Among the Hill People and the Trees: Voice of the Valley Noise Rally 2011, Day One

Read the remaining entries from Roofless Records, Bleeding Palm and Crossfade's road trip diary.

Voice of the Valley Noise Rally Report #2

Pentress, WV


Miami's DWNTWN/Wynwood/etc. music scene has been talking (yelling?) a lot about venues lately. The firestorm started with Death to the Sun coordinator Ricardo Guerrero's bold declaration that Dade County's clubs and bars "suck dick" for reasons including drink prices, staff-slash-band interactions, and general ambiance.

Then earlier today, a few weeks after the comments section finally stopped smoldering, Crossfade contributor Ric Delgado responded tit-for-tat with Guerrero's claims.

Well, this past weekend Crossfade undertook a bildungsroman of the highest order to Pentress, West Virginia for an experience -- Voice of the Valley Noise Rally 2011 -- that obliterated any and all preconceived notions about venues, spaces, and the music that fills them.

After bidding adieu to the haunted graveyards in the capital of the Confederacy, we (psychedelic party photographers Bleeding Palm, and Crossfade b/w Roofless Records) headed straight for the mountains. The journey was simultaneously a long, anxious race against a soon-setting sun, and a complex ritual dance with highly elevated, narrow, winding roads. 

Whirling around these tight country pathways, we passed myriad homes carved out of the mountain. Some were luxurious mansions, practically castles. Others were dark, seemingly antebellum shacks surrounded by mini-mountains of garbage, with Ol' Dixie flying in tatters from the porch. Some homes had fancy cars with military license plates. Some seemed to be collecting broken-down automobiles.

We arrived at Indian Meadows around dusk, which gave us enough time to hurriedly construct our campsite. In the interest of beating darkness, we set up close to the entrance, but as the weekend unfolded we discovered the land's rambling, expansive possibilities.

As we made the first of hundreds of trips up the main hill to V.O.V.'s main stage, we could make out Emeralds twinkling in the distance. Two parts electronics and one part heavily processed guitar, the trio set the tone for many of the weekend's performances.

As many noted at this year's International Noise Conference, US noise has been experiencing serious overlap with electro, house, and other assorted electronic dance genres.

This permutation makes sense. Avant-garde, noise, and dance music (in their respective, infinite permutations) have a long history of cross-pollination, giving birth to genres like the minimal-and-danceable post-punk variations of coldwave, the not-so-danceable soundscapes of avant electronic classical, and the vibe-out bliss haze of komische, a psuedo-genre that ran parallel to the Krautrock wave of early '70s Germany.

While originally emerging from the drone explosion of the mid 2000s, Emeralds has matured into a fine-wine blend of sonic abstraction, deeply buried hooks, and recurring, mutating themes.

Saxophonist Zack Kouns brought analog squealing to the mix, utilizing loops and delay to harmonize with his own ecstatic exaltations.

Baltimore's DJ Dog Dick performed one of the most eclectic sets of the weekend. With a homemade noisebox dangling from his neck like a junk-noise Flavor Flav, DDD shifted through powerful blare, Beat-ish poetry, and deep-fried hip-hop.

The rap numbers -- particularly the blown-out, stoned-groove beats -- sounded like a less cuddly Beck. Something like crawling into bed and hugging your stuffed teddy, only to discover it's actually a poison cactus.

Dog Dick's set came to a conclusion with an incredibly raw R&B/soul number that the red-faced performer belted out with his whole body.

The e-music and noise axis was once again invoked with Container, who performed a percussion-heavy House set that greatly appealed to the increasingly inebriated audience's desire to get down.

The crowd gathered around the foot of the stage anticipating the oncoming Laundry Room Squelchers onslaught. But a technical difficulty (something to do with amps) left Rat Bastard and his handpicked Squelcher Girls neutered with their pants-down.

After a few moments of the obvious frustration of troubleshooting in front of an audience, LRS was at full-strength. Trash flew through the air. The Squelcher Girls histrionically writhed like axe-murderer pinups. Upon viewing the churning mosh pit at his feet, Rat lunged himself from the stage and into the broiling action. When he returned to the stage, he lay supine, an infinity-inducing blur of righteous soloing inspiring madness all around.

And this was only the beginning.

Stay tuned to Crossfade for more on our trip to Voice of the Valley Noise Rally 2011.

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