It was No Fun Fest weekend, and my friends and I made damn sure we booked out of work an hour early. With ride and shelter situations straightened out, we hit the highway, but I’ll be goddamned if New York City traffic planned our night differently. Missed Orphan Fairytale’s opening ceremonies, which all of us were looking forward to, but at least we made it to the festival, which was chock-full of friends and acquaintances.
Rounding the un-genrified, dockside neighborhood, a faint buzzing wandered within earshot as we jogged to The Hook’s front door. After a frisking and ticket securing, we opened the black curtain to an all-too-familiar scene: darkness punctuated by a red-lit bar and a green-lit stage with roughly 200 music-hungry fans and a handful of stragglers on the dancefloor. Evil Moisture welcomed us to the four-day weekend by slaying the audience with madcap, rage-filled hums and squeals.
After some loud yelps, I wandered outside, escaping the scent of stale beer and body odor to catch up with friends from around the states. Two smokes and a few beers later, Lambsbread’s opening chords summoned the audience back. When we arrived indoors, Rat Bastard announced the band was just plugging in. A few minutes later, those evil mothers cranked out one helluva mind-bender. Kathy sketched a dissonant fuzz landscape, while Zac blurted out some Hendrix-of-noise noodlings and Shane spackled a percussive foundation. A brief foray into Sabbath-style doom gave the head a rest from fast banging -- then BLAM... right back into lightspeed, free-hardcore riffage, ending at just the right point in the meltdown. A goddamn smoker fer sure.
Hive Mind and Damion Romero's set sounded like New Order tunes melted into one super-long drone, but it also was super boring to watch. Time to hit up the merch stands. Unlike the previous three years, organizers dedicated the basement solely to merch, not the manic intensity of small bands. Hospital Productions, AA Records, Los Angeles Free Music Society, Fag Tapes, Hanson, Bennifer, et al -- Thurston Moore running around with an underarm full of vinyl and tapes. Limited-edition cassettes and lathes galore, but since funds were limited, the place seemed more like an art museum piece on underground record packaging or a study in rampant consumerism.
Upstairs, Kim Gordon and Yoshimi began setting up. Grabbing a three $3 Pabst, I weaseled my way into a good spot. I had pumped the first Royal Trux album for the whole week prior and hoped something at the festival could approximate the feeling of that album. Thankfully, Kim and Yoshimi pulled it off with an energetic set. Kim’s noticeably improved guitar technique sounded like Neil Hagerty’s primitive playing on Royal Trux' [#1], but with a penchant for dissonance and an amateurish earnestness on par with early Half Japanese. Yoshimi’s ritualistic banging kept things in motion, while Kim’s breathy poetics drove away some power electronics fans.
Preparation for Hair Police: smoke, piss, drink, patiently wait for the crew to do a soundcheck. Now it is time to watch skulls melt. On this night the band blurred the barrier between the spastic punk squalls of the past with drawn-out, black metal soundscapes, creating a crowd-pleasing glimpse into the band's future trajectory. Crazed no-wave synth blurts and echoing train-track bass smacks plotted a dark underworld accentuated by Mike Connolly’s horrific, high-pitched screams. Two encores and a few minutes worth of psychotic clapping later the best set of the night ends, and I kick scattered Pabst cans out of the way to see if my friends are still alive.
The night ended with a set by the legendary harsh-noise artist Pain Jerk. While the Japanese extremist wailed on some sort of metal-cased keyboard of death, John from Slogun stood on the side of the stage, flipping people off and spitting on the people in the front of the crowd. He made crying gestures and continued to provoke the crowd as Kohei Gomi shredded eardrums, constructing a wall-thick, scraping metal sound. Slogun punched a few people and a mini-melee started, with Gomi intervening. I didn’t understand the violent stage show surrounding Gomi’s performance, but the barrage of sound distracted one from dwelling too long on ersatz.
For the first time in a few months, I walked home with a severe ringing in my ears and a smile on my face. I couldn't wait to see what No Fun Fest curator Carlos Giffoni had planned for the second night.