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Paul Mann: New Noise Music Festival Opens with Sold-Out Show at Velvet Jones

The New Noise Music Conference & Festival kicked off Wednesday with its annual opening party concert at Velvet Jones nightclub in downtown Santa Barbara.

The sold-out show was a precursor to the full four-day festival that expands to as many as five venues across the city and culminates in an all-day street festival and indie music conference on Sunday.

This year's festival features more than 75 indie music bands and more than 50 speakers. Well-known local acts such as Carpinteria’s The Upbeat and Dishwalla as well as established indie acts from across the country and even as far away as England will perform. Bands that are darlings of indie music critics like Dawes and Cloud Nothings complete the extensive lineup.

The all-ages show on Wednesday featured four bands, and a long line formed early to pack into the venue. The bar area was reserved for the over-21 drinking crowd, while underage mostly college students were ushered to the second-level balcony. But fans of all ages converged in the front area of the venue and packed together tightly near the front of the stage area.

An up-and-coming rock band also from nearby Carpinteria opened the show early to an already excited crowd. They were followed by Elder Brother, the side project of guitarist and vocalist Kevin Geyer from the evening's headline band, The Story So Far. The band also includes lead vocalist Dan Rose from the band Daybreaker. The band played the most mellow, upbeat and possibly musical set of the evening.

The next band, Gnarwolves, hailing all the way from Brighton, England, turned up the volume and excitement several notches. Except for their thick English accents, the band sounded surprisingly like a Southern California surf punk band. The group even commented on the great skate park they visited along the city's shoreline and the well-known skateboard shop located in an old former downtown church building called the “Church of Skatan.”

New Noise
Gnarwolves, hailing from Brighton, England, rocks the Velvet Jones stage. (L. Paul Mann / Noozhawk photo)

The band connected well with the young audience and had fans moshing and crowd-surfing by the end of their set. Just when it seemed that the band could be pegged as a three-cord surf punk band, the group mixed up the set with more complex and interesting — albeit brief — moments of intriguing musicality. This young band seems to be on a path toward some interesting and sophisticated music in their future, but for now their young fans seem happy with their frenzied, fun simple songs.

By the time the headlining band, The Story So Far, took the stage, the sold-out crowd had packed tightly around the stage in a sweaty mass on this humid October night.

The band, which formed in 2007 in Walnut Creek, just came off a coveted Main Stage appearance at this summer's Vans Warped Tour. Utilizing that same Warped Tour energy and style, the group proceeded to whip the crowd into a dance frenzy.

In what may have been the most passionate and responsive crowd at any concert in the county in the last year or so, the sweaty mass of fans formed a giant mosh pit and crowd surfed and stage dived with abandon. Lead singer Parker Cannon connected early on with the crowd, bonding on a local level, having been a one-time UCSB college student.

The five-piece band played as a well-polished cohesive unit, belying their veteran status formed from their education on the grueling Warped Tour. By the end of their 90-minute set, almost everyone in the crowd had a chance to mosh their way to the front of the stage, and as the lights came up, there were only smiles on the faces of the sweaty masses.

What a great kickoff to the 2014 New Noise Music Conference & Festival.

Click here for more information about the festival.

— L. Paul Mann is a Noozhawk contributing writer. The opinions expressed are his own.

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