In a way, listing International Noise Conference 2015's ten most insane moments is an exercise in futility.
The whole five-day freak fest contained a wealth of bizarre occurrences, and not all of them were limited to the stage. With hundreds of acts spanning almost a full week of performances, a complete catalog of acts is impossible to assemble.
But whether you came for the cochlea-obliterating noise or a heaping dose of costumed, extremely NSFW weirdness, you were unlikely to leave INC disappointed. Or, at least, unchanged.
If you ventured into the Green Room, one of the many stages open to artists' myriad weird whims during the fest, on the show's opening night, you were treated to a krautrock-infused drone group with a Jaws-themed conceptual bent. Deeming themselves "Sharknado", in homemade cardboard shark masks, and with samples of the aforementioned film playing throughout, one member gleefully offered the audience a helping of red jello from a shared bowl... to be consumed with their hands, of course.
The Enhanced Interrogation Techniques
Another early crowd-pleaser was the DIY waterboarding table, where a masked performer assumed the role of torturer, and invited audience members to participate in a little bit of the ol' Abu Ghraib. Performances at INC often poke at the dark underbelly of society in ways that can be, by turns, starkly political or deeply personal. From human rights atrocities to sexual identity and beyond, no subject is too taboo for International Noise Conference.
On the somewhat lighter side, albeit with plenty of heavy tunes, power duos were out in force for this year's events. The tech-minded gents of metallic Davie twosome Ian Iachimoe turned out melodic song pieces that mutated into mathy machine buzzing, igniting the air in the Green Room with palpable tension. Meanwhile, female duo Crud smashed the indoor stage with hammering, molasses-thick bass sludge and martial drumming.
Blood! Feces! Soap Pudding!
If "watching a woman eat shampoo to a backdrop of harsh drone" is more your thing, Rainé Rainé had you covered. Performances are often caught between this personal terrain -- the body and presence of the performer and what they choose to, say, play, or ingest -- and the omnipresent ear-splitting frequencies that blanket the crowd, similarly threatening to consume us all.
Needles in the Toilet, Circle Stomps on the Rap Patio
At one point during the festivities, a syringe was lovingly taped to the men's room wall. Singularly emblematic of INC's give-no-fucks attitude towards illicit topics ( and as one fest-goer put it, "simply convenient"), the medical paraphernalia hung there for the rest of the event. Around the same time, local noisenik Matt Preira's "Rap Patio" night in the freeform backyard of Chuchill's reached an appropriate peak when the crowd decided to stack the mismatched chairs into a furniture obelisk, which they then used to, naturally, dance around in a circular, neo-tribal fashion to Bone Thugs-n-Harmony.
See also: Churchill's Pub: An Oral History
DIY Noise Machines
Homemade faux-instruments are an INC favorite, and this year was no exception: there were welded-in string instruments hit percussively with bow or stick, water jugs stirred with contact mics to make nauseating sloshing noises, iPads and iPhones employed as modular instant-noise devices, cassette tapes flipped, reversed, and screwed to oblivion, and hand-assembled wooden tubular bells beaten rhythmically and fed into stuttering delay pedals, to name a few.
Anti-Pop Diva Destruction Hour
A highlight of Thursday night saw a woman in a bedazzled party dress "singing" along at deafening volume to a medley of pop hits, blasted from busted speakers and smashed between layers of sawing noise. From Mariah Carey to "What's Love Got to Do With It?" to the Titanic theme, a medley of cultural mimesis was acted out with aplomb bordering on furious rage. If not directly enjoyable -- pleasurable consumption often takes a backseat to jaw-dropping disbelief at INC -- it was still impossible to ignore.
Rat Bastard's Radio Chaos!
The Laundry Room Squelchers, festival founder Rat Bastard's legendary noise project, gave a memorable "performance" in the form of four radio stations fed directly into the bar at pants-shittingly loud volume via the mixing board. The tumultuous web of feedback and arrhythmic clamor started a mosh pit, of course, because this is INC.
Kenny Millions Fucks the World
If this all sounds a bit tame, Kenny Millions destroyed any notion of safety and good taste with his Saturday night performance. On the topic of pants-shitting, the set contained a good helping of actual coprophagia, along with a dominatrix repeatedly whipping a nude woman onstage while a projection of old-school porn entitled "Hog Wild Orgy" was screened on the adjacent wall. Kenny has infamously performed grating guitar-shredded rackets while gyrating with his trademark blowup doll, but this serving of debauchery was over the top by even his inflated standards.
Grind, Glitch, Dance
To these ears, the most straight-up enjoyable set came from the aforementioned Matt Preira, billed as Matthew Vincent, and his array of samplers, keys, and cassettes. He fluctuated effortlessly through grinding din, creating hypnotic loops out of short piano samples before glitching them into oblivion. The set eventually dropped into straight-ahead bass throb techno, much to the audience's chagrin. His versatility and artful manipulation of sound pushed his performance above the one-note monotony of hundreds of other drone-heads.
So there you have it... Ten most insane moments that serve only as a small sampler of this feast of oddities. There's no space to describe Otto von Schirach's ridiculously loud piece composed primarily of his alien squeal emoting "BACALAO!" ad infinitum. Or the hazmat-suit-clad frontman who delivered with Beasties-like snottiness what we could only describe as "CDC rap" complete with rants about the ebola pandemic. Or the bummer-inducing antics of INC staples Cock E.S.P., which included a woman dressed as a skeleton throwing tables and chairs before another woman ascended the stage to spray everyone down with a toxic dousing of Raid. Or a nude, oiled-up woman performing as Yohimbe, who vocally asserted her various sexual masteries. There's no page big enough to detail the sheer breadth of surreal acts that flock to International Noise Conference every year. You'll just have to see it for yourself.
New Times' Top Music Blogs