The No Idea Festival

Live shot

Susan Alcorn
Susan Alcorn (Photo By John Anderson)

The No Idea Festival

Church of the Friendly Ghost, April 1-2

If you approached the Church of the Friendly Ghost last weekend, you might have heard wailing, growling, and shrieking. It was not an exorcism. Well, not in the church-sanctioned sense. For three nights, the No Idea Festival infiltrated East Austin, where improvisers from across the country gathered to testify. Improvisers face the heady task of being mostly autonomous, so the No Idea Festival pairs sound magicians to see what materializes. Since improvised music continues struggling as a universally accepted art form, it makes the "what-we-do-here-is-secret" vibe at the Church even more exciting. That spirit was alive and writhing Friday evening when oboist Kyle Bruckmann, trombonist Dave Dove, percussionist Tatsuya Nakatani, and cellist Vic Rawlings created glorious waves of sound that crashed and receded. Later, Portland's Bryan Eubanks played sax and manipulated an analog tape machine while Gust Burns filled the room with bizarre samples and Houston turntablist Maria Chavez worked her magic, scratching, speeding up, reversing, slowing down, and slapping her vinyl. It sent out a devilish message. Saturday night kicked off with Bruckmann, Eubanks, and No Idea founders Chris Cogburn and Kurt Newman's apocalyptic battle cry, the rumbling bass of a passing car adding to its fervor. Austin noisemaker Rick Reed collaborated with Chavez and Boston saxophonist Dave Gross for one of the more sample-heavy pieces. As Chavez and Reed traded scratches and face-melting feedback, Gross broke into Sinatra's "Young at Heart." Perfect. Around the witching hour, Nakatani, Houston pedal steeler Susan Alcorn, cellist Audrey Chen, and saxman Jason Jackson brought us all down the rabbit hole. Those sounds, in that order, in those tones, will never happen again. Imperfection is next to godliness.

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