Of all the bands I forgot to mention in my No Fun Fest day two summary, Anti-Freedom rocked the hardest. A one-off band featuring Shane Mackenzie and Zac Davis of Lambsbread and Dennis Tyfus, the band blasted through a set of faux-punk songs with Tyfus seemingly singing the same set of lyrics for every song. Davis melded Black Flag chords and Demo-Moe feedback with Sonny Sharrock-style skronk accentuations while Mackenzie wore any remaining white spots off his skins. Eventually, John Olson joined in the fun, drumming in place of Mackenzie.
I mention this set because a lot of Saturday’s No Fun Fest lineup was, well, no fun.
Although we were in Brooklyn, a ride mishap made us miss Demons’ set (my friends argued they’d already seen Demons twice this year, and though I've seen them before, I wanted to check them out with Twig Harper). We eventually arrived just in time for Sickness, who I’d esteem as one of the best ‘noise’ artists out there. He took the stage and began to play a subdued set plagued with amplifier shortages. Wandering to the back of the audience, I couldn't hear Sickness’ performance, save for a few murmurs. This led me to believe he did not play through the PA. After another false start, he left the stage but not before telling the audience to have fun at their “hug fest.” And so began the bad vibes.
Sickness stayed onstage to help his buddy Slogun with the next set. Slogun, known for confrontational, violent performances, sounded absolutely abysmal in the best possible way. Horrific harsh-noise ambience and serial-killer clips slinked out of the sound system as he stood cross-armed, stage left. He spit at a few unlucky concert goers, swore at a few more, then shouted hyper-manipulated battle chants into the microphone. A few guest vocalists joined him onstage, kicking the audience in the face and yelling at the “fucking pussies” in the crowd in a ploy to get someone to fight them. Before leaving the stage, he told the “fucking pathetic” crowd they weren’t even worth his time. The crowd played right into Slogun’s hands, booing him off the stage. From message boards and various interviews with Slogun’s John Balisteri, I gather Slogun’s live shows are supposed to place violence in the face of those who watch it from a distance on the television. I guess I’m just a hippie pussy, then, because I shied away from it.
Or maybe I’m not enough of a hippie because I found most of Religious Knives’ set very ho-hum. Their first tune, a heavy psych ditty complete with a cool bleeding fuzz guitar line, lacked passion. Vocally, Mike Bernstein just doesn’t sound great unless he hums into the mic over a layered drone. On the other hand, their fractured dub song elated me with its jubilant slack beat and seamless melding of dissonant sound elements and dub music.
My hippie ass loved the old hippies of Los Angeles Free Music Society’s set. Ju Suk Reet Meate, Tom Recchion, and Jackie Oblivia created the best sounds of the entire festival. Recchion sketched an ambient desert with his laptop, while Oblivia processed records on an old Califone portable player run through a few pedals. Meanwhile, Ju Suk slowly tortured a keyboard and strange stringed instruments. The records’ disorienting, looped vocal sounds joined the creepy noisescapes, birthing a soundtrack to a bad trip. Moments of harsh dissonance furthered this concept -- pure fucking magic. A drunk kid climbed onstage mid-set, stripping off his shirt and falling down, taking Recchion’s equipment with him. The Smegma one-off jammed for a few more minutes before calling it quits. The crowd cheered loudly and part of the band looked as if it would play an encore. Oblivia waved off the idea, though, as the drunk guy ruined some of the group’s equipment. After the show, Ju Suk said the performance was the closest thing to a LAFMS performance this generation is going to receive.
Keiji Haino kept the magik going with a three-part, hour-long performance. He began the night strumming a small, abnormal acoustic instrument and shouting incoherent melodies, sounding like an aboriginal Jandek with a violent side. Soon, he picked up his axe and amps flowed with majestic walls of chord-reverberation glory. He swaggered about the stage with a Hendrix-at-Woodstock pomp, bleeding his doom metal chords before engaging in a psych-noise spazz-out. Putting down his battered guitar, he grabbed a mic and proceeded to scream unintelligibly into it. Processed through a series of pedals, the vocals became blistering sound missiles protruding from the speaker. My ears rang for three days afterwards, but each time I thought about why they rang, I smiled. Haino’s set proved more interesting and enthralling than any of the festival’s harsh noise acts.
Merzbow’s thundering set ended the night with a high-water mark. The thundering, scraping set composed by a stoic Masami Akita overpowered any idle chatter in the audience. Sitting in front of a laptop with a layout of mixers and electronic devices, Akita composed with command, ensuring fluidity within the cacophony. The grinding, oscillating industrial sounds constantly morphed and demanded attention. Though my body felt some ware, Akita entranced me. The spirited energy would continue into Sunday’s performances, proving a few bad apples can’t ruin a fun festival.