norcal noisefest - OCT 13-15, 2006 Sacramento,CA
reviews of days 2 & 3 by Avant Gardiner for SMOOTH ASSAILING webzine/blog

norcal noisefest is a three-day event which showcases (mostly) west coast experimental/noise musicians and is now in its tenth year here in sacramento. tickets were only ten bucks per day, and with the exception of friday, which only lasted for four hours, you got nearly eights of noise each day. the perfomance set-up for the two days that i went, went like this: three performers would set up and then play (almost consecutively), then there'd be a half hour break while three more acts would get ready. and so on.

alright, so i'm posting this backwards, bear with me. sunday i chose to forgo the first hour and a half since, again, i'd already seen everyone that was performing then, and really couldn't stand one of the acts. here's what i might've missed: delayed sleep (sacramento), night nurse (sacramento), moment trigger (newhall, ca), vankmen (sacramento). apparently i mistimed my arrival and also missed kilt's (los angeles) set and the beginning of amk's. that sucked. here's how the final day went down:

day 3

i was standing out in the main 'lobby' of the space theater, where the festival was being held, and i heard something that was pretty damn good. thinking that i timed everything just right so that i'd get there at the end of vankmen's set, i peeked through the curtain to find a record player playing orgy with lob, amk (los angeles), bob bellerue (of redglaer and halfnormal) and, i think, raven chacon. after the initial disappointment of not seeing their set from the beginning, i calmed down and enjoyed their fantastic work which consisted of playing records and most likely things that weren't records. it was great and everyone worked well together, considering what they were doing. a definite highlight. amk (who runs the superb banned production label) was the set closer for the second set, so that's all for that. the picture below looks like it was taken on a p.o.s. webcam, but the one i originally took came out too dark and i had to photoshop it to make it even look that decent. from left to right: raven chacon (possibly?), bob bellerue, amk and lob.

the night before i was wondering who the tall skinny guy was who kept getting waaay too into the harsh noise sets, and today i found out that it was chicago's is. oh, and apparently i was wrong about norcal noisefest being limited to west coast musicians. okay, back to is, he walked up to the table where his equpiment was set up, took off his shirt, took of his belt and then laid down some serious harsh noise. there was pedal noise, there was contact mic noise, screaming and turntable noise. incredible. i was definitely impressed by bryan. i like to think that i'm into some pretty obscure noise, but the two best full on harsh performances were by two people i'd previously never even heard of. that's a very good thing. instagon was next, and according to lob (the main man behind instagon) this was their 432nd (something around there) performance, consequently meaning it was instagon's 432nd (something around there) incarnation. that's a hell of a lot of line-up changes, and for a city that seems to boast about ten worthwhile experimental acts, that's a quite a feat. this particular instance of instagon sported thomas dimuzio (electronics), joseph hammer (tape manipulations), lob (electronics and other noises), andrew of chopstick (theremin), matt from delayed sleep and no sun (guitar), and dr. oblivious (i think that was his name, he was on a synth). after opening up with some star wars sound clips the jamming began. for all of the people involved i'd have to say that their set was incredibly fluid. nothing seemed forced and it seemed like there was a definite rhythm to what they were doing. well, not rhythm rhythm, but you get me. noisy and interesting and entertaining. i was very happy with their set. also worth noting, i liked what andrew did here with the theremin better than what he was doing solo. he provided nice atmosphere. closing out the third set was the female duo of san francisco's ecomorti and sacramento's leporidae (pronounced apparently, like luhpwhereday). in the picture down below leporidae is on the left and to the right is ecomorti giving her best swamp thing impersonation. another crappy picture, i know. ecomorti/leporidae's performance was brilliant as well. it was in more of an experimental electronic vein, slow moving, a little haunting. the red lighting was a nice touch too. someone needs to start putting out more of leporidae's stuff too because she's extremely good, but i'm not sure too many people outside of sacramento, who don't themselves make noise, have even heard of her, and it's a shame
the second to last trio of artist to play began with another chicago artist, blake edwards aka vertonen. i love vertonen. he was definitely one of the main reasons for my coming out to the final day. thankfully, he didn't disappoint, not in the least. starting out he did his usual vertonen stuff, low-key experimental electronic noise. as he started to wind down he began repeating something over and over to the sound you get when the needle reaches the end of a record but doesn't reset itself, then he did this little spoken word bit and unexpectedly shifted in some great harsh noise. i was in awe. i did wish he had more crippled intellect cds for sale on the merch table though. probably for the best that he didn't, i bought enough stuff as it was. blake was followed by yet another dimuzio act, this time a pairing with la's joseph hammer, under the name of dimmer, ha 'cos of their names, i get it. seriously, nobody whored themselves out to more people than lob or thomas dimuzio in these two days. thankfully, the end results were always good. this was more of the same from thomas and joseph (atleast from what i'd heard of their contributions to the instagon ensemble). beautiful, haunting, atmospheric electronic sounds. locals art lessing and the flower vato were the closers and i was really liking what they did. i'd previously seen them perform at an audio waffle event in sacramento a few months prior, but they were doing things a little different this time. art was playing, what looked like, a home-made standing bass, but i might be wrong, while larry (the flower vato) was on..i don't even know what he was doing. all that matters is that it sounded it great. there was a repetitious, but slow, percussion sound coupled with art's droning bass (he was playing it with a violin bow). that was really good, but then larry picked up the sax while art alternated between drumming and strumming. i wasn't feeling the sax so much, but then they switched it up one more time as the flower vato went to rhythmically banging the drums while art lessing continued on the bass. it was pretty hypnotic and engaging. some might've been bored, but i was getting into it.
the northern california collective living breathing music, which doesn't have one set line-up and has members from all over the place, started the fifth set. this time around living breathing music was kevin corcoran, chad stockdale (runs the weird forest label and is in a duo with kevin aptly named kevin & chad), some guy named troy with a neck-beard, a girl i don't know, another guy i don't know, and one more guy i didn't know. after a bit of a delay due to equipment issues, lbm got underway and it wasn't too bad. troy was playing the acoustic guitar, kevin was making screeching noises with a drum, cymbal and violin bow, the girl was making vocal noises, one guy was playing the cello, the other was providing more vocal noise, and chad had his back to me so i couldn't really tell what he was doing. at first it was pretty, light and minimal with the girl trying to give her best christina carter vocal cooing, but it started to go downhill when the neck-beard guy started faux-cry/shrieking and making these god awful facial gesticulations as the girl began shrieking as well. i was going to start bursting into laughter if i kept looking at troy. two words man, community theater. oh, and two more, schick tracer. like i said though, they had their moments, but this really ruined a string of six consecutively great sets. anxiously looking forward to the next performers, san francisco's heralded big city orchestra...but it wasn't quite what i had expected or hoped for, something along the lines of 1997's dark at night would've been nice. instead i got what seemed like a gothy musical. in five movements. (update: after receiving an email from a member of bco, i came to understand that their set was a collection of cabaret voltaire covers. that explains a lot. there were also a few technical problems with some of their equipment.) the first part started out with some dark synth organ sounds over some other experimental noise, but then four ladies came out and there was singing and cowbells. admittedly, this was pretty entertaining and one of bco's bright spots. for the next movement the ladies removed their costumes and took their seats in the back and started playing violin to sheet music. little did i know the orchestra part of their name wasn't just a whim. in either this or the next movement there was some faint singing by the guy who was dressed nice, and it wasn't bad. the violins were nice and there was some melody to their playing. the fourth movement was similiar in sound, only sans singing. the fifth movement, this was the real misstep. the gothy lady who was orchestrating everything and playing the synth, started singing along with the violins and...well, it just wasn't very good. i started to think who the hell invited rasputina? to top it all off it just dragged on and on and on and on and everytime you'd think that she was at a stopping point, she'd start back up again. i had to resist the urge to run off during the last part of their set. admittedly, i'm not much of a fan of cabaret voltaire, had i been more familiar with that group's works, i might've better appreciated what they were trying to accomplish. after bco finished, i did leave, skipping out once again on the closing act. this time it was sacramento's uberkunst. deutch for super art.

