In a festival-heavy town, Austin’s No Idea Festival remains a breed apart. This year featuring anarchist French duo Lê Quan Ninh and Michel Doneda, Mexico City installationist Arthur Henry Fork, homegrown sound naturalist Rick Reed in collaboration with Norway’s Kjell Bjørgeengen, guitarists Tom Carter, Kurt Newman, Aaron Russell, Lauren Gurgiolo, and more, the 14th iteration of No Idea celebrates collaborative free improvisation and experimentation like an alternative South by Southwest.
“I’ve always understood this music exists in community,” explains NIF organizer and local percussion/electronics improviser Chris Cogburn at Jo’s Coffee. “This festival doesn’t have anything to offer your career.”
Edited by Mexico City’s Andrea Ancira and instigated by Cogburn, new No Idea reader Ethics of Improvisation as Anarchic Utopia explores the philosophy behind the festival’s raison d’être.
“All these people, they’re making artistic choices throughout their lives, and there’s an integrity,” he says. “I think that’s where the energy comes from, when musicians are invested in a real live moment that’s giving them valuable information. A lot of the writing in the book talks about that. What ethics do you hold to create the capacity for an important live experience that allows freedom?”
Despite its high ideals, no one should perceive No Idea (www.noideafestival.com) as forbidding.
“It’s not about being a specialist,” stresses Cogburn. “A lot of times people are like, ‘Oh, I just don’t get it. I guess you have to know a lot about it.’ It should be immediate, like punk.
“It doesn’t necessitate prior knowledge. That’s why it’s like a lived experience. Whether it’s the rockingest free jazz or microtonal tuba, there should be some immediacy and urgency that’s accessible to everybody.”– Michael Toland
Six-string superhero Al Di Meola, 62, continues perfecting chops that turn other guitar gods green with envy. Yet the New Jersey native didn’t become one of the world’s few million-selling jazzers by dazzling the hordes with flying fingers. As latest LP Elysium demonstrates, his lyrical touch and penchant for melodies accessible even to the untrained ear have lifted him above the fusion ghetto for nearly four decades. Two shows, 7 & 9:30pm.– Michael Toland
Recovered from heart issues suffered three years ago, Delbert McClinton, 76, retains Prick of the Litter status. Jazzier, almost crooning, the Lubbock/Ft. Worth/Austin R&B great broadened his musical palette on last month’s new LP. That doesn’t mean the singer’s abandoning his trademark mix of country, rock, and blues, which live still adds grit to his everlasting Texas legend with an assist by longtime bandmates Self-Made Men.– Jim Caligiuri
The mission statement from Austin fourpiece Soaked, to “bring rock & roll back from the grave,” glorifies a debatable and mostly unattainable goal through killer guitar. Forthcoming Burger Records debut Don’t Wanna Wake Up Today nevertheless promises the sort of warm, catchy garage-pop that plays like eternal summer, distorted vocals taking a backseat to walloping drums and fuzz-buster guitars. Crocodile Tears and Goldbloom, heavy-hitters in the Austin garage scene, round out the bill.– Libby Webster