Day two of NorthSide began for us with the Brian Jonestown Massacre, and specifically with frontman Anton Newcombe remarking to the still-assembling audience, “Party over here, fuck you over there.” Watching them play their thick, jangly guitar pop under the intense sun might be the best way to begin day, unless you have a hangover, in which case it probably just hurts and dehydrates you further. But without such impediments, there is a certain joy and fascination in deciphering any one of the four guitar parts, and watching their delightfully smug tambourine player who is clearly having a better time than anyone at the festival. Newcombe is a bit combatively, stopping in the middle of a song to berate his bandmates about tunings and passive aggressively moving his mic stand to the back of the stage saying, “I’ll just sing from back here if you can’t get that feedback under control.” It’s either hilarious or obnoxious depending on your mood.
After the curmudgeonly the youth exuberance of Baby in Vain is refreshing. Guitarists Lola Hammerich and Andrea Thusen Johansen are lunging around the stage producing sounds that are a pleasing amalgam of sludge and crunch. Their fried vocals come together in twisted, cheeky harmonies. Baby in Vain would be at home on Sub Pop’s late ‘80s/early ‘90s roster. Since we can’t have that, can someone get them on a tour with Mudhoney quick?
On a predominantly rock line-up, there’s always some question of how a crowd will react to a different genre. In the case of A$AP Rocky, the audience collectively lose their shit. Some of that may have to do with the fact that nearly as much time is spent hyping the crowd as rapping, including repeated directives for them to shout “A-SAP!” It wears thin, which is a shame, because as a performer Rocky is anything but boring. He jogs across the stage as he sings “Fuckin’ Problems” and “Purple Kisses,” pays homage to A$AP Ferg and recreates the mix tape feeling by playing samples of “Jump Around” and “C.R.E.A.M.” He repeatedly emphasizes that it’s not a concert, it’s a party, encouraging mosh pits, crowd surfing, and women to “show your titties if you’re over age.” The crowd only complies on the first two points, making securities job a little harder with the no crowd-surfing rule. At the beginning of the set, however, Rocky did emerge from the barricade before the crowd swinging a bra over his head, so he’s knows what he’s going for.
From the outset it’s clear that Mew’s set is going to be an emotional highlight of the weekend. They begin by bringing bassist Johan Wohlert to the front of the stage to announce that he has rejoined the band after leaving 2006. And while the announcement makes jaws drop, it’s a best-of setlist including and “Am I Wry? No” that has people falling on each other in big, swaying hugs. They play a new song as well, though they don’t name it, and remind the crowd that a new record is coming. By the time their final song, “Comforting Sounds” builds to a dramatic close, men and women alike are seen wiping tears from their eyes.
If Mew was the emotional outpouring, then Röyksopp and Robyn is a blissed out catharsis. It’s immediately apparent that this is the wrong place to be if you’re protective of your personal space or object to having beer spilled on you. But if you can stay on your feet and avoid getting elbowed in the face by the people who only know how to dance by pumping their fists in the air, Röyksopp’s beats and airy, surreal synths help you transcend the mental fogginess settling in, while the crowd physically carries you somewhere else.
It’s 40 minutes into the set when Robyn takes her turn, bouncing across the stage in a pair of platform sneakers. She twists around in yogic poses, and turns her back to imitate a make-out session during “Dance on My Own” while the crowd sings the chorus on her behalf. The trio mark a change into a joint set with Röyksopp donning glittery balaclavas and Robyn a puffy jacket that looks like armor. The crowd is thinning, but those that remain are as frenzied as ever. So is Robyn, who continues to contort herself in an array of dance moves that defy description. The set ends just past the two hour mark with “Do It Again” and confetti cannons. An elated, exhausted crowd makes its way out of the festival grounds, trailing confetti behind them.