Jordan Kurland has his hands all over the Bay Area music scene. Kurland is a partner in Noise Pop Industries, which throws the sprawling 10-day Noise Pop festival every year in San Francisco. He also co-produces the Treasure Island Music Festival, which celebrated its 10 year anniversary in 2016.
“Last year, despite having really bad weather, it was one of our best-selling years at Treasure Island,” Kurland told Amplify. The festival recently announced it will take 2017 off as they relocate from Treasure Island to another location in the Bay Area.
“We thought it was a good opportunity to take a breather. Both Noise Pop and Another Planet have other things we’re launching and we wanted to focus on that a little bit and come out with Treasure Island again next year,” Kurland added.
Though Kurland was born in the Midwest, he has called the Bay Area home since 1995 and been adding to the market’s long history with music ever since.
“The fact that Noise Pop Festival has been able to survive this long in the changing landscape of live music and the changing landscape of San Francisco has been really really great,” Kurland said. “That, after 25 years, people still appreciate it. It’s always been a labor of love for Kevin Arnold and myself. Kevin founded the festival 25 years ago and I’ve been working on it with him for 20 years now.”
For Kurland, the number one trick to being successful in the Bay Area was simply staying put.
“I saw a lot of people in the music industry left here because they weren’t able to get where they wanted to be or they were having some degree of success and felt like they needed to be in LA or New York to further that success,” Kurland explained. “San Francisco has such a musical history and I felt it was important for people to stay here and continue working around music.”
In addition to his role in major festivals in the area, Kurland also owns management company Zeitgeist and works with Death Cab for Cutie, the Postal Service, She & Him, Best Coast, Bob Mould, Toro Y Moi, New Pornographers, and Dan Deacon. The company is also the exclusive talent buyers for the Swedish American Hall and Cafe Du Nord in San Francisco and book shows at various venues throughout the Bay Area.
Amplify caught up with the man embedded in Bay Area music to ask him about his five favorite shows.
The Who at Alpine Valley Music Theatre in Wisconsin
July 23, 1989
I became an obsessed (to put it mildly) fan of The Who when I was 10 years old. It was 1982 and The Who had just released It’s Hard and announced their Farewell Tour. Their final show was broadcast on ON TV (a precursor to cable) and I recorded it on a betamax tape. I watched it over and over and over. I drew dream set lists and stage designs in my spiral notebooks at school. My walls were plastered with Who posters. I collected bootleg recordings on vinyl and traded live tapes. I was a member of The Who fan club. But I never thought I’d have a chance to see them in concert. But then in early 1989 they announced their reunion tour. I was about as excited as a human being could be. It was the summer before my senior year in high school and this particular show was the fourth out of five on that tour that I had the privilege of seeing. It was the third and final show at Alpine Valley in (Wisconsin) which was about three hours from where I grew up but, at the time, the closest amphitheater. It’s where I saw many shows in my formative years (including Steve Ray Vaughn’s last ever performance). We had dead center seats, row 21 I believe. The three other shows I had seen on the tour so far (including Tommy at Radio City Music Hall a month prior) had been incredible but this was the one. In terms of performance, set list, and energy. Three hours of pure, unadulterated bliss. At that point I never thought I’d see The Who perform again after the 1989 tour (let alone chit chat with Pete Townshend on several occasions!) It felt like the greatest day of my life.
Radiohead at the Warfield in San Francisco
July 27, 1997
The first few years I lived in the Bay Area I moonlighted as a music writer for the San Francisco Examiner newspaper. This is when it was owned by Hearst and was the afternoon paper of record. I had become a big Radiohead fan after The Bends was released. I had seen them at the Fillmore on The Bends tour and was thrilled when I got the approval to interview bassist Colin Greenwood prior to the band’s show at the Warfield. The show was just about five weeks after the release of OK Computer and the album was already rightly being hailed a masterpiece. Radiohead was ascending to the throne of rock royalty but they weren’t there quite yet so there was such an energy and excitement coming from the stage. Because I had previewed the show the seats I had were in the front row of the balcony. The view couldn’t have been better. Almost all of the songs were off of The Bends and OK Computer which are two of my favorite records of all-time (yes, I’m one of those annoying people who thinks those albums are far superior to anything released in the 2000s). It was mind numbingly good. Literally. I was so effected by the show that I couldn’t think straight. I had after show passes but I gave them to a friend and wandered out onto Market Street and into the night.
Beastie Boys, Fishbone, Murphy’s Law at Aragon Ballroom in Chicago
March 13, 1987
I was 14, a freshman in high school from the suburbs of Chicago and this was my first unsupervised show. I had been listening to Licensed To Ill non-stop since it was released the previous November. I went with three of my close friends and, of course, arrived right as doors opened. I had no idea who the openers were (I don’t think I bothered to check beforehand) but in hindsight what an incredible bill! NYC hardcore band Murphy’s Law, Fishbone touring behind their first studio album, In Your Face, and of course, headliners, the Beastie Boys who had just been shot out of a cannon into the stratosphere of fame six months prior. This was the infamous Beastie’s tour with the women dancing in cages, the Beastie Boys drinking so much that they forgot words and occasionally passed out on stage (or pretended to) and the giant inflatable penis that emerged as they launched into ‘Fight For Your Right To Party.’ Not a bad initiation into the world of live music.
Rage Against the Machine at Pitzer College in Claremont, California
February 8, 1992
I discovered Rage Against the Machine accidentally a few days earlier when they opened for Ice T’s not-so-great metal project, Body Count, at the Palace in Hollywood. I left that show after a handful of Body Count songs, but I was absolutely floored by Rage. I had never heard nor heard of them, but I went from sitting in the balcony to the floor/pit within two songs. After they finished playing I saw someone from my college who informed me that they would be playing the Pit, which was the common area underneath the dining hall of my tiny school, Pitzer College, a few days later. My roommate had gotten his hands on the now infamous demo cassette (copy machine cover with a match taped to it) and we listened to it over and over in our dorm room in anticipation of the show. We told everyone we could about this amazing new band we had seen and when Rage showed up on campus the show was surprisingly crowded (both with college students and fans from ‘off campus’). The show was even more powerful than what I had witnessed a few nights prior due to the size of the venue and actually knowing the songs. Rage was ferocious, like nothing I had ever seen or heard. Both lyrically and musically. It was not hard to predict that they were destined for greatness. A couple years ago someone let me know that this show had been posted, in its entirety on-line. You can watch it right here to see what I’m talking about.
Prince at The Paramount in Oakland
February 28, 2016
I was on the fence about going to see this show. It was not only on a Sunday night in Oakland but it was also the last night of Noise Pop. This means I had already been out seeing music for a week straight and I had one final show to attend that same night in San Francisco. However, it was Prince at a small venue (3,000 capacity) and I’m old enough to know it’s not wise to pass these experiences up. It was billed as Prince and a piano which seemed cool, but I was also worried that it wasn’t going to be as amazing as his full-on band shows. There would be no jaw dropping guitar solos nor dance moves. However, it ended up being the best of the handful of Prince shows I had been fortunate enough to see. I don’t think it’s possible to fully appreciate Prince as an artist unless you had the chance to see him perform. I know this was the case for me. Seeing him on stage with a band behind him was the closest thing I would ever get to seeing Jimi Hendrix play guitar or James Brown dance in his prime. Watching him sit and play his songs stripped to their essence on a grand piano was just as powerful. It shone a whole new light on his songs and songwriting process. Who the hell would’ve guessed that ‘Cream’ could sound so damn good and so damn funky when it was just Prince and a piano. Tragically, less than two months later he was gone.