Cool Nerds, Rejoice! Who to Hear and See at the Northside Festival

Williamsburg’s annual tunes and tech festival returns. Remember fun IRL?

Photo by Gretchen Robinette

If you are a hipster geek or know one, now would be a good time to stop Snapping and pay attention.

Brooklyn’s equivalent of the South by Southwest music and tech happening, the Northside Festival, is coming back to Brooklyn—and more than 30 venues—for its 10th annual frenzy of concerts, talks, block parties, and band names that sound like magnetic poetry conjured on a fridge.

Photo by Zane Roessell

So, yeah. It’s basically a theme park for cool nerds. It’s at Northside that you are likely to find your new favorite band/company/idea/insert nearly anything here. Alumni of the fest range from Solange to Amazon’s CTO, Werner Vogels. This year’s big names include the likes of Deerhoof; Liz Phair (making her triumphant return!); and senior folks from BuzzFeed, The New Yorker, and A&E Networks. If you don’t want to commit to the whole fest, you can pick and choose your favorite events or just enjoy the block party when Bedford Avenue closes down and becomes a public park full of interactive art installations, live graffiti, and performances.

Photo by Dylan Johnson

Here’s the stuff I’m most psyched to see—and note that some of the acts haven’t been scheduled yet, so keep checking to find out exact dates.

Music Picks

L’Rain,  June 7
One of the artists I’m most excited to see is L’Rain (aka Taja Cheek), a born-and-bred Brooklynite who has a grungy DIY noise-rock sound that still comes across as beautiful, dreamlike, and full of wonder. Having trained in classical cello and piano, her take on keys, synth, and guitar is rooted in real technique. 150 Greenpoint Avenue (between Manhattan Avenue and Franklin Street)

Madison McFerrin, June 9

Don’t worry: The daughter of jazz legend Bobby McFerrin is carving out a space for herself with a unique solo project that uses looping techniques to build a catchy soundscape, over which her velvety vocals and simple but potent songwriting can shine. Watching her create a full band from her voices and clapping or snapping is ridiculously fascinating. In a very good way. Music Hall of Williamsburg, 66 North 6th Street

Makaya McCraven, Date TBD

As a self-proclaimed “beat scientist,” jazz drummer and electronic artist Makaya McCraven is as eclectic in his playing as his upbringing might have been as the son of a famous jazz drummer and Hungarian folksinger. His straight-ahead playing is taken to a hipper place with these influences, as well as African, electronic, and sampling techniques that place him in the Chicago camp of the canon of cool kids of jazz, which includes Robert Glasper and Christian Scott.

Sateen, June 7 

This queer femme married couple is taking the dance floor and the Instagram universe by storm with their 1930s pinup aesthetic and ’80s-esque, glittery pop music. They are known for their outrageous shows, so this will be the perfect opportunity to check out the recently opened rooftop of the Bushwick multistage club Elsewhere. 599 Johnson Avenue (between Scott and Gardner Avenues)

Speaker Picks

Preparing for the NYCx Moonshot: A Blueprint for Tech Innovation, June 7

The Mayor’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer’s newest program, NYCx, is calling for bold and innovative solutions for large-scale issues of urban life. These wildly imaginative ideas (or “moonshots”) and how they will improve the way we live will be the hot topic of this chat featuring panelists from across the technology and civic industries, including NYCx director Jeremy M. Goldberg; former vice chair of GE Beth Comstock; and the New School’s vice president for social justice, Maya Wiley. The Williamsburg Hotel, 96 Wythe Avenue

The Future of Innovation Is Art & Technology CollaborationJune 8

The collaboration between artists and engineers can lead to exciting possibilities—just ask the tech-savvy women leading Northside’s panel on the future of innovation. Hyphen Labs’s Ashley Baccus, New Museum’s Julia Kaganskiy, and NYC-based artist Sougwen Chung join forces to discuss the advantages of partnering residency programs and research labs, as well as how the bringing together of right- and left-brain thinkers can have a significant cultural impact. The William Vale, 111 North 12th Street

NYU Tandon Flash Pitch CompetitionJune 8

Northside meets Shark Tank in this high-intensity investment competition. Six startup founders are given just two minutes to give the most important elevator pitch of their lives and make an impression on three major venture capitalists—who might just help bring their ideas to fruition. The William Vale, 111 North 12th Street

Engineering Tools to Spread Happiness in the World, June 7

Seventeen days after the sudden death of his son, Mo Gawdat was inspired to start OneBillionHappy.org, with the aim to spread joy to others and make one billion people happy. Yes, one billion. Learn how his three-step process will help him reach his goal, and then join in on a sound bath from sound therapist Sara Auster, followed by a meditation session led by Thupten Phuntsok. The Williamsburg Hotel, 96 Wythe Avenue