Freak Scene #37: No Fun Fest Part Two

June 01, 2009

Every other Monday, Jamie Johns draws attention to the choicest selections of the weird underground. In this special 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 here if you missed part one. Part two is after the jump.


I am going to keep my performance commentary on the short side since I asked some of this year’s performers about their favorite No Fun Fest memories, and talked to Carlos Giffoni about his post-Fest thoughts, all of which is at end of this post.

Sons of God

I know absolutely nothing about Sons of God. That being said, I will never forget their performance because of the two old men in suits dancing (?) at the side of the stage. They convulsed, looked like they were going to vomit and clawed one another as two stoic men on the other side of the stage provided a very loud and very harsh electronic soundtrack. My friend Diana provided a description of this “They looked like two Wall Street guys who lost everything and are now going crazy.” Perhaps that was the intention.

Pedestrian Deposit

Things were running so smoothly this year to the point that when I went downstairs to pee, get some water and say hey to a friend, I returned to find Pedestrian Deposit halfway through their set. I could not see the performance but I did see Shannon from the group throwing these round black discs at her cello and it sounded great. Before the weekend began, I asked Pedestrian Deposit about their set up and they replied with “trinket city, antiquing.” Because I couldn’t see much of anything, so I am going to take their word for it.

Rafael Toral/C. Spencer Yeh/Trevor Tremaine

Each of these players—Toral with his modified equipment (he would move his arm and a whole range of sounds would come out), Tremaine with free/improv drumming, and Yeh with double-bow violin freakout—would have been dynamic on their own, so when they joined together it was as delectable and deadly as a deep-fried Twinkie. Also, much love to Trevor Tremaine who was wearing his sunglasses INSIDE all weekend. I saw you!

Sonic Youth

Nearly every person in the audience had a moment in their lives where Sonic Youth guided all of their musical inklings, maybe me most of all, so it makes sense for Sonic Youth to play. While their performance was great, though it wasn’t really Sonic Youth since Lee Ranaldo was in Cannes and Bill Nace, who is awesome, filled in for him. It was a physical performance, with all three guitar players using their bodies to manipulate their guitars. As I said, the performance was great but with all of the members of Sonic Youth playing NFF in years past, I didn’t feel as if it was as essential as some of the other performances I saw that weekend. Then they played an encore. Are there encores in noise?

Peter Rehberg/Marcus Schmickler

I walked into MHOW to see a huge spotlight on the center of the venue’s floor and people standing still and facing different directions. The image was striking and it took me a few minutes to realize that Rehberg and Schmickler were in the sound booth. It was a great way to start the strongest night of the Fest!

Cold Cave

Pre-Fest, a lot of people were talking about how Cold Cave didn’t fit in with the rest of the line-up. Sure, their music is danceable but it is also really kind of depressing—after all, the lyrics are about seedy sex ads. At one of their first shows, last November, Cold Cave got onstage and played ten minutes of blistering electronics. At No Fun, with an additional member, they played three songs, one of which had a chorus of “I am going to put you in the hospital!". Then, it was over. It was another side of the group, and I feel as if we can expect to see more permutations and changes in the future. I got my friend to pick up the split Cold Cave/Prurient cassette for me since I was BROKE (all weekend I was hoping someone would make it beer o’clock in my world, no such luck) and he said it sounds like a new age record.



The above text message was sent to my friend Shakeer after Emeralds’ performance. I thought the group showed a delicate side on What Happened but this performance left any vulnerability to the wayside. All I can say is wow. Every time I see these dudes perform or hear a new recording, they find a new way to melt my face.

Prurient/Kevin Drumm

Thank-fucking-god I decided to pop in some ear plugs before this started. I was standing up front and this would have permanently mutated my ear drums. The sound was sharp, splitting, and incredibly bottom heavy. It caused everything from the floor to the clothes on Dominick Fernow aka Prurient’s body to vibrate and shake. The two are very different performers. Drumm was solid and imperturbable; he calmly manipulated his equipment and even had time to take a leisurely sip of beer. At the end he quickly raised his fists in the air in triumph. Prurient lunged back and forth, spewing words and howls. Wholly demonic!

Favorite No Fun Fest Memories:

The stand out performances for me last year were FFH and Consumer Electronics with Prurient. I especially liked the red drapes of the Knitting Factory during Consumer Electronics, giving the allure of a Vegas show with what appeared from the balcony to be live-sex as well going on in the front row. It was perfect.

-Wes Eisold (Cold Cave)

Least favorite moment of every No Fun I've been to prior to 2009: Getting sick for a week afterwards. The No Fun Flu is a drag.

-Chris Corsano

Two of us performed last year in the band HALFLINGS. That sticks out in our minds as a great memory, sharing the basement with our friends The Cathode Terror Section, Cleanse, Shallow Waters, and Ahlzagailzehguh. The Hospital Productions-curated night in the basement at the Hook in 2006 (the first year any of us attended) is another GREAT memory with such acts as Deathpile, Grunt, and Sickness defiling the venue and audience.

-Yellow Tears

Overall my personal favorite installment of the Fest has to be the 2007 one at The Hook -- four nights long! Though unfortunately through airline fuck-ups I missed most of the first night.

-C. Spencer Yeh

Interview with Carlos Giffoni, No Fun Fest Creator:
How do you think the Fest went? How did it compare to previous years?

Carlos Giffoni: I think it went very, very well. Like every year there were even more people coming to the fest. Everything with the venue went well. The sets were magnificent, with the bands stepping up to a new level of creativity for the fest.

What were some of your favorite moments/performances at this year’s event?

CG: Hmmm…well honestly every set had something unique and special about it that I enjoyed very much. I think performing myself is always a highlight for me, to be able to do my own music and present what my approach is going to be going forward to both the public coming to the fest and the other musicians there, I worked hard on preparing something very unique.

You are also doing a No Fun Fest in Sweden, could you speak a little bit about it, how it came together, and the line up?

CG: I’ve been trying to get the fest overseas for several years now, previously there were attempts for Switzerland, Japan and the UK that all kind of fell through after looking like there was promise there. We also had a collaboration with a wonderful festival in Bologna, Italy called "Netmage" where I curated one of the stages on a night during the fest as a No Fun night. So I am very happy that I finally got the right partner (Joachim Nordwall from Ideal recordings) and venue to make this happen. It's September 18, 19, 20 at Fylkingen in Stockholm, Sweden. The lineup will be announced on our mailing list and on the site in a few weeks. It is a great combination of bands from the area, UK, Europe, and a healthy number of American bands, both young and established artists. I think people are going to be very excited.

Have you already started thinking about No Fun 2010?

CG: Yes. That's all I can say right now.

From The Collection:

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