We got real excited when we read about the tenth edition of NOizeFest going off on the West Bank in New Orleans this past weekend.
For the uninitiated, NOizeFest is a sort of anti-Jazz Fest; a music party where everything is free and unencumbered of any sort of ties to oil companies, fried food conglomerates or corporate rock and roll outfits.
NOizeFest is by the people, for the people.
2015 marks the first year that the music party is not in the Bywater backyard of Michael Patrick Welch, the organizer. For this edition, all the freaks and weirdos of New Orleans underground noise scene will converge on Scout Island in Brechtel Park.
After partying good and hard with the Tomato Queen at the Chalmette Tomato Festival we drove the Econoline up on the ferry, paid the attendant two bucks and set sail across the Mississippi River.
Brechtel Park is a 100+ acre refuge 15 minutes from downtown New Orleans. Normally it’s a redoubt for birders, humans who like to watch birds flit about shitting themselves as they indolently fly this way and that. Today however it’s ground zero for punks, misfits, oddballs, idiot savants, weirdbeards and other assorted mutants.
It’s the same all over whether you’re in Birmingham, Louisville, Austin or Omaha.
Brechtel Park is bucolic. Walking onto the grounds we’re immediately drawn to a duet cranking out shards of weirdness from a guitar and some kind of homemade horn apparatus. The guitar player is wearing a Skeletor mask and the hornman is sporting a penitentiary outfit with a full-face toboggan.
This is going to be fun.
Over the next four hours we delve deeply into the fractured psyche of New Orleans collective (un)conscience. Free form musicians stroll about the grounds ripping on saxophones while budding geniuses, all under the age of ten, command the “kidz” stage blasting out feedback drenched waves of rock while their parents peer about bemusedly.
A canteen has been set up vending hotdogs, sausages, tacos, brownies and cold beer.
All for free.
When we proffer payment to one barkeep he responds “it’s free man, this is anarchy”
Doubtful that sort of behavior would be tolerated at Jazzfest.
An itinerant silkscreener has set up shop printing off t-shirts commemorating the party while nearby a hippie freak has set up a mobile thrift store selling dresses that would do Ann Magnusson proud.
A balloon man is twisting his creations this way and that under a pavilion.
Two interpretive dancers are spasmodically twitching grotesqueries on the hot asphalt.
A small child is playing “guitar” by beating one stick up against another.
We’re thankful that no law enforcement or normal people are afoot as we would all be taken to jail in short order.
We wonder what exactly happens if we don’t beat the 15 minute deadline. Do we become property of the state of Louisiana? Do we take up residence in Brechtel Park til the facility reopens? Are the park police going to play hardball with us?
After much knob twiddling the musicians slowly begin to roll cable, stub out their smokes and prepare to load out.
We make one final run by the canteen, spy a brownie sitting in a paper tray and, with visions of what sort of hideous psychedelic cocktail lies within, slowly make our way to the exit before the drugs kick in.