after a truly impressive string of sets, it was disappointing to leave sunday night after two overall unenjoyable performances. taking that into account though, i'd say that i had a great time at noisefest, and look forward to catching it next year. if i'm still stuck in sacramento.

day 2

i opted to skip the opening day of noisefest because it was mostly people that i'd seen before, multiple times, and decided to catch wooden wand at fool's foundation. i stand by that decision. it would've been nice to see tralphaz and xome again, but i think i made the right choice.

the second day got off to a bit of a slow start with citrus heights' chopstick. i'd also seen him before, opening for, i think it was hive mind and sixes a few months ago. i liked that set better than this one. this one was mostly guitar noise, which would've been fine, but then for the last five or so minutes of his performance he set some alarm clocks on a table, walked away, and it was just clocks ticking and going off at different times. it was pretty boring to just be sitting there and staring at a table. he could've just put in a cd of his music and not even bothered with any of if. i would place chopstick's set above the one that followed, though. los angeles' destroy date (pictured)..well, that was just something else. destroy date started by playing some pre-recorded music and then it went into a god awful performance art thing that...yeah...i don't know. it consisted of him tying a rope around a table (that had two targets taped to the top of it), dragging that table around the stage, sometimes toppling the table, adding some panties to the rope, throwing some panties and that was it. he was also sporting some hot leather pants and 80s hair. the pre-recorded music wasn't bad though. ufo as bacteria (arcata, ca) closed out the set with some more traditional noise that was enjoyable, and in comparison to what came before it, uab was a relief.

