In January, a serious cash flow problem threatened to shut down the punk- and metal-friendly record shop Dreadful Sounds.
“I think if you open a business, especially these days, you have to expect that,” co-owner Kate Sykes said. “You have to be prepared for just about anything, and that sometimes means, ‘Oh my god, I have about a month to come up with $6,000.’”
Since opening three years ago, Dreadful Sounds has played a huge part in the extreme music community — organizing events, promoting local musicians, providing a venue for discovery and discussion. In kind, that community rallied to keep the shop open with benefits including an art auction and a date auction.
A few months down the line, Dreadful Sounds is looking stable, preventing Columbus from losing one of its underground music hubs. Its anniversary celebration June 22 will be a celebration, not a wake.
“We’re doing good,” co-owner Jake “Laser” Derouen said. “Still hustling.”
Even amid the turmoil, Laser and Sykes never stopped putting on concerts. Saturday, they’re teaming with Pink Reason’s Kevin De Broux for an event unlike any they’ve organized before.
DÜNGEÖN FEST will put experimental noise artists from across Ohio under one roof at The Summit. A wide swath of styles will be represented, including full-on rock bands and solo projects ranging from lightweight ambient sounds to hazy drones to ravaging power electronics. The performers encompass different sorts of people, too: “people that are more academic, and people that are more just psychopaths,” De Broux said.
That’s par for the course with experimental noise, perhaps the niche-iest of niche genres.
“I don’t know that it’s all one scene,” De Broux said. “It’s just different people doing different things in different places. A lot of times, noise people aren’t actually part of any particular scene because what they’re doing is so far out that there’s not anyone else that’s doing anything similar wherever they are.”
The festival was conceived in a eureka moment one night when Laser, De Broux and Bridesmaid’s Bob Brinkman all realized they knew noise acts from across Ohio that wanted to play a Columbus show. Why not combine them into a single behemoth event? The potential seemed high for a community-building, collaboration-spawning all-around win.
“That’s kind of the cool thing about this,” De Broux said. “With Columbus being a centralized location, we can bring everyone together and, at least for this day, create something.”
The original plan was to have the fest in an actual dungeon, specifically the basement underneath Dreadful Sounds. Logistical problems got in the way, so they moved the event to The Summit, which “is dungeon-esque enough,” De Broux said.
Performances will run from 4 p.m. to midnight with De Broux providing atmospherics as DJ Kevin Failure between sets. Because the noise scene tends toward limited-edition homemade releases, an entire room will be devoted to merchandise.
By this point the casual reader might be wondering why all the fuss about musicians dredging up searing feedback or washing-machine hum. A curmudgeonly part of you yells, “You call that music?” Up until a year ago, Laser would have agreed with you.
“I just thought noise was dumb,” Laser said.
But as he sought a creative outlet while his main band Nukkehammer was on the shelf, Laser started toying around with power electronics and realized the potential inherent in free-form sonic experiments. He’s been performing frequently since then under the name Cavernous Body.
“It seems easy to make noises, but it’s not really easy to get the ones that you want,” Laser said. “It takes a couple years to figure out how to do it, at least how you want to do it.”
De Broux compared the process to the common epiphany of discovering punk rock: “You see a band and you’re like, ‘Whoa, I can do this!’ And you can, but it just takes a while.”
Thus, they’ll be out there Saturday perfecting their craft alongside acts like Ryan Jewell, Plague Mother, Mike Shiflet, Whore’s Skeleton, Fascist Insect, Treebeard, Tyrant Manque and The Church of Starry Wisdom, among others. It’s going to be weird, and it might even be good.
“Noise scenes are usually, even in a prominent one, still pretty small,” Laser said. “So to get everybody together in one day, it’s going to be pretty awesome. There’s going to be a lot of contacts made, and I bet you a lot of collaborations come out of it. That’s how that stuff goes. You usually say, ‘Oh, I really dig what you’re doing. You wanna do something together? Let’s drink beer and plug stuff in and let it rip.’”