Underground music takes center stage this summer


One of the problems of underground music, if you’re not 18, is going to underground locations to hear it. You find yourself at places with names like Fuck Mountain, which is not a band location but no one wants to leave that message on the fridge – “Kids, Pizza in oven. Went to Fuck Mountain. Be home by 10 pm. Love, Mom.”

So for folks of all ages who have an interest in underground and experimental music, I have some good news. Underground is showing up on the high street for a few events this summer.

First a quick description of what I mean by underground and experimental music; I mean anything that’s pushed outside of the boundaries of the music you might hear on the radio. These shows include such as noise, improv, eletronica, droning, unique intepretations of global sounds. Musicians playing experimental music seem less interested in getting radio play than creating a sound for the community that’s intersted in their music, which includes a number of musicians, experimental and mainstream

There is at least one big event and two upcoming series happening in the Twin Cities this summer that highlight experimental music.

Heliotrope Xthe Twin Cities’ long-running independent festival of underground and underexposed music, will be held at Intermedia Arts June 5-7, from 6 pm to midnight each night. There will be music and a bazaar of arts, records and other interests. There’s a lineup of almost 30 performers. The festival website describes the music on deck, “This year’s festival will include a number of acts that have come to be mainstays of the event (International Novelty Gamelan, Thunderbolt Pagoda, Transitional Species, Paul Metzger, but in keeping with our aim of presenting newer or more underexposed acts there is naturally a hefty infusion of new blood this year. The astonishing solo act Breakaway, 19-year old Big Black acolytes New Wave Hookersoccultic drone ritualists Temple Of Set and the Greek mythology-influenced death metal act House Of Atreus are all new names to Heliotrope among many others.”

If you’re interested in something completely different, I encourage you to attend. I got interested in underground music last summer and have been very impressed with the local performers. Some sounds I appreciate more easily than others but they are all interesting. I have found that the sets are generally pretty short. Rarely have I seen anyone perform for more than 30 minutes, if that long. The music is pretty intense so small bites are good – like rich food.

The Khyber Pass in St Paul will be featuring “adventurous improvised live music” at 9:00 on Thursdays this summer; the series starts on June 12 and seems to run much of the summer. (Check the website for details.) Owner, Emel Sherzad, has a long-standing show on KFAI that features improvised music; he decided to extend hours at the Khyber Pass on Thursday for live music and small plates. Paul Metzger, a local performer is organizing the series and is working with three other noted musicians, Davu Seru, Adam Linz and Milo Fine to curate the events. Upcoming acts include Linz and Metzger performing an evening of improvisations based on a set of African field recordings and the International Novelty Gamelan exploring new music using instruments of the Javanese gamelan orchestra. I suspect most acts will include a unique and modern twist on traditional or global music. Metzger especially impresses me with his unique way of playing the banjo that brings a free spirit twist to an Old World sound.

The Kitty Cat Klub in Dinkytown will be featuring noise and noise-related music on Mondays in July. Kevin Cosgrove (aka Transitional Species) is organizing the event to include performers who haven’t played in a while (or at least not played in the Twin Cities), performers who play more regularly and performers who are just getting their start. It’s a great plan to help shake up and revive the noise scene and a fun opportunity for attendees to survey the local noise movement as it moves. Each night will include about five performers. Local noise performer Delores Dewberry is going to DJ with a different guest DJ each night. Delores Dewberry is a very visual performer; if you like stiletto boots and leather, you should check it out. 

(The pictures included here are from an event from last weekend that celebrated one of my favorite Art Shanties – the Meta, which is like a dome. It featured many of the musicians that will be playing this summer. Musicians took turns playing in the Dome; the event large group improve session; which while not a set that I found easy to like aesthetically, I did find very interesting. One last fun thing about enjoying underground music is finding yourself at a party where the guest of honor is one of your favorite Art Shanties!)