Audio Art Assault

Posted on September 27, 2011 – 7:15 PM | by Admin
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By Tony King Photo by Ed Goldthorde

What exactly is “noise music”? Isn’t music—a collection of notes, rhythms and melodies—already noise by definition? Technically yes, but go further down the musical rabbit hole, and you’ll find a subset of musicians that eschew the rigidity of standard song structure in order manipulate blips, bleeps, clangs and feedback into conceptually chaotic and beautiful sound sculptures.

This, then, is noise music.

This year marks the 15th annual NorCal Noisefest, the oldest and longest-running music festival focusing on noise music in the world. The brainchild of local noise musician and graphic designer Floyd Diebel, NorCal Noisefest has steadily grown in popularity since its inception in 1995, attracting both noise musicians and fans of the genre from around the world to Sacramento.

“This year’s could be the best Noisefest ever,” enthuses Noisefest’s event coordinator, Lob Instagon, who has been organizing the annual concert series since 2005. Instagon and his namesake noise project have been participating in NorCal Noisefest since the very beginning.

Originally hailing from Southern California, Instagon was encouraged by the friends he made at Noisefest—most notably John Frank of the band Klowd—to move up to Sacramento. In doing so, Instagon put his 12+ years of concert promoting experience to work and immediately started managing the NorCal Noisefest, initiating a submission screening for contributing musicians, booking bands by invitation, securing venues, and turning Noisefest into, as he puts it, “…a professional event.”

“We’re looking for real noise,” explains Instagon of the Noisefest submission process. “We’re looking for stuff that has no melodies, no beats, no lyrics. Nothing structured like a song.” This weeding-out process is overseen by Noisefest’s committee, which, among others, includes Andrew Wayne, Stefano Zeroli, and regular MidMo contributor William Burg.

“There’s so many genres of noise, and being NorCal Noisefest, we cater to all of them,” notes committee member and 11-year festival vet Bobby Almon (also known as Liver Cancer). “For instance, I play what they consider ‘harsh noise,’ but somebody else might play ‘ambient noise.’ There’s no limits or boundaries.”

“You just say ‘noise’ and people think, ‘oh that’s people just hitting pots and pans.’ It’s not that,” says Instagon. “It’s one guy with a table playing $400 worth of electronics equipment plugged into each other and seeing what happens.”

“There’s a lot of homemade instruments involved,” adds Wayne, who’s also in the band Chopstick. “And a lot of unique performances set up with them.”

As Instagon explains, noise music is “sound art.” The music that each musician or band produces at Noisefest is loosely controlled spontaneity, with no one song or performance ever being duplicated again. “Each artist has their own comprehension of their song structure and what they’re going to do, and that’s what makes it kind of gripping, new and fresh.”

“I like the improvisational aspect of [noise music],” notes Steve Davis of the Los Angeles-based group +Dog+, who will be making his ninth appearance at Noisefest this year. “People use pretty much anything to make sounds. Anything goes, and I like that.”

For the first year since it began, NorCal Noisefest is branching outside of Sacramento’s city limits, with shows also taking place in Davis and San Francisco over a six-day period, at five different venues and one KDVS on-air radio appearance. Of the 50 (!) bands on Noisefest’s 2011 bill, almost half hail from outside of Sac, including Big City Orchestra (SF), Marlo Eggplant (Portland), Lucio Menegon (NY), and + – Error (Germany). Additionally, this year’s Noisefest event will be filmed for Chad E. William’s upcoming documentary.

“We don’t have too many festivals in Sacramento that seem to cater towards more bizarre music genres,” says Wayne. “[Noisefest] is kind of underground and punk rock at its roots.”

“Noise as a genre really is like the only thing happening that really still holds the original true punk-rock ethos,” adds Istagon. “[Noise music] is about being original and true to yourself. It’s not about performing and wanting to sound like Green Day.”

For more details on NorCal Noisefest, log on to


  1. 2 Responses to “Audio Art Assault”

  2. avatar

    By Igor Amokian on Sep 27, 2011 | Reply

    Have fun guys, I know alot of the performers…
    I wish it wasn’t the same week as SOUNDWALK, you guys would probably like SOUNDWALK too.

    Maybe I could get up there one year!!!

  3. avatar

    By William Burg on Sep 28, 2011 | Reply

    Tell me more about this “soundwalk”!

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