by Maria Schurr
Noise Love threw its biggest show yet on June 13 at The Rookery, a nine act sonic tour through the Brooklyn-based sounds we love so dearly. The night toggled between electro and traditional rock acts, a nice departure from the standard showcases featuring nothing but bands with three to four guys playing with guitars all night long. In discussing the goal he and Noise Love captain Kelly set to achieve with the festival, electronic connoisseur Travis Braxton, aka The Wendigo, spoke of wanting to “ draw a balance between the more experimental and conventional talent that makes this bushy scene what it is. Kelly and I have really different insights but similar goals and love for the scene so we figured if we combined forces we could present an amazing united front of Bushwick music.”
Travis also spoke of presenting a “cross section of the underground and up and coming up scenes we are all in together,” and this sense of togetherness carried on through the night. Or maybe I was just feeling familial: to start on an incredibly self-involved note (and watch as this review devolves into total self-involvement), The Rookery instantly won me over because it had on its shelves some old school, nature-oriented Jim Beam bottles that I’d never seen anywhere apart from my parents’ house.
So, I felt like I was in a good, comfortable place from the start, a sensation that could not even be broken by the heavy metal toddler who rode his trike motorcycle through the Rookery as Listening Center broke down. The electro / experimental artist got things off to a casual start, easing Rookery stragglers into the evening (and, thanks to the setup being situated close to the Rookery’s open air area, maybe some passersby as well). Listening Center, aka David Mason, cites the BBC Radiophonic Workshop among his influences, but live his sounds were more intriguing than the mild television buzz such an influence might suggest. It perfectly set the scene of wandering on to a sonic plane that was culling sounds from the past and the future to create the present.
KidAudra kept the electronic end of things going, rolling out a synth, mixer, and loop station to dazzle the crowd. Even without any looping involved, KidAudra’s R&B-styled vocals were truly stunning. Audra Kizina’s music is hypnotic in the usual electro R&B way, but also throws out a number of surprises, with stops, starts and switches in the places you would least expect. It was a honey smooth yet stimulating way in which to ease into the evening.
I didn’t get to actually see Sun Abduction’s set, but I did hear the entire thing from a bench outside the Rookery, as the sinus headache-afflicted James Veda Rays rested in my lap. If I couldn’t actually look at the band then this was a grand alternative, and their psych - garage power thankfully drowned out the nattering of a nearby lady talking a bunch of nonsense into her cell phone. Sun Abduction’s album may have been recorded on a vintage 388 reel-to-reel tape machine, but live they sound immediate and contemporary, with some fine bass lines thrown in for good measure. The band was the first traditional rock act of the night, and they got things off to a blazing start.
Hellbirds upheld Sun Abduction’s psychier leanings while also adding some Beach Boys to the Noise Love limited edition Minifest GORP mix. The Beach Boys influence lays claim to some ambitious means, as Hellbirds are slated to release the Beatles / Beach Boys mash-up album Pet Peppers on July 21. Bandleader Jasno is also a member of the ‘60s-pop-by-way-of-Jesus-and-Mary-Chain act The Vandelles, and Hellbirds’ image adhered to that band while also maintaining their own vibe. Hellbirds’ set was a pageant of noisy, sweet psychedelia amped up to 11 with swirling visuals to match. Speaking of those visuals, Jasno and Nick of Hellbirds took care of lighting and sound for the evening and did an excellent job at both, with the lighting adding an extra level of otherworldliness to the evening.
Hellbirds’ set marked the beginning of the night’s sweetest run of already super sweet sets. The key to this golden mile was to slightly bewilder random Rookery folk, and this is a task Bodega Bay ably handled. I have seen this band maybe 120 times in less than a year, and as much as I’ve enjoyed those times I sometimes still wish I was that clueless person taking in everything -- from Ben’s spoken word commentaries to Nikki’s shimmying -- for the first time. I could write a thousand words on the magic of Bodega Bay, the summarized version being they’re pretty much consistently unpredictable, subversive, and just plain fun, and the songs “ATM” and “N.A.S.S.” are going to thrill especially. If I don’t seem biased enough already: I participated in the Rookery set for one song and I only mention this because -- in the moment -- it felt like a spontaneous dance scene in a movie and I am one who doesn’t dance or engage in spontaneity easily. So I hope this speaks to Bodega Bay’s mesmerism, and if it doesn’t, well at least it was a great photo op moment.
The night then toggled back to electro, with Quitzow, who acted as the night’s greatest discovery for me. I took the set in with a group of friends who, while not regular travelers into the realm of dancier beats and synthesized sounds, were collectively impressed by Erica Quitzow’s intoxicating vocals and expertly crafted pop soundscapes. Quitzow has been compared to Lady Gaga and Kesha, and maybe she’s a bit like those acts, if they knew how to write, produce, and engineer some awesomely layered music, loop a cello arrangement, and write a club banger with some substance behind its creation. Quitzow worked her gear as if she had eight arms and her set was a multi-tasking adventure in pop music from some alternate reality where artistry is actually recognized in the top 40 charts.
The Wendigo started off his set in the best way, by proclaiming, “I know a lot of you are at the fuckin’ bar or outside or whatever, but we’re about to have a spiritual experience here.” Such a statement risks coming off as a big promise with a diminishing return, but the Wendigo is a singular act.The set follows a similar trajectory each time, but the overall effect of it being a slightly spooky, strange experience never decreases. As should be the way when a spirit orders you to do something, plenty of bar gatherers abandoned their posts and drew in close for the Wendigo experience, and I’m sure each of them had a night that was a little bit more awesome because of it.
Here’s where this review gets super self-involved and tricky. Veda Rays, the band the author belongs to, played next. I can really only say how I perceived our set, but I think my Veda brothers played well and sounded great. Bassist Richard seemed energized and is hitting his stride after four shows with us; Jason displayed his usual rhythmic mastery and acted as a barometer for how well our sound was balanced; James played in virtuosic fashion and looked very handsome in and out of the purple glow. I was relieved I didn’t have to work our strobe and flood lights, because it meant I could focus on playing and presentation; hopefully it worked as a small favor to Bodega Ben, who is staunchly anti-strobe. Because we are reworking songs and recording an album, our sets have been featuring non-album songs, plus perennial favorite “Wait for Teeth to Show.” But these tunes are far from throwaways and they should see the light of day at some point. In the meantime, “Close Range” remains my favorite of our current sets.
Lodro closed out the fest well after midnight, at an early morning hour fitting their sinister vibes. I am a huge fan of the Birthday Party, and I will support and nurture most any band with a guitar sound descending from the swampy and angular strains of Rowland S Howard. This is to say that I thought Lodro were awesome. Maintaining an old, bad New York no wave style in the ludicrous neighborhood of Bushwick is a challenging path as far as legitimacy is concerned (although it may become slightly easier due to bands like Pill). But Lodro’s spidery aesthetic and narcotized vocals exuded authenticity. For a few moments at the Rookery, it felt like the children of the night would seize the day.
In conclusion, the Noise Love Minifest was a varied yet consistently strong evening filled with good sounds and good times. It was also that odd festival in which the number of acts featuring female musicians outweighed the all-male lineups. In a sea of showcases surrounding Northside Festival, Noise Love’s hopefully acted as raft keeping one dry and safe from the usual soggy festival offerings.