ABOVE: NOizeFest creator Keith “Deacon Johnson” Moore, inventor of JamBox Pyramid, at NOizeFest 2004.
NOizeFest 2012, our seventh in the yard, was a huge success. And as usual, it has a nice, mildly harrowing lead-in story.
Weeks before NOizeFest 2012, we held another concert in our yard featuring adventurous cellist Helen Gillet, who had booked an out-of-town gig on NOizeFest Sunday (which is always the last day of Jazz Fest, every year, so don’t book any more gigs on that day Helen! Mark!). Helen is a NOizeFest in-and-of herself, so I was a little worried what it might dampen the fest to not have her, say, mic a cello in several places then destroy it with a sander and drill. In the end however, Helen ended up serving an even more valuable role, martyring herself for NOizeFest 2012 when her solo show on our porch was shut down by police.
ABOVE: I snagged this photo of Helen Gillet off some other website. Contact me if you took it and I will give you credit, or take it down.
Near the end of her set (which, though intermittently noisy, was only slightly louder than the sound of my typing right now) a lone cop showed up and barked that we weren’t allowed to host amplified music, even on private property. He didn’t need to raise his voice to be heard over Helen heading into the last part of her beautiful song. Up on “stage” he snapped his fingers in her face as she played and threatened to confiscate all of her gear if she didn’t stop. Watching the cop get angry at beautiful cello music added to the entertainment factor, but because you can never be too careful with New Orleans cops, — and because Helen had a gig later for which she needed her equipment — she stopped playing while I went inside and fetched a copy of the sound laws that City Council had told me to keep handy for just this scenario. We live in a “light industrial” area where we are allowed 85dB of sound. “The zoning would permit you to open a strip club in your home,” City Hall once told us. Helen was going at about 60dB on the porch, which is legal everywhere in the city. I showed the officer the 85dB laws but this didn’t matter. In our silence you could hear, just on the other side of our fence, a four piece brass band wailing away legally at Bacchanal wine bar – they’d just won their license to host live music outdoors every night and afternoon. This was all so ridiculous.
The conflict culminated in my Wednesday morning meeting with most of Bywater’s 5th District police station. The station’s Commander seemed irritated that one of his officers had shut down a cello recital; he himself was a string player. The Commander also knew the odd laws in our light industrial corner, and knew I was correct. And because I was still afraid that another less aware officer might come and shut down NOizeFest 2012, the Commander invited me to a precinct meeting, where he broke everything down for his officers, and let me have a few words. He even told them all, right in front of me, that when responding to a noise complaint they technically can’t shut anyone down unless the officer has a decibel meter, which he admitted the precinct does not own.
This felt like real progress. And we have Helen to thank for putting this in motion. Still girl, don’t take another gig on the last Sunday of Jazz Fest again.
ABOVE: Mikronaut makes the most listenable and just plain killerest electronic music
Skully’z record shop on Bourbon Street bought us the keg this year (which was dead by 4:30pm), and Bacchanal paid for the t-shirts which our neighbors Purple Monkey screenprinting sold us at a great discount. It took me a minute to think of another friend who ran a business that could afford to rent us a port-o-potty, a business that would want to be associated with a noise music festival. I nearly wet myself upon realizing the answer: guitarist Tony Barton’s Hell or High Water Tattoo! We plastered the temporary toilet in advertising for HOHW as well as the front of our house — just like Hubba Hubba Tattoo (now called Gypsy Rose, to cover their contentious tracks) should have done from the beginning.
NOizeFest is not “mine.” I really just ring the dinner bell and all the noise freaks show up and make it happen. They make the “music” and I make the tacos, and sling the drinks. I do little else. The hardest job is always putting up the complex system of tarps that allows the fest’s mountains of electronics and amps to survive a good rain — as it has, more than once. Throughout both weekends of JazzFest, I’d sat outside Fouburg Marigny Art and Books on Frenchmen selling copies of “New Orleans: the Underground Guide” to tourists, and in the process I kept noticing, walking back and forth past my table every night, this bummy-looking longhaired fellow I thought I recognized. The second weekend I realized he was a good friend of NOizeFest founder Keith “Deacon Johnson” Moore. He freaked over the big picture of Keith in my book, and that we’d continued hosting NOizeFest. He offered his help with the fest, and he and artist Chris Herbeck ended up spending several hours on Saturday putting up the tarps, better and tighter than any NOizeFest past. The biggest job was done.
ABOVE: Photographer Jonathan Traviesa, tending bar out our house’s back window. Notice to the left: that’s the sign-up board. The bands schedule themselves.
