Review: 10 things we love about Milwaukee Noise Fest

Climax Denial pulled out all the stops to blow the minds of the Milwaukee Noise Fest audience at Borg Ward this weekend. The third annual event assembled by Milwaukee artist Peter J. Woods hosted 28 acts from across the country over three days.

-Photo and story by Dan Agacki

Peter J. Woods is a great man. For three straight years, he has managed to put together Milwaukee Noise Fest. This year, it was 28 acts in three days. I stood through each and every one of them. And I have to tell you, for being labeled “noise,” the groups were a lot more diverse than you would think. Something for everyone, probably not, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come out to noise shows and give ‘em a try. Here’s my list of the top ten sets of Milwaukee Noise Fest:

10. Sonic Typewriter Having previously witnessed them and thinking they were terrible, I was willing to give them another shot. Glad I did. Their set started out as a sonic swirling mess and later transformed into a more structured Neu-like instrumental jam. A good start to the second day.

9. Druids of Huge Guitar flailing teamed with erratic drums and harsh electronic rumblings. Brief and intense.

8. Drunjus I had to laugh initially, because these guys looked like Devendra Banhardt cronies. They set up with the only light in the room being the red glow of an amp. Pedals sprawled all over the floor. Gradually warping sounds, it really reeled you in.

7. Slow Owls Mike had been performing as one half of Mildew for years, so I expected good things. No letdown here, just a harsh but diverse set.

6. Stillbirth Coming all the way from Boston, Stillbirth closed out the second day. Layers of guitar loops with distortion added as the set moved along. A nice bookend to Sonic Typewriter’s opener.

5. Boy Dirt Car Not sure of the exact number, but I know that they hadn’t played in at least 20 years. Their low placing on my list may have a bit to do with the fact that they were following two harsh and intense acts. The psychotic poetry read over churning death dirges didn’t quite evoke the same reaction as the preceding acts, but as the set wore on I was won over.

4. Anal Hearse A single red bulb lit the room. The crowd lined up on all sides for a barrage of violent electronic wailing. Visually and sonically appealing, this set was the total package.

3. Peter J. Woods The curator of the event put in one of the best sets. After a lengthy and much heckled speech, he pulled off one of the more gripping displays I’ve seen. Starting with ambient violin samples, the set became more aggressive as it went along. Afterward, Peter looked exhausted, a true sign that he put everything he had into the performance.

2. Burial Hex By the might of the Burial Hex set, I left the first night of Noise Fest astounded. A single candle and incense burning set the tone. Dark aggression flew through the room. The crowd responded with fists raised above their heads.

1. Climax Denial After Peter’s set the crowd was pretty rowdy. Alex was just the guy to bask in it. With the red lighting ambience, similar to Anal Hearse’s set, Climax Denial blew my mind. He balanced the rumbling electronic blasts with amusing crowd interaction. Even when he tripped over a chord and shut off all his equipment the crowd kept egging him on. Never have I seen anything as dually brutal and hilarious.


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