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Noise Night
December 2008

Text and photos by Frederick Noble

We arrived at Lenny's around 9:30, hoping we were in time to catch a friend's new band. Things start early at Lenny's most nights, since they often switch to DJ's later in the night, so we were a bit dismayed to find live music already on stage when we walked in.

Well, two guys making racket. Apparently there was a snafu and our friend's band and others had been double-booked the same Tuesday as Noise Night, an evening of experimental sound. Some experiments were failures.

I don't have my notes on me, so I can't name these two guys or the name of their act, but I can very easily describe it. First, move to a neighborhood directly under the landing pattern of the Atlanta airport, preferably something so close to the runway that you'd have to duck if you ever did any work on your roof. Now turnon your pre-digital/cable TV to one of the channels between stations, one that is entirely static. Now hook it up to your stereo and crank it up to full, ear-splitting volume. Now hold an old pre-DSL/cable modem to your forehead. Hold that pose for about half an hour.

Actually, that would probably be more interesting and less painful than listening to this act.

"This is the worst thing I have ever heard in my entire life," I screamed to EM.
I had to scream, as the volume was cranked up entirely too loud, especially for something without melody, rhythm, or artistic validity.
I wasn't alone in my verdict. When the racket stopped another patron moved closer to the stage and voiced his opinion of the act, which started a yelling match between one of the performers and the patron. After a few minutes of screaming back and forth, security pulled the patron back to the bar where the bartender gave the guy a shot for his efforts.

Eventually the bartender came over to us and said something like, "Y'know, I used to work at the old Lenny's when we had noise night every week."
We groaned in sympathy.
"And you know what used to really annoy me about it? These guys would come in and be all, 'We're doing something totally new! We're going to blow everyone's minds!' And then they'd start in with the same crap. Excuse me, but have you ever heard of an album called Meddle? Y'know, this would've been interesting - in 1962!"
Coincidentally, EM and I had just finished having the exact same conversation.

The next act set up and sounded vaguely familiar, and comparatively entertaining. The lone guy on stage ranted about random subjects, sampling himself and replaying it, building layer on top of layer on top of a vaguely atmospheric backing track while standing in front of trippy animations projected on the back wall.

A short time into the set I recognized him as The Subliminator, an act I'd hated in the past but in comparison to the first act we'd barely tolerated, I actually enjoyed The Subliminator. Not only was it not ear-piercing in quantity or quality, he was actually saying something rather than just filling the air. There were Laurie Anderson moments, but all with an angry male edge. Not bad, really.

 The next act didn't annoy me initially as I sat at the bar. It sounded like a guy playing theremin to a whale, goofy and uninteresting, but not unpleasant. But then I looked closer and realized there was a visual and performance art aspect to the presentation - a guy in a mask dripping paint onto a canvas.

I think the microphone pointed at the canvas in the shot above - hopefully just a coincidence, but it wouldn't surprise me if it weren't - just about says it all. EM called it "pretentious crap" but I think that's an insult to pretention. This time, I failed to get the group's name, but maybe it's better that way. Where first act was the worst I'd ever heard, this was the silliest thing I'd ever seen. I can't blame the guy for wearing a mask. If I'd created this painting in public I'd probably wear a mask the rest of my life. It's garbage like this that gives art of all kinds a bad name.

By the time a band set up and played actual music it was too late for us to linger. I had to work the next day. It was a shame, really, because we don't often get out on a work night, much less when it's below goddamn freezing out.

But it was nice to have a night of utterly horrible sound to contrast with the shows we usually attend. No light without dark, they say...

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