It’s finally here! Thursday marks the kick off of Northside Festival’s music portion, and thanks to the hard work of everyone involved with the festival, there are so many excellent shows to attend that I’ve separated previews out by genre to help Brooklynites parse the extensive schedules. For those who associate Northside Fest mostly with indie rock, yes, that has traditionally been the bedrock of the booking. But, hey, Kacey Musgraves is one of the festival’s headliners, and there’s also plenty of folk and country to be found for those who are willing to dig below the surface. Here are some other rootsy acts to catch while you’re out and about this week.
Date and Time: Sunday, 6/12 @ Pete’s Candy Store, 8:30 PM Mike Glick is a songwriter from another generation. If you don’t know what I mean by that, consider that Glick counted Peter Seeger as a friend, and wrote him a moving tribute when the folk legend died back in 2014. At this point in his life, Mike performs as Generations, a duo that features him and his son Aleksi Glick. Together they perform original and classical folk songs that follow in the footsteps of age-old American acoustic music.
Frankie Cosmos performing Liz Phair’s Exit From Guyville
Date and Time: Saturday, 6/11 @ Rough Trade, 11 PM So, Frankie Cosmos is one of New York City’s own beloved daughters. Which means she plays shows here a lot, which is fabulous for all of us. But it also means that we’ve now established a serious, committed relationship between Frankie and Brooklyn audiences. And hey, once you’re committed to someone it’s always nice to spice things up a bit, right? Stray off the beaten path? Do something unexpected! I think that’s part of what motivated her decision to perform songs from Liz Phair’s excellent, essential record Exile From Guyville for her Northside set. Frankie is far more folk in the way she relays the simple facts of the world around her into song than she is sonically, and her rendition of Phair’s songs will certainly open them up, spotlighting them for the revelations they are.
Date and Time: Saturday, 6/11 @ National Sawdust, 10:30pm While Yowler sometimes use electric guitars and aren’t totally acoustic, there’s a folk sensibility that underlines the howling and humming of Maryn Jones. One of my favorite music writers once described Yowler as an “esoteric, fantastical world” and that’s about a perfect summary. These songs pulse and thrum with the history that they hang upon, getting heavy when needed but dwell in the lapping, quiet tide of folk songwriting before heading out into the deep.
Date and Time: Thursday, 6/9 @ Music Hall Of Williamsburg, 10:30 PM There are so so many good things to say about Steve Gunn–that he’s an incredible guitarist first and foremost, that his lyricism is compelling and nuanced without ever straying into pretension, that he’s a calm and wise presence when you speak to him, as I did for the June issue of the magazine. The best thing about him, currently, is his excellent, noisy new album Eyes On The Lines that is a paean to life on the road and the many transitions and journeys that wind their way in and out of our lives. He’ll be playing quite a few tracks off that album, no doubt, at this show on Thursday. There will definitely be old folksy numbers for his diehard fans, but stick around for the new, fuller sound provided by his backing band The Outliners that fleshes out his Matador debut.
Date And Time: Saturday, 6/11 @ McCarren Park, 6:30 PM The Felice Brothers are a tried and tested family at this point. Do you think you could tour the world and toil alongside your IRL brother night after night and still concoct some of the most joyful, blustering folk rock out? No, I doubt you could and neither could I–luckily Ian, James, and the other non-Felice-surname members of this delightful band can, and faithfully continue to do so just for us. What a feat. Come see them before Kacey and Conor Oberst on Saturday.
Date And Time: Saturday, 6/11 @ McCarren Park, 7:30 PM Sure, the genre that most defines Conor Oberst will probably always be “emo,” but there’s no denying the folk influences that crop up again and again in his songwriting, and particularly in his later work. Plenty of Bright Eyes songs rely heavily on the American folk tradition, and Oberst has always had a penchant for spare guitar melodies and warbled, simple lyrics that get right to the heart of the matter in poignant terms. Even when he gets heavy, a certain sense of earnestness that’s imbued in his songwriting is part of Oberst’s endless appeal.
Date And Time: Saturday, 6/11 @ McCarren Park, 6:30 PM Kacey Musgraves is the first mainstream country artist to play Northside Music Festival, which speaks to her ability to transcend bounds that many artists find insurmountable. Musgraves deserves all the credit in the world for hurdling right into the indie/folk world without ever abandoning any of her small town Texas roots. She’s the ideal representative of a Brooklyn that has begun to expand its borders further than ever, looking out beyond past stereotypes and toward a great, wide open future.