Concert Reviews

Denver Noise Fest lives up to its name at Old Curtis Street

Denver Noise Fest
04.30.10-05.01.10 | Old Curtis St.

Friday, April 30, 2010

New Mexico's Raven Chacon performed with the expected harsh noise soundscaping at first -- a combination of pummeling and shrill sounds textured like a nearly intangible sculpture that flooded the room and made the walls and the floor vibrate. But a shift to bringing in -- and completely transforming beyond recognition -- acoustic guitar sounds and vocals set his performance apart from most circuit bender terrorists.

IS made the room feel and sound like what it must be like to be inside a gigantic beehive, with drones beating their wings to cool the corridors during a heat wave. Being in the same room with those sounds felt like walking through water that you can breathe, with how dense the frequencies seemed to make the air.

Tarrustbleedingskindirtskygasoline was comprised of members of Denver acts Keep, Hot White and Fight Spider With Spider. The flowing tribal rhythms and Ethan McCarthy's feral vocals created a climate in the room that was both electrifying and sinister.

The first night of the fest finished with Jane Da Pain and Kyle Smith collaborating. Da Pain's looped, seemingly distorted cello cut spiderwebs of sound across the flooding and piercing flourishes crafted by Smith who, toward the end of the show, leaped around to trigger the appropriate response from the bank of devices he used.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Apparently Qui Art filled in for an act that had to cancel, and he collaborated with a spoken word artist, who, apparently, asked to join in on the set less than an hour beforehand. But it worked, and the words gave an added dimension to Qui's wash of texture sounds.

A surprise performance by Arrington De Dionysos Malakat Da Singa filled in another slot vacated by a performer who couldn't show up. Arrington, better known for his stint as the frontman of Old Time Relijun, performed on bass clarinet with a bass player, a drummer. Most of the set, Arrington gestured like a human wayang puppet, singing in stylized Indonesian. His shamanic intensity, coupled with the band's unconventional rhythms, made for what was probably the most memorable performance of the Fest this day.

Carlos Giffoni performed a set under the name No Fun Acid. He laid down thick dance tracks; if dance and house music was created in the wake of exploring endless forgotten subway tunnels, it might have sounded like this. Mixing the melodic with flourishes of harsh sounds, No Fun Acid struck a balance between challenging and accessible.

Crank Sturgeon was arguably the comic relief of the fest. Performing initially in a weird, grey, camouflage suit, Crank attached a contact mike to a can of beer he held and blew bubbles into with a tube and then spun the tube around and splattered the audience with his "fluids."

Later he pretended to be shocked by a book wired to help make eruptive noise. A guitar he brought forth was clearly not strictly a musical instrument but a prop to help unleash textured explosions of sound. Finally, Crank stripped almost all the way down, wearing only a tongue-shaped, furry loincloth , attaching the mike cables to metal items on the top end of the cloth, miming sexual ecstasy.

The festival ended with a late-night performance of Married in Berdichev collaborating with conceptual artist Isaac Linder. For this performance, Brittany Gould didn't engage in her usual cascading, echoing chorus of vocal mastery. Instead here she seemed to have pitched her voice down with a device and made a creepy, almost claustrophobic series of sounds with thick low end pulsing throughout.

Linder, meanwhile, took pictures of the audience with a disposable camera with a small condenser mike attached to amplify the clicks and recharging flash sound. It felt a lot like what it must be to wake up in a haunted factory after being abducted and dropped there in the middle of the night -- disorienting and discomforting yet oddly fascinating.

CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK Personal Bias: If it's even slightly weird, it's at least okay with me. Random Detail: Arrington De Dionysos was selling home-made, lathe-cut 7-inches of his band's music. By the Way: If you feel like you missed out or want to see more of this sort of thing, Transistor Festival is happening at Old Curtis St. Bar June 11-13.

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.