words by kyra bruce

After attending Tulsa Noise Fest this weekend I’ve discovered something: we need to talk about noise. Now this weekend was my first introduction to noise so I’m not claiming to be an expert of any kind, I’m just trying to spread the news to people like me who may not know about the genre. Let’s begin. 

I had several questions going into Noise Fest like, what exactly is noise? What makes noise good or bad? Are people going to be playing instruments or messing with pedals or what? Will people be excited that I am there to learn more about it or will they think I’m a poser? I’m sure some of you are wondering about these same questions and I would love to share the answers I learned during the two-day festival. 

    So, what even is noise anyway? Noise is an experimental genre in which people create noise with effects pedals, instruments, homemade devices, and much much more. I think noise is one of the most expressive genre of music because there’s no hope that it will be played on the radio and it will never be accepted into the mainstream music scene so the artists create noise for the sake of pure expression and creation, which makes it so genuine. No noise artist is just trying to crank out hits so they can be rich and famous, they are making noise for the sake of making noise. Noise is what punk always wanted to be, punks wanted to put their middle finger to the music industry and shock people but when punk became popular it was manicured and sold to mainstream audiences and now every kid in high school owns a Misfits tee shirt. 

    With all this being said, I think it’s nearly impossible for anyone to say what noise is good and what noise is bad. It’s obvious who has more equipment, who’s creating more diverse sound, and who has the most interesting performance, but I don’t think any of those things make one artist “better” than another. This makes for a very supportive and welcoming community.

    I was surprised by the amount of equipment that each act brought. Almost every act came with an enormous trunk filled with effects pedals and so much equipment that I had never even seen before. One act, Compactor, had an electric drill that he had rigged through his equipment. Other acts, like Craccrock and Bullshit Market, had a full band playing traditional instruments to create their noise-core sound. Rat Bastard wailed on a four-stringed electric guitar for his 15 minute set which he ended with a rumpus causing quote, “The Flaming Lips suck”. Each act was so unique and entirely different than the last, Noise Fest showed me the most unique performances I had ever seen.

    Now the last question, will I be welcomed as someone who knows nothing about noise but wants to learn, or will people think I’m a poser? After Bullshit Market’s set I asked members Patrick Harsh and Aaron Midcalf about what makes a noise fan a true fan. I asked them if I went out and got their tee shirt and wore it around, does that make me a true fan or a poser, since this was my first exposure to noise? They agreed that “you got it at a show and you liked it so you’re a fan”. They said people shouldn’t be nervous to come to noise shows to learn about it because “that’s how we all got into it in the first place”. 

Everyone at Tulsa Noise Fest was excited to introduce me to the genre, and what a perfect introduction it was. I learned so much about this genre that I hardly knew existed by throwing myself head-first into it and I highly suggest you do it too, the best way to learn about noise is to get up and go to a show. It is better experienced than explained.