Freak Scene #37: No Fun Fest Part One

May 28, 2009

Every other Monday, Jamie Johns draws attention to the choicest selections of the weird underground. In this special Thursday edition of Freak Scene: a wrap up with photos by Diana Wong and video from the first two days of world class three day noise festival, No Fun Fest. Check back Monday for part two.

Before I start my No Fun recap, I just want to point out something totally messed up that happened: Steve from Emeralds and Raglani’s gear got stolen from their van, which was parked near Music Hall of Williamsburg, where the fest took place. Read more about it here and find out how you can help. Buy merch! The Emeralds dudes are so good and so nice and it is a bummer that something so messed up had to happen to them.


Before No Fun began this year, there was a lot of talk about this year’s Fest being the “pop” or the “kinder, gentler” No Fun Fest. C. Spencer Yeh has played every NFF since 2004 (this year in a trio with Rafael Toral and Trevor Tremaine and with Skullflower,) so I e-mailed him and asked him how the Fest has changed over the last six years. His response? “Well I think it's stayed pretty consistent in terms of mission; venues change and the number of stages etc., along with it changes in the atmosphere, but there's been a relative consistency throughout.” I agree—every year there is a new trend but it’s always No Fun. A few years ago there was a violent sex/death riot, this year analog synths and dance beats were present all weekend, next year it could be anything else. Even already established noise artists are dabbling in the dance genre–who can deny that Carlos Giffoni’s set on Friday night sounded like a rave/a Pan Sonic record?


No Fun Fest gets a bad reputation as a place where ne’er a lady is seen. I asked Sarah Lipstate AKA Noveller, who performed on Friday, about being one of the few female performers on the bill: “It feels great to add to the female presence on the bill," she said. "It's totally annoying when people can't wrap their heads around women being into noise because they actually like it, but I feel like that can change over time and meanwhile, I just try to do my part to represent us.” As the first act of the entire festival, which was totally sold out, Noveller had a pretty daunting task ahead of her. She played and manipulated a double neck guitar. I loved it and cannot wait to grip the new LP on No Fun Productions.


Chris Corsano had his lips on his cymbals, threw stuff at his kit, blew into some weird pipe thing, and then for two minutes played like a beast. It was SICK.


“It is all about voltage control, which is what industrial music is founded on.”—Elizabeth Wendelbo from Xeno and Oaklander

Incredible! By the end of their set, their icy synths had melted more than a few closed minds and the head nodding went from minimal to a little more real. Xeno and Oaklander were one of the most mesmerizing acts of the weekend. Expect to hear more of them in this spot in the near future!


This was the LETDOWN of the entire weekend. Between how excited I was to see Grey Wolves, the mood in the crowd, and the fact that the sensitive, baby-faced noise fans-cum-indie rockers were replaced by big, kind of gnarly looking dudes in the crowd, my legs started to shake. One of the harshest and most provocative industrial noise acts, and all I can muster up when I think about the performance is sadness. Grey Wolves probably do not care that they disappointed the people amped to see them. In fact, they have probably spun the whole incident into a critique of the foibles of live performance or something. When I go to see an act like Grey Wolves, I want to worry about my personal safety and not being able to hear or see straight the next day. This, sadly, did not happen.

Then something weird did happen…the group put on Peaches’ “Fuck the Pain Away.” They layered some noise on top and Dave Padbury started singing along and putting his hand in his pants. This performance was about as limp as that guy’s old, wrinkly penis. I didn’t see anything come out, so I am just guessing but seriously dude, if you are going to make that move at least go all the way. Befitting the occasion, a young man behind me after Grey Wolves exited the stage said “Dude, all I can say is that it’s like I have blue balls right now.”


This is how you do it. I knew something was going to go right when Eric Wood got on stage, sipped from a Pom drink, and started talking about the mole people who live underground in New York City. Bastard Noise is basically my favorite. My friend’s clothes were shaking while on his body, shit was so real. A totally heavy full body assault. I could go on for pages about how RIGHTEOUS they are, so let me just end with this: Bastard Noise rules. Check the videos!


Like just about everyone else in the audience, this was probably my favorite performance of the entire weekend. I was a big fan of last year’s The Pissmop LP and I was looking forward to seeing the group live for the first time. This performance completely floored me. One member was throwing a piece of sheet metal around, another led the “let’s rip our shirts off” cavalcade, and they all crudely mimicked the terrifying sound clips of people screaming that they played during their set. Funny thing about when they took their shirts off: as a young lady, I cat-called, but I was not the first…that would be the large group of men to my right who were flipping a shit (the closest thing to a pit there was all weekend) and who were very much into the shirts coming off. The lights were completely out except for red lamps on their equipment. The effect would have been terrifying if it weren’t for the fact that Yellow Tears’ performance was not only totally fun to watch but the three guys in the group looked like they were really enjoying themselves. Like teenage boys who want to just look at/laugh at yucky things, Yellow Tears toe that line between perversity and humor. Here is what I wrote down right after their performance: virility, boners, sheet metal. I was smiling the whole time.

MANY THANKS TO: Carlos Giffoni, Chris Corsano, Cold Cave, C. Spencer Yeh, Noveller, Pedestrian Deposit, Xeno and Oaklander, and Yellow Tears, who were kind enough to answer some questions for me.

SEND YOUR 12”s/7-inches/LATHES/CASSETTES/CDs etc…to:

Jamie Johns

5407 2nd Ave Apt. 3B

Brooklyn, NY 11220

From The Collection:

Freak Scene
Freak Scene #37: No Fun Fest Part One