By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
Go! Dog! Go!/Lob/John Weise
Koo's Art Cafe
Saturday, Aug. 14
How best to zoink ourselves out of an ungodly lethargic week? NOISE! ENDLESS, BRAINLESS, NOISE-NOISE-NOOOOOIIISE! We aren't referring to the hip Costa Mesa indie record shop (though we did stop by to load up on flier swag). No, we had a hankering for the Art of the Clang on Saturday, so we headed to the BattleBots Robot Combat Challenge at the Long Beach Pyramid. And whatta rip-off thatwould have been, had we actually paid the $25 they were asking just to watch a bunch of dork-controlled hubcaps bang into one another. We can see that every day on the 405—for free.
Vastly more interesting was the Koo's Noise Fest, a gaggle of noise bands and noise artists who squooshed out all sorts of droning, numbing aural creations. The first guy we caught was John Weise, who flipped levers and twiddled knobs on a mixing board, filtering the sounds through a high-powered, pumped-up amp—electronic music does notget more basic than this. Want some lyrics? RRReee SSSkkkRRReee WUHwuh WUHwuh/NNAAARRRKKKRRRAAA boodwee boodwee boodwee/ REENAREENAREENA. Now turn up the volume to smoke-alarm loud, and you get the idea.
Weise's mangle-scapes were actually alluring and hypnotic—call him the anti-Enya—though your average KROQ addict would have run screaming from the room. In a way, noise sounds like the inevitable Big Music Movement of the next century—the real punk rock we've been waiting for, something that tosses out everything that's come before and starts over, Khmer Rouge-like, at Music Year 1. John Cage and Thurston Moore are the gods here, and everybodycan do it. At certain points in his 20-minute Novocain-athon, Weise pretty much duplicated sounds we were making 20 years ago when we used to tweak our old Atari 2600. Hey, perhaps we'rethe true noise-music pioneers!
Next was Lob—he of the poetry-reading Lobs—who did oddly intriguing things with feedback, a battered turntable, Cheech & Chong records, a couple of Walkmans, and the Close Encounters theme. His stuff was a bit more organic, incorporating ethereal, creepy, spoken-word stuff into his mixes—things from what sounded like old 1930s movies—which humanized his set, certainly more than Weise's skull-smashing onslaught. We especially enjoyed his Hendrix-like solo, in which he used his fingernails to scratch out a steady rhythm against his microphone head. (On a side note, we were sorry to have missed Lob's band Instagon, his other noise project, which was scheduled for a later time slot. But he piqued our curiosity when he told us that Instagon has been around for six years and has had something like 250 different members—never the same lineup twice!)
Go! Dog! Go! were an actual band, with actual people who played actual instruments—like, guitars and drums and stuff. Their drummer kept up a random, schizoid backbeat; their guitarist diddled with effects gadgets and a raunchy keyboard while pinching all sorts of otherworldly sounds out of his axe, occasionally sputtering indecipherable phrases through a megaphone; and a sax player angrily tooted away, splicing up notes that sounded like bad Ornette Coleman (if his sax could speak, it would have been screaming, "Rape!"). Still, as a single, cohesive, chugging-along unit, Go! Dog! Go! were wildly colorful, showing that noise bands can be exciting and fresh when they want to be—the occasional groove that bubbled to the surface helped their cause tremendously, as did their final number, a glorious punk-jazz arrangement that felt like something off John Zorn's phenomenal Naked City album.
Y'see? Amidst all the chaos and disorder of noise bands, there canbe great beauty—you just usually have to work for it. It ain't like the old days, when all you had to do was flip on the white-noise snow on late-night TV and be lulled, droningly, to sleep. Nah—infomercials killed off thatfun.