after about a half an hour break, the next three performers set up their equipment. first to perform was aa23 (la), who were supposed to play on friday night, but had transportation issues. theirs was an interesting set. it was atmospheric noise combined with sound bytes of george w. bush talking about the iraq war, specifically how we won that war. the noise was good, but eh, i didn't like the political aspects of it. after that was the performance ensemble +dog+, which has members from all over the place. +dog+'s set was interesting to say the least. there's a couple of people that i did know in the group: lob from instagon (and noisefest's emcee), idx1274, the destroy date guy and two other people i didn't know. this was essentially pure aggression being showcased. two guys screaming and doing guttural grunts into the mic, destroy date working on the electronics, lob playing bass, idx1274 banging metal pipes and chains against a piece of metal. very chaotic, and once idx started swinging a microphone around and breaking it, those of us who were dumb enough to sit in the center of the front row started to get a little nervous when pieces of mic were flying all over the place. also worth noting, i liked what destroy date was doing here a hell of a lot more than when he was by himself. even if he was wearing a pink thong over his leather pants. klowd closed out this set with a nice droning experimental electronics piece. the second set was definitely improved over the first one.

another long set break (someone accutely noted that it took longer to set up than it did for the three performers to play) and three more acts were ready to go. portland's sleeping with the earth started and i'm still not quite sure how i felt about his set. i enjoyed the electronics work that he was doing, it wasn't harsh at all, but he was also doing some reverbed vocals. it kind of had a doomy air to it. i think i liked it. the best part of his set though was the shadow that he was casting on the wall behind him, that was pretty cool. san francisco's 15 degrees below zero took over next. based solely on their project name, i had my doubts as to how good they'd be, but they surprised me. it started out with one guy doing some minimal guitar work while the other two were adding some electronics. it was pretty and ambient, but then they started adding some harsher noise over the top of it and the juxtaposition made for an interesting effect. towards the end of their rather long set, one of the guys who was on the electronics (and looked like he listened to a lot of wolfsheim), started reading either song lyrics or a poem, but his mic was all distorted, like nicole 12 sounds like, only i don't think this was about molesting children, and it just sounded horrible. it greatly detracted from the good music that the other two were making. 15 degrees below zero would've been a lot better had it only been two people, and if it didn't go on for quite so long. to close out this third set we were treated to a collaboration between eugene, oregon's warning broken machine and sacramento's very own klowd. this set marked the night's first truly great performance..three hours in. klowd was on the floor providing the drone and atmosphere while wbm was skillfully working the harsh noise and what looked like a space heater..or a toaster oven..but was ultimately merely an oscillator. lovely work by both.

the fourth set opened up with someone i'd never heard of, cj reaven borosque, and wow, she just blew everyone away. this was harsh noise on a great level. there was plenty of variation, plenty of harshness and she made it look effortless. at one point in time she just kept slapping different buttons and the movement of her hand made me think of that old game simon. you know, with the red, yellow, blue and green buttons that you had to hit when they lit up. i miss that game. anyways, her perfomance was easily in my top two favorites of the night, and certainly up there in terms of all-time favorites. a collaboration between noise favorite stimbox (san francisco) and sacramento bassist lob followed. it was good, some harsh noise combined with lob's effects pedal guitar noise, but i was still thinking about how great cj was. one more collaboration closed out the fourth set, a pairing between cascadia oregon's madman of noise idx1274 (he's actually nice) and joe from burning indian (he played on friday night). this was an awesome performance. very shrill, grinding noise, due in large part to idx1274 playing a grinder. idx had a coffee can, that was miked for sound, and he was grinding the edges of it, creating both a nice harsh noise, and a pretty display of flying sparks. how he could do that for ten or so minutes without getting burnt is incredible. the fourth set was definitely my favorite, great perfomances turned in all around.

six hours in and the second to last perfomers were ready to go. thomas dimuzio, moe staiano and kinoko nishi (pictured above) performing as the komoto trio. they come from sf and manteca. dimuzio was on the electronics, moe took care of the percussion while kinoko played some japanese (i'm assuming) instrument. komoto trio

were more avant garde than noise. thomas dimuzio provided ambient noise as a foundation while the majority of the work was done by the other two. it was very innovative, interesting and enjoyable and provided a nice change of pace. rubber o cement closed out this set, and having never seen them play before, i was really looking forward to this, and they didn't disappoint. for those who don't know, rubber o cement is grux from caroliner, and he's, as far as i'm aware of, the king of u.s. costume-based perfomance noise. rubber o cement set up with a cardboard fortress around their synths (the guy who isn't grux was hidden behind here) and there were a myriad of pedals out in front of that. after a few minutes of fort noise, grux comes out in this big costume, stomping around the backstage. as he tries to get out of the door onto the stage, the controller/instrument that he's holding above his head blocks him, and it takes some time to get out, when he finally does get out, he immediately falls down, then gets up after some effort and goes over to the pedals. simultaneously stepping on pedals with his big costumed feet and using the controller on his head, things start to get harsher. the rest of the set has grux stomping around the whole stage/backstage/entry way as he and his partner are making noise. hilarious and amazing, that's how i'd sum up rubber o cement. don't miss any opportunity you have to see these guys.

san francisco's f-space were the closing act, but i didn't feel like sticking around for another hour. seven and a half hours of noise was good enough for me. usually when i'm doing something for that long i'm getting paid for it.

overall, i'd have to say the the good (and great) far outweighed the bad (and not so good), and i look forward to day three.

:: posted by avant gardening,