THIS NOISE FESTIVAL WAS LARGELY SUCCESSFUL
Growing up in the Midwest I was acquainted in my younger days with the bleak side of noise music, most of it stemming from mid-90s grindcore side projects and math rock masturbatory vanity endeavors. In other words, I saw and heard a lot of crap and pretty much wrote off noise as a narcissistic and boring genre. After being introduced fairly late in my musical awakening to its brutal sibling, power electronics, I started making sense of things and realized it’s not all crap and the stuff that isn’t crap can be amazing. The adjectives to describe a live noise set are pretty limited. The successful ones are usually brutal, short, violent, aggressive, hypnotic, and grating. The unsuccessful ones are generally just boring and range from slightly to extremely annoying.
Thankfully the range of bands I witnessed at last weekend’s Northeast Noise and Power Electronics Festival II erred primarily among the successful: Bloody Minded, Consumer Electronics, Fire in the Head, Strom.EC, and Martial Cantrell (neither noise nor power electronics, but a welcome addition nonetheless). There were some less-than-captivating sets and there were a few bands who while entertaining live had very little sonic substance, but substance isn’t always that important.
And just so you know, this is the reaction that people give you when you tell people at a noise fest you are from Vice. The noise scene is very protective. Actually, I’m full of shit, I was just being a nerd and bugging Mark Solotroff and Peter Sotos.
One of the most overused and tiresome aspects of noise to me is the repetitive use of extreme pornography. At this point it doesn’t feel shocking and there is no real sense of danger. If it’s menace you are after, your music should stand without close-ups of mutilated vaginas. Frankly I’ve seen it before and as a woman it doesn’t make my pussy cower in fear, just cringe a little out of annoyance. However I understand the iconography is firmly embedded in the culture and can be effective on the less disaffected. However, it was hard for me not to give a few major eyerolls when reading the band rosters for the nights of the fest. Twodeadsluts Onegoodfuck is one of those band names. The thing about perversion is that it has to be believable or it just comes off as sort of goofy and there is nothing particularly pervy about an angry ginger yelling into a bullhorn. However, I will say that these dudes set up the fest and did an awesome job. Also, their set was highly entertaining and frankly I liked them. I can’t resist the (lucky?) charms of a pissed off leprechaun, especially one with a hobbit-like growth on his chest!
Watch the video and you’ll get the gist of it:
On the other end of the spectrum there was Fire in the Head. No porno visions, just pure violence. Harsh power electronics performed by dudes who are able and willing to inflict some serious pain on the eager crowd. The funny thing is that apparently it’s OK to for people to get punched in the face at O’Brien’s Pub, but not okay to stand on a chair in order to get a better view of it.
The highlights of the fest were definitely Bloodyminded and Consumer Electronics aka Philip Best of Whitehouse fame. The crowd got so violent during Best’s set that I had to run for cover after about five minutes in the front. Frankly I’m proud to have lasted that long. From my perch in the back I saw a long-hair flee to the bathroom to tend to his bleeding face three times only to emerge and thrust himself back into the maw to be further mauled. Here are some visual highlights from two important acts.
Bloodyminded has been around for nearly 15 years and features Mark Solotroff, originally of Intrinsic Action, and sometimes Pieter Schoolwerth of Wierd Records. Known for their short songs and short sets, they decided to throw a wrench into everyone’s expectations and played a 47-song set, the titles of which were posted around the venue in advance.
Consumer Electronics started with some crotch thrusting and nipple tweaking and continued on from there.
Better to let the live performance speak for itself:
A ton more people played, some of them notable, some of them not. Regrettably, I lack the stamina for ten hours of noise for three days straight, so I only saw portions of the fest. One of the things I am especially sad to have missed was a film showing by Peter Sotos, Vice’s favorite rose. However, he assured me that we’ll be able to get our grubby hands on a DVD of it soon enough so not all is lost.
This weekend’s upcoming Apex Fest III brings the noise front to New York. The fest has a few bands crossing over so not all is lost for those who didn’t make it to Boston. STROM.EC will hopefully be able to play a full set as their first US show last weekend was unfortunately cut drastically short due to some seriously blown equipment. Some other notable overlaps that will be gracing the crowd are Sewer Goddess, Theologian, and Xiphoid Dementia. In addition to the overlapping acts, Brooklyn’s Unearthly Trance will grace the crowd with some heavy hypnosis and Chaos Majik is also slated to perform. Advance tickets are strongly encouraged for the festival as there is a capacity of only 50 people per day. Also, to those already in the know, note that the venue has changed.