Noise Fest XII

Posted on October 22, 2009 – 3:19 PM | by OldManFoster
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Beauty is a simple thing; ugliness is the exceptional thing. And fiery imaginations, no doubt, always prefer the extraordinary thing to the simple thing.  -Marquis De Sade

“Most people don’t like music that challenges. They want to Noise Festhear music that reflects what their interests are. Music that feeds who you already are. Makes you feel good. Typically, you can understand it. The basis of pop music is positive – my car is really fast, my girlfriend is really cute. That’s what pop music is all about. Noise music is taking you out of that comfort zone.”

     Bill Burg smiles and takes another sip of coffee. He’s in the middle of explaining why noise music will always be an outsider’s concern and as the organizer, a participant and promoter of Norcal Noisefest, he’s perfectly fine with that. Noise, perhaps the most ghettoized of all music, is admittedly an acquired taste, but not without merit. At its best, noise can be shamanistic, physically felt, hilarious as hell and life-affirming. And sometimes, all those at once. It’s a limited audience, Burg agrees, but it’s a very devoted audience. That devotion is why the Norcal Noisefest, held this year October 10-12th, is in its 12th year making it one of, if not the, longest running event of its kind in the world.         

     Noise, while never going to be a flavor-of-the-month, has been growing in popularity exponentially as of late.  Musicians, especially Scandinavian, in black and death metal bands, have embraced the bleak, nihilistic aspects of noise to further the music, bringing the two genres closer than ever. Wolf Eyes, with their Throbbing Gristle via bad-trip party boys vibe, signed to Sub Pop a while ago pushing their great, unholy squalor into relatively mainstream earbones. There’s also an accessibility adds Burg. “It’s so punk rock in that there’s no wall between the performers and the audience.”

    Technology has also been responsible for a large part of not only the increased crowds at Noisefest but the spreading of the noise underground.  

     “There’s a lot more awareness with each other and a lot of that has to do with the Internet, People who thought they were doing something by themselves discovered there were tens of thousands of people around the world doing the same thing and that starts a community, and as far as Noisefest a lot of the early musicians were also early into the Internet, networks going back and forth.” Burg uses the word “community” often in our conversation. It’s important to him. 
     “One of the things I think I enjoy the most is, that I’ve been trying to carry on in other aspects of my life is the community building aspect.  Building this network and bring people together that begin temporary but over time become permanent. They become long-term connections.” 

     With performers coming from as far away as Mexico and Missouri, the Norcal Noisefest has established itself as one of the premier outlets for extreme music.  This year’s Noisefest promises to be the finest yet with 36 artists spread over three days with some great acts to stimulate your life: Tarantula Princess, who played at her first Noisefest when she was 11 and is the daughter of an early Noisefest performer; Big City Orchestra from San Francisco always provides fine entertainment both visually and sonically (last year performance was a set of Cabaret Voltaire covers) and the powerviolence of Blue Sabbath Black Cheer. And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

      One big surprise to this year’s event is the inclusion of Ross Hammond, best known for his presence in the Sacramento jazz scene. While Hammond was exploring other musical avenues, some of his audience were stuck in a cul-de-sac.  

     “Lob (aka Instagon and a huge part of the success of Noisefest) put on an event this spring at the Vox Gallery. And Ross brought out a lot of the jazz audience.  Some of that audience blew their minds and they’ll be at the Noisefest. But most of the people who came out for the jazz were very upset. They were very unhappy that this wasn’t a jazz show. But we even had a sign that said ’In no way is this a jazz performance’ on the door.“     

 Noise is meant to unsettle, to confront. It’s what philosopher Georges Bataille called “the heterogeneous” – the perverse and evil. The transgressive. Yet, at the same time it is liberating. Considering that these sounds are those we traditionally discard as non-musical, there is a visceral connection. As Burg eloquently states, “It’s violence for people with no capacity for violence.” It is a proxy for our darker side. An exorcism, a cleansing, a release.

“All music is just sound, and hence all sound is music.” John Cage said that in the 1940’s and his maxim still holds true to this day, thanks to the likes of Bill Burg, Lob and all the participants and audiences of the Norcal Noisefest.

For more information and a complete list of artist performing at Norcal Noisefest XII, please go to:

October 10th  @ LUNA’S CAFÉ, 1414 16th Street, Sacramento   
October 11th  @  THE SPACE THEATER 2509 R Street, Sacramento
October 12th  @ THE SPACE THEATER 2509 R Street, Sacramento

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