand and Arches + Aisles. It closed with a song from her forthcoming solo album that placed her voice at the forefront — and given that her voice can convey about a half-dozen emotions at once, that’s not a bad thing at all. (The Voice has a fine overview of Gates’s work that’s well worth reading, I should note.)

The last time I saw Gates play was at the old Knitting Factory along with Ida, as part of a night curated by Stephen Malkmus. Ida shared a bill with Gates this time as well, and seeing them here made me realize just how much the sonic template they’ve established has affected my own listening habits. They blend heartfelt and straightforward songwriting with nods towards the ambient/drone side of things — I don’t think it’s coincidental that their Ten Small Paces includes a Brian Eno cover — and that template ably describes a lot of music I enjoy these days as well (Marissa Nadler, Sharon Van Etten, etc.). Their set here also served as a fine overview of their work, covering fifteen years’ worth of songcraft via immaculate harmonies, judiciously played violins, and solid banter.

Ted Leo took the stage next for a solid, loud, excellent set in the “electric guitar and vocals” configuration. (Fun facts: the last time I’d been at Europa had also involved a set from Mr. Leo — this one as part of the recently-reunited Citizens Arrest — who were, incidentally, terrific.) He also pointed out the series of connections between the artists sharing the bill: he had played in one incarnation of The Spinanes; Ida violinist Ida Pearle had a stint as a Pharmacist, and so on. Introducing “Timorous Me,” which closed his set, he pointed out that the tenth anniversary of The Tyranny of Distance was approaching in a few days; it reminded me that two of the artists here were responsible for albums that, for me, fall into the “life-affirming” category. (The other: The Spinanes’ Strand.) So hey: awesome.

Eleanor Friedberger closed out the night. I wasn’t sure what to expect, as her band The Fiery Furnaces fall into the category of bands I admire more than love. With more than a little swagger, Friedberger fit in neatly with the rest of the bill, leading a power trio through a series of classic-sounding pop songs. My friend Kevin volleyed out a Nick Lowe comparison, which seemed spot-on to me.

(All photos: Kevin Bannon)