Noise Pop Newsletter

The History of Noise Pop

1993 - 1994 - 1995 - 1996 - 1997 - 1998 - 1999 - 2000 SF
2000 CHI - 2001 SF - 2001 CHI - 2002 - 2003 - 2004 - 2005 - 2006

It was an inconspicuous start. Sweat, beer, two chords -- sometimes three. On a foggy night in the dog-days of February 1993, local music fiend Kevin Arnold booked five bands in a shoddy rock club with flagging attendance. He called it Noise Pop.

At the time, that phrase meant something. On one level, it was the sound of bands like the Fastbacks and Overwhelming Colorfast: upbeat, melody-driven rock that never met a distortion pedal it didn't like. On another, it meant independent bands that created their own audience who stuck around after their sets to check out their peers. It meant music first, and then beer, and then music and some more beer.

That night in 1993, the Kennel Club exploded. Beloved local bands like the Meices found an over-capacity crowd thirsty for chug-chug chord progressions and nasty feedback. The Fastbacks hopped around like idiots. Arnold knew immediately that he would have to bring back the noise next year.

Flash forward 14 years. Noise Pop is another beast. Seven days. Over 100 bands. Drinking. Independent films. Panels. Art.

What the hell happened? Well, somewhere along the way, Noise Pop grew up. Each year, Arnold added more bands and more venues. Band manager Jordan Kurland came on in 1997 to help him keep track of the logistical nightmare. Local club Bottom of the Hill signed on early. The space had been the heart of the Fest since the second year. In turn, every significant club in San Francisco, from Bimbo's 365 to the Fillmore to the Great American Music Hall signed on.

The bands kept getting bigger, partly because Noise Pop embraced music that was Noise Pop in spirit, if not in sound. The finest bands in America – and now some of the biggest - have stopped by for showcases. Modest Mouse, the White Stripes, Death Cab for Cutie, Bright Eyes, Jimmy Eat World, Grandaddy, The Flaming Lips to name a few.

These days, the most important thing about Noise Pop is what makes it unique. Long ago, South by Southwest morphed into spring break for the music industry. And you can't break a guitar string at CMJ without blinding an A&R scout. Noise Pop is different. The focus is on the fans. It's a music-lover's celebration: the shows sell out, people have fun, and every year the event grows a little bigger.