Local musician Lob, known around town for his all-improv group Instagon, recalls one particularly memorable show at the monthly noise-art series, Sacramento Audio Waffle, that he co-organizes. He teamed up with local poet Gene Bloom, and played the blender like an instrument while Bloom delivered one of his poems.
Bloom, in order to be heard over the noise of the blender, had to shout, much to the delight of the Audio Waffle crowd.
“I was making drinks and handing out margaritas. It was really fun,” Lob recalls.
As strange as playing a blender might seem at any normal live music show, at Sacramento Audio Waffle, it’s right in line with its noise-art aesthetic, where anything can be an instrument. The artists literally are creating noise and sound-art, and watching it being created is generally a performance worth seeing.
Sunday will mark the first Audio Waffle in over three years.
“There’s no real standard to the genre other than it doesn’t fit any other genre,” says other co-organizer Denise Chelini. “There’s something exciting about seeing people really express themselves beyond confines.”
Sacramento has a long history with noise and sound art. The NorCal NoiseFest, which started more than 20 years ago in Sacramento, is considered one of the longest running noise festivals in the country. Lob is one of its current organizers. These days the NorCal Noisefest is stretched over three days, with roughly 50 bands on the bill annually. Lob says it’s more of a convention than a festival, since so many people from the noise-art community return year after year, and have became like family at this point.
Lob started Sacramento Audio Waffle in 2006. The kind of outsider performers and avant-garde noise bands are similar to the ones that play NorCal Noisefest, but shows at Audio Waffle have roughly six acts. Oh, and there’s waffles and coffee for everyone.
“It’s the loudest breakfast in the valley,” Lob says.
There’s another distinction between NorCal Noisefest and Audio Waffle, which, because of its smaller space and more compact show time, encourages more dynamic, nuanced and weirder audio art performances.
Lob recalls outsider sound artist Art Lessing mounting some metal bars on the wall, with contact mics on them. He then rolled metal balls along the bars, which he says sounded kind of like a bowling alley, but more metallic.
For the first couple of years, Audio Waffle had strong turnouts. Part of the deal is, they’d make a big batch of batter for the waffles. With the price of admission, you’d get as many waffles and coffee as you want, until they ran out, which typically happened. After a couple of years, that was happening less and less, so Lob figured it was time to stop the event.
“We would make too much waffle batter,” Lob says. “We can’t afford to make waffles if nobody’s going to come. The cost got to be more than the turnout. If it can’t pay for itself we can’t do it anymore.”
Chelini got involved with NorCal NoiseFest in 2011. Prior, she had been a fan of experimental music, but assumed that she was the only one in the area. She got her noise fix primarily by listening to an experimental music program broadcast on KDVS.
“Just to learn that there was a local festival, a local community under my nose just kind of blew me away. I got a fervor for it. I just wanted to be involved,” Chelini says.
She got involved with Audio Waffle only in its last year. In that time, the intimate nature of the event led to her being able to get to know the community much better.
These past few years, she’s noticed that turnout for NoiseFest has increased. This past year she’s noticed a lot of new faces.
“It was nice to see people who are genuinely excited to be here. With this new resurgence of interest I was like, ‘We got to bring the Waffle back,’ ” Chelini says.
Both Lob and Chelini say there is a lot of interest once again in the event. The monthly show is already booked through May.
“I’m into the freedom of it, the freedom and creativity that’s involved,” Lob says. “I’m a person that’s into expressive, conceptual creativity. A lot of my art is in presenting situations for other artist to do things, like the Waffle, where you can have this weird intimate space.”
For Chelini, since she didn’t get to experience Audio Waffle for very long, she’s excited to see firsthand some of the weird performances and events that she’s heard other people in the noise community talk about.
“I want to see more installations, and I want to see more unorthodox use of home appliances. I’m really looking forward to this.”