EVENT: Koo's Noise Fest '99
DATE: August 14, 1999
VENUE: KOO'S ARTS CAFE, Santa Ana, CA
REVIEWER: the Reverend Paul Mathers
I rushed through a dinner of a cheese steak hoagie because I thought I was late. The noise fest started at 4:30 and here I was driving there at 5:00. I got to the ticket counter and asked the blue haired girl if Lob had shown up yet.
"No, he's not here."
"Well, I'm from Caution Magazine," her expression told me that this meant nothing to her, "okay, how much is it?"
I paid my five bucks and got in just as Dog was finishing up. Dog seemed to be two guys with their shirts off. One of them was diving onto a sheet of aluminum siding, the other was throwing instruments around. I saw a snare drum fly past the window as I approached Koo's Arts Cafe. I didn't get in to take pictures and see the band up close because I was smoking.
The band that followed was Sigh Co. (pronounced "Psycho"). They sounded like if you took the swamp out of Captain Beefheart and replaced it with punk. It was a funky sort of noise. The drummer played on Instagon's first CD, "The Most Creative Thing I've Ever Heard in a slight English Accent" I think it's called. I notice the drums because I drum. He's a much better drummer than I am. In fact, the whole band was a pleasure to listen to.
Next up was Not For Air, a band of about seven boys making chaotic noise with a bunch of electronic equipment. One of the boys was wore a virtual reality helmet. I mean, that's all he did was sit there with the helmet on. There were a couple of guys with keyboards and a bearded guy walking around the room, shouting into a microphone, crouched like he was in the depths of a dysentery pains. They all looked like when Hollywood makes a movie about a nerdy kid and they just slap a pair of Ginsberg glasses on a hunky actor and they don't look anything like the geeks you grew up with. They look like hunky guys with glasses. The whole band looked like that. It was disturbing. I mean, it wasn't a bad thing. They seemed nice enough. I was just a little surprised to see so many of them gathered in one band. Their music was well formed noise with very little variations, a lot of repetition and not much textural variety. My guess is that they'll really kick ass in about a year.
I had met John Weise earlier in the day. He was a very nice, sort of quiet guy with a good sense of humor. I was eager to find out what kind of noise would come out of him. He had a minimalist set up, just him playing with knobs on a box by his amp in the middle of the room. For twenty minutes he took us on a malfunctioning roller coaster of sound. The abrasive textures were so thick and various it was like being jerked around places that you didn't quite understand harshly and quickly. I highly recommend you check out this guy's noise. He has a seven inch out called "Cat Woman is a Cat Vampire" and a split album release set for late september. I don't remember who it's a split album with (he told me, but I forgot to write it down), but you should buy it. You should also keep an eye out in case he performs in your area. This guy makes quality noise.
Lob wanted to use records in his solo performance, so one of the hunky bespectacled Not For Air guys took us upstairs where we rifled through the Koo's record collection. Lob picked out a Cheech and Chong album, the L A Dream Team, and a few more that I don't remember. His performance was him sitting on the floor with a turntable with a bad needle and a microphone. He played a record through what sounded like some sort of heavy distortion and made some strange harmonies by fumbling the microphone over his hand and pants. He went on for the perfect amount of time. Just when the novelty of watching him sit on the floor and do that wore off, he threw on some big finale music, like the musical orgasm you would hear at the end of a David O. Selznick picture. Astonishingly good performance with very little set and movement.
Go! Dog! Go! was an amazing band and perhaps the biggest crowd pleaser of the day. They were like hot sax blues that you could thrash to. I heard them comment while setting up that the audience must have left because they showed up. By the end of their set, the room was the fullest it had been all day. Their bass player showed up late and their sax player kept wandering so it was hard for me to get a picture of the whole band, but I can't complain about their performance. Much in the spirit of Job, they fused noise and jazz. They are a noise band to watch. They've got verve!
The Elusory was the band that left the strongest impression on me. If you feel that Industrial music should have stayed where it was in 1992, you'll love the Elusory. They took an extraordinarily long and mildly annoying amount of time to set up. We all soon learned why. Now, before I say anything else, I'd like to state that they played their music well. They knew what they were doing. They were a very tight band. In fact, in their element, they may have been enjoyable. In the context of Noise Fest, they were almost insulting. The question that sprung to the mind of everyone I talked to was, "what are these guys doing at the Noise Fest?" They had a smoke machine and special flashing lights and big expensive keyboards and all kinds of big, crazy, flashy stuff. We'd just seen John Weise blow us all away, one guy fiddling with a knob on a little machine. The Elusory looked like their set up was more tailored to a stadium show. The lead singer sang in the screaming distortion of a true Skinny Puppy fan. He wore some kind of shiny black pants, probably vinyl or rubber. I heard from somebody say that he used to wear cross color clothes when he was a kid. You remember, those were when you'd get a shirt with a red circle on the tag and find pants with a red circle and they'd match. It's obvious to me that being brought up like this paid off! His faded red shirt and shiny black pants were a smart ensemble. I think he sensed that I was trouble. Most of the pictures I took of the band have him looking with defensive anger right at me. The Elusory brought a whole different world to the Noise Fest. It was a perfect example of the mainstream Industrial world that we're all familiar with. They even brought their own promoters. Two audience members, who showed up for their set and disappeared soon after, pigeon-holed me (after hearing that I was reviewing the show) and wanted me to inform my readers that they would be playing at the Whiskey A-Go Go with Nation of Fear on September 11th of 1999. Looks like they got their wish!
Of course, I realize that with their hype and flash, they're probably the band from Noise Fest most likely to get signed to a major label, get paid obscene amounts of money, and have their faces on the t-shirts of high school kids everywhere. Shameless self promotion, tired shock and flash are what sells in this decade of boring, textbook music. The guy who reviewed the Noise Fest for the OC Weekly likened the noise scene to early punk. I'd only agree that a formula music band like the Elusory who are pushing their serious music for the quick fix fame are the polar opposite of the artistic fun of all of the other bands that I listened to that day. The consolation of the noise practitioner who sat thunderstruck through the Elusory's Vegas Industrial showcase is that in the near future we can all have the pleasure of denying ever having met them.
It could be speculated that the Almighty was in a waggish mood that evening, for Fraud was scheduled to play as soon as the Elusory broke down their enormous and bulky set up. Throwing all pretense of objective journalism to the wind, I helped my two best friends, Charles Ardinger and Phish, carry in their equipment. Charles wore a cheese brain as a hat and Phish had a Devo hat with a party hat atop it. They started the glass shattering squeals that is Fraud and, as if in a metaphoric parody of the band we'd just been subjected to, began to make out on stage. It was funny to watch for about a minute, then I thought, "Golly! I shouldn't be watching this. It's sick and wrong." They continued their heavy kissing for fifteen minutes although it took about two minutes for them to clear the room. Nobody who was outside looking through the windows knew what to make of it. I did. It was Fraud.
Instagon was Cary Pealer on percussion, Dan Kaufman (Shiva/Mindrot) on guitar, Lob on bass, Salad (a pleasant surprise to see playing for anyone who knows his history with Instagon) on keyboards, and some guy named Steve on drums who I was told had tattoos on his face, although I didn't see any. Instagon has moved in a prog rock direction. Lately they sound like if the music of Hawkwind had a beat and actually went somewhere. I don't like Hawkwind, but I like where Instagon has been going. So do Hawkwind fans. Logic dictates that just about everyone should like Instagon. Instagon is coming up on it's 200th performance. Check out their web site for all info on Instagon events: www.instagon.com
I left halfway through Instagon. I'd been through six hours of noise and I had an article to write.