Somehow, against all odds, the International Noise Conference (INC) is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Starting in 2004 with 27 out-of-town artists and seven local acts to celebrate unconventional sounds, the always-free event has, at times, ballooned to more than 100 performers. This year's edition started Monday, February 6, and goes through the weekend, featuring dozens of artists making all kinds of noise.
Since its inception, INC always has taken place at Churchill's Pub. Even last year's edition was held clandestinely on the patio of the legendary dive bar when the venue was officially closed.
This year, however, INC has had to spread its wings to a variety of locations, including Friday night at the Bridge in Liberty City, Saturday night at North Miami's Epoca Brewing, and a Sunday afternoon afterparty in the Redland at the Barn at Mt. Crowley (the venue's exact location hasn't been revealed.) However, the rule of performances being kept to 15 minutes or less remains.
When asked for details about this year's event, INC founder Rat Bastard texted back to New Times, "Maybe y'all should attend the event this week & take photos first, then write about it," followed by a winky-face emoji. He followed it up five minutes later, texting, "Pass it on to the amateurs running editorial we are about performance, not promotion... we'll see you after the show."
In a 2015 interview with New Times, Rat said the conference's goal was "to keep the young people here in Miami tied into the national and international artists that normally you would not get." And in 2020, when it came to the potential of acts on the lineup, Rat noted, "The worse the band, the more I like them. At least they have potential."
Fortunately, the event's website is chockful of info, including names of performers and set times. Artist and former New Times clubs editor Jason Handelsman, who was performing during the conference under the name Gucci Handelsman, isn't exactly surprised by Rat Bastard's response to the press inquiry.
"This is like a religious holiday for him," he says. "He's got people from all over Florida playing this event. Rat is like Miami's version of Keith Richards. No one knows how he parties as long as he does and keeps chugging along."
Handelsman has played INC every year since 2016 and was familiar with many of the names sharing the bill.
"Rat kind of copies and pastes who's playing every year," he adds.
Handelsman is particularly excited to hear what Adam Arritola, who is making the pilgrimage from Rochester, New York, has up his sonic sleeve. Miami bass phenomenon Otto von Schirach is also set to take the stage.
"Otto's going to play with his son Axl who's 7 or 8 years old, so that should be fun," he says.
As for Handelsman, he describes his three-man project as "music made out of drones from two guitars and a bass, combined with improvisational feedback. We used to not write lyrics, but after a DMT ceremony, all these lyrics came out, so now we've incorporated poppy lyrics into drone. We have 20 songs now, all of which are very meaningful."
He says the band takes cues from acts like the Seattle experimental metal band Sunn O))), legendary psychedelic jam band the Grateful Dead, and psychedelic drugs.
"Me and [bandmate] Arquimedes were both heavily into all kinds of drugs, but now we're on the California diet of only weed and psychedelics," Handelsman says.
This weekend, you'll get to hear what that California diet sounds like, along with a heavy stream of noise you've probably never heard before.
International Noise Conference 2023. Through Sunday, February 12, at various locations; squelchers.net. Admission is free.