Monday, November 19, 2007

Ohio Experimental Music Fest and you

The significance of the upcoming Ohio Experimental Music Festival is interesting to me.
Most people think the avant garde emanates from some dank New York basement, where silver painted walls shine on half naked women, cavorting on top of life-sized toy horses.
That's a pretty goddam great image. But the fact is that New York is tired, boring and overpopulated. That's my own opinion.
I am much more interested in people who grew up near farms and grain mills, yet still managed to pick up guitars and take it as far as they could. We don't rub elbows with Lenny Kravitz around these parts. We don't have the opportunity to kiss James Iha's ass in a bar and get our band signed.
We just have Bob Pollard, but that's way cooler.
Let me tell you, things are not as grandiose as our imaginations make them out to be. As far as I'm concerned people are too focused on music coming from New York and LA. I think they are two of the most boring music scenes in America. I just think New York is a vacuum of sheep herders. Masses of sheep falling into line.
Is the new style for girls to wear huge 1980s glasses, like whatshername in the Cannonball Run? Well I'll take two. Where do I sign up? Do people prefer them to be shiny and red, or simply brown and natural?? Because I'm ready to do either.
Is Interpol supposed to be good? Cool, let's start 30 bands that sound exactly like them and form a scene around it. That scene will be based on whose ass is kissed the most. That person will be the ring leader: The one with the most red lipstick on their butt.
Yeah, I'm bored of New York. So much so that I have reduced this article to childish babbling.
As luck would have it, that is why I'm focused on Midwest music.
And the most interesting thing going on right now is a festival being organized in Columbus, Ohio by the fellows from noise rock group Sword Heaven.
I recently heard back from the band's Mark Van Fleet about the process of organizing the festival and the concept of this type of music in the current underground Midwest scene.

People with Animal Heads: What motivated you guys (who all is helping, so I can include them too) to organize the Noise Fest in Columbus? What do you hope to accomplish with it?

Van Fleet: There was some talk on a noise related Internet bulletin board about how it would be cool to have a fest of all Ohio bands (prompted in part by someone who doesn't even live in Ohio I don't think), and I took the bait and said I'd get the ball rolling on it, and that it could be in Columbus since it's a central location. Whether you live in Cleveland or Cinci or Toledo or Athens no one has to travel much further than anyone else to get here, and I don't have to go far at all! I'm doing a lot of the co-ordination but the people who are running the venues are helping quite a bit too. That would be Adam Fleischer of Bourbon St, Aaron Hibbs at Skylab, and Shane Mackenzie out in Delaware at his farm/ compound. We decided that the bands would be selected by local "curators". So Aaron and I chose the Columbus acts. John from Emeralds and Chris of Bee Mask chose the Cleveland acts and have been great about other organizational/ promotion stuff. Spencer Yeh, Robert Inhuman, and Jon Lorenz chose the Cinci area groups. I solicited the opinions of Jason Zeh about the NW (he's from Bowling Green) and Matt Reis about the Dayton area, and just went with their suggestions.

I guess the motivation comes mostly from people realizing that right now there is a pretty solid community of people interested in experimental music all over Ohio that is even bigger than the handful of acts that have gotten some level of recognition in the underground. And there are quite of few of those groups. You have people that have been around awhile like Spencer Yeh from Cinci who does Burning Star Core, and Mike Shiflet from here in Columbus who has been running Gameboy records for close to ten years. You have a lot of newer Ohio bands touring and people are noticing them as well. Emeralds from up in Cleveland, Lambsbread from Delaware, Realicide in Cincinatti just to name a few. Even though Realicide has been around awhile, in the last few years, Robert has toured a ton and people talk about him wherever we go. You have people like Leslie Keffer and the ladies of 16 Bitch Pile-Up, all of whom have moved out of Ohio recently, but they are amongst some of the more recognizable names in underground noise and brought some much needed feminine spirit to a pretty dude centric scene. Anyway, these bands all know each other and have played together and it will be fun to get everyone together in one place so I guess that's the main goal, but also to expose people who are interested in this kind of music to acts that don't get out of town much. I'm excited to see the bands I've only heard about before, of which, there are actually quite a few and I'm excited for people who make the trip to see the groups from Columbus who rarely (never) play out of town. I guess I also hope that by doing a festival like this that we get some people who don't usually or only occasionally come to these things. It's a pretty good opportunity to come see what's going on if you have even a passing interest.
I should mention two festivals that happened in Columbus that I think this is an extension of. The first was called Avantronics. This was a two day festival organized at the now defunct BLD by Mike Shiflet in 2001 or maybe even 2000. It wasn't all Ohio bands, but it was the first time I'd seen so many different kinds of live experimental music and it was great. 16 Bitch Pile-Up decided to form after attending it. It was the first time I saw Noumena. The other festival that happened was in 2004, also at BLD. It was called Spring Aktion and I helped out with it. Again, not just bands from Ohio, but many were, and it was also a really great time. Since then (partially as a result of these two events?), the activity in the experimental music scene in Ohio has increased significantly, so I think it's time for another one of these multi day multi band events.

PWAH: Do you think there is a reason why the Midwest has raised such a large amount of noise rock bands? What do you think contributes to that?

VF: I think it's probably complicated, but I think the Midwest is more urban than most people think of it as being, and as such, you have a lot of people who know a lot about underground music and are drawn to the extremes of it and the avant garde, and yet, cheap rents and cost of living make it possible for people to pretty easily be in bands. It's no problem to have a place to practice or to own a van for example. That's a start. I mean I want to say it has something to do with the ties to manufacturing in the Midwest and a certain bleakness of the landscape/ people's lives, but I'm not sure that's so true.

(Editor's Note: Check back Tuesday for another edition of Noise in the Midwest)


Brushback said...

"Is Interpol supposed to be good? Cool, let's start 30 bands that sound exactly like them and form a scene around it."

This cracked me up, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Well put_ I live in NYC for 3 yrs but Im originally for TN (appalachie that is) I have a real pride in our "counter-culture" music scenes, they kick new yorks ass! Anyway, I need to find out more about the experimental music fest - keep on chuggin!