There's no shortage of music festivals dedicated to indie rock, reggae, punk, metal, hip-hop, country and even '80s-flashback acts. But for nearly a decade, only one festival in Orange County has been geared 100 percent toward bands that thrive on dissonance, primordial sludge, atmospheric bliss and the genre-defying sounds of the aural arts. And on Saturday, the Santa Ana-based Noise Fest returns to the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA) for its ninth installation.
"Having a space available really allowed me to put together concerts," says the festival's organizer and current OCCCA director, Stephen Anderson. "And since it wasn't about packing the place or to make money, it was more of a way to utilize the space to bring a new crowd to see the art on exhibition and connect with the community.
To make things run smoothly, organizers have adopted an efficient format. "We will have three bands set up side-by-side, playing one after the other in 20-minute sets," Anderson says. "After that group of three, we have a break for tear down, and the next three acts set up."
For those unfamiliar with noise music, Anderson explains, "There are no beats, no power chords, and no lyrics. It's stream-of-conscious vocals/screaming/chanting; there won't be sing-alongs." It is, simply, nonlinear and very abstract.
The art form relies mostly on nontraditional sounds. "It's like jazz, but no one needs to know how to play instruments," Anderson says. "For the most part, there aren't traditional instruments; it's mostly all electronics—synths and tons of pedals."
Anderson admits that noise music is not for everyone, but, he says, it still should be appreciated for its artistic value. "It's an acquired taste that's not for all, and that's part of the charm—its pure passion and a cathartic release," he says. "It's an art form to be experienced live."
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This year's festival will feature bands from throughout California, including Phog Masheeen (with Noise Fest co-organizer Mark Soden Jr.), Igor Amokian, Small Forest, Enriched White, Nu Sire and Hexpressionist, among many others.
A new additon to the event, according to Anderson, will be a Drone Room. "It will be in the front gallery for other acts to play during that downtime, instead of playing prerecorded music, but more of an ambient, drone style of music," he says.
While he is very much looking forward to this year's lineup, Anderson is also thinking ahead to the future and how to mark a decade of Noise Fests. "It's hard to believe that next year is the 10th anniversary," he says. "My dream would be for Xiu Xiu to play—not only are they one of my favorite bands, but also [their name] plays into the Roman numeral X for 10."
Santa Ana Noise Fest IX at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, 117 N. Sycamore, Santa Ana; www.occca.org. Sat., 4 p.m. $10.