Northside Festival 2016 Highlights

Brian Wilson (David Chiu)
Brian Wilson (David Chiu)

by David Chiu

The 2016 edition of Brooklyn’s Northside Festival concluded in a big way Sunday with the appearance of legendary Beach Boys mastermind Brian Wilson at McCarren Park in Williamsburg. Wilson and his band–which included fellow Beach Boy Al Jardine and longtime collaborator Blondie Chaplin–performed the classic Pet Sounds album, which marked its 50th anniversary, in its entirety. The album’s ornate flourishes and arrangements were perfectly recreated for this occasion, augmented by Wilson on vocals and piano, accompanied by Jardine’s son Matt, who sang the high parts; the sequencing of the songs flowed in smooth order live as it did on the album—from the buoyant “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”; through the romantic “God Only Knows”; to the melancholy “Caroline, No.” In addition to performing the songs from that great album, Wilson bookended the show with a couple of the Beach Boys’ most memorable hits, including “California Girls,” “Surfin’ USA,” and of course “Good Vibrations.” Equally noteworthy as the music itself, the the age range of the packed audience of mostly young people was a testament of the enduring appeal and importance of Wilson and the Beach Boys’ music for over 50 years that transcends styles and tastes. Sunday show’s was a chance to see a living legend perform what is regarded as one of rock’s greatest albums.

Opening for Wilson was Rostam, the new solo project by Rostam Batmanglij, formerly of Vampire Weekend.

Here’s the set list from the Brian Wilson show:

California Girls
I Get Around
Surfer Girl
Don’t Worry Baby
Wild Honey
Sail On Sailor
Wouldn’t It Be Nice
You Still Believe in Me
That’s Not Me
Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)
I’m Waiting for the Day
Let’s Go Away for Awhile
Sloop John B
God Only Knows
I Know There’s an Answer
Here Today
I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times
Pet Sounds
Caroline, No
Good Vibrations
Barbara Ann
Surfin’ USA
Fun Fun Fun

Other noteworthy performances from the festival this past weekend:

Kacey Musgraves with Conor Oberst (David Chiu)
Kacey Musgraves with Conor Oberst (David Chiu)

Breakout country star Kacey Musgraves also performed in McCarren Park last Saturday, whose critically-acclaimed country music crossed over to the mainstream. In addition to her own material, she did two covers: one was TLC’s “No Scrubs,” and the other was a duet with Conor Oberst on Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin.'”

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Ava Luna (David Chiu)

As part of a 33 1/3 showcase at Rough Trade that same night, Brooklyn indie band Ava Luna performed the entire album of French legend Serge Gainsbourg’s Histoire de Melody Nelson. The music was rocking, courtesy of Carlos Hernandez’s ripping guitar—and co-singer Becca Kauffman turned in a very seductive and sexy performance; they were accompanied by a string section. Now I want to listen to the original album after that amazing gig.

Frankie Cosmos (David Chiu)
Frankie Cosmos (David Chiu)

Following Ava Luna, another indie rock band Frankie Cosmos, led by singer/guitarist Greta Kline, paid tribute to Liz Phair’s classic Exile in Guyville by playing the entire album as part of that showcase.

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