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Tokyo/New York Noise Festival
Knitting Factory
47 East Houston Street, New York, NY
March 18, 1994

I had to go this show alone because my friends in New York think the most exciting entertainment found in the Big Apple are Broadway shows. Hmm … imagine what they’re missing. After arriving at the Knitting Factory in New York’s East Village and while watching the musicians set up and check their equipment, I could not help but think I was in another art museum, like the Guggenheim or the Met, because standing not seven feet in front of me was a piece of American history: Mister Sonic Youth himself, Thurston Moore. I had missed his band the last time they were in Florida, and though tonight wasn’t exactly the same as a Sonic Youth show, I was still thrilled to hear some crazy noise from one of the guys who spawned a few of the greatest albums in the 1980s and 1990s.

The two other participants in this all-star jam were Marc Ribot of Shrek and Keiji Heino of Fushitsusha. Helmet frontman Page Hamilton was also on the bill for tonight but, for reasons unbeknownst to me, didn’t show.

It was earplug night at the Knitting Factory: three guys with three guitars playing nine times as loud as they should. There wasn’t much to describe aurally except that it was loud, loud, loud! The trio beat, struck, and chewed their guitars, invoking demons of crazed feedback for a continuous hour-and-a-half-long improvisation. Coming forth from the amps were undecipherable notes and antichords; every broken string seemed to be part of the plan.

Heino, dressed head to toe in black, frequently burst into epileptic seizures, his long black hair flailing and his guitar screaming. Decked out in Adidas sneakers, jacket, and cap, Moore spent almost the entirety of the concert crouched down on the stage strumming his guitar from behind the nut. He was very laid back but by no means lazy. The classically trained Ribot spent less time freaking out and more on actually trying to “play” his guitar. He used a slide part of the time and did some decent, rhythmic pieces. He also took frequent breaks to sip his beer or to watch the other two go at it. The noise fest wasn’t all noise, though, as a couple times the sounds became more mellow. The drone wouldn’t last long before Heino would ignite another frenzy.

The Knitting Factory is probably one of the more exciting live-band clubs in New York City. Doubling as a record label, the venue boasts regular performances by some of the most recognizable names in alternative and jazz music: John Zorn, the Lounge Lizards, David Tronzo, Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo from Sonic Youth, the Archers of Loaf, God Is My Co-Pilot, and Slant 6. In the Knitting Factory’s 1993 music catalogue, the director Michael Dorf says that his club “continues to provide an outlet for experimental rock, jazz, funk, poetry, dance, film, video, performance art, and everything in between.” The Tokyo/New York Noise Festival is just one of a great number of shows that can be seen at the Knitting Factory. I’m glad I got to see this one.

Originally published in Ink Nineteen in May 1994.