And then it was Sunday. Because the day’s musical acts always take a while to warm up to the eventual insanity, I asked WTUL to send me a DJ to provide music from the very beginning. Morgana and I were very excited to have A Boy Named Ruth, co-host of the exceedingly queer “POOF! The Pop Show.” The first few weeks the show debuted on TUL I’d shouted at my radio for them to shut up and play music — and then the music they played was so fucking good that I slowly began enjoying the whole thing, obnoxious giggling and all. I usually spend the first hour or more of NOizeFest worrying that it might be a flop, but this year that worry time was taken up by a loud, hilarious, dirty, semi-private set by the best DJ at the best radio station in the city — the best possible beginning.
Then for me it was just hours of tacos and pulled pork and PBR keg pumpin’. I am probably the worst person to give a review of NOizeFest 2012, because I remain insanely busy in the kitchen. I listen to and enjoy the 30-plus acts, but see almost nothing with my eyes. Every once in a while some unique sound intrigues me enough that I take a break to go find out who’s/what’s making it. What I imagine might be a mountain of synths often turns out to be, say, a metal washtub — or what sounds like laptop music turns out to be three guitars. But for the most part I can’t really describe what went on at the fest this year, only how many drinks we gave out. Exact figure: A LOT.
ABOVE: Gear belonging to Oscillation Communications, at NOizeFest, where sets are 15-minutes long.
From my point of view, this year’s NOizeFest sounded less like folks playing with each other, more like people playing over each other. But hey, the fest is whatever the participants want it to be; my expectations mean little to nothing. I sometimes took a quick walk around the yard to get people to turn down a hair for the benefit of the main stage performer — whereas other years I never felt the need to remind anyone to be semi-courteous. Again though, if the people of NOizeFest decide they want musical bukkake, so be it. It is theirs.
It had been whispered throughout the week that Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore would attend NOizeFest and play a set with Rob Cambre, a local guitarist whose presence is always vital to the proceedings. Cambre and Moore had been vague musical friends since before punk broke, and Moore was in town playing a last-minute Jazz Fest show at One Eyed Jacks. Rob had asked Moore to play NOizeFest, and Moore had accepted. That being said, last year Jello Biafra agreed to DJ with Quintron and even stopped by the yard beforehand to check out the space and meet the goat, and then he never showed up to NOizeFest (Quintron DJ’d an extremely original bent and broken two-hour set for 30 people). So I wasn’t cresfallen when Thurston didn’t show this year. Rob’s solo set made up for it.
ABOVE: DJ Kid Calculator (l) and Rob Cambre (r) beneath NOizeFest’s famous tarps.
Per NOizeFest tradition, at sunset the Noisician Coalition suited up in red and black and marched around the block. The NC were made for NOizeFest. They also, oddly enough, get props for professionalism: after rounding the corner by Bacchanal coming back, they paused outside my front door for a big jam. I had only to whisper “I don’t think this is a good idea” to one member of NoiseCo and suddenly the whole big krewe disappeared back into my yard. The only cop who had not been at my precinct meeting had already driven by on one neighbor complaint (I was defensive and dropped a lot of names). The second time he drove by cooler, smiling. The third time was right as the last Noisician disappeared. “Was there a band just playing out in the street?” the officer asked. I assured him I had handled the perpetrators.
ABOVE: Noisician Coalition
NOizeFest’s other new addition was a booth where Joseph Makkos would, for a donation, duplicate a copy of the NOizeFest compilation cassette tape, on site. Using a big, heavy 1800s printing press, Makkos also printed j-cards. We worked for several days putting the compilation together and it is very good. It can be purchased at Skully’z, Euclid and other cool New Orleans record stores.
ABOVE: NOizeFest m.v.p. for two years in a row, Jayme Kalal (Mikroshards), at his all-day podium
The noisy afternoon was after some time co-opted for a good hour by a couple of techno DJs whose relatively sane but nonetheless hype bass served as a great pallet cleanser before the noise began anew. The drinks and food ran out about 7pm, just as rapper LuckyLou hit the stage with two incredible dancers and a mess of actual songs. The NOizeFest rules state “no songs,” but at some point throughout the day all of the rules are broken; it’s simply a matter of how well you break them (I always tell people, “I just make the rules. I don’t enforce them.”). After many hours of structureless noise, Lou’s family friendly bounce rap was like a temple massage. Everyone was very ready to dance.
ABOVE: I, Octopus, trying their damndest to follow NOizeFest’s “no drumkits” rule.
We then left the tarps up for three weeks until the wind had them in tatters and the goat was starting to get scared. Now we’ve finally taken them down, and the yard looks sort of lonely.
See everyone at NOizeFest 2013! Probably at a new location…
ABOVE: The Way become a whole different band at NOizeFest 2012
And just for the hell of it, here is a picture from the first NOizeFest in 2004, of Stephen Cronwich playing a bicycle he’d loaded with guitar pickups and wired loudly through several guitar stacks. It sounded and looked amazing. This may have been when I finally started liking